Alex Walt — Best Thompson Falls High School essay, 2013 Essay Contest overall winner.

Alex Walt

Alex was awarded an extra $250 for his best of 2013 essay

A Spanish Peaks Adventure

The lake looked like it was a massive mirror meant to duplicate the ridge behind it. It had a soft mist dancing on its surface, having its morning fun. Mirror Lake felt crisp. Yep, definitely a glacial lake. To my left, I see fresh moose tracks in the mud. To my right, an early bird cutthroat trout breaks the smooth surface of the lake. Serenity lives in this isolated paradise.

In August, 2012, I spent 3 weeks backpacking the Spanish Peaks wilderness. It was an experience of a lifetime, one of which I will never forget. The Spanish Peaks is a majestic place, boasting jaw-dropping views and untouched edens. But enough with the praise as I could go on for days about the Spanish Peaks. I am writing of my favorite recollection of my wilderness experience.

I was hiking up to Spanish Lake on a hot afternoon. We got to that “Goldie-Lox” altitude where Huckleberries thrive. When my group takes a break, I jump at the opportunity to suck down some berries. I find a patch where the berries are the size of marbles and are dark purple. I feel like a black bear trying to fatten up for a cozy winter. I could live that way. That would be the life. After about 15 minutes of picking, we move on. We travel up and down the side of the mountain, through cool tree groves and warm, lush green meadows. Every once and a while, I reach down and find the hidden treasure of a wild strawberry.

Soon, we come upon a broad opening. Looking around, I realize that I am surrounded with the top treat…thimble berries. This time, I am not sitting; I am strolling through the bushes that carry this tasty treat. I spend thirty minutes picking before I break to hike again. My hands are a mark red from picking so many berries. After an hour of hard hiking up some gnarly switchbacks, we arrive at Spanish Lakes. It is truly glorious.

The lake is a dark blue, shiny gem hidden all around by pines and firs. We start a fire; while I am gathering sticks and dead limbs, I admire the mountain walls that stand all around us, nature’s skyscrapers towering above us. I can hear the rattles of a mountain goat somewhere, straddling the rocks effortlessly. Somewhere out there, he leaps from ledge to ledge, nature’s own Evel Kenievel. I can’t pin point his spot, all of his clatter bounces off the canyon walls, leaving his location a mystery.

After dinner, I find a solitary spot to admire the lake. After a long moment of eloquence, I break the silence by dunking my head into the lake. When I come back, I realize this is nirvana.

The beauty of the wilderness leaves its footprint on you. It is a fossil kept close, and when recalled, brings back cherished feelings and connections to the natural world.

My favorite memories of the wilderness lay by all the thickets I sat in on those hot afternoons. Sure I might be robbing the bears of their deserts, but who could deny a plump berry on a hot August afternoon.

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Categories: Blog
About The Author:

Sandy Compton has been program coordinator for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness since 2009. He is also a storyteller and author of both fiction and non-fiction books, and the publisher at

In addition to his other duties, he runs the FSPW All Star Trail Team (, which works on Forest Service trails in the Scotchman Peaks. He is a trail surveyor as well, and a C-Certified Crosscut Bucker/Feller and USFS National Saw Policy OHLEC instructor.

Sandy grew up on a small farm/woodlot at the south end of the proposed wilderness and lives there still. He is also board member of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and a planning team member for the Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills Institute.

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