My Favorite Backcountry Area

— Sue Janssen

Living in the Northwest corner of Montana, namely - Yaak, it’s difficult to pick a roadless area to be one’s favorite. Of the nine roadless jewels closest to my home, they’re all important sources of clear water, wildlife habitat - especially for the threatened, endangered and otherwise sensitive species which happen to inhabit our neck of the woods (grizzly bears, lynx, redband trout, wolves, great gray owls, pileated woodpeckers - to name a few), and backcountry solitude for those humans who choose to experience it. They give us a chance to get back to nature in it’s most raw form; to get away from the maddening crowds whether it’s to hike, ride horseback, ski, snowshoe, fish or hunt. They provide a sort of balance (though not entirely equal) with all the developed, roaded acreage existing on our national forests.

But if I had to pick a favorite, I suppose it would be Silver Mountain. In my 25 years of living in the Yaak, I’ve only been up to this remote area 3 times. It’s not an easy place to get to - you can’t just pop up there on the spur of the moment. I think one reason Silver is so special is it’s size - it is immense - especially compared to it’s neighboring peaks. And if you approach it from Buck Nine Ridge, as you drop down from the ridge and cross the connecting saddle thick with brush and large, well spaced spruce and fir - Silver kind of sneaks up on you  and appears suddenly through the tree tops - this huge monolith of a rock jutting skyward.

Clearly, though, my passion with Silver began my first visit up there, on horseback, when I had the incredible fortune of being able to watch two grizzlies feeding on huckleberries. They had no collars, and were far enough away to not be disturbed by my presence. Grizzlies are the epitome of wild nature, and of the need to keep our last remaining roadless areas wild and managed as minimally as possible.