Wilderness, Volunteers and….Llamas??

Alaska Basin in the Jed Smith Trail Crew on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest Llamas in the Wilderness


Located within a special part of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest lies the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness. Long and narrow, this Wilderness encompasses the west slope of the Teton Mountain Range, providing breath taking vistas and unique karst limestone features. The trails are popular among locals and receive high-use from organized groups due to its easily accessible trailheads.

Access to this area is limited to foot and horse travel making trail maintenance a unique challenge as many of the tools and transportation methods indicative of normal trail maintenance are not viable options. Added to this challenge is limited funding, which requires forest service recreation staff to think outside the box to complete different projects. And thinking outside the box is just what the Teton Basin Ranger District (TBRD) does through its strong partnerships and grant opportunities. “We are very fortunate to have extraordinary motivated partners and community support that help us with our work,” said Scott Bossell, Wilderness manager.

One such extraordinary partner is the Teton Valley Trails and Pathways (TVTAP) organization. Nestled amid the shadow of this magnificent landscape TVTAP is committed to making a difference in trail management. TVTAP connects the community to each other and nature. Their vision extends well outside the city limits as they are an integral part in assisting the TBRD manage its trail system. From snow sports to bike trails, TVTAP is engaged in building, maintaining and sustaining the popular and unique trail system within the valley and national forest.

Recently this small non-profit, with the oversight of Bossell, completed a rigorous and time-consuming trail project within the Wilderness. Since a Wilderness area is unique and is intended to keep its natural state untrammeled by man, use of motorized tools and mechanical transportation is not allowed. That stipulation requires both partners and forest to be creative in its management of the 123,896-acres Jed Smith. With that in mind during the heat of the summer, 13 volunteers recruited by TVTAP hiked over four miles into the Wilderness to complete manual trail maintenance and improvement, install a sign and reroute a trail from an established riparian area.

These volunteers were supported by additional volunteers, who packed in supplies and food. Horse volunteer Melissa Pangraze used her horses and mules to haul in trail tools. Wildland Trekking supplied nine llamas and three llama guides to haul in camp gear and food so the rest could carry day packs. Wildland Trekking also donated food, guide services and their amazing culinary skills to keep volunteers fed during the three-day event. Extensive work done to South Badger Creek Trail will provide improved access to other trail users while limiting environmental impacts.

Volunteers are critical to the success of many programs within the Federal Government. In the near future, the Teton Basin is looking to move beyond just trail work and find a core of volunteers dedicated to Wilderness education and Leave No Trace and Bear Aware principles.

Key Contacts

Sarah Wheeler
Public Affairs Officer
Brian Micklich
Admin. Ops Specialist