Annalisa Armbruster — Honorable Mention 2013 Essay, Sandpoint High School

Analisa’s essay was a very close second to Alex Kremes’. It was simply impossible for one of the judges to make up his mind between the two.

“None of us could say the same about ourselves”

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Scholarship really spoke to me. Several years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that would be the case, but I have a very interesting and powerful relationship with the outdoors. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this with you.

The phrase, “it’s not how you fall down, it’s how you get back up” had never really been something I had thought about until my freshman year of high school. Up until then, I had never “fallen” very far, so the getting up was easy. However, at the beginning of my freshman year of high schoot I suffered from a major trauma in my life. This experience led my life into a downward spiral, and I found myself suffering from severe depression at age fourteen.

My parents love me and were very worried. As good parents would, they sought help for me. They chose to send me to an outdoor wilderness program where I spent seventy-two days deep in the Rocky Mountains. Although this experience was not comfortable or fun, it was the best thing that ever happened to me and taught me many skills that will help me throughout my life. On the first day of my experience in the wilderness, I read a quote in one of my workbooks that I had. The quote read, “When we left the wilderness it remained essentially unchanged, but none of us could say the same about ourselves.”

The author was deemed as “Unknown/’ but not until the day of my graduation from the program did I realize how genius this man or woman must have been. When I left my over-stimulating and technological world behind and entered the wilderness I hardly had enough will or confidence in my heart to finish a simple project. However, I realized that in the wilderness, I had to commit to whatever I was doing or things could get ugly for the entire group. For example, if I didn’t commit myself to creating a fully enclosed fire area, that could put the group and the surrounding nature at risk. Examples like this taught me the value of sticking with something and how quitting could hurt more than just me. It also taught me a great deal of confidence in that I could live outdoors and amongst the elements and use the skills I was learning to survive.

I also realized that I could really do anything that I set my mind to doing, as long as I committed to not giving up. One of the hardest things I had to do at wilderness was learn to create a fire with just a couple of sticks, a rock, and a piece of rope (also known as busting or bow drilling). I didn’t “bust” my first fire until my eighth week in the wilderness! But after I finally did bust a flame, the feeling was indescribable. I felt proud and had a new sense of confidence in myself.

The most valuable lesson my time in the wilderness taught me was how to communicate with people around me. When people didn’t know how I was feeling, I didn’t know how to just talk about it or tell them, I would act out as a way of showing them. This lack of communication left me feeling misunderstood and helpless. By minimizing distractions and simply being with myself and my feelings in the outdoors, I learned to communicate; I relieved a lot of unneeded stress from my life. I am now able to effectively communicate with people in all avenues of my life. I am not sure this would’ve been possible without sleeping under the stars at night and learning about myself. This ability is something that I believe will help me throughout my entire life. If I am able to tell people how I am feeling, what my goals are, and what I want, that eliminates confusion and room for a misinterpretation, which I believe to be the root of a majority of conflicts.

My time outdoors has shaped my life, and I believe saved my life, in many unexpected ways. There is something to be said about being in a space in nature that you know has not been rearranged by the hand of man, and that somehow makes it so much easier for us as individuals to rearrange our own selves, in a healthier more peaceful manner. Needless to say, the unknown genius was right about me: the wilderness still remained unchanged, but I was an entirely new person.

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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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