By Sandy Compton
In the midst of winter, when the roadless high country seems closed to all but the most intrepid of travelers, I stalk the perimeter of the West Cabinets — the Scotchman Peaks, we call them these days — and look in lovingly and longingly. Oh, I will make a few essays into the wilderness this winter, but not too far in, as it is hard enough going in summer, and much more so in the white months of winter.
Perhaps one day, armed with more knowledge than I have now and the proper equipment, I will traverse the Scotchmans in January or March. Now, I’ll have to settle for participating in some of the hikes we offer in this coming season — not bad settling, by the way.
In the meantime, I have been reading the words of some of our native Montanans on the value of wilderness, young native Montanans, to boot; and as a fellow Westerner and lover of wild places, I am heartened and inspired by what they have to say.
These young folks have learned already that we need wild places, and that they are to be cherished and protected as well as appreciated. They cite the value of the sense of freedom, the solitude, the wildlife and the peace found in wild places, and point out the cost of development to wildlife and humans alike.
They also have a great sense of the value of wilderness to the human spirit. My favorite quote from among a number of great phrases is from Thompson Falls 8th Grader Kaylie Cox’s second place entry. She writes, ” . . . (wilderness) has been a place where lost souls go to rekindle their dying embers, where families can go to strengthen and re-forge bonds that may have loosened over troubled times, and where friends go to create life-long laughs and memories . . . ”
As a fellow writer and lover of wild places, I am envious of that lovely line of words. I almost wish that I had written them, but I’m delighted that Kaylie has the sensibilities that these words reveal. It gives me great hope for the future, and not only the future of the Scotchman Peaks, but the rest of the planet. Someone who will live past me will be carrying a torch for our last best places when I am gone to the Great Wilderness in the Sky.
I am not in a great hurry to get there, you understand. There is still that winter trip through the Scotchmans, for one thing, and a few dozen summer incursions into the West Cabinets and other wild spots between now and then. Maybe I’ll even be blessed with the companionship of one of our young writers, who will help me see anew the value and beauty of the spots where no roads show on the maps.
Happy New Year, Friends. May 2010 be great for you, the Scotchman Peaks and wilderness everywhere.