Supporting stewardship of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness 
and fostering appreciation of wild lands.

National Trails Day--The Jomaha Trail Project

jomaha trail



About 35 minutes south of Livingston, the Jomaha Trail connects the Main and East Forks of Mill Creek Road.  Nine volunteers plus three members of the Yellowstone District trail crew (Kat Barker, Steph Shively, Chris Magee) hiked in to where the trail becomes poorly defined.  We erected trail markers and posts to better designate the trail, cut out dead timber blocking the way, and created some sections of new trail tread where it didn’t exist before.  Steve Caldwell &Barb Holliday (from Livingston), William Jenkins (ABWF’s Summer Intern from Georgia), David Kallenbach, Richard Lyon (Bozeman), Mary Malley (Livingston), Molly Nelson (Yellowstone National Park), Ty Walters (Livingston), and Taylor Westhusin (ABWF Summer Intern from Colorado) kicked off the seasonby helping us once again celebrate National Trails Day.  Outstanding work!


June 7th is National Trails Day, a working holiday for us in the trail stewardship business!  There really is no better day to get out and celebrate the onset of summer by hiking and working on your favorite trails in and around the A-B Wilderness!  This year we are tackling some work on the “Jomaha” Trail about 40 miles from Livingston up the Mill Creek drainage past Snowbank campground.  We’ll be: using crosscut saws to clear the trail of downed timber, using picks to improve the trail’s tread along the sidehill through the burn area, and installing posts and signs through the large meadows where it’s easy to get lost.  Round trip distance is about 5-6 miles.  The first 2 miles is fairly rigorous hiking.

Read more about, and SIGN UP for the:National Trails Day--The Jomaha Trail Project

The Palisades Trail Project--part two!

NicholsSaturday, June 14th—Community Trails Day 2014


We think we’ve created a nice annual trail tradition the second Saturday in June.  For the second year in a row, trail enthusiasts from the Red Lodge and Billings area worked on ‘front-country’ trails near Red Lodge.  I’m happy to report that we put the final touches on the new Palisades Trail on the western edge of Red Lodge!  As many of you have discovered, this is a wonderful  trail for horse riders, mountain bikers, and hikers, with loads of wildlife!

Next year we anticipate working on the Nichols Creek Trail, a trail that will start near the junction of the West Fork Rd. and Ski Run Rd. and parallel Palisades and Willow Creek trails, ultimately connecting with those trails at the lower ski area parking lot.

This year 32 people convened at the north end of the trail, to use picks, pulaskis and loppers to carve the existing trail much wider.  These volunteers dedicated their Saturday:  Grant & Laurie Barnard, Annie Britton, Martha Brown, John Clayton, Marian Collar, Rachel Court, Kraig Dippold, Jack Exley, Dan Gathje, Karen Gustafson, Donna Hight, Kristen Hollum, Bob & Mary Johnson, Frank Kelley, Wanda Kennicott & Max Dehio, Scott and Jane Kingser, Tom Kohley, Frank Pelli, Steve Souders, Cat Stevens, June Stilwell, Marge Strum, Wally Tate, Marlene Tetrault, Eric Varney, Chuck Ward, Taylor Westhusin, and Jim White.  THANK YOU!

Drinks, brats and picnic fare, as well as tools and signs were paid for by a generous grant from the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation.  Many members of the Beartooth Recreational Trails Association (BRTA) and Red Lodge Hiking Club were there to lend strong service.  The Aspen Ridge Ranch gave us permission to park and have a picnic afterwards under their aspens.  Between last year and this, over 100 volunteers have labored to make this trail their own!


Last year 60 volunteers joined us for a mass day-long trails event and we did amazing work!  This year we’re putting the finishing touches on the Palisades Trail.  This trail has already become an incredibly popular one the Red Lodge area.  This time we’ll work on the north end which starts at the end of Fox Road off Highway 78.  With an effort like last year’s, we will finish the 3-mile long trail that offers unparalleled opportunities for horseback riding, hiking, skiing and mountain biking tantalizingly close to Red Lodge.  Donate a day volunteering to show how much you appreciate our local trails!  Bring the family!

Read more about, and SIGN UP for the:The Palisades Trail Project--part two!

