Leigh Lake September

By Phalyn Fickas

The September day started out early, before the sun rose, as most expeditions like this do. I laced up my boots, filled my water bottles, and headed out the door with my friend and his dog, a needed companion. After traveling an hour and a half up Bull River Road, we finally arrived at the trailhead, with a sign that read “Leigh Lake Trail”. We admired the glorious rock table next to the trailhead, then headed up the steep incline to begin the most marvelous hike of all.

We started up at a quick pace, through the thick forest on the side of a mountain. His dog bursted through the bushes with glee, not letting us get too far behind without stopping to wait for us. The travel up was rocky but adventurous, having to make some of our own trail when it faded away. We soon exited the thick forest and came upon a gorgeous waterfall, with ice hanging around the edges of the thick water that flowed down off the rocks. After strategic planning we followed the adorably happy dog, who simply ran across the waterfall without a thought. Succeeding some rock climbing, we came upon another waterfall, bigger this time, and I knew that my feet were about to get wet.

My friend and his dog quickly hopped, jumped, and skipped across the rocks but I was not so agile. I tried to cross without getting my boots wet but was unable, submerging my feet almost completely. Once I was out of the freezing water I was able to enjoy the view that was in front of me to the fullest, a view that overlooked a valley of trees, surrounded by strong mountains that seemed bigger than ever.

We continued hiking upward, basically scaling a rock wall, climbing up two rough, sharp boulders and entering a field of bushes and flowers when the most amazing thing happened it began to snow. His dog jumped with glee as it fell, surrounded by deep greens, bright red, and rich blues. We hiked deeper into this magical place and at one point completely lost the trail, having to backtrack to find the real one. We climbed through overgrown shrubbery and over mini creeks to get back to where we were supposed to be. The snow began to fall harder, leaving a layer on the ground as we neared the lake.

When we arrived at the lake I was astonished by its absolute strength and beauty, the view immediately brought tears to my eyes. The lake sat deep in a bowl of dark grey mountains which were almost completely covered in snow and fog hung low across the water but the dark blue showed vibrantly as we got closer. The only word that I can use to describe the feeling of the lake, surrounded by incredible mountains, is powerful.

“I have always relished the notion that I live in a magical land somewhere between Hope and Paradise,” Dennis Nichols said in his book Trails of The Wild Cabinets, a quote that perfectly fits that very moment both literally and figuratively. After our shock of the lake’s stunning nature broke, we built a fire, dried my boots, and enjoyed the view some more. As the snow fell around us, and his dog chased a branch that remained in my hand, I felt absolute happiness. Could it get better than this?

As snow fell gently through the air, my friend spun me around, put his arms around me and kissed my lips gently? an absolute surprise to me. “You make me so happy,” he said when he pulled away, resting his forehead on mine with a soft smile. My heart, already filled to the max with happiness, exploded.

Though this may not be part of the actual hike, the hike allowed me to get to know a boy that loves to explore almost as much as I do. The beauty brought me to tears many times throughout the adventure, making me wish I was able to explain it the way it deserves to be explained. We stayed for a few hours, throwing sticks and exploring the other sides of the lake but soon the weather made us run back to the warmth of the Jeep. After many snowballs thrown, my shoes wet once again, and a lot of laughter, we finally made it down to the vehicle to complete my most memorable wilderness experience.

Phalyn’s essay was the best from Noxon High School in the 2018 FSPW Scholarship Essay competition.

Voices in the Wilderness is a monthly column written by your neighbors and friends in and visitors to the vicinity of the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. Voices features memorable personal experiences in wild places. If you have an adventure tale based in untamed country (it doesn’t have to be local), write to sandy@scotchmanpeaks.org for guidelines, or just send it along.

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