Confessions of a Reformed Couch Potato: Nomadism

Confessions of a Reformed Couch Potato is a continuing series about the wilderness experiences of a fallen country boy brought back to life by wild country. Find past Potato posts by scrolling down through our blog.

Carrying your home around on your back and following your nose from camp to camp is a time-honored manner of living. Nomadic peoples wandered around for a long time before someone decided to camp in one spot long enough for the beer to get done, much less long enough to let the grain grow with which to make the beer.

But, some part of us still has the nomadic bone. There is a group of folk who are willing to eschew beer for certain periods of time, carry their homes on their backs and follow their nose from one camp to another. Alas, and glory be, in my recovery from couch potatoism, I fell in with that group.

Hikers under the looming presence of Vertigo Ridge

My first large-scale meander with these folks after getting off the couch was with four other witnesses . . . I mean fellow hikers . . . into the Scotchmans. I had gotten somewhat used to lugging around 40 pounds in the red patrol pack by then, and managed my way up the Little Spar Lake trail. I was able to keep up because the others were distracted by huckleberries for much of the route and I have learned to pick, eat and walk all at the same time.

Then, we went beyond the lake and into the basin above, a place I had been once by accident while looking for my brothers a few years before. They had abandoned the fishing in Little Spar for a jaunt up Savage, and when I came to find them, I was not in elk-thinking mode yet, and so missed them completely until we all happened to return to the lake at the same time.

In the meantime, I got my first look at Vertigo Ridge and a view of Scotchman Two from an entirely new angle. My thought upon viewing that tilted chunk of stone was that if Earth were to give one good shake, the top thousand feet of that rock would slide off into what I have since learned is Savage Creek. That would make a big noise.

But, there were no noises like that on that day. In fact, with no brothers to talk to, I found myself encased in silence in a sort of wonderland. Even little birds were quiet as they flew in front of me from limb to bush to rock, as if they knew the spell of the place and would not break it. Interspersed among the sub-alpine fir, mountain hemlock and white-bark pine were small oval meadows — sedged-in little former lakes with flat, grassy floors just big enough for one or two tents. I made a vow to come back and camp in that place some day.

It was there that we were headed on our huckleberry hike, and we did camp on one of those meadows, although it was a bit bigger than the ones I had been entranced by. This one was right close to a spring-fed tarn, a little lake not yet sedged in, and looking like it might be another few centuries before it is.

Our route that first day stretched most of us a bit out of our comfort zone, but it was a piece of cake compared to the two days following. As we tucked into our tents that night in that lovely place, I had fulfilled my vow, but Vertigo Ridge loomed above us, a stone harbinger of the morrow, calling to us in a taunting voice, “Take me if you can.”

The nomad in us would address that challenge when the sun came up, but not all of us would hike down the other side.

— Sandy Compton

To be continued . . .

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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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