Hikers travelled through dynamite blasted gaps above the old Milwaukee Railroad to Point of Rocks on Tuesday, April 30 for the first Happy, Healthy Hikers event of the season. West of Alberton, hikers from Mineral County and Missoula gathered for some exercise, scenery and a history lesson on the Mullan Road. Mineral County Health Department, The Montana Wilderness Association, The Great Burn Study Group, Zero to Five, the U.S. Forest Service collaborate once again to offer guided hikes for residents in Mineral County and surrounding areas, free of charge.
After a door-to-door Community Health Assessment survey of 130 Mineral County residents in 2016, data revealed high scores of obesity and lack of exercise opportunities. “We believe those are still going to register high from this year’s information,” Mineral County Health Department coordinator Monte Turner said. Turner Coordinates the Zero to Five initiative which promotes positive parenting in Mineral County. He says they developed the Happy, Healthy Hikers program to be a low or no cost exercise, also benefiting quality family time. The program offers either a “mountain goat” hike, a longer and more strenuous hike, or a “billy goat” hike, a shorter family-friendly hike for youngsters and the elderly. “We have 21 treks scheduled with several in the Bitterroot which provides vastly different scenery but ever so spectacular,” Turner said. Volunteer guide Bert Lindler lead the first “billy goat” hike to “Point of Rocks” and former Montana Department of Transportation engineer Jim Cyr and Historical Society surveyor Bill Weikel co-lead the trek. Cyr and Weikel have studied the Mullan Trail extensively and offered the group plenty of insight. “I rode this road to school from my house,” Cyr said. Cyr’s family has inhabited Fish Creek, just south of Alberton, since 1873 when his grandfather migrated to Montana and homesteaded the land. Cyr spent his career working for the Montana Department of Transportation and says it took two years to build Interstate 90 from Alberton to Cyr.
He compares modern engineering to the mere six weeks it took Lt. John Mullan to build the “Point of Rocks” section in 1859. Mullan said it was a “severe piece of work (that) cost us the labor of 150 men for six weeks.” He led 140 civilians to construct the 624-mile military road in which stretched between Fort Benton and Walla, Walla, Washington. Mullan said the “Point of Rocks” section was one of the most arduous.
More hikes like this will run through September with The Happy, Healthy Hikers program. The next hike will be Thompson Peak on Wednesday, May 15. Shuttle meets at 5 p.m. at the Mineral County Health Department but only runs with a minimum of five people. Shuttle cost is $10 to cover fuel. Contact Monte Turner at (406) 370-4335 for more information.