Voices in the Wilderness: Amy Pearson

I pull over at the intersection of Lightning and Mosquito Creek Roads to check my map.  Sure enough, I am en route to find the trailhead to a noted peak in the Idaho Cabinets, and namesake for 88,000 acres of proposed Wilderness: Scotchman, 7,009 feet.

I’d asked the locals about it.  Someone had never been.  Someone said it would take at least eight hours.  Someone said I had to go.

My jeep is hugging the edges of FR2294A and I give thanks that Dad insisted I purchase an all-terrain vehicle; these are forest roads meant for hardy people who don’t mind going slow or getting lost sometimes.  

I slow down, appreciate the sense of the unknown.  It feels wild and that’s somehow comforting.

*

The first mile is steep with switchbacks, and I wonder if I might have had one less glass of wine the night before.  I am encased by tall pines.  I note the ghost-like silhouettes of bear grass coming to terms with the end of season. 

It’s a hot day in late August.  I’m sweating hard and focused on my boots moving up the trail.

“Have you been up here before?”  A woman’s voice breaks me from my reverie.

“No,” I say.

“Well,” she says, “you’re in for a treat.  Pretty soon you’ll get some views.”

“Thanks,” I say, not wholly convinced in my heart that Idaho will have the views I’m looking for.

*

I come around a long switchback and see people gathered ahead.  I wonder what the commotion is and then start to see patches of blue water to the south and a massive expanse of sky, Lake Pend Oreille.

My heartbeat quickens with a surge of adrenaline and I hike without stopping to what looks like a summit.

“Is this the top?” I ask a couple settled in for lunch on a massive piece of greenish-gray rock.  

“You’ve got about half a mile to go,” they say.  

I look up to where they’re pointing.  It looks like a climb, and I’m in climbing mode.

*

“Scotchman, Scotchman,” I hum under my breath as I heave my body up argillite to quartz, “who are you?”

The ruins of an old fire lookout sit on a crest.  I scurry up to the left of it.  Then, nothing.  

I have reached a plateau of silence.  My body eludes me.  Vastness down the drainages.  Vastness across the mountains stretching miles and miles across the Panhandle into Montana.  It’s astonishing.

“Wilderness,” I whisper.

I sit down to try to take in the enormity of the landscape.  I feel the sun on my back.  A sense of wonder compels me to trace the ridgelines with my finger.  

You could spend your life learning this country.

*

I take my time going down.  I give thanks to the mountain for being here.  I give thanks for natural beauty and the sense of awe it inspires.  I give thanks that wilderness is wild, and we can go there and remember who we are.

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  1. Amy, love the language. I could see what you were saying. I can’t wait to get in the high country of Scotchman peaks. Really nice to meet you in your booth with Henry on the 4th in Troy. Will be praying for you and your crew and studying what i might do to help. Keep helping us to put into words the wonder that defies expression.

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