Trails and Altruism

  • Trails and Altruism, a Powerful Combination
  •         trails and altruism

Altruism is a pebble in a lake. The subsequent ripple created can put a little more, or a lot more, good into the world. “What the heck does this have to do with trail riding?” you might wonder. (I’ll get there I promise!)

I know Hannah Anderson’s abduction and her subsequent rescue is old news, but there is one part of the story that I feel must be told. It’s the story before the story.

I wonder what would have happened if the only access into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, “The Frank,” had only allowed people on foot. I’m not talking about the designation of the trail. I’m talking about its physical condition. With the U.S. Forest Service’s budget routinely stretched thin, keeping up with 2.36 million acres of roadless wilderness for recreational use is, sadly, not a top priority.

I didn’t realize, until I became involved in Back Country Horsemen of America, how quickly access can be blocked. In a single storm, or a bad winter, a trail that was traveled via horse, becomes impeded by fallen trees, boulders and landslides. It’s so easy to take a trail for granted when it is open and clean, every time it’s traveled on.

How long would it have taken to find Hannah if those horsemen (and women) had not been able to recreate in The Frank in the first place? It’s amazing, the men and women of Back Country Horsemen of Idaho (BCHI) and other trail clearing organizations didn’t know it, but in clearing trails in The Frank, they were preparing four riders to tip the first domino that saved that girl.

Last year alone, BCHI logged in 12,409 volunteer hours, clearing 1930 miles of trails. Clearing trails in a wilderness setting is no picnic. (Although it almost always involves some Dutch oven refueling). When a land is designated as Wilderness, it is set aside from all mechanized modern conveniences. No chainsaws, no four-wheeler, no generators, just bucksaws, handsaws, hedge clippers, and a few mules to take it all in there. Along with a ton of elbow grease and expert knowledge so the log getting cut doesn’t do anything unpredictable after it’s loose. It is a labor of love. In this instance, it was the pebble in the lake.

This bit of altruism, these people who put in hard work for people they might never see, sent a ripple across the pond that allowed four riders to notice and report the whereabouts of an alleged abductor and his abductee. Isn’t it just awe inspiring that a good deed, done so people could enjoy the land set aside for just that, would sit left done until it could be of the most use?