Wicked Creek Trail Development

Wicked TrailJune 19th - 23rd  (Thurs-Mon)


In late June, the ABWF held its first multi-day work trip of the summer, the Wicked Creek Trail south of Livingston.  This was a grand, collaborative effort, as the ABWF gathered workers from the Livingston Bike Club, the Montana Conservation Corps, and the USFS Yellowstone District trail crew to reestablish a trail from the West Fork of Mill Creek to the crest of the Wicked Creek Trail.  At one point I counted 18 people working the trail at once!   After 5 days of inspired work, a 6-mile trail that was once grown over and untraceable now connects Snowbank campground on Mill Creek up and over the ridge to the West Fork of Mill Creek. 

As mountain biking grows in popularity in our region and riders seek out more challenging terrain, there is greater temptation to “poach” trails in designated Wilderness.  Motorized vehicles and mechanized equipment such as bicycles are not allowed in Wilderness.  The ABWF understands that in order to protect Wilderness trails from illegal mountain-biking, more established trails should exist outside Wilderness.  We partnered with local biking groups to enhance the Wicked Creek Trail!  Cyclists can now complete the route, but the trail is also excellent for hikers and horseback riders.  There are outstanding views of the Absarokas up top in all directions!

Many, many thanks to John Greene, president of the Livingston Bike Club, for rallying so many great workers:  Mike Cimonetti, Dan & Pat Thums, Lee & Jeannie Watson, Paul Rice, Matt Hirsch, and Jordan Watt.  Thank you!  This group put in 155 hours towards the new trail!  Jordan rode the maiden voyage down the new trail.  Lee and Jeannie invited everyone for pizza and beer (and piano) at their house!

Noteworthy:  The ABWF received a $15,000 Grant from the Southern Montana Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) to sponsor this project.  The money paid for the District trail crew of Kat Barker, Lawson Maclean, Dana Petersen, Stephanie Shively, Myranda Hagemann, Caitlin Frawley, and Chris Magee.  The amount of trail we completed was staggering!  Lauren Oswald and Wendi Urie from the Forest’s head office brought muscle and ice cream treats!  The RAC grant supplied volunteers with food and equipment, and covered the ABWF’s coordination.  The MCC out of Bozeman joined us as well.  No wonder 2-½ miles of trail was cut over the course of 5 days!  Wow!

A nod to the ABWF volunteers!  Five women and 3 men logged 234 volunteer hoursMarina Nunez of Billings, Jerry Ladewig of Emigrant, Kelly Loud & Stuart Postiglione from Colorado, Janine Waller from YNP, Steve Caldwell of Livingston, and William Jenkins (from Georgia)—thank you all!  We base-camped at Snowbank campground and shared great food around the campfire every night!


Many of you regularly utilize the multi-use Wicked Creek Trail system (#78) near the Mill Creek cabin south of Livingston.  This summer the ABWF received a grant to help the Yellowstone Ranger District restore the entire length of the Wicked Creek Trail.  Currently, from the Mill Creek Cabin, the trail climbs for a couple of miles to the summit of a long ridge, then drops down into the W. Fork of Mill Creek.  Two and a half miles of this trail on the south side of the divide is in such disrepair that it cannot be used.  Our aim is to restore the trail on the south end, by completing a lot of trail rebuilding (re-tread), posting, brushing and clearing the trail.  Because it melts out early in the season and is accessible year-round, it is popular with both locals and outdoor recreation users—from hikers and mountain bikers to hunters, skiers and trail runners. Bringing back the south side of Trail #78 to Forest Service specifications and making Wicked Creek a through-trail again would dramatically advance recreation opportunities in the area.  

Read more about, and SIGN UP for the:Wicked Creek Trail Development

Bassett Creek Weed Eradication

basset trailSaturday, June 28

Don’t let Weeds Win!  Join us for a full day of weed warfare on Houndstongue, Toadflax, Knapweed, Thistle and Mullein, Saturday, June 28.  Volunteers will pull, dig, remove seed heads, and chemically spray all the noxious weeds we can find in this area leading into the Wilderness.  It’s about a 2.5 mile hike in to the Basin, with many switchbacks and little cover/little water, so bring sun-screen and plenty to drink.  Be prepared to hike 6-7 miles on the day.  Long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and boots are essential as well as rain-protection.  Protective gear will be provided for anyone who helps with spraying. 

