Selkirk reflections

Print Article

  • Looking down from the Turtle Arches. (Please add this credit to main photo you select: Photos by JASON WILMOTH)

  • 1

    Looking down from the Turtle Arches.

  • 2

    Frank Dusl climbing at the Turtle Arches.

  • 3

    Chris Doll rappels off a route.

  • Looking down from the Turtle Arches. (Please add this credit to main photo you select: Photos by JASON WILMOTH)

  • 1

    Looking down from the Turtle Arches.

  • 2

    Frank Dusl climbing at the Turtle Arches.

  • 3

    Chris Doll rappels off a route.

Opinion: ‘These we will save for our children’

I struggle sometimes deciding what I should share with whoever may be reading my articles. I’m wary of telling the hordes of weekend opportunists how to get to the places that I cherish, because I know that a place can be loved to death.

I’m not sure where my liability for advertising the beauty of North Idaho begins and ends. As such I will always keep some places to myself.

At the same time, however, I also know that if nobody loves a place, nobody will look after it.

The Selkirks are to me, a seldom visited and classic North Idaho experience. The crest itself is not easily gained. Rough roads requiring some skilled four-wheel driving, and miles of steep hiking trails are the only methods for experiencing the most celebrated granite domes and spires. Only those people who are dedicated and adventurous will share with me the sense of exultation gained by standing on a Selkirk summit. It is to those people I now speak.

The Selkirks are a place for my children and yours to adventure and dream.

Sadly, I have seen an idyllic trailhead trashed in just a matter of hours on the first busy weekend of summer. Some of my favorite locations have become places I refuse to visit on a sunny weekend. Not because of the quantity of people present, which is easily escapable in the Selkirks, but because of the complete disregard for what I find beautiful.

Pick up your trash.

Five years ago, when I last visited this valley I was happy to stand on the top of Myrtle’s Turtle and see an unbroken expanse of green.

On my recent weekend adventure to the Myrtle Creek drainage I was sad to see logging so close to the boundary of the wilderness. My climbing partner and I had some difficulty finding the route to the Turtle Arches. We drove up one road until finding it completely washout out, and after running up the ridge to where we could gain a view, found out this was a result of the large and fairly recent clear-cut.

As a carpenter I am culpable for those trees. I spend my days turning those trees into homes and businesses. In fact, I absolutely love the thrill of felling trees. I would never bemoan the timber industry.

But somewhere the line has to be drawn. A demarcation around the singular places. “These right here, these we will save for our children.”

To that end, I hope you visit Myrtle’s Turtle. And Chimney Rock. And Harrison Peak. And Lionshead. And Mount Roothaan. And Gunsight Peak. And Beehive Dome…I hope you struggle up the trails and the peaks, the granite spires and slabs. I hope you fall in love.

Because if you fall in love, you will protect it.

The crunch of footpads on the gravel road woke me, I’d been barely sleeping all night anyway. Even with my pistol stashed underneath the crumpled-up sweatshirt that had become my pillow, I just wasn’t at peace out under the stars. I’d seen too many bears in the Selkirks to sleep soundly.

I listened as the sounds of an imagined grizzly bear receded up the road and were then replaced by the harrowing calls of a trio of owls arguing in the night. I pushed the conjured carnivore out of my head, gathered what little courage I could, and rolled over to embrace to milky way splashed perpendicularly between the black valley walls.

It was 3:04 am, and I knew there would be several hours of random night noises until the eastern sky began to radiate.

My mind eventually wandered back to my first hiking expedition into the Selkirks. My aunts’ husband, Doug, had taken me to Chimney Rock, not from the more common Priest Lake side, but up from the Pack River. I was fairly new to North Idaho, and my uncle had taken an interest in my love of the mountains.

Hiking up the old road bed that climbed heartily from the river, I remember thinking Doug was trying to test my mettle. The abandoned road was relentlessly sustained. It kept climbing out of the valley, crossing creeks that poured over granite slabs, then soon became an actual trail that became even steeper.

This was my initiation to the Bailey Mile. The Bailey Mile is a designation with no actual relationship to any measurable number. Suppose some trail begins along a creek, climbs a ridge, rounds the north of the mountain and enters some dark woods before sharply climbing above the tree line toward the summit. This would constitute 4 Bailey miles (creek, ridge, woods, summit =4). The fact that this supposed trail was ACTUALLY closer to 9 miles holds no bearing.

About 3 Bailey Miles into the hike, after the trail crossed granite slabs marked only by rock cairns, Doug pointed through the clouds to the base of where Chimney Rock WOULD be if the sky wasn’t struck by a procession of unyielding clouds. We crossed boulder fields, then up a trail that rounded the base of the rock. We turned the corner and encountered a snowfield in our path. Doug explained that our campsite was on the other side of this snowfield and down on the granite shelf below. The clouds were dense and pouring over the ridge, and I was nervous. I felt like I was standing over a snowy abyss. We cautiously crossed the snowfield and began our descent.

I can’t remember if the rain began before we reached our campsite, or the moment we attempted to build a fire, but I know we spent a long time nurturing the sodden wood into a blaze. The storm began in earnest during this process and we soon gave in, stoked the stubbornly built fire, and retreated into our tents for the night.

