Into the wilderness we go!
In 2014, our nation will celebrate 50 years of the Wilderness Act. Wilderness areas are untrammeled, undeveloped, and natural, offering outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation. Lamar Gore, an assistant refuge supervisor, explains his experience at the Scapegoat Wilderness.
As a kid, I spent my formative years exploring “my wilderness” at Shady Brook Park and White City Lake (now John A. Roebling Park) in Trenton, NJ. That invited a level of teasing, because I played in the woods and swamps, but fear bore few chains on me as a child. With a quick outburst of laughter and a smile of encouragement from mom or dad, I would be off to the woods and ready to play.
Just a few weeks ago, I descended on Missoula, Montana with 49 other conservationists as part of training to begin an immersion experience in the Scapegoat Wilderness. Wilderness lands are wild lands that have not been modified by human activity, like maintained roads or the use of motorized equipment.
So without those machines that are not allowed in wilderness lands, how did we get out there? My companion was Remmington, an amazingly sturdy, gentle, and stunning friend of mine. By the end of the trip, we had quite the connection.
As we sat around the camp on our first night, the flute like song of the Swainson’s thrush rang out on the hillside. This was a common sound around camp and on hikes
On our second day in, I felt the call…when you feel it calling, you must simply go, and go I did. I crossed the river into a floodplain meadow, where willow flycatchers were playing their song. Past the willows and up the mountainside I climbed, and below me, the moving figures of my classmates were tiny stick figures, some fishing, others cooling in the river or resting. The sound of the river faded to be replaced by the sound of birds at a higher elevation and the knocking of woodpeckers. Once on the ridgeline, I could see the valley we journeyed through to approach camp and it was breathtaking. The river wound from side to side, and the mountainsides appeared to collide into each other.
On our final night in the Scapegoat, the song of a boreal owl took me to sleep. He can play that song until the end of time and beyond. That alone was enough to walk out of the Scapegoat with. As Remmington was taking me on the last few steps of our journey, my mind wandered back to our last night in the Wilderness. Those thoughts, made the closing unwelcome and rushed. Just imagine if I had let the fear of the unknown stop me as a youngin.’