Read more about, and SIGN UP for the:Bassett Creek Weed Eradication

East Rosebud Weed Eradication Project

***East Rosebud Project Changed to Sunday, July 13th!!!




July 13th. A sunny Sunday to be in the gorgeous E. Rosebud!  The ABWF has helped  the Forest Service for 4 years monitor a site at the wilderness boundary for knapweed, thistle and houndstongue.  We dedicate a day each summer to pulling and spraying the invasive weeds that threaten to creep up the drainage into the backcountry.  This particular day, Troop 7 from Billings under leaders Mark Sevier & Brian Harrington brought their scouts to do battle with the weeds.  It actually took time to locate much knapweed, a sign that our efforts are working!  But with so many eyes, we searched and destroyed major patches.  At certain stages of its cycle knapweed can be pulled effectively (it’s critical to get the taproot).  Often though, it takes herbicide to eradicate


These scouts (Zach Brant, David Deichl, Jackson Emery, Graham and Will Hammond, Aidan Harrington, Sean & Sean Harrington James Pauley, Phillip Snyder, Shane Stauffer) and their leaders/parents (Mark Sevier, Brian & Molly Harrington, Elizabeth, Lynn, & Rich Pauley, Rick Stauffer) made sure we didn’t miss any weeds!  Thanks to Annette Lavalette and Frank Annighofer of Friends of East Rosebud.  Their effort in getting the East Rosebud designated as a Wild and Scenic River is closer at hand than ever.  Montana has very few designated Wild & Scenic Rivers and the E. Rosebud is truly worthy!


The USFS’s Jane Taylor, weed technician for the Beartooth District, led this effort.  She and David sprayed some additional patches we missed in July.  


Volunteer a single Sunday in July.  If you have been wanting to help the ABWF on an easy trail and don't have the time for one of our multi-day projects, this weed-busting project could be for you!  The ABWF will be teaming up with the Forest Service, East Rosebud Lake Association, and volunteers to pull and spray invasive weeds (mostly spotted knapweed and Canada thistle) on one of the most heavily used trails in the entire A-B Wilderness--the Beaten Path.  This is an on-going effort to gain the upper hand in destroying the weeds that threaten wilderness quality and push out native species, and we need your help!

Read more about, and SIGN UP for the:East Rosebud Weed Eradication Project

Stillwater River Trail Improvement Project

stillwater triailJuly 17th-24th (Thurs-Thurs)


In April, the ABWF was chosen to receive a $10,000 grant from the Southern Montana Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) to help further repair the middle section of the Stillwater Trail from Horseshoe Creek to the Wounded Man bridge.  The money made it possible to mount an ABWF/Forest Service expedition 16 miles up the Stillwater River where we could improve the trail and fix a bridge abutment.

Billings comes through!  Our volunteers were entirely from Billings and spent 7 days helping the ABWF fix trail that has been an impediment, especially to horse traffic, for decades.  Thanks to professors Lynne Fitzgerald and Jon Carling of the Health and Human Performance Department at MSU-Billings, who annually backpack, fish, and do trail service work in the Montana wilderness.  Four of their faculty, including Loretta Morgan and Pat Hughes, coaxed MSUB Outdoor Education students Camille Seed, Ben Smith, and Keith Wectawski, and high school seniors Marissa Henthorn and Alice Zeeb of the Upward Bound program to join us in the Stillwater.  Rene and Corby Freitag of Billings fit right in with our lively group from MSU!  None complained about the 16-mile hike into our camp, and the Stillwater offered welcome fishing and swimming holes at the end of the workday!

Fortunately for all of us, the Beartooth Backcountry Horsemen (John & Bonnie Chepulis, Dave Heinle,  Kristine Rickman, Dan Aadland, Howard Butler, Dick Martin, Judy Sailer, & Jim Anderson) lightened our loads using their stock and time to pack us in and out.  Allie Wood, Nolan Melin, Taylor Westhusin (ABWF’s Intern from Colorado) and Aaron Benjamin of the Beartooth Ranger District provided leadership.  Over 7 days we hiked and worked 50 miles of trail, marking the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act!