During the storm Doug had to pile his gear on top of his sleeping pad in the corner of his tent to keep them out of the river which had begun flowing through his tent. Somehow, my tent stayed dry.

In the morning the fog still overwhelmed any sight of Chimney Rock. We cooked breakfast over our fire and watched as the fog slowly burned off. When the sky cleared enough that we were finally able to see the rock which emerged above us, I was astounded. It was grander than I had ever imagine. I never knew that something so bold could exist. This was my introduction to the Selkirks.

That day while hiking below the rock I found a red wire gate carabiner in the boulder field. When I showed Doug my discovery he told me that his brother Mike had climbed Chimney Rock years before.

I had never considered myself capable of becoming a rock climber, but that day in camp I envisioned myself standing on the top of that granite tower. I still have the red carabiner and I have since climbed Chimney Rock as well as several other striking features along the Selkirk Crest.

As the trio of owls continued their argument above me on the ridge, I noticed I could see fewer stars than I had been able to just minutes before. Soon the eastern sky was awash in shades of blue. I heard my climbing partner, Chris Doll, stir in the back of his truck and I morosely rolled to a sitting position, still in my sleeping bag.

I was in the Selkirks, west of Bonners Ferry. My climbing buddies and I were planning on spending the summers’ Sunday climbing a rock formation named Myrtles Turtle No. 2 (or the Myrtle Arches). I’d climbed the main “Turtle” several years before and had heard rumors about the Turtle Arches, located to the north.

We made coffee and wondered to each other whether the rest of our group was ever going to make it, and soon the sound of tires on gravel confirmed that Frank Dusl and Traci Sessions had made the drive out of Coeur d’Alene and would indeed be climbing with us that day.

As we all laughed and took in the early morning, pre-adventure sheen, I overheard Traci say that Frank had seen a black bear walking up the road that morning.

I wonder whether those footsteps in the night had come from the same bear.

Opinion: ‘These we will save for our children’

I struggle sometimes deciding what I should share with whoever may be reading my articles. I’m wary of telling the hordes of weekend opportunists how to get to the places that I cherish, because I know that a place can be loved to death.

I’m not sure where my liability for advertising the beauty of North Idaho begins and ends. As such I will always keep some places to myself.

At the same time, however, I also know that if nobody loves a place, nobody will look after it.

The Selkirks are to me, a seldom visited and classic North Idaho experience. The crest itself is not easily gained. Rough roads requiring some skilled four-wheel driving, and miles of steep hiking trails are the only methods for experiencing the most celebrated granite domes and spires. Only those people who are dedicated and adventurous will share with me the sense of exultation gained by standing on a Selkirk summit. It is to those people I now speak.

The Selkirks are a place for my children and yours to adventure and dream.

Sadly, I have seen an idyllic trailhead trashed in just a matter of hours on the first busy weekend of summer. Some of my favorite locations have become places I refuse to visit on a sunny weekend. Not because of the quantity of people present, which is easily escapable in the Selkirks, but because of the complete disregard for what I find beautiful.

Pick up your trash.

Five years ago, when I last visited this valley I was happy to stand on the top of Myrtle’s Turtle and see an unbroken expanse of green.

On my recent weekend adventure to the Myrtle Creek drainage I was sad to see logging so close to the boundary of the wilderness. My climbing partner and I had some difficulty finding the route to the Turtle Arches. We drove up one road until finding it completely washout out, and after running up the ridge to where we could gain a view, found out this was a result of the large and fairly recent clear-cut.

As a carpenter I am culpable for those trees. I spend my days turning those trees into homes and businesses. In fact, I absolutely love the thrill of felling trees. I would never bemoan the timber industry.

But somewhere the line has to be drawn. A demarcation around the singular places. “These right here, these we will save for our children.”

To that end, I hope you visit Myrtle’s Turtle. And Chimney Rock. And Harrison Peak. And Lionshead. And Mount Roothaan. And Gunsight Peak. And Beehive Dome…I hope you struggle up the trails and the peaks, the granite spires and slabs. I hope you fall in love.

Because if you fall in love, you will protect it.

Print Article

Read More

As Canada legalizes pot, other countries likely to follow

AP

October 17, 2018 at 10:56 pm | SEATTLE (AP) — More than two dozen countries have relaxed their marijuana or other drug laws, and a number could consider legalizing in the not-too-distant future. The South American nation of Urugua...

Comments

Read More

Asia shares sag after retreat on Wall St, weaker Japan data

AP

October 17, 2018 at 9:11 pm | BANGKOK (AP) — Shares fell Thursday in Asia after a retreat on Wall Street driven by sell-offs of technology shares, homebuilders and retailers. A report of weaker Japanese exports in September under...

Comments

Read More

The gaming initiative--deja vu all over again

October 17, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Coeur d'Alene Press In the immortal words of that baseball great, Yogi Berra, the historical horse-racing initiative, Proposition One, is “deja vu all over again” for me. In 1986, Idaho voters approved an initiative i...

Comments

Read More

POEM: Kavanaugh’s song

October 17, 2018 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press It was the night before confirmation and there was great despair. The Democrats were gnashing their teeth and pulling out their hair. They just couldn’t allow Brett to win. For that to happen woul...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 664-8176
215 N. Second St
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

©2018 The Coeur d'Alene Press Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X