At the end of June, current and past members of ICL’s Emerging Leaders for Idaho’s Environment (ELIE) partnered with Idaho Trails Association (ITA) to do trail work in the Payette National Forest.

ITA was founded in 2010 to “preserve Idaho’s incredible trail system through education, maintenance projects, and public lands advocacy.” Last year alone, ITA cleared 244 miles of trail with the help of volunteers.

Sophie Myers photo.

ITA board member Tim Martin’s enthusiasm for organizational collaboration led him to generously open up this recent trip to ELIE participants. Led by Tim and his wife, Kris, 16 of us made the winding descent down a forest road to Shiefer Campground on the South Fork of the Salmon River, ready for a weekend of work.

The rushing river cocooned the camp in white noise while we spent the night in tents and campers. The next morning, we wiped our bleary eyes and piled in trucks to make our way to an unassuming pull-off just past the Elk Creek Cemetery. Tim divvied up pulaskis, a crosscut saw, hard hats, shovels, and the ever-trusty loppers, which would be used for brushing along the trail. 

The hike was fresh with flowering syringas in the morning, and sour with bear bait in the warm afternoon. ELIE members (which includes a Forest Service ranger, a children’s well-being advocate, and a fisheries biologist) problem-solved at fallen logs and bonded over brushing blisters. The heat drew us back to the car in the afternoon, where we cooled off in the river and shared a wonderful meal together.

Sam Woosley photo
Archaeological pieces originally found in the area. Alex Hackett photo

That night, archaeologists Molly Eimers and Stefani Patten graciously visited the campsite to share their expertise and talk about the history of the area. We learned about the area’s mining history, the white settlers’ racist treatment of Chinese miners, and that there are more than 70 Indigenous sites along the river. We also examined Indigenous tools found in the area, as well as shining pieces of Chinese pottery.

Although our volunteer crew brushed and maintained over three miles of trail, the sense of place strengthened over the weekend held more importance than the sense of accomplishment of a job well done.

ELIE members volunteer with ITA. Sam Woosley photo

If you’d like to sign up for a trip with ITA, check out their website or sign up for their next outing here

To get involved with ELIE, click here. ELIE is a leadership program focused on connecting the next generation of conservationists with opportunities to make a difference with Idaho’s environmental movement. This program harnesses the unique talents and skillsets of participants to create innovative ways of reaching new audiences and building a conservation base among younger generations in Idaho.