National Trails Day on the North Fork
Jun 27, 2016
National Trails Day, held on the first Saturday in June each year, was created by the American Hiking Society to celebrate 200,000 miles of America’s trails. This year the Pacific Northwest Trail Association (PNTA) held a National Trails Day volunteer work event on the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail’s eastern section, near the off-grid community of Polebridge, Montana.
Polebridge lies in an isolated region referred to as the North Fork, after the section of the Flathead River that passes through this majestic valley, Glacier National Park to the east and the Flathead National Forest on the west. A small strip of privately-owned land on the River’s west side was the last place in the United States to be homesteaded and is home to the North Fork’s modest resident population. Among these adventurous folks is an eager crew of hikers who aptly call themselves the North Fork Trails Association (NFTA). The all-volunteer effort, led by President Bill Walker, promotes, maintains, and preserves historic trails in the area, which in turn supports recreation, forest management, and research in their backyard.
The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail runs directly through the North Fork region. NFTA and the Montana Conservation Corps partnered with PNTA for a special day of outdoor stewardship, fun, and community. With its low elevation, the Trail’s Hay Creek section avoided lingering winter snows. Seventeen volunteers brushed a mile and a half in from the trailhead on an old roadbed brimming with young alder and spruce. Using hand tools, people cut back encroaching alder branches and evergreen saplings while taking in sparkling views across the North Fork Valley, including the stately line of peaks that crest Glacier National Park’s western edge. When the day’s heat topped out, the sweaty crew headed back to the famous Polebridge Mercantile for a lunch of burgers, morel mushroom soup, and ice cold drinks.
It was successful trail work, but more importantly, folks from the North Fork, greater Flathead Valley, and beyond were brought together as a community to celebrate the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail and the glorious beauty of the region.