Ray Miller – Mayor of Sandpoint, 2002 – 2008
Elk Camp – Ray Miller, nephew Steve and Brothers Bill and Larry
Time Stood Still
My first trip into the Scotchmans area was in the spring of 1964. I had hiked a great deal in the Sierra Nevada’s and Yosemite, but even that paled to what I saw from Scotchmans Peak. There seemed to be a magic on top that had the ability to make time meaningless and the rest of the universe disappear.
In the years since, I have spent many days hunting, fishing and camping in hundreds of places throughout this wilderness. I have been face-to-face with mountain goats, chased elk for miles and been stalked by a grizzly, all in the same day. My brothers and I spent years getting to know and appreciate this spectacular place. We introduced our children to the area and fervently hope they can pass on to their children and grandchildren the same experiences.
Each time I enter the Scotchmans, I return to that first visit so many years ago. Time has stood still, I am young again and all is right with the world. The Scotchman Peaks area is truly a “fountain of youth”. Ray Miller, Mayor of Sandpoint, ID
A Place of Hope
I first visited Scotchman’s Peak in July of 2007. After a grueling hike to the top of the peak I was stunned by the beauty that surrounded me. I looked out at the view of Lake Pend Oreille and something felt right. The sun was shining on the lake and the water was reflecting the rays so that the whole lake seemed to be engulfed in a breathtaking glow. Inexplicably, I felt an emotional connection with this place unlike any other location I had experienced. Somehow, this one view of the lake encompassed all of my memories and feelings about nature. Looking out from the top of Scotchman’s Peak, my love of the outdoors and my passion for environmentalism were reaffirmed. I revisited Scotchman’s Peak in September of 2007. I immediately felt at home at the base of the peak. Again, I was struck by similar feelings of wonder and serenity. Hiking up the peak in the crisp fall weather with the sun shining through the tall pine trees and a bright blue sky overhead, my life was put in perspective. It was easy to shed the worries of my everyday existence and simply live in that perfect moment. Never before had I felt such a strong urge to protect a piece of land. I soon realized Scotchman’s Peak was a one of a kind location in which I could feel both relaxed and inspired, placated and challenged.
After these two experiences with Scotchman’s Peak, the area has come to mean a great deal to me. For one, the Scotchman’s represent a way to challenge myself. Every time I visit the area my physical abilities are tested in the steep climb to the top. Scotchman’s Peak not only challenges me physically, but it also tests me mentally. I am forced to reexamine my priorities and the way in which I live my daily life. Due to the beauty of the area, I am prompted to fully live out my beliefs on protecting the environment. At times I get lost in the monotony of everyday life. Seeing areas like Scotchman’s Peak forces me to permanently keep environmentally friendly practices and environmental education at the top of my priorities. However, above all else, to me the Scotchman’s mean hope. Living in the city I do not often get the chance to experience such undisturbed land. Knowing that places like this still exist gives me hope for the future. In only two trips to this area, Scotchman’s Peak has come to mean a great deal to me. I know that I will revisit this location many times throughout my years at Gonzaga and after I leave Spokane. The Scotchman’s is a truly unique area that deserves Congressional wilderness protection to maintain its splendor for my generations and many generations to come.
Why not the Scotchman Peaks?
There is a spot on the Goat Mountain Trail where I stopped for lunch a few months back. It is one of the only spots in the first few miles of the trail that is both out of the cover of trees and somewhat flat. There is big a rock with a flat top that I sat on while I ate, looking west over Lake Pend Oreille. The view is still engrained into my memory today. The lake stretched out in front of me as far as the eye can see, flagged on the right by the city of Sandpoint, its buildings only specks in the distance from up here, and on the left by a steep, tree-covered mountain diving deep into the lake.
Oh what a view! What a backdrop as I contemplate all of life’s mysteries. How sad the loss of such a place would be. The scattered buildings along the lake below do not affect me from so high up; this place is wild.
As my lunch continued on, I began to grasp a sense of what this wildness means to me, and what the Scotchmans can provide in that sense. Wildness means the freedom from those attachments in your life, and an opening of the mind to an unseen level of spirituality and thinking. To sit on the slopes of this mountain and look down on society below me, I have risen above, both figuratively and literally, the clouds of civilization. Everything is so much clearer from above.
This is nothing new though. Thoreau and Muir were writing these same ideas a century or more ago. I had just never seen these sights as anything more than a pretty view before. But now, after sitting in the Scotchmans, where my mind wandered through all the space around me, I see how vital the wild places are.
Why the Scotchmans? The answers are plentiful. For the breathtaking views for one. The beauty you can see from along the river pales in comparison to what you see from high up on the peaks. To be able to look in any direction and see nothing but mountain after mountain all the way to the horizon is unparalleled.
Why the Scotchmans? For the biodiversity and the goats, both of which make for a healthier environment and a more enjoyable experience. Especially those goats.
Why the Scotchmans? Most of all, for its wildness. It gives us the opportunity to for our minds to open up, to really live our lives, and to become connected again to a nature that we seem to push away from a lot of the time. It is something you cannot learn through any other way than experience, and the Scotchmans is on a shrinking list of places to experience it. Once that connection is made, everything changes.
Go to the Scotchmans, make that connection, and you might start asking yourself, ‘Why not the Scotchmans?’