Yet, that’s what wilderness often means, and that’s why I love this place. It's not a national park, nor a state park, nor even a recreation area. Northwestern Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness is the biggest such area in the lower 48 states and also boasts the highest concentration of grizzly bears.
There are no bridges, trail markers, phone signals, or tourists. To cross a river, you roll up your pants, don some trekking poles, and hop into the biting melted-glacier-water. Sometimes waist deep. Navigating this wilderness requires a good map, solid outdoor skills, and a propensity not to freak out when you feel lost (ahem – something I'm still developing).
Our tents sprawled amidst the trees surrounding the main community area, which held a primitive fire ring and makeshift kitchen. We dug our latrine a short walk from camp with a breathtaking view of the river below and a tree trunk to hug for balance. It was the loveliest place I've ever taken a dump.
Each day, the ten of us – five men and five women ranging in age from 17 to 64 – hiked straight up the steep mountain trail with daypacks and heavy tools. We returned to camp each night covered head to toe in black soot from the burnt tree trunks and with bodies stinking from a hard day’s work.
I missed nothing about my "civilized" life back home. This trip reinforced my belief that humans are not meant to be domesticated. While not everyone can find joy in being covered with grime and working their muscles to the point of shaky exhaustion on a remote mountain trail, everyone has a wild place inside of them that should be heard, tended and allowed to breathe.
This adventure helped me to realize that my wildness was gradually shriveling at my 60-hour-a-week job in Washington D.C. In the summer of 2012, I headed West once again, but this time I have no intention of going back.