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50 Years Of Wilderness

The Chinese Wall in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, MT
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation

First, a clarification: the 1964 Wilderness Act provides for areas where “the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man.” Executive Director of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation Carol Treadwell said it’s commonly confused as untrampled.

“Untrammeled means uncontrolled. So, in a natural state, letting natural things take place and not being tweaked by human influences. It’s there for the wildlife, and so that we can have wild experiences,” Treadwell said.

Education and Outreach Coordinator Jenny Cloutier with the Foundation just got back from a trip into The Bob.

“I had a lot of time to reflect when I was in there that, it must have been so similar to when my mom was 8 years old, and she was going into the Bob with her family. I thought a lot about wilderness while I was in there, and really- I was seeing the landscape in much the same way as my family has been seeing it for the last 50 years,” Cloutier said.

She said one of the important things about wilderness is that there remain places where people are still just visitors.

“In this day and age we are so connected to our devices and to computers and things that are wired or wireless all the time, and to be in a place for days where those sort of interruptions are not part of your life is really… grounding.”

Photographer Mandy Mohler is prepping for a 9 to 10 day solo trip into the Bob to start the first week of August. Her phone pipes in at several intervals while she talks of trip details, and shows what she’s bringing. Mohler said she’ll be bringing her phone for music as her “creature comfort”, but overall, she’s looking forward to unplugging.

“Schedules just kind of go away. Your schedules are very basic; about making sure that you have everything ready before the sun goes down, making sure that you’re fed, making sure that you have a shelter, basic, basic stuff,” Mohler said.

She participated in the “Artist-Wilderness Connection” in 2012. It’s a partnership between the Flathead National Forest, the Hockaday, Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, and the Swan Ecosystem Center where a few artists are selected each year to pack into the wilderness then share the work they’ve created once they return to civilization.

Mohler said when she went on the Connection it was 14 miles; she had support from a horse packing team, and was at a forest service cabin with a bed, gas stove, and other artists for company. This time she’s hiking through, bringing one horse to help carry her camera and back country gear, and planning to trek 94 miles over 10 days.

“I’m hoping to just document the Bob Marshall, and show how beautiful it is, and inspire other people to go out and see it for itself. And, also, at the same time, get some footage of me completing the experience as well, and just the ins and outs of what it takes to do a trip like this,” Mohler said.

The Flathead National Forest’s Spotted Bear District up the South Fork of the Flathead River is a jumping off point into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. District Ranger Deb Mucklow said the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex includes the Great Bear and Scapegoat Wildernesses.

With the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness designation the Spotted Bear Ranger District is hosting an event from 11 to 4 on Saturday the Second featuring a lot of the people who have worked in and around the Wilderness.

“We all think about the landscapes, and how cool and that, but we want to celebrate and take time to listen to the people that have a connection with the wilderness, what is there story, what was that favorite trip that they went on, or family experience,” Mucklow said.

Other organizations, pack strings, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation will also be involved in Saturday’s event, and the big “Go Wild” event on September 20th at the Fairgrounds will feature an architect of the 1964 Wilderness Bill, as well as more opportunities to hear, and share, stories of the wilderness.           

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