Hikers will take the route less traveled

March 16, 2020 11:08 AM

To the editor:

Regarding the latest article on the Yaak Valley Forest Council’s attempt to have Congress change the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (“Diverging approaches taken to Pacific Northwest Trail,” Feb. 25), if you want to see why the alternative route would be doomed for failure check out the YouTube video, “The Truth About Efforts to Reroute the Pacific Northwest Trail in Lincoln County, Montana.”

In short, the alternative would be a trail of no use. I live right along the trail route and for quite a few years now, as a trail angel, have been meeting and assisting hikers as they walk through the valley. For these long-distance backpackers, the fewer the towns, the better. They love hiking wild lands.

To think that hikers would want to walk along the dusty logging roads outside Libby and along U.S. Highway 2 in the heat of July is frankly ludicrous. It’s not like they can hop in the car and jet down to see the falls and then go spend big bucks in Libby or Troy. They are walking. I guarantee you they will not walk the 100 extra road miles added to the Pacific Northwest Trail just to please a group of people who think they can tell other people where they have to walk.

And guess what? Unlike the official Pacific Northwest Trail route that, by the time it was designated a national scenic trail in 2009, had been worked on for more than 30 years (including by Yaak residents in the Yaak Trail Club) and already had been completely hiked many times with the route already established, no one has ever walked the trail route that the Yaak Valley Forest Council is proposing.

The people proposing the alternative aren’t planning to walk the trail. They want to walk the trails back home in the Yaak, just with fewer people. So, it would be up to the U.S. Forest Service to design and construct many miles of trails and literally dozens of footbridges in order for an unknown number of people to walk the convoluted slopes between Eureka and Libby in the heat of summer, at a cost of many millions of dollars.

But it gets even better. One of the things I’ve noticed about the hikers I’ve met is that they are extreme individualists. To think that they are going to go where they are told is laughable if you know these people. They have done their homework. Since the scenic trail was designated back in 2009, there have been countless maps and books published, showing people where to go, which is not down to Troy or Libby.

Of course, where they go will be the designated national scenic route, since there’s no law against individuals walking the trails in our national forests, not even in the Yaak.

If all of this makes no sense to you, well, you’re not alone. The best thing you can do about it is contact Montana senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte and tell them you support the Pacific Northwest Trail right where it’s at.

Randy Beacham

Yaak Valley