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

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!

We will basecamp at the Forest Service cabin outside Cooke City and hike the two miles into the work site each day.  Due to grizzly protocols in the Cooke City area, we must sleep in the cabin or in hard-sided campers at the cabin site.  Meals are provided!  On the final day, Friday, we will take a break from the work and enjoy a hike in the immediate area.  This trail project is a partnership with the Wilderness Walks program of the Montana Wilderness Association!  Space is limited.

Russell Creek Puncheon Replacement Project

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