Let there be no doubt that the trail to 100,000 service members goes through the Payette National Forest. Recreation/Wilderness Specialist Patrick Brown has accounted for more than 100 of those members in just the past decade, primarily through SCA crews that build and maintain trails through some of the most pristine wilderness you’ll ever see.

“SCA recruits from all over the country, so it’s a really diverse program. We get candidates from some pretty varied backgrounds,” Patrick says. “Bright eyed, good attitude, hard-working, ready for adventure.”

An SCA partner for more than 35 years, the Payette relies on SCA teams to care for more than 400 miles of backcountry trail each year, in addition to maintaining remote airstrips and campsites and monitoring wilderness. For 12 straight weeks, members work 10 days on and four days off, roaming the forest while carrying their tools, food, and other provisions largely on their backs, with occasional resupplies by airlift or pack animal.

“It’s an awesome experience,” Patrick says. “There aren’t too many places where you can live in the wilderness at an historic ranger station with no roads and no electricity, internet, and cell service. It changes the character of a person and builds awareness of conservation and wilderness preservation. We value that a lot and instill that into these positions.”

And that accomplishes yet another of Patrick’s objectives: preparing SCA crew members for jobs with the Forest Service or other resource management agencies. “We hire SCAs every year,” he notes. “One of our wilderness rangers is a former SCA, we have people on our trail staff that were SCAs last year. Multiple SCAs come back seasonally.

“I always try to give them hiring priority because if they’ve completed an internship here, they are worth bringing back.”

Patrick insists he is merely a “facilitator” and the real credit for grooming SCA members belongs to his trails staff. But it’s clear that the people at this west-central Idaho forest are determined to Payette forward.

Visit the SCA100k page for more on our partners and celebration.