Get to the heart of the Wilderness!  To the northwest of Cooke City, MT and Daisy Pass are the headwaters of the Stillwater River and the start of the classic 30-mile Stillwater Trail that ends near the Stillwater Mine outside Nye, Montana.  The ABWF is looking for 10-12 trail volunteers to continue our work on the improvement of this trail 8-miles north of the wilderness boundary at Abundance Lake.  Water has eroded the trail badly and the crew will need to add water bars, build up and fill in the trail, and widen it in places.  Work will progress down to the junction of the Stillwater and Horseshoe Creek, and afterwards we will complete the entire length of the Stillwater Trail and exit at Woodbine campground.  We’ll be working side by side with a Forest Service crew from the Beartooth Ranger District.

Read more about, and SIGN UP for the:Stillwater River Trail Improvement Project

Red Lodge Creek Plateau Trail Building Project

August 8th-12th (Fri-Tues)


The ABWF resumed its work for a third year atop the Senia Creek Trail on the Red Lodge Creek Plateau.  In 2012 and 2013, we carved 1-1/2 miles of trail around the head of Upper Red Lodge Creek, bypassing a poorly constructed and eroded trail.  This summer we erased the old trail, and tied in the ends of the new trail to the existing trail.

With the Beartooth’s Madeleine Kornfield supervising, 10 volunteers for the ABWF worked for four days on the trail, camping a mile from the worksite.  We added a few hundred more yards of trail, and built large cairns to guide the hiker to the new trail.  Considerable time went into erasing the old section of trail, filling it in with rock, dirt, and brush.  So efficient were we that we even created a new section of switchbacks leading up the plateau.

Red Lodge Food Corps’ service member, Emily Howe served as our camp cook, and left a lot of sweat on trail, too.  This trip was entirely packed in and out by the Beartooth Backcountry Horsemen (Dusty Sturm, John Chepulis, Jim Coverly), and we are indebted to this outstanding service organization.  They provided horses and helped transport all our tools, food, and supplies to our campsite.

Thanks to: Joel Gregory of St. Paul, Karen Gustafson and Dave Wood of Billings, Puck, my wilderness trail dog, Emily Howe of Red Lodge (& Philly), Sarah Bierschwale of Gardiner/Red Lodge, Terry Perkins of Roberts, Tynan McMullen, 16, from Tomah, Wisconsin, Mel Tempel of Apache Jct. AZ, and Jim Dickert of Red Lodge. 


This is one of the most beautiful settings for a trail project imaginable!  For the third year in a row, the ABWF and its volunteers will return to the tundra-covered Red Lodge Creek Plateau and finish off the trail-building project we started in 2012.  This project takes place at the crest of the Senia Creek Trail before it drops down to Crow Lake and the E. Rosebud.   Last summer, with the help of the Beartooth District’s trail crew, 13 volunteers largely finished a mile-long reroute of the trail that now relieves hikers from having to drop deeply into the gulch and climb back out again.  This year we will cover up and rehabilitate the old trail, and then connect the two ends of the new trail with the existing trail to complete the project.  You will be astounded to see how much ABWF volunteers have accomplished!

Read more about, and SIGN UP for the:Red Lodge Creek Plateau Trail Building Project

Slough Creek Cabin Projects

slough creekAugust 12th-16th (Tues-Sat)


Thank yous as well to Jordan & Les Denny of Laramie and Billings; Rob Forstenzer and Jack Heckles of Livingston; Janet Gale & Traute Parrie of Red Lodge; and Walt Hajducki of Connecticut.  These volunteers, plus Alyson Morris (our summer intern, WA) and myself, returned with the USFS’s Jeremy Zimmer to do a smorgasbord of work projects based out of the historic Slough Creek cabin.  Doug Moffat and his crew at the Silvertip Ranch got the eight of us in there in style by draft horse and wagon, saving long miles on foot.  We always appreciate that!

Our work repaired fence around the cabin and pasture, removed an old bridge, cleaned water bars, sprayed oxeye daisy and other noxious weeds in Frenchy’s Meadow, and cleaned the cabin.  I might have been the only one on the trip who did not fish! While the fishing wasn’t spectacular, we did have a grand time enjoying nightly campfires, and a slew of meals served up by our camp chef, David Kallenbach.  At the end, we hiked out the 13 gorgeous miles and let Jeremy’s Forest Service pack horses haul out the heavy stuff.  


