A walk in the wild
Steamboat Springs — The woods in the Sarvis Creek Wilderness are humanly quiet. Whether hiking on the Sarvis Creek Trail below Stagecoach or the Silver Creek Trail near Lynx Pass the two closest trailheads to most residents of Routt County the fir, pine, aspen and spruce trees are a green blanket over a pristine ecosystem with only small hints of human inhabitants.
“It’s very primitive,” said Diane White-Crane, who completed a round-trip hike on both the trails for he new trail book, “Hiking the Boat II.” “There’s not a lot of people around in that area.”
Congress designated the Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area in 1993. Its 47,000 acres directly east of Oak Creek and Stagecoach Reservoir is the smallest of the three wilderness areas in the Routt National Forest. Though small, it offers something unique.
As White-Crane explained, it is the only wilderness area here that is completely below timberline. The U.S. Forest Service estimates the elevation ranges between 7,000 and 10,700.
“That makes it a very different kind of hike,” White-Crane said.
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She said the vast stretch of forest displays a lush atmosphere and abundant animal and plant life.
Sarvis Creek Trail and Silver Creek Trail cross sections of the wilderness, both following the creeks for which they were named. Their eastern trailheads are on Forest Road 100, which can be accessed from U.S. 40 near Muddy Pass. That entrance to the wilderness area gives hikers a unique chance to follow each of the creeks’ progression from the headwaters, where the water the creeks are relatively small, to larger flows, White-Crane said.
On the west side, the Sarvis Creek Trail begins in the Sarvis Creek State Wildlife Area, just below Stagecoach off County Road 18. That trail, also known as trail 1105, spans about 12 miles.
The Silver Creek Trail, or trail 1106, begins on the west side of C.R. 16, about five miles southeast of Stagecoach Reservoir. It crosses a southern portion of the wilderness area for about 10 miles.
For the explorers, both trails have a number of unmaintained user trails stemming off the first few miles on the west side that lead to open meadows and tops of small peaks.
There is a third trail called the South Fork Trail that enters into the wilderness area on its very southern tip. It runs north and south along the wilderness area’s lower eastern boundary between Forest Service Road 102 (which isn’t maintained for cars) and the very eastern portion of the Silver Creek Trail.
On the academic side of the area, one enigma that hikers will notice about the Sarvis Creek is the various spellings of the area.
Sarvis Creek was named after the Sarvis Timber Co., which set up shop on the creek from 1913 to 1918. That company is more noted for its road building in the area than its logging work, according to “The Historical Guide to Routt County.”
There is some confusion behind the spelling of the name, said Jon Anarella, wilderness manager for the Forest Service.
“The name goes back to the sarvis bush,” Anarella said. He added that the bush is abundant in the area.
However, the spelling of Sarvis Creek sometimes is Service Creek and Sarvice Creek. Anarella said the Service Creek spelling is related to sarvis bush’s role in spring funerals. If someone died in the winter during the pioneer years, their body couldn’t be buried until the ground thawed in the spring. At the funeral service, the sarvis bush was always present because its flower was the first to bloom in the spring. Hence, the bush earned the name service bush after funeral service.
In many plant and berry books, the spelling of the berry the bush produces is serviceberry, fully adopting the new spelling.
On the other hand, Karen Vail, of Yampatika, said she has read that the service spelling is attributed similarly because of its spring bloom, but it is Easter service that it is referring to. She also has researched that the sarvis spelling could be attributed to Westerners mispronouncing service.
Then the Sarvice Creek spelling popped up on the Routt National Forest map, which Anarella said is a mistake.
“It’s a hybrid between Service Creek and Sarvice Creek,” he said.
The official name of the creek and the wilderness area is Sarvis.
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