Bridges in the Woods


Bridges in the wilderness have always intrigued me. They bring wonder to my head thinking about how the men and women on the trail crews built them. They have brought me almost every emotion known to man from anger to laughter when trying to teach a horse how to cross them. Occasionally they make your legs tremble in fear. Sometimes they bring pure joy when you stand there and look out over Gods creations.

I just have lots of memories in the mountains and wilderness that seem to have bridges in them. I remember dad having to give up on teaching a horse named Space to cross a bridge. Space was scared to death that he was going to fall to his death off of that bridge despite the fact that it was only about three feet off of the ground and maybe ten foot long! He was so stubborn that dad finally gave in and led space down to the creek to let em cross there. Dad's feet got wet since he had to cross first. Then his big toe hurt all because Space decided to jump the creek and landed right on dad's big toe! Yep, his bald head got seriously crimson red! They came to an understanding after that day, Space never had a problem walking across a bridge for the remainder of his career.

I remember a horse named Tippy once almost planted me on my head when she decided that the sound of her feet walking across the bridge had to be a scary wicked troll under the bridge. She put on the after burners to get off of that bridge fast!  By the grace of God I some how caught the horn of the saddle right before I tumbled off the back of that crazy horse. She had the spooks her entire career and she always picked up the pace when crossing bridges just to make sure those trolls and spooks never got her! 

I helped build a few bridges in the Anaconda Pintlar Wilderness. I remember helping fall the stringers, help pack in the decking, and complain in the evening how sore my arm was from hammering spikes into the decking to secure the them on the stringers. A person feels a great sense of satisfaction when you finally secure the last piece of decking and walk across a wilderness bridge for the first time. Seems every few years I make it back to some of those bridges and still cross them to this day, they have lasted 30+ years!

Wilderness Bridge

I wish I could of been around to help pack the cable on long pack strings into the Bob Marshall Wilderness for the suspension bridges found there. I have over the years read books about this. They describe how they would string the horses out and then wrap the cable around the entire string and secure it with twine to the pack saddles. Any of us who have ever ran a pack string cringe in horror thinking of all the rodeos and wrecks you could have with this setup and rigging. Must have been quite a time to have been involved with that!

I guess what I'm getting at, is that bridges are very interesting in the backwoods, wilderness, and mountains. They provide safe crossings over raging rivers and creeks in the spring and summer. You can use them as a good break point during a long hike to catch that cool breeze created by the stream flowing underneath you. They make your brain think about how people crossed the streams and rivers before the bridge was there. They are just there floating off the ground in my memories of being in the woods. Not only are they there in my memories but, they pop into my head as I plan future trips into the wilderness.

So, next time you're out in the mountains take a second and stop on a bridge. Look at the construction of it, imagine all the critters that have walked across it, and think how big of a pain in the neck crossing the water would be without it! Let it soak into the memory your creating that day!

Thanks for reading!




Justin Mason