By Nathan Gassmann, Trail Steward, USDA Forest Service
I am on my 5th season as the Motorized Trail Steward for the Wise River and Wisdom districts on the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest. I will try to summarize what this job entails along with some of the work we have done and some local trail
recommendations. Almost all my work is focused around our motorized trail systems. Most days in the field I use a dirt bike since I can cover more ground and access our motorized single track trails. The bike is set up to carry a chainsaw so regardless of the days task I can clear trail, do light trail maintenance, and identify issues for future work. Daily tasks have included dispersed campsite mapping, backcountry hunting camp checks, trail construction inspections, or simply clearing and working on a stretch of trail. Although I try, not every day can be spent in the field, occasional desk work, weather, and the maintenance of antique Honda’s can tie me to the office. A recent project that had me working in the office was finishing the Whitetail-Pipestone Motorized Visitor Map. This map will show all the motorized routes in the Whitetail/Pipestone area along vehicle types allowed and seasonal restrictions. It is at the printer as I write this and will be available for free very soon.
For some of our larger projects we are able to utilize various groups that specialize in trail work. I worked with one of these groups, a Youth MCC crew, two years ago on a project up the Cherry Creek drainage outside of Melrose. The crew spent a week working on the trail and a re-vegetation project. The work focused on water management to prevent further damage to the trail; we also improved a particularly bad climb by removing all the loose boulders, armoring around a few embedded rocks, and adding drain dips to stop the serious erosion. The crossing was in a wet area and had developed into multiple deeply rutted routes. The area has now been rehabilitated while the trail has been relocated to a more sustainable location. I visited the site this spring and although the local moose have been enjoying the new shrubbery the site looks like a healthy stream bank and is no longer dumping sediment into the watershed. The drain dips were performing as intended to keep water off the trail and the tread material on the trail. I cleaned a few of the lower ones and will be back to check the upper sections of trail once the snow has receded.
will finish this with a few local trail recommendations, starting with UTVs or side-by-sides. On the 2 districts I cover these vehicles are restricted to routes open to full size vehicles regardless of the UTV vehicle width. There is a system of these routes just outside Wise River with several access points, a wide variety of route difficulty, loop opportunities, and stunning views. Starting points are Quartz Hill Rd #187 just outside Dewey, the Quartz Hill Rd from Canyon Creek accessed from Melrose, or Keystone Gulch Rd #7423 right behind the Wise River Ranger Station. These roads can be combined with roads into Cattle Gulch (rd# 7413 7415 7416 7430) to create several loop options. Keystone Gulch offers more technical rocky and steep climbs through thick timber. Cattle Gulch has some technical sections with open ridgeline routes offering great views of the East Pioneers. The Quartz Hill Road is an improved gravel road that can be used to connect the other roads but also offers the same great views and camping opportunities. For an ATV ride Sheep Creek Trail #2216 can be connected with Adson Creek Trail #2137. Both these trailheads are on the East side of the Pioneer Scenic Byway less than 10 miles South of Wise River. For the climb up Sheep Creek be prepared for multiple stream crossings and a long steep and exposed climb at the very top. A good dirt bike loop can be done from the Lacy Creek Trailhead at the end of Lacy Creek Rd #1299. Lacy Creek Rd is on the West side of the Pioneer Scenic Byway about 20 miles South of Wise River. From the trailhead Bobcat Lakes trail #2050 can be looped with Lambrecht Creek trail #2226 with a little bit of gravel road riding. Both these trails can be steep and technical. The West Pioneers offer numerous other motorized single track opportunities, check the Forest Visitor Map for more details. For any trail questions or if you want to ride along for a day of trail work feel free to call the office at 406-832-3178 or email me at: mnclark @ fs.fed.us.