Susan Williams’ essay was best from Sandpoint High

Civilization has always attempted to restrict, confine, and control people’s behavior. Civilization tries to mold people so they appear the same as others. From an early age, every child feels forced to change themselves to blend in. There is a constant buzz of noise coming from the media, peers, teachers and parents, telling you who you should be and what you should feel. But in the wilderness the bounds of civilization are broken away and there are no stereotypes, no norms, no limits. For me, being in the wilderness is akin to being raw and free.

Last summer, I went on a three week backpacking trip in Washington and Oregon that concluded with the summit of Mt. Rainier. During that time I learned more about myself and the surrounding world than I learned throughout high school. Escaping into the wilderness instilled in me a sense of peace and well-being that I could never find while surrounded by civilization. The quiet in the wilderness gave me time to think about who I really am and what I want from life. The civilized world is stressful and hectic. The wilderness granted me a very different perspective on time. Civilization is always rushing on to the next thing, rarely relaxing. The wilderness is never hurried. It slowly grows and shifts and adapts, but never rushes. Change is subtle in the wild, though it is always occurring. And the wilderness has no norms. No two objects are the same and there are always new mutations. The wilderness teaches that it i.s okay to be different and stand out. The most beautiful things are the extraordinary things. An exotic flower, a tree with multi-colored bark, a jagged cliff jutting out from the mountainside; those are the objects that attract attention.

Those three weeks gave me an insatiable appetite for nature, and I am so grateful to live in a place where I am surrounded by it. When I need to flee the commotion around me I head for the mountains. One step after another, higher and higher. The repetition of the continuous steps clears my mind, allowing it to wander where it pleases. And time becomes nonexistent. I have nowhere to be but in the here and now. No tick-tock, tick-tock interrupts my thoughts. All I hear is the rhythm of my footsteps and the occasional bird call, or whistle of the wind; teaching me to stay true to myself; reminding me how lucky I am to have an escape; and making me feel once again undefined, courageous, and most of all free.

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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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