A Most Memorable Wilderness Experience
By Lyndsie Kiebert
“I stood on the porch steps with my boots in hand as the sun rose. I gazed over the tree line and toward the soft, growing light. With one deep breath, I could feel the pure joy swell in my chest. This is was the perfect day for an adventure; this was the perfect day for a hike.” This is an excerpt from an essay I wrote about the first time I hiked Scotchman’s Peak. I’ve been in this scene dozens of times, before dozens of hikes, and no feeling of anticipation is more fulfilling or exciting.
Last year, I participated in the local 4-H hiking project for the 5th time. We had a small group, which was both a good and bad thing. It was a shame that we couldn’t get more kids involved in the project, but it also gave us the opportunity to try more difficult hikes. All of us were experienced hikers, so we tried new things and learned a lot in the process. For instance, on a trip to Packsaddle Peak, we came off the trail to find that the tire of our leader’s truck was flat and she had forgotten to bring a spare. After a short journey down the road in search of cell phone service, I finally got my dad on the phone and an hour later I was introduced to the wonders of Fix-A-Flat. We eventually made it off the mountain with an unforgettable day and a lesson learned.
There is nothing quite like the expression on someone’s face when they ask you about your weekend plans and you respond, “I’ll be hiking 10 miles.” I work in a breakfast café, so I receive this question often from wealthy out-of-towners who probably expect me to say something like, “I’ll be sleeping in, thank goodness!” They never expect this teenage girl to have early morning plans in the Cabinet Wilderness.
I have been raised to love the outdoors. I have parents who never missed the opportunity to take my sisters and I fishing, huckleberry picking, or hiking. I’ve always been motivated to explore further, adventure to more mountain tops, apply the wilderness even more to my life than I already have. This time, I plan to apply it to my future.
There was a moment this summer when I decided that I wanted to make hiking and outdoor living a part of my college education and hopefully my career. We were hiking up to Harrison Lake, and I found myself leading the group until I could no longer hear them behind me. Soon, I reached the lake and stood completely still on a piece of granite jutting out from the shallows. A beautiful silence was all I could hear, and the air smelled as pure as it ever has. In that moment, I realized that I could never end up in an office cubicle. I wanted to make something of myself out here in the mountains. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Although this essay was meant to be about a singular wilderness experience, I simply could not write about one. I tried for hours, starting and restarting, wishing I could choose just one. But my love for woodland trails is not a result of a single hike. My desire to make a life for myself by exploring and writing about the places I go did not stem from one excursion. I am who I am today because I live for the days when I can stand on my porch watching the sunrise with my boots in my hand. No single hike or experience can encompass all I have learned from our area’s wilderness.