Olivia Guthrie of Sandpoint, Brittani Wilder of Hope, Amber Kardokus of Heron, Ryan Humphrey of Trout Creek, Thomas Roeder of Troy and Paige Ward of Libby were awarded scholarships by Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness for their winning essays in the annual FSPW essay competition.
Each year, FSPW sponsors a writing competition with themes about wilderness for graduating high school seniors in Lincoln and Sanders Counties, Montana and Bonner County, Idaho. This year’s theme was “Describe how wild country, which still exists near our communities today, influences your life.” Seniors from Clark Fork, Sandpoint and Lake Pend Oreille Alternative High Schools in Idaho as well as Troy, Libby, Thompson Falls, Noxon and Plains, Montana, schools, were invited to submit essays, with $250 going to the writer of the best essay from each school, and an additional $250 awarded to the top essay overall.
Guthrie, whose essay was deemed best from Sandpoint High, as well as best overall for 2010, writes, “In the wilderness, you are connected to the Earth, not by your phone or internet, but by the simplicity of you bare feet on the cool ground and the aroma of the pine trees wafting around you.”
Wilder took the honor for Clark Fork High School. She wrote, in part, “It is within nature that I feel connected to all living things. One can watch a bird fly above the entire forest, an ant carry a leaf back to its hill, or a deer grazing on an afternoon snack of grass, and it’s evident, we are all connected. The wilderness shows us that. It is a living example of life at its finest.”
Humphrey, whose wrote the best essay from Thompson Falls High, writes “Out in nature, I have never felt so whole or calm. It is something that is truly a gift, and I do not know what I would do with out it. I hope that all can enjoy the beauties of the natural world and protect it for generations to come.”
Kardokus, who took the honor at Noxon High School, wrote, “There are many ways that wild country influences my life. I think the largest impact it has on me, though, is the quality of life it presents. . . . Areas that remain untamed and undeveloped allow for peak health on both physical and spiritual levels. . . .”
Ward, who graduated from Libby High, writes, “Some of my favorite days are spent in amidst the peaks and valleys surrounding our town. There are so many lakes, streams and rivers that are hidden from civilization. I love to sit silently on their shores, gazing into the sunlit sky, listening to the cool breeze flow through the trees as the waves slap against my toes in the water.”
Roeder took the honor for Troy High School. He wrote, in part, “Each time I enter the wilderness, I learn something new. . . . My grandpa says the wilderness has healing powers that fix a man’s soul even in the hardest times.”
“We received a couple of dozen essays this year, and, as always, it was hard to pick who we would give awards to,” said FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton. “But, it’s satisfying to read wilderness-related essays by young people and know that they were written by the future of our country.”
Read Olivia Guthrie’s winning essay in its entirety below:
Wilderness: it’s what makes Idaho unique, the vast expanse of open, unspoiled land. No roads, no civilization and no other humans for miles around. When you are in the wilderness, you feel so small compared to the miles and miles of forest, meadows, lakes and streams. This incredible feeling of the immensity of our world is something I have had the honor to enjoy throughout my entire life.
I have hiked, swam, paddled, floated and biked over hundreds of miles in the great wildernesses of the Northwest. I have slept under the stars hundreds of nights without seeing a single city glowing over the hills and mountains. Nature brings you back to the beginning of time; ancient rocks that shape the jagged mountains, crisp serene lakes, and streams that over time have wound their way from the mountain tops to their wide bases. It is here that we can find absolute peace and serenity. In the wilderness, you are connected to the Earth, not by your phone or internet, but by the simplicity of your bare feet on the cool ground and the aroma of the pine trees wafting around you.
I know this feeling, nothing can compare to it. It lures me outside every sunny or not so sunny day, and coaxed me to stay out later. I have been able to enjoy so much of this wilderness for one main reason: my doorstep is the great outdoors! With the mountains towering over pristine Lake Pend Oreille as my view, I know I always want to be near the wilderness.
I was fortunate enough to have been born into a family that valued the outdoor experience in its most pure form. My parents respected the wilderness and what it had to offer and tread softly, teaching me and my brother and sister to do the same. We backpacked into the Scotchman Wilderness and Cabinet range countless times (beginning at a very young age) to soak up its grandeur. I have been located so close to the outdoors my whole life that it is the main component of whom I am and will become. I cannot leave this part of me behind regardless of where I end up; I will forever be imprinted with the fragrant breeze, untracked ground and clean water. I will never forget my experience in the wild and always strive for more.