Voices in the Wilderness – Silas Garrison

Elephant Peak

As far back as I can remember I have been an explorer. I always found something to keep things exciting. From snowboarding snow capped mountains in the winter to climbing notable peaks in the summer, I have always been busy. One of the most memorable of my adventures was when a friend and I climbed Elephant Peak. A few weeks prior to this excursion we had climbed Snowshoe peak, the highest peak in the Cabinet Mountain Range. We decided it was time to step up our game with Elephant Peak. Although it is slightly shorter than Snowshoe Peak, it is more challenging to climb. Its starting point is also significantly lower. Elephant Peak stands nestled in the most remote part of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. It towers over everything around it with its almost vertical rocky sides. Our goal was simpler said than done – conquer this giant in just one day.

We started our journey before sunrise, as we knew we had a long day ahead of us. The first part of the journey is the 5 mile stretch to Rock Lake. It’s the only part of the hike with a trail. After that, it is 5 more miles through rock fields and forests with no trail. Hours went by and the miles slowly started to tick away. On our way, we decided to go around Elephant Peak and stop at Isabella Lake. On the map it looks a lot closer than it actually is. This ended up adding almost 4 hours to our trip. Finally, we turned around and made it to the base of Elephant Peak.

The funny thing about climbing mountains is you don’t know where the top is until you’re there.

The hike was long and steep as we climbed over rocks on the edge of a thousand foot cliff with no room for error. At this point we were exhausted, thirsty, and hungry, but we couldn’t stop because we were so close. When we saw the top, we got a surge of energy and picked up the pace, the end was in sight. A few meters further, we realized it was just another of the many false peaks along the way. The funny thing about climbing mountains is you don’t know where the top is until you’re there. You must push forward, fighting the urge to turn around, to give up, and collapse on the ground.

Finally, around 6pm we made it to the top. It was the most spectacular place I have ever been. Standing on the peak, the sky got fuller and we were able to see everything surrounding us. We had made it to the summit! We both toppled over in exhaustion. It was beautiful up there. The sky was full of colors from the setting sun. We could see all the surrounding mountains and lakes with no sign of civilization. Eleven miles into the wilderness, thirteen hours in, and about six thousand feet higher than our starting elevation. That’s when we burst into laughter, not because we said something funny but because we were only halfway done. We still had to make it back home in time for dinner.


Silas is a graduating Senior from Troy 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.

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About The Author:

Rose wears many hats within FSPW as well as the greater Sandpoint community. You can find her working behind the scenes for the Friends, coaching kids mountain biking and nordic skiing, or out on the trail enjoying nature.

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