The wilderness is a place where dreams, challenges, and discoveries shape who we are.
Venturing to a place with many variables and changing environments allows one to be in the present, focusing on their surroundings. I have a deep passion for the wilderness and I have always relied on the natural world to inspire and motivate me.
The most memorable wilderness experience was when I went backpacking with my friends in Central Idaho. We hiked Freeman Peak, over the continental divide of Idaho, into Montana. This was my first backpacking experience and I fell in love with the challenges and self reliance that adventures like this bring. During our hike I learned how to carry a heavy backpack, filter water, and set up our bear bag.
The first night we slept under the stars and sang songs under the moonlight. I felt the great wild space around me and the beauty of the area I was in.
The next day, after hours of hiking and a brutal climb over scree and boulders, we got to the saddle of the mountain – the border of Idaho and Montana. I felt a high run through my body as I looked over the landscape. The high desert stretched out below, and to the sides the alpine blanketed the adjacent mountains. Down below on the Montana side, a dark blue lake shone, centered around the steep mountain sides. It was truly a breathtaking experience.
We continued our way down to the lake, where we swam in its icy waters and ate dinner around the campfire. That night we were caught in a furious storm, winds ripping our tent, and rains that created large puddles in sleeping bags. We could hear boulders tumbling off the slopes down toward the lake, and thunder rumbling in the sky. In the morning, we gathered all of our soggy gear, made breakfast, and hiked back up the mountain.
The journey back was incredibly beautiful. We saw a mountain goat on the rocky side of Freeman Peak, many birds and even a couple snakes. It was amazing to see the contrast from the alpine back down to the desert. The temperature, climate, and plants all changed with the decrease in elevation.
Experiencing the beauty of this wild place continued my fire and drive to protect our wild places.
I want to continue to travel the wilderness for the rest of my life and share them with others. I plan to explore the world through the eyes of a life learner and scientist. I will take what I have learned and apply it to real world situations, while dreaming big to make a difference in the world.
Payton is a graduating Senior from Sandpoint High School. They submitted this essay for FSPW’s high school scholarship contest. Stay tuned for more winning essays from students across Idaho and Montana.