The Scotchman Peaks roadless area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille isn’t an official wilderness, but it was served by a “wilderness ranger” this summer and gained a standout new trail built the wilderness way – by hand. “I could have got more done if I’d have carried a chain saw,” said Joe Zimmerman, 23, a University of Montana student. “But the goal is to teach people how to respect this area as wilderness, and that includes me.”
Virtually everything was wilderness just 500 years ago in this country we call America. By the 1800s, progress had run rough-shod over the East and Lewis and Clark were sent out to explore the yet-undeveloped West.
As we stood on the top of Oregon’s largest wilderness area, looking down upon mountains that spread across the horizon like rows of jagged teeth, we made a plan to celebrate by swimming in a lake partly covered by snow and ice. From the moment we’d entered the backcountry of the Wallowa Mountains it had been hot, and during the 3,400-foot gain in elevation to our campsite at Ice Lake – and the even steeper trek to the 9,826-foot summit of the Matterhorn that morning – we’d been marinating in a cocktail of sweat, sunscreen and bug dope.
It was a little jarring at first when the group of tanned, dusty, “women of a certain age” cheerfully referred to themselves as “broads” as they gathered at the Lava Lake Trailhead on Friday. “When I talk about them at home my friends are like: ‘Broads?’ ” said Laurie Kerr, of Battle Ground, Washington. “But now it’s just kind of accepted.”
I was in my early 20s when my buddy and I launched our canoe into Seagull Lake off Minnesota’s Gunflint Trail – my first trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Though that adventure was 40 years ago, I remember it vividly: drinking water from lakes, sitting around campfires under the stars, savoring the solitude of the wilderness.
A Blackfeet Tribe troubadour and a former chief of the U.S. Forest Service are coming to the Inland Northwest to be part of a three-day event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. An impressive mix of wildlife experts plus entertainment and educational programs are scheduled tomorrow through Sunday, July 11-13, at the Bull River Rod and Gun Club at Bull Lake on State Highway 56 south of Troy and Libby, Montana.
TRAILS – A new Cabinet Mountains Wilderness map, featuring about 80 trails, has been published by conservation groups celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. “The last Forest Service wilderness map, published in 1992, is out of print and hard to find,” said Sandy Compton of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, one of several groups, agencies and businesses that worked on the project.
OUTFIELD – A free mini-film festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is traveling through the Inland Northwest this summer. The beauty, history and adventure of wilderness areas, the highest level of protection offered for America’s public lands, is featured in 10 short films totaling an hour of entertainment suited to all ages. Screenings include:
“I ’m not a particularly fast walker,” Heather Anderson said – much to the relief of her interviewer – as she hiked a North Idaho trail last week. “The difference between me and the thru-hikers who have a fast pace is that I walked 3 mph all day and into every night, averaging 5 hours of sleep, without a rest day.”