Idaho Public Television

Outdoor Idaho:

50 Years of Wilderness

What Wilderness Means to Me

A collection of photo essays from our Facebook friends

My first connection with wilderness is documented by an old black and white photograph of my father toting me along on his back while fishing. I appear in a hand-sewn pack that was roped on to a standard issue Army Pack Board. The place was on the South Fork of the Flathead River where he was a guide and outfitter in a vast wild area now known as the Bob Marshall Wilderness. That old home-made pack hangs on the wall in our living room to this day.

Wild places drew him west at a young age from his home near Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota. His passion for wilderness never ended and it shaped me. The call of wilderness haunts me and I must answer . . . often. I have passed this love of wild places on to my own kids. They both spend their college summer breaks as whitewater guides on the wild rivers of Idaho. Recently my son Conner and I shared an early summer ski trek to the top of Alpine Peak in the Sawtooth Wilderness. He was on his way to report for guide duty on the Middle Fork of the Salmon river in the heart of the Frank Church Wilderness.

This love of wilderness ultimately helped shape every aspect of my life, including my business designing and marketing river boats. It all started with my selfish want of a special boat for floating the Middle Fork of the Salmon. In the wilderness. At times in life I found myself far from wilderness where fences and "Keep Out" signs dominate the landscape. It repressed that primal need to wander in wild places full of crags, snowbanks that give life to mighty rivers, alpine lakes, wild animals and roadless landscapes where it is possible to feel completely alone and very free.

I know that I am not alone in this need to escape the modern world and stumble around in wilderness. Where the iPhone does not work and the internet does not intrude.

Link on Wayne's back in packboard kiddie pack [Courtesy Link Jackson]
Link on Wayne's back in packboard kiddie pack [Courtesy Link Jackson]
Jim, CJ & Mike on a June ski trip to Alpine Lake in the Sawtooths [Courtesy Link Jackson]
Jim, CJ & Mike on a June ski trip to Alpine Lake in the Sawtooths [Courtesy Link Jackson]
Cabin Creek Lake from ridge [Courtesy Link Jackson]
Cabin Creek Lake from ridge [Courtesy Link Jackson]

I've been contemplating the concept of wilderness since I was asked to write a short essay about the subject. And to be quite honest, I have drawn a blank. You see, for me, I am young enough in my early forties to say that designated wilderness has always existed, at least from my perspective. Growing up I had visited the mountains of Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, and that was fine and all, but my first real taste of wild land far away from any machine, let alone anything that remotely resembled civilization was as a Boy Scout on a long hike, out in the Frank. I didn't even know what "wilderness" was, I had never experienced any thing like that. And after over fifty miles of slogging with an overloaded pack and boots that were too big, I never wanted to again. However, I made that same trip two years later and I realized then the value of wide open spaces where man is just a visitor.

Now, thirty years later I spend the majority of my "Wilderness" time in the Sawtooth Wilderness, with the occasional return to the Frank. I have even retraced my steps of those first fifty mile hikes with my own family.

Some might say it's a calling back to a simpler way of life. Out here, unplugged from the grid, the only available social network are other folks mostly doing the same thing I am. Looking to just...be.

Alfred Hagen

Bench Lake number four. It was mid October. Beyond the second Bench Lake, there are no real Forest Service maintained trails. Just a few goat trails here and there, and a pretty steep climb to the top -- the way I like it! My daughter and I slogged our way there, trying not to complain to each other about the terrain, but both happy to be here, none-the-less. That night I spent a little time shooting some stars; and being excited about the results I had gotten that night, I couldn't wait for the morning to come so that I could make this photograph. When I see a scene like this, I sometimes have to remember to step away from the camera and just enjoy it.

Alfred Hagen

Bench Lake number five. Before I planned this trip, I knew that I wanted to be here, and I knew I wanted to capture it in black and white. Another fun climb without much of a trail to guide us, only this time without a heavy pack. When we got there, we just sat and took it all in. I recounted a trip to Redfish Lake with an old friend, way back in Junior High, and how my buddy and I stood at the shore line fishing and looking up at Mt. Heyburn, thinking out loud to ourselves, "It's not that far; we could do it." We never did. And I never did, until thirty years later, almost to the date. I'm glad I made the trip. It was well worth the view.

Alfred Hagen

Sawtooth Lake During a September trip with my oldest daughter, I wanted to see and shoot something different. After we set up camp, we climbed the northwest side to McGown pass at sunset to make this photograph. We explored a bit and headed back down to our camp, perched high on the knoll above the trail on the east side of the lake. When I got up the next morning, there was a fellow camped below us; and as he looked up, he said "Good Morning. I knew it. Only a photographer would camp up there." I didn't take his photo.


I have lived in Idaho most of my life. I have not, however, loved Idaho for very long.

I, like so many of us, had a rough childhood filled with bullies and fighting parents. I hated living here. I left as quickly as I could and went to college in Oregon. I met and married a man and ended up in Utah. We moved constantly and everywhere, from Salt Lake City, Utah to Ontario, Oregon and half of Idaho in-between. Things always seemed worse in Idaho. He was not happy here and that made it very hard for anyone else to be happy. There was a bit of abuse involved. I existed.

In 2003 I was hired on with a contract fire crew working out of Stanley, Idaho. I had never been there before. On my way to the house the company provided, I crossed over Galena Summit for the first time in my life. I was awe-struck. Over the next few months I explored the Stanley Basin and Wood River area and got my first taste of appreciating where I lived. I had lived most of my life in the South Central area and basically knew what sagebrush-covered Idaho looked like. I bought disposable cameras and documented my adventures. I felt alive for the first time in my entire life when I was climbing mountains and sitting by Stanley Lake . . . and away from him.

