Two Wolf Foundation received grant funding from the Overland Expo Foundation to lead Warrior Stewardship Team (WST.003). Funding of $9,788 enabled a team of combat veterans and first responders to serve an ongoing land stewardship project in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. WST.003 provided the opportunity for six military veterans from across the country traveling from Arizona, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and Montana to experience overland travel and receive an education on public land access, dispersed camping/recreation, and stewardship practices of the US Forest Service through a unique and experiential program. The intent of this program is to allow combat veterans and first responders to connect with nature, serve as a team, and refocus on post-traumatic growth as an aspect of overcoming struggles associated with uniformed service.
Over the course of the week, the team explored and camped in three different National Forests (Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF, Salmon-Challis NF, and Bitterroot NF) and committed to leaving each place better than it was found by picking up trash along trails and at campsites, cleaning out fire rings, and following Tread Lightly! principles.
Upon arrival at the Salmon-Challis NF project site, the team spent two days assisting the USFS and Idaho Parks and Recreation (IDPR) with the Smithie Creek Trail reroute project. The team joined a volunteer force of combined effort with Tread Lightly!, Idaho Falls Trail Machine Association, Idaho Single Track Alliance, and Can-Am Offroad to ensure “continued access to a unique riding area while protecting important watersheds and the wildlife-rich environment” (treadlightly.org).
Two Wolf Foundation’s Warrior Stewardship Team 003 contributed to the improvement of 14 miles of trail in the Salmon-Challis National Forest with the 200-yard reroute connecting the main Smithie Creek Trail route to miles of additional single-track trail. The successful trail reroute project that WST.003 contributed to ensures continued access while protecting important watersheds for the Idaho Bull Trout and other species. The trail improved by this project and work completed by all partners involved totaled 14 miles of FR 4079 and Smithie Creek Trail.
The overall objective of the Warrior Stewardship mission was accomplished with all participating individuals coming together to work as an effective team, creating the adventure together, and developing meaningful relationships that will serve each of them for a lifetime.
Benefits of Trail Rerouting
The Smithie Creek trail reroute is one part of a much larger ongoing land management project aimed at keeping National Forest lands open to the public. With over a year of planning and approvals taking place, the work being done within the Salmon-Challis National Forest will ensure the overland community can keep exploring, adventuring, and immersing themselves in the incredible landscapes of the natural world.
The Joy of the Journey
Upon completing the stewardship work on the Smithie Creek Trail reroute, the primary project lead with Idaho Parks and Recreation provided the team with some recommendations on areas within the forest to explore and find camp for the final night of the trip. His recommendation took the team 60+ miles deep to an incredible alpine lake on the border of the Salmon-Challis NF and the Frank Church Wilderness and River of No Return.
Arriving under the shadows of a setting sun, the team was greeted with one of the most pristine views imaginable. The beautiful Sugar Loaf peak with a near-vertical 800 foot granite rock face stood in the background of the lake that was as smooth as glass. Before daylight ran out, the team explored, fished, and continued to bask in the incredible landscape before them. The following morning, as team members emerged from their rooftop tents, they were greeted with the absolute best sunrise of the week. A perfect mirror image of the mountains and trees beyond the lake lay imprinted on the water.
Two Wolf Foundation serves our nation’s warrior tribe by providing land stewardship opportunities and overland adventures. Make a donation at twowolf.org and learn more about supporting this amazing organization.
*All photos curtesy of Two Wolf Foundation.