Last year’s work trip along Slough Creek at Frenchy’s Meadows was such a success that we are going back for an encore performance—for five days, August 12-16, to complete more work!  Sign up quickly.  These 8 slots went fast last year, as this is a truly unique opportunity to travel into a remote cabin at the Slough Creek Guard Station and work on volunteer projects such as trail improvements, tackling invasive weeds, and cabin maintenance.  
Because of the generosity of the great folks at the 110-year old Silvertip Ranch, we were able to catch a 2-1/2 hour, 12-mile ride in their horse-drawn wagons to their ranch.  Talk about a romantic old-west experience! 

Read more about, and SIGN UP for the:Slough Creek Cabin Projects

Russell Creek Puncheon Replacement Project

Russell CreekAugust 18-22, 2014 (Mon-Fri)


Nine volunteers for the ABWF found out what a puncheon is, replacing one at the head of the ‘Beaten Path’ trail near Cooke City.  Beyond Kersey Lake we found a 105’ raised and rotted boardwalk across a soggy meadow.  The bridge-like structure was too decrepit for horse and human hooves.  So the ABWF’s volunteers tore the old one out and built a new one with planks packed in by the Skyline Guest Ranch.  Heading the project was the Gardiner District’s Jeremy Zimmer and Stephanie Shively.  Beams were cut with crosscut saws from the forest nearby and hauled into place with monumental effort.  For that we discovered the beauty of ‘Swede Hooks,’ hinged dual hooks that allow multiple people to carry very heavy logs. 

Six foot long ‘sills’ sunk in the ground crosswise served as the supports.  Perpendicularly atop these we laid down 25 foot tree-trunks, the uber-heavy ‘stringers’ running lengthwise.  A horse from the Skyline Guest Ranch saved us from hauling 6 of them.  The stringers were notched out and the planks levelled and spiked into place with 8” to 12” nails.  Four days later we hammered in the final spike, completing our puncheon.  Great project!

Let me say it’s gratifying to get volunteers from across the nation!  Walt Hajducki drove from Connecticut and worked two back-to-back projects for the ABWF.  Brian Hurd, 19, from the Rochester, NY area took trains, buses, and autos to get here.  Cobe Chatwood lives in California and summers in Red Lodge.  Alyson Morris represented the state of Washington and Matt Hallingstad drove from Idaho; both provided much needed muscle on the project!  Luke Gullickson, a musician from Iowa, was there, while Jerry Ladewig and Barb Ostrum call Emigrant and Red Lodge home.  We enjoyed our stay at the Cooke City Ranger Cabin immensely.  Thanks, Jeremy, for placing so much trust in ABWF volunteers on such a challenging project.  Our ‘Intra-National’ volunteers came through!


To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, be a trail volunteer along the famed ‘Beaten Path’ Trail!  Russell Creek, just out of Cooke City, is the traditional access for the 30-mile long Beaten Path trail that ends at Alpine in the E. Rosebud.  A few miles from the trailhead, the trail crosses wet meadows beyond Kersey Lake which is where a puncheon needs replacing.  What is a puncheon?  A low bridge/boardwalk made of logs and planks that make travel through wet meadows less environmentally damaging.  Our group of volunteers will remove the old puncheon and replace it with a new 100’ structure that will be horse-packed in.  The work will consist of cutting logs, moving them and entrenching them in the ground, levelling the base and nailing the planks down onto the crossbeams.  Bring your engineering skills!

Read more about, and SIGN UP for the:Russell Creek Puncheon Replacement Project

Wolverine and Lynx Study

wolverine**No Cost to Participate!!

The Yellowstone River Research Center (YRRC) at Rocky Mountain College is developing a long-term citizen science monitoring program for wolverine and lynx within the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently extended listing the wolverine as an endangered species in the lower 48 states, where lynx are currently listed as a threatened species.  There are only two historical records of wolverine and one of lynx in the interior of the A-B Wilderness.   Given our knowledge of these species habitat requirements and the records from the surrounding area we assume that the A-B Wilderness is suitable habitat for both of these species.

Read more about, and SIGN UP for the:Wolverine and Lynx Study

Montana Pika Survey

PicaThe Craighead Institute and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation are teaming up to do citizen science, the Montana Pika Survey—finding volunteers who will help record pika locations and other data when out hiking in the A-B Wilderness.
This is the very cute and industrious pika that lives in mountain talus or boulder fields.  He is also an important barometer of a changing climate as he sees his alpine habitat shrinking.  You can help record pika locations throughout Montana, by following these steps.

Read more about, and SIGN UP for the:Montana Pika Survey
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