VTC #8 – Johnson Lake

Home Discover the Wild Volunteer Trail Crew VTC #8 – Johnson Lake
Photo by Meg Killen

Project: Johnson Lake

Landscape: Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness

Dates: July 20 – 27, 2019

Location: Continental Divide Trail, AP Wilderness – Pintler R.D.
Project Work: Trail Maintenance
Camping: Backcountry (stock supported)
Project Difficulty: Strenuous
Volunteer Limit: 8
Volunteer Slots Available: FULL
Meeting Time & Place: Saturday, July 20th, 6:00 p.m. @ Middle Fork TH

***Please note this project is full. Further registrations will go to the waitlist.***


Project Description

Montana Wilderness Association volunteers have been improving the Continental Divide Trail in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness for seven years. This trip to Johnson Lake will be our 21st stewardship outing in the AP! Our crew will retread sections of the CDT near Rainbow Pass while also improving drainage along the trail by cleaning and installing small structures. Additional maintenance work for our crew is located closer to camp by Johnson Lake.

Our Volunteer Trail Crew projects in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness are always highlights of the summer season. The vistas are grand and the alpine lakes offer tranquility and the all important backcountry bath! Come be a part of our legacy of service in the AP and see why we are so excited to come back year after year.

About the Area

One of the jewels of the Northern Rockies, the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, managed by the Forest Service, encompasses 158,615 acres. It was designated in 1964, the year the Wilderness Act was certified.

The Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness straddles the Continental Divide along the crest of the Anaconda Range in southwestern Montana, positioned between the Bitterroot Valley to the northwest and the Big Hole Valley to the south. Streams and rivers drain to the Bitterroot and Big Hole rivers as well as Rock Creek. While the Anaconda Range’s permanent snowfields today are modest, the Wilderness protects a spectacular array of glacially carved landforms. These include tarn-pocked cirques, huge U-shaped valleys, knife-edged ridges (arêtes), and moraines. Elevations stretch from 5,100 feet along the canyon bottoms to 10,893 feet at West Goat Peak (one of several 10,000-plus-footers in the Wilderness).

Geologically, the Anacondas include Precambrian and Paleozoic limestones, sandstones, and other sedimentary layers struck with igneous intrusions. Canyon bottoms support riparian forests and willow thickets, while vegetation on the mountain slopes ranges from sagebrush in the foothills through spruce-fir and pine forests to subalpine communities of quaking aspen, whitebark pine, and alpine larch. Along the high Divide, bare rock, tundra, and snowfields reign.

Native wildlife includes many of the large mammals indigenous to the Rockies at the time of Euro-American settlement, among them mule deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, wolverine, gray wolf, puma, black bear, and the odd grizzly bear. – Wilderness.net

Meeting Time & Place

Saturday, July 20th, 6:00 p.m. @ Middle Fork Trailhead

Directions from Philipsburg, MT:
Drive south on Hwy 1 for aprox 6 miles
Turn right onto Hwy 38 toward Skalkaho Pass
Continue for approximately 9 miles
Turn left onto Moose Lake Road (FSR 5106)
Continue south on Moose Lake Road for 15 miles
Turn left to stay onto Moose Lake Road
Continue for one quarter mile
Middle Fork Trailhead is on your left

Google Map Directions here.

Camping Details

On Saturday evening, we will car camp at the Middle Fork TH. Monday morning we will pack into our backcountry camp near Johnson Lake. This will be a primitive, backcountry camp. Upon arriving at camp we will set up a bear hang, dig a latrine, establish a kitchen with tarp cover, and being filtering water for the week. Leave No Trace and Bear Safety practices will be strictly followed throughout the week.

This is a stock-supported trip, meaning packers will be bringing in all of our group gear and food. Volunteers must be prepared to carry in all of their own personal gear in addition to a trail tool. There is always a chance packers will be able to take a tent or sleeping bag off your back, but do not bank on it. A huge thanks to our packer friends with the Back Country Horsemen!

Hike to Camp: 5 miles, 1300' elevation gain

Project Difficulty

This will be a Strenuous Project. The hike to camp will be arduous with 1300' elevation gain over 5 miles. Our primary worksite will be near Rainbow Pass, requiring 3 - 6 miles of daily round trip hiking with up to 1900' elevation gain. Our secondary worksite is below the lake, requiring less hiking. Work tasks involve digging and moving heavy rock/logs. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns about your ability to participate safely in this project.

*Note: project work is subject to change. Our tasks may become easier or more challenging. Your flexibility in the field is appreciated as we adapt to changing conditions. 

Food and Water

MWA will provide all food and cooking equipment. No dinner will be provided Saturday night, so please plan accordingly. First meal provided will be breakfast Sunday morning and last meal will be lunch on our pack-out day.

Volunteers are expected to help with food preparation and clean up on a rotating basis, but your crew leader will handle primary kitchen responsibilities. We will be filtering drinking water for the week and everyone's help in keeping the cubies full will be appreciated (MWA provides group water filters).

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