Walking into Heaven by Trish Gannon
The River Journal, April 26, 2006
It’s time to protect the Scotchmans
Once the weather warms, as it’s finally doing here in Idaho’s panhandle, I like to sit on my front porch in the morning with a cup of coffee and watch the sun make its way over the top of Antelope Mountain. Just to the north, in a break between Antelope and Middle Mountains, the softly jagged peaks of Scotchman push their snowy heads into the dawn and, without fail, take my breath away.
A little over a year ago, a group of people in love with the wild areas around these mountains formed a group called Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, hoping that with a little organization, the federal government could be persuaded to declare the area a protected wilderness, as has been proposed since the 1970s. It is past time for this designation to be made, and The River Journal is proud to join in with others calling for the same, like the cities of Sandpoint and Ponderay, Bonner County Commissioners, the Sanders County Ledger, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and, maybe most important to me, Clark Fork’s Bob Hays who owns Hay’s Chevron, which lies in the shadow of Scotchman. “It should stay as it is,” he wrote when the Friends first organized. “It’s still like it was when man first came through here and I think that’s the way it should always be.” When it comes to this area, Bobby won’t steer you wrong.
There are as many reasons to protect the Scotchman Peaks area as there are people who love it, and if you don’t know the area personally, there’s no better introduction to it than on the website for the Friends: www. scotchmanpeaks.org. You can go online and read all about it which, hopefully, will whet your appetite to get out an experience it and that, in turn, will cause you to want to protect it, to keep it as it is for generations to come.
I agree with all the reasons that have been given for wilderness designation of this beautiful area, but on the personal side, I want to see the Scotchmans preserved because it provides me with “peak experiences” just about every day of the year. I want those experiences to be there waiting when my grandchildren and great-grandchildren gaze off a little to the north of Antelope.
It was my brother Joe who introduced me to Abraham Maslow, the psychologist who wrote about “humanistic psychology,” and his definition of peak experiences—what he called those encounters that make you feel, to some extent, at one with life, or nature, or God. I call them my “ahhhh” moments, those times when my soul feels full-to-bursting with the joy and contentment available to us in life, just as soon as we take the time to experience them.
We can all use more of those—and that, by itself, is reason for me to say keep the Scotchmans as they are. Let the grizzly roam, and clean, clear water find its way down to our beautiful lake. Let the eagles fly in its shadow while the lynx raise their young and let it all be there for those times when we need it, when we need a reminder of what God created for us and where our place is within that creation. Let it stay, as renowned mountaineer John Roskelly described it, “like walking into heaven.”
Leave the Scotchmans as a place where, as Bob Hays explains, kids can “hear an elk bugle (and) learn to flyfish.” Listen to Jerry Brown, a biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks when he says, “we need big, wild places for animals.” Save those places where Montana Representative Paul Clark says, “you don’t shoot a bull elk because you are so far (in) you can’t get it back out.”
Help the Scotchmans to stay wild, to stay the place that Nancy Cheslic wrote about when she said, “Being up on that mountain, looking down, it was as if we were part of the sunset,” a place where, in the words of Governor Schweitzer, we can go to face the “challenges and thrills that build character and instill respect…”
Even those who never stretch their lungs to climb into this beautiful place will benefit just from having it there. The time is now to designate this 88,000 acres as the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Area.
-Trish Gannon, Publisher
The proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness encompasses an 88,000 acre roadless area that stretches from the Clark Fork area in Idaho across the border into Montana, mid-way between Heron and Noxon. It includes the highest point in Bonner County—Scotchman Peak, at 7,006 ft., and is home to a wide variety of wildlife. The photo, above, was taken on the trail to the peak.