Ice Cream in the Backcountry with Montana Conservation Corps

Article, written by corpsmember Jakob Wyder, appears in the MCC Kcrew Blog.

If someone had asked me to describe my best ice-cream-eating-experience prior to our Foys to Blacktail hitch, I would have had to think for an awkwardly long time before resurrecting some partially sweet, partially bitter; semi-work-appropriate memory involving my ex-girlfriend and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. This really isn’t the time or place for that story, but now I can tell a much better one that includes all of the YCLs from Western Wildlands and Northern Rockies and a happy birthday girl/SYCL who loves Sweet Peaks.

During the week of May 7th our gang of WW YCLs joined forces with our N-Rock counterparts, who wish they were even half as sweet as us. Whoops, I didn’t mean to let that one slip out..just a joke, love you N-Rock!  Anyway, we were all stoked to get a chance to escape the office and do some real, hands-on trail work south of Kalispell near the town of Lakeside. The project that we were hopping onto has been going on for over a year now and has been worked on exclusively by MCC youth crews! A group of community members is constructing a 60-mile loop trail that will connect Lakeside to a small, family-run ski mountain called Blacktail. The community members involved are all avid mountain bikers, so it should not come as a surprise that the trail is designed to provide an exhilarating two-wheeled ride.

Our work consisted of fixing some drains in the trail and digging new tread to continue extending the trail to Blacktail. It served as a valuable learning experience for all of us because in order to dig new tread you must know all about how trails work and everything that goes into their construction. A two-foot width, proper sideslope, 45 degrees of backslope and a well-defined hinge are some of the many specifications and vocabulary words we deal with. The project also required lots of dirt to be moved and debris to be cleared, which provided us with a chance to strenuously work our bodies and get nice and dirty.

We also got a chance to endure the elements. Our first morning we woke up to several inches of freshly-fallen snow! This backcountry surprise didn’t discourage us in the least, in fact it seemed to highly boost group morale. The next day there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and all of the snow quickly melted. On our third day we witnessed our drains in action and tried to keep warm beneath a bone-chilling rain.

Okay, so we had a great few days getting our hands dirty on the trail, but you’re probably still wondering where the ice cream comes into play. On May 7th, our second full day in the field, it became known that it was Britney’s birthday. “Man, we dropped the ball on that one! I knew I was forgetting something!” Kyle yelled. We all felt the same way, ashamed for collectively forgetting to provide any sort of gift to our wonderful WW SYCL. 

“I KNEW we should have bought the birthday cake oreos!” Sara lamented, as she did push for them at the Orange Street Food Farm but no one else liked the idea. 

“We’ll take you out to the Old Post for dinner,” We suggested, but Britney wasn’t too enthused. “…Or SWEET PEAKS for ice cream!” At this suggestion Britney’s eyes lit up the way they always do when ice cream becomes the topic of conversation. Moments after we suggested this, Lauryn the N-Rock FPC appeared on the trail with a white paper bag in her hand. “Hey guys! HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRITNEY!” She opened the bag and pulled out three pints of none other than Sweet Peaks ice cream- Britney’s favorite! That’s right, ice cream in the backcountry, several miles down the trail, all thanks to Lauren! We took a moment to celebrate and eat some of the best ice cream on earth while enjoying the serenity of Montana wilderness and a world-class view of Flathead Lake. “This is my best birthday ever!”  Britney exclaimed ecstatically.

So that’s the coolest place I’ve ever eaten ice cream and probably the most I’ve ever enjoyed it. Ice cream, like most things, tastes way better in the woods, especially after a hard day of swinging tools and digging new tread. Also, celebrating a birthday on hitch is always lots of fun. In case you take ice cream as seriously as we do and are wondering what flavors Lauren brought up, they were: salted caramel, grasshopper mint and, of course, cupcake. This was certainly better than a night with Ben & Jerry and my ex. Thanks Lauren!