June 17 (PM) – Missoula Smokejumpers Training Facility – Garden or One Thousand Buddhas

After our morning walk around our campground, we headed out to visit the U.S. Forest Service's Missoula Smokejumpers Training Center.

We joined a tour which had just started.

Parachute Loft

Supply Pack – dropped separately for the smokejumpers

Typical food supplied for up to a 7-day period in the forest

Firefighter Supply Packs – Ready for Deployment

Smokejumper Mannequin – 8- lbs of equipment

A secondary parachute pack on the jumper's chest can be opened manually or will open automatically if the smokejumper is unable to activate it as he gets too close to the ground.

Operations Center where the smokejumpers are rotated … when the first one assigned out returns he goes to te bottom of the list.

When smokejumpers are called for duty, they have just 2 minutes to get dresed and ready for a jump and 10 minutes to be on the tarmac and ready to board their aircraft.

Final decisions have not yet been made, but initial indications are that ten of the C-23B+/SD3-60s Short Sherpa aircraft

will be used to replace all of the Forest Service owned and contracted aircraft used for smokejumping except two agency-owned DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otters that will be retained for backcountry operations. Consequently, the future Forest Service smokejumper fleet will consist of two aircraft models – the C-23B+/SD3-60s and the De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otters.

While I can't imagine jumping out of any plane, there is tremendous competition for smokejumper training slots. 

You may wonder what it takes to become a smokejumper:

Age: Min. 18 years of age  –  Max. 57 years of age
Height: Min. 5’  –  Max. 6’5”
Weight: Min. 120 lbs. Max. 200 lbs.
Min. Fitness: 7 pull-ups, 45 sit-ups, 1.5 mile run in 11 minutes

Experience:  At least 2 years of wilderness fire fighting experience

Those are the minimum requirements. Most successful applicants exceed these minimums in both work experience and physical fitness. Rookie smokejumpers must also pass a 110 lb. pack test on flat terrain in 90 minutes, and many other physical and mental challenges. Both men and women must meet the same physical requirements,  Each candidate must also make 25 successful jumps.  The five week rookie training program is demanding and poorly prepared candidates will not complete it.

Of the 25 trainees who entered to the most recent class in Missoula, only 14 (just 56%) actually made it through the progam and graduated last Friday.

Of the 400 smokejumpers in the United States, only 5%, or 20, are women.  This is due, in part, to the experience requirement.

These certified smokejumpers become well aware of the dangers they face everytime they are deployed to a fire scene.  Most will remember the 19 "Hotshots" killed … despite using their Fire Shelters, although they have been proven to save firefighter's lives … two memorials on the training center grounds memorialize the loss of 13 Missoula-based firefighters fighting the Mann Gulch fire in central Montana in 1949.

We found it interesting that the chemicals dropped by aricraft fighting forest fire are not dropped directly on the fire but ahead of where it is anticipated to travel.  Moreover, the chemical composition of those retardants have also changed over time.

There were three large tanks on the tarmac which are used for storing fire retardants.

There were also other exhibits including a "water bomb". 

Imagine putting out a forest fire from the are by dropping wooden, water-filled beer barrels out of planes.  In 1935 this was tried but the results wre disappointing.   However, after World War II, surplus bombs, like the 4,000 pound M-56 on display, became available for testing as a replacement for the wooden “bombs”.  Equipped with a proximity fuse and plywood tail fins, these bombs were tested in 1946. 

However, they were dofficult to direct, left large crates and endangered firefighters on the ground.  These experiments were discontinued by 1947.  Yet, the feasibility of areial fire suppression became well established, and these experiements led to the fretilizating retardants and delivery systems used throughout the world today.

The D-1, one of the first standard Forest Service lookouts replaced the primitive “crows nest” lookouts built at the top of tall trees.

Original D-1 (above) was built on Hornet Peak in 1922

With a 14’ x 14’ log cabin for living quartrs and a framed, glass cupola to serve as an observattory, the D-1 provided truly “deluxe" accommodations for the time.  It was often constructed from local resources at the site.

The D-1 was replaced by the L-4 in 1929.  Its 14’ x 14’ structure was transported in kits by mule trains and assembled on-site.

Black Pine Lookout

The development of aerial fire surveillance quickly reduced the need for lookouts.  Today, the handful of remaining lookouts is a testament to the early Forest Service’s ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Two gorgeous flowers at the Center:

Pink Rose


Leaving the Smokejumpers Center we passed an innovative two-wheel biker taking a large package home.

Leaaving the Smokejumper Center, we drove through the heart of Missoula …

Missoula County Court House

World War I Doughboy Statue

"Lightening" – steel and cedar

Building Mural

Church Steeple

Bridge Mural

as we headed north toward the town of Arlee.

Bridge to permit wildlife to cross U.S. 93

Our destination the :Garden of One Thousand Buddhas", a spiritual site near Arlee, Montana within the Flathead Indian Reservation.

This poto was taken from the Internet

The Dharma Wheel is an ancient symbol for the India associated with Buddha's teaching … and literally represents spiritual change, the turning toward awakening.

Upon the spokes reside 1,000 Buddha stateus and on the outer rim of the wheel are 1,000 stupas. These forms serve as the inspirational support for meditation and as a reminder of the awakened capacity of every human being

The garden was founded by Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, a Tibetan master of the Nyingma school of Buddhism.  Following a traditional Buddhist method, Sang-Ngag claimed to have chosen the location immediately upon seeing it, recalling a prophetic dream from his youth which corresponded to the garden's landscape. Subsequently, Sang-ngag's non-profit organization, Ewam, received the land in an anonymous donation by one of the Rinpoche's disciples, and construction began in 2000.

The 1,000 concrete statues of Buddha and 1,000 concrete stupas were cast on-site by volunteers.  The largest statue, a representation of the goddess Tara, stands completed at the garden's center.  

Entering through a gate dedicated only yesterday

we then passed eight stupas.

Coninuing toward the wheel we passed

Walking around the "wheel" in a clockwise direction;

Prayer Flag Mound


Many of the 1,000 Buddhas have plaques beneath – donors to the Center


Snow-laced Rocky Moutain peaks

The Gardens are also adorned with a rainbow of flowers.

Throughout the Garden are rocks engraved with sayings of the Buddha (a few):

As for wildlife, we were limited to a solo wasp.

This evenin we decided to go out for dinner and had a great meal at

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