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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: North
Bob Van Deven
Wednesday, August 28
Disasters and other fun
When this whole thing started I thought the longer we traveled the more adept weíd become at our daily chores and the more time Iíd have for journaling. It hasnít turned out that way. The main reason is that no two days are alike--ever. One day Iím scouting trails and dodging rattlesnakes, the next riding an ATV down a mountain, and the day after Iím paddling a dugout canoe across a reservoir. In between thereís planning, driving, talking on the phone, and a million other last minute chores that have to be done. Right now weíre at the Middle Creek trailhead just north of the Idaho border in the Bitterroot Mountains. Gen, our fabulous tech person, is leaving this afternoon which means no internet access until her replacement arrives, supposedly tomorrow. Weíre all scrambling to put up our journal entries while we still can. It rained last night as we were celebrating Rob Carloís 39th birthday, eating cake and drinking local microbrews in the RV. Later the sky cleared and we could see the Milky Way stretched over our camp.

Since I donít have much time I suppose I should just hit the highlights from the last few days. On Friday Gen and I scouted what we call a ďwalkaroundĒ, a place where the team has to leave an established route and detour around private land. The spot was north of a ghost town called Glendale, a mill and smelter community where they processed lead and silver ore in the late 1800ís. Today an ornate brick smokestack still towers above the stone walls of minersí homes and a two story clapboard building that looks like it might have been a general store. The walkaround took us over some steep, sage-covered hills on a combination of old fenceline roads and game trails. At one point we were approaching a cluster of Douglas firs when Gen asked me a question about rattlesnakes. No sooner had I started to answer than a young blacktail sprang into striking position about five feet away, rattling angrily. Gen doesnít like snakes but I think theyíre pretty cool--even if they do scare pants off me once in a while--so I stopped to take a few pictures of him.

The next day was by far our most difficult yet, involving four wheel driving, ATVís, multiple shuttles and walkarounds, and tasks that kept everyone busy from morning until bedtime. Charlie and Paul took the support team up Storm Peak (9,400 feet) as far as the Honda Pilots could go before the transmission temperature lights began flashing, then we hiked the last two miles up windswept, grassy slopes to meet the trekkers on their ATVís. The trekkers began a hiking leg while we took the ATVís back to camp some 25 miles away. The upper part of the mountain was extraordinarily steep and rocky, nothing short of an ATV could have made it down without busting an axle. Most of the time we had to crawl along in low gear but as we passed the point at which the Pilots had dropped us off the road became smoother in places. We raced along the dusty trail behind our forest service guide in single file until Bob Ashley, who was only 30 feet in front of me, hit a rock and flipped his machine over on himself. Almost stepping on a rattlesnake was frightening but nothing compared to watching a 600 pound machine roll over on a friend in a cloud of dust. I stopped my ATV and put the emergency brake on, then ran over to Bobís and hit the kill switch as fluid streamed onto the ground. I was sure Bob had a broken leg or crushed ribs. He was on his back and told me his foot, elbow, and lower back were in pain, but after a few minutes he felt well enough to walk. Unbelievably he escaped with only a bruised foot and skinned elbow, and his machine, once righted, ran perfectly.

The next day we moved camp to the Birch Creek Nature Center in the mountains, an old CCC camp thatís been renovated by the University of Western Montana for use as an outdoor education center. The folks at Birch Creek were awesome, especially the cooks who made us a delicious dinner, a hot breakfast, and then went out of their way to fix sandwiches for those of us who returned late the next day. I took my first shower in several days and slept in a bed for the first time in a month. When the trekkers left Birch Creek in the morning some of us went to meet them at Bannak State Park. I drove the diesel pickup with five ATVís on a trailer. If itís one thing Iím learning on this trek itís how to drive vehicles with trailers. Bannak was the first territorial capital of Montana, an amazingly well preserved ghost town on the bank of a little creek in the middle of nowhere. It was established in 1867 yet there are still at least 30 building standing, most in excellent condition and open to the curious public. Walking down the street is exactly like being transported to the frontier west--false front buildings, boardwalks, hitching posts, picket fences and dusty yards overgrown with sage and rabbitbrush. Outside the schoolhouse is an old merry-go-round that still turns, inside are rows of tiny wooden desks with inkwells. The windowpanes of every building ripple with age; inside the saloon is a long mahogany bar decorated with elaborate scrollwork. Steven and I roamed the streets for over an hour until the trek team appeared on the crest of a hill. Like a gang of outlaws they descended to the town where we had lunch in the shade of a cottonwood.

As if there hadnít been enough excitement in past few days, our dinner at Clark Canyon Reservoir on Monday was interrupted by a woman shouting something about a motorbike accident. Michelle, our EMT, and I raced over to the next campsite where two guys had somehow managed to collide head on at full speed in what was essentially an open field. The scene was a mess--gas leaking everywhere, blood, people milling around, the two guys sprawled out on the ground moaning in pain. One had a broken femur, the other a broken wrist and fractured jaw. Someone had already called an ambulance--22 miles away in Dillon--so Michelle did what she could by taking pulses and preventing the two from being moved. We found blankets for them since they were going into shock and just waited for the ambulance. Truth be told, these kids were zipping around an occupied campground--a crowded speck of land where motorbikes arenít allowed--in one of the largest and least populated states in the country. They shouldnít have been there and Steve Morehouse, the reservoir superintendent who was with our group to give a Lewis and Clark presentation, said heíd been having trouble with people like these lately. Two ambulances arrived and I assume both kids are going to be ok, just another lesson in how dangerous off road vehicles can be, especially when people are careless.

Yesterday the team set off across the reservoir in a dugout canoe accompanied by Steve Morehouse in authentic Lewis and Clark garb: fringed buckskin jacket, leather breaches, and moccasins. We met them on the other side and paddled the canoe back. If Iíd had any idea how unstable the canoe would be I never would have boarded with my camera. About 50 feet from shore we almost tipped over. After that we all sat perfectly still when we werenít paddling. Steve pointed out a bald eagle on a cliff and Franklinís gulls swooped over the water in front of our bow. The reservoir level is the lowest itís ever been after four years of drought and the crossing only took us about half an hour. Later Gen, Paul, and I drove to our current campground and hiked into the hills, almost reaching the Continental Divide. I donít know where weíre going from here--south I guess. One month down, one to go, though it feels like weíve been out here forever. Stay tuned and for Godís sake be careful on those ATVís and dirtbikes.
for Wednesday, August 28
North South Both




Biographical
•
Team: North
Bob Van Deven
Bob Van Deven

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List of All Journal Entries
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Monday, January 6
Bob Van Deven
Sunny Weather
   >> more...

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Sunday, December 1
Bob Van Deven
   >> more...

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Wednesday, October 9
Bob Van Deven
The End of the Journey
   >> more...

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Friday, September 20
Bob Van Deven
A Little News
   >> more...

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Monday, September 2
Bob Van Deven
Middle Ground
   >> more...

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Wednesday, August 28
Bob Van Deven
Disasters and other fun
   >> more...

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Wednesday, August 21
Bob Van Deven
People
   >> more...

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Saturday, August 17
Bob Van Deven
August 17 or Thereabouts
   >> more...

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Saturday, August 10
Bob Van Deven
AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!
   >> more...

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Thursday, August 1
Bob Van Deven
   >> more...








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