Although I grew up in North Idaho, I know very little of it. My parents moved here from Santa Cruz with a bushel of oranges, blind optimism, and enough Mother Earth News magazines to provide outhouse reading for my entire childhood.
My personal playground was 26 acres of back woods and a stack of freshly piled two-by-fours. We were sent out into the forest to get moss from the trees to stuff between the logs of our home. I was a 7-year-old and my brother was a very grown-up 9. (I knew this because he showed me a cigarette and only grown ups had access to such things.)
I have no idea how we survived our childhood. We often nearly chopped off fingers with hatchets, took the top of our knees off peeling logs, fell from roofs, and lost chunks of flesh to a very cranky quarter horse.
We skied to the bus stop. We used a car battery for electricity in our first structure. We explored our mountain. We never went to national parks because we essentially lived in one. We didn’t hike because that’s how we got the two miles to our car in the spring.
The novelty was the city, heating without starting a fire in the freezing, dark morning, electricity without a generator, streets, and the luxurious convenience of indoor plumbing.
Now I am all grown up, only to discover that my back yard is an entire mountain range (the Selkirks or Cabinets or Rockies or Cascades). Other people play there too. I know this because I found a pair of glasses at Two Mouths Lakes the other week.
They were sitting on a rock. I knelt down to pick them up and looked up to see the view of the choppy rock towering over the lake. Someone must have been sitting here. Why did they need their glasses?
Were they sketching the lake? Did they use charcoal to capture the dramatic grays of the barren mountainside? Were they desperately reading their guide book to see how many miles it was back to the car? Were they reading the ingredients of their energy bar?
The glasses did not tell the story. Silent, simple, black, unassuming − they revealed nothing except that they were not my prescription.
The glasses did, however, present proof that others are also out exploring the back yard. How is it then that on these autumn days of crisp blue skies and surreal yellow glow I see no live bodies on the trails?
Living here in the Inland Northwest, our backyard is as big as we make it. There are wild and raw places to discover and there are ceaseless miles of incredible trail. In fact, there is so much trail that I am beginning to believe there is an entire society of elves and gnomes that secretly build trail when we’re sleeping.
The guide books on the local mountain ranges and trails are excellent. I know this because I have an innate ability to get lost with even the most basic directions, and have not once had an unplanned overnight in the forest this year. It is not for lack of trying.
Regardless of where you live, where you grew up, or how much you know about this incredible place we call home, you can go explore its magnificence. It is nothing shy of spectacular out there right now. Put on some shoes. Go play in your back yard.
Ammi Midstokke is currently holding a pair of glasses ransom. She will trade them for their story.
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