Building Trail with ABWF

The second half of our Montana vacation was spent volunteering with the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation. We had never heard of the A-B Wilderness before and found this opportunity through

"The ABWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring people to protect and preserve Wilderness by developing their understanding and appreciation for the values and character of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness."

Our "inspiration" came in the form of a 4-day trail crew. The A-B Wilderness is located just to the north of Yellowstone National Park. We were working close to Nye, Montana (about an hour northwest of Red Lodge) in the Custer National Forest on the edge of the A-B Wilderness.

map source:

We met up with the other 5 members of the crew at the Old Nye fishing access. The road up into the mountains was a little too rough for our Prius so we hitched a ride in with crew-mate Jerry, an old friend from Green Bay who now lives in Montana.

We set up our base camp about a mile up the road from the Initial Creek Campground on the West Stillwater River. What a beautiful location!

West Stillwater River (our base camp was on the left)
Base Camp

Once camp was set up, we had some lunch then began our work on the trail which was just on the other side of the road - very convenient! Our mission was to build a trail (to be mainly used by horses) that would connect the Initial Creek Campground to a trailhead for the A-B Wilderness a mile up the road. There is limited parking at the trailhead and it would be hard to get a horse trailer up that last mile of road. You also wouldn't want to be riding a horse on the road if a vehicle was coming. It will be safer to park a horse trailer at the campground and ride on the new trail up to the trailhead. The forest service had come in before us and flagged a route through the trees of where the trail should go. They also cut some trees out of the way which made our work a tad easier.

Using the flags on the trees as a guide, we would eyeball a path through the woods then get to work. We used pulaskis, picks, shovels, and rakes to clear duff, move rocks, cut through tree roots and dig out a trail. 

We worked on the mountainside with the West Stillwater roaring below us. Not bad for an office!

So, this is what we did for 4 days. We woke up, ate breakfast, worked on the trail for awhile, took a long lunch break, worked on the trail some more and then finished around 3:30. The rest of the day was spent cleaning off in the river, collecting firewood, cooking dinner, and chatting around the campfire. The ABWF provided all of the food (we ate really well!) and they gave us plenty of downtime so it felt like a vacation - not working on a chain gang. 

Building trail is HARD WORK but it's also extremely rewarding. Seeing all of your progress at the end of the day is one of the coolest things ever.

We really enjoyed the company of everyone we worked with and hope to volunteer on another ABWF trail crew next summer. I can't say enough good things about them. Have you ever done a volunteer vacation? I would love to hear about it!


Anonymous said…
Christina and Kelly... You guys did lots of big hard work, and your trail looks amazing.. Well done... Will have to look into this for a project out your way maybe that we could come and do. Fabulous job... Keep in touch.

David & Teri Udey
Nye Montana!

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