By Sarah McBride
I remember looking out and thinking to myself, “Wow, I can see the whole world from here.” That moment, the moment on the mountaintop, changed my life. From that point on, I knew I needed to be outdoors.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere, which meant living among the trees. But, I didn’t appreciate the world around me. I did everything in my power to stay indoors, even volunteering to do chores. I look back with my outdoor-loving eyes, and realize how foolish I was. I mean, I went outside, but didn’t love every minute of it. My family enjoyed time outdoors, but it wasn’t by my choice. It wasn’t until that moment.
I was in sixth grade, and very scared to try new things. But I took a leap of faith and decided to join a thing called the K.O.A.P.* I had no idea what it stood for, but I knew you hiked in this “thing”. I signed up, and was accepted. Come to find out, it was backpacking too, not just day hikes. I was terrified. Not loving the outdoors, and now, jumping into it. The first hike came, and it was fine. I was shocked by this realization. Then the next one, and the next, and the rest of them — until the backpacking trip. I was beginning to truly see what the world around me had to offer; done being foolish, and able to see what I had been missing out on.
Now came time for the trip.
We left early in the morning after spending the previous day packing. My anticipation and anxiety grew as the sight of civilization fled from view. We arrived at the trailhead, seeing nothing but trees. This made me nervous. How was I supposed to have fun with nothing around me. And then we hiked, hearing nothing but the birds singing their soulful songs, and the slight breeze stirring leaves. The air was crisp. This was unfamiliar territory. I thought this was the best thing I had ever experienced. I thought this several times throughout the trip.
On our second-to-last day, we moved locations of camp, having to hike a distance. Again, we woke up early to pack up and move out. We had been hiking what seemed to be a 90-degree angle for about three hours. We reached the peak, and one by one, we climbed to the very top. In that moment, when I reached the summit, I felt like I was finally introduced to what the world is suppose to be: breathless.
Every hair on my body stood up, and I was frozen in my spot. I was on top of the world. Below me, I saw my previous way of life, so small and meaningless. But on top of this mountain I saw my future. The sky was bluer, trees greener and life easier. I wanted to feel invincible forever. I knew, in that moment, on that mountaintop whose name I never knew, being in the outdoors was the only way to live.
The rest of the trip, I was probably the obnoxious one; pointing out the color of the moss on the tall tree, or stopping in the middle of the trail to breathe the freshest air I could never imagine living without. All these new moments I never stopped to notice before.
Sadly, we came back to civilization, and away from the new love I had discovered. Returning home, I vowed to spend as little time inside as I could stand. And I have stayed true to this vow. I hike, backpack, kayak, camp, cross-country ski and do anything I can to be outside. Every time I walk out my front door now, I see how lucky I am to see natural beauty everywhere I look.
* K.O.A.P. stands for Kootenai Outdoor Adventure Project, an outdoor education program of Libby Public Schools.
Sarah is a Senior attending Libby High School who feels very fortunate to have participated in the Kootenai Outdoor Adventure Program as a sixth grader, and as a counselor the summer before my Senior year, loving every single minute of it! She plans to go to a school where she can get a teaching degree with an emphasis of English as a second language, hoping to teach and travel the world, as well as backpack wherever her job takes her.