Voices in the Wilderness: Exploring our wild backyard whenever we can

By Rebecca Sanchez
Reader Contributor

My father grew up in a town on the outskirts of Zurich, Switzerland with his sister and five brothers. The lucky boy had the Alps at his fingertips. He often spoke of the adventures he took with his older siblings, wandering from one mountain village to the next. He would hike to his heart’s content and then take the PostAuto bus or the tram back to his hometown. 

The Sanchez kids playing in the mountains. Photo by the author.

Listening to his adventurous tales of exploring the Swiss countryside, I often dreamt of being there, too. In my mind I could see the pointy mountains, the glacier-fed rivers, the lush meadows where wildflowers thrived and high alpine lakes that called my name. It wasn’t hard to envision the beauty and taste the freedom that he spoke of with such fondness. 

For some peculiar reason, as an adult, my dad ended up being a cowboy in northern Alberta. I would have preferred it if he had become a mountaineer but, alas, he chose rolling hills and tundra as his landscape of choice. It was still beautiful, but it lacked intrigue. There were no mountains to conquer, no cascading waterfalls to explore and no perfectly blue alpine lakes to tantalize the eye. 

When I expressed interest in going camping in Jasper or Banff, my father’s response was, “Why would you go there when you can camp here?” It always baffled me how a man who had traveled across some of the most beautiful mountains in the world could think that setting up camp in the pasture was the same thing as resting one’s head in a lush remote mountain basin.

Having that desire to experience what my father undertook as a child in the Alps, I quickly set out on my own journey. A couple of days after reaching adulthood, I left everything I knew behind. With only a suitcase in hand, I was dropped off in Jackson Hole, Wyo. I had found me some mountains and I loved it! Here I ran barefoot and free along the Snake River, getting close (but not too close) to the wild bison and the river otters. It was magical. I longed for more.

Fueling the appetite to be in the wild, my next adventures took me to the northern Sierras, New Zealand and interior Alaska. These places fulfilled my dreams of being out in the mountains, exploring hard to reach places and seeing incredible beauty. However, what truly rooted me into the mountains was my final stop here in North Idaho. From my first trip up Scotchman Peak on a perfectly beautiful early spring day, I was hooked — its solitude, ruggedness and panoramic views beckoned further exploration. Through the years, these mountains have provided endless opportunities to explore rocky crags, raging creeks, hidden basins and arduously hard to reach peaks. 

Today, I get to share these wild places with my own children. The call of the mountains has come full circle. From my father’s childhood wanderings to seeing my children make their own way through these wild spaces, I find such great joy. They are living and breathing the mountain air, learning invaluable lessons all along the way. Theirs is not just the dream of adventure, but a reality. I hope it remains that way not just for my children, but for many generations to come.

Voices in the Wilderness is a storytelling project by Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. The series of wild stories are written by locals living in North Idaho and northwest Montana. If you have an adventurous tale to tell based in the wild, write to [email protected] for guidelines or just send it along.

Rebecca Sanchez is a Canadian native who appreciatively calls North Idaho home. With the Cabinet Mountains in her backyard, she rarely finds a good excuse to not go out and explore. When she isn’t outside seeking adventure, she stays busy homeschooling her three kids and remains active in the community. Her passion is to encourage and support other families as they make their own way into the great outdoors.

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