From the time I could walk, I’ve been exploring the big outdoors: chasing woodchucks, catching crawfish and climbing trees. My parents, who constantly took my little sister and I on hikes, cultivated this love of nature. We were taught to identify trees, how to navigate off trail and how to find our way home if we ever got lost.
Although they weren’t exactly trying to raise us to enter into the environmental fields, they tried to teach us to appreciate the natural world and to never take it for granted. I think they were pretty successful, seeing as how I have degrees in environmental science and forestry and my little sister is studying to be a wildlife biologist.
My parents weren’t at all surprised when I applied to become the intern for the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. They had known for years — probably before I did — that I wasn’t going to stay in New York after I graduated. So they supported my dream. My mom helped me drive over 3,000 miles to western Montana. And this weekend, my dad came to visit me.
I was so excited that my father was coming to see me! He has shown me the woods of New York, North Carolina, Arizona, and California. Now I was getting the chance to show him the wilderness of North Idaho and Western Montana.
We only had five short days. I promptly began planning hikes…for every single day.
Our first hike was unfortunately canceled because my dad arrived a lot later then expected due to flight complications. But as we drove through North Idaho and crossed the border into Montana I know he already knew why I had fallen in love with the Northwest. It’s hard not to be impressed when there are huge mountains everywhere you look.
The next day we hiked the newly cleared Regal Creek Mine Trail #556 with Jim and Sandii Mellen and their two dogs, Coya and Lucy. Five minutes into the hike we scared up a young black bear. As it was high-tailing away from us, my dad was laughing. “We’ve barely started hiking!” The day continued to be great.
We reached the mine, started to eat lunch and the sky opened up. So Jim and Sandii took refuge in the mine entrance and my dad and I took cover under a big cedar. The storm passed pretty quickly and the skies cleared up enough to take some pictures.
There’s an old tread that cuts across the mine trail close to the mine entrance. So we did a typical Mitchell thing and decided to explore off-trail. (My father was constantly taking “shortcuts” when I was little, much to my mother’s annoyance as they were typically not shorter). Only this time, it was my idea. Jim and Sandii were all for it, so we headed up the steep slope, which led to an absolutely beautiful view of a waterfall.
While we were on this side trip, FSPW stalwart Mary Franzel, who was trying to catch up with us, reached the mine entrance. She couldn’t see us and we couldn’t hear her so she headed back down the trail. We finished exploring and headed back down after her — not knowing that she was in front of us. When we reached the cars, Jim found a note from Mary saying she had waited for us until 4:15.
“What time is it?” he asked.
We had missed Mary — again — by just a few minutes. So we headed to her house to tell her how we had hiked Regal Mine “together.”
It was a great day and a great hike. I was glad that my Dad got to meet some of my Friends, saw one of the trail projects I had worked on and became introduced to the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.
The rest of his visit was non-stop hiking and sightseeing. He hiked Scotchman Peak with me, got to see Ross Creek Cedars and the Kootenai Falls, and even ate at Eichardt’s in Sandpoint. I had a great time showing him around my new world.
I’m a lucky girl and I know it. I have great parents who are very supportive and I’ve already gotten to go some amazing places because of that. But I’ll always remember the things they taught me while I was wandering around the woods in New York. I’ll always know how to get home if I ever get lost. Because it doesn’t matter what state I’m in, or what continent I’m on, or even what ocean, my first home will always be on sixteen acres of woods in Bath, NY.