Fast forward a couple years (leaving the bulk of the story out), but finally I was divorced. I was a single mom now with no child support and in and out of court constantly against him. I worked two jobs and went back to college. I bought a used, $10, 2.1 megapixel camera off eBay and made it a point to take a picture of one pretty thing a day. Slowly I opened my eyes and my mind, and started to see not only the beauty here in Idaho, but the beauty in life. I had never experienced this before.

[Courtesy Lisa Kidd]
Last month we were on a road above Stanley. I was watching the fog change and taking pictures. The sun started coming out and lighting part of the Sawtooths and was just breathtaking. It was truly one of those moments that you want to last forever. [Courtesy Lisa Kidd]

All of a sudden colors were more vibrant, sunsets were a physical thing, and I became obsessed with capturing what I could see and feel. With the phenomenon that is Facebook, I was able to start posting pictures. When I first started posting, I did it simply for me. I was stunned when people started liking my photographs. As my photographic skills evolved, I found I had a following. This was a total surprise to me. I had always been the one hiding behind the scenes and have struggled with being in the spotlight. I appreciate each and every person who has been with me on this incredible ride every step of the way. I have now upgraded equipment, editing software, and gained an incredible amount of knowledge from where I started. I am also just beginning.

[Courtesy Lisa Kidd]
Looking at the Sawtooth Range from Lower Stanley. This has always been one of my favorite views in the world. There is a little motel here with a balcony perfect to just sit on and take pictures. [Courtesy Lisa Kidd]

I have also been fortunate to explore more of our great state. I have sat in a camp on Basin Butte Road and watched lightning storms and snow storms over the mighty Sawtooths. I have been so in love with spots in the Frank Church Wilderness that I never wanted to leave. I have watched mountain goat kids play on virtually non-existent ledges and learn to romp in the clouds. I have seen elk, deer, wolves, coyotes, eagles, big horn sheep, and even a wolverine. I have sat in Heaven (a.k.a., the beach at Stanley Lake) and had the last rays of sunset reach out and tell me goodnight.

Last month I was blessed enough to be able to spend two weeks camping by Stanley Lake with my amazing man who loves the outdoors as much as I do. For the first time in my life I could sit there and feel complete peace. I could smell and hear and feel and touch every piece of nature that surrounded me. The energy was overwhelming. I am in Idaho. I am in love. I am happy. I am home.

[Courtesy Lisa Kidd]
I was sitting at Stanley Lake a few weeks ago taking pictures of the fog lifting, and saw this boat passing by the mighty Mt. McGowan. I was awestruck at how tiny the people were compared to the mountain. The scale really showed just how insignificant we are in the scheme of the universe. (October 2014) [Courtesy Lisa Kidd]

I have had a love for the mountains for as long as I can remember. I am not sure how it started, but the draw of the backcountry has been a strong and consistent force in my life. This summer, I had the opportunity to introduce my oldest grandson to the Sawtooth backcountry. My son and grandson accompanied me on a backpack trip to Alice Lake. It was my grandson's first backpacking experience.

I have four sons, and they are spread out across the country. As a family we have tried to maintain a connection with the wild places by going on vacations to the mountain places we all love. We have explored the high country of Colorado, the red rock beauty of Utah, the magic and wonder of the parks of northwestern Wyoming, and the wonderful backcountry of Idaho.

My son and his family live in Houston, Texas. It is debatable as to which local feature is the highest, the dump or one of the overpasses on the freeway. When growing up, my son wandered the backcountry of Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah with me. It seems that I have passed on that love of backcountry adventure to him. His wife is a Wyoming girl from the other side of the Wind Rivers. The beauty of the west is in her DNA also. She called me one day, about a year ago, and said that at eleven years old, it was time to take Scotty, my grandson, on his first backpacking adventure. I agreed.

After discussing a number of places, we narrowed our selection to the Seven Devils or the Sawtooths. We finally decided on the Sawtooths, then honed our choice of destinations further to the Alice Lake region. I had been through that area once before and remembered it as a place of spectacular beauty.


Alice Lake looking west. [Courtesy Scott DeHart]
Alice Lake looking west. [Courtesy Scott DeHart]

There is a difference between camping in the wilderness and camping where you can drive a vehicle. Everyone knows that food taste better when camping. The world is fresher and there is a sense of peace. With backpacking, all of those sensations are magnified tenfold. Six miles of climbing up a mountain slope, crossing creeks with no bridges, and sleeping on a thin camping pad focus and awaken the senses. It was not an easy trip up for my grandson. He carried twenty pounds in his pack and packed it without complaint.

Alice Lake did not disappoint. The beauty was outstanding. Perhaps the beauty of the mountains is like the taste of food in the mountains. If you work hard for it, you appreciate it more.

Alice Lake does not allow open fires. There are too many people and it's too close to tree line. There is not enough wood. The area was beautiful, with no old cans or junk in the fire ring. There were no fire rings. In the morning and evening when the light is at its best, the place was beautiful. This beauty is reflected in the photos, all from the Alice Lake area.


Alice Lake at sunrise looking east. [Courtesy Scott DeHart]
First color of sunrise — Alice Lake looking east. [Courtesy Scott DeHart]

Our backcountry journey and the Alice Lake destination made the perfect impression on my grandson. Now the hook is pretty firmly set, and I believe he too will be lured back to the mountains for the rest of his life. The experience provided by the wilderness far surpasses the experience in a drive up campground. I am personally very glad that there was a magnificent wilderness I could share with my son and grandson.


Alice Lake basin [Courtesy Scott DeHart]
Entering Alice Lake basin — lake is 1/4 mile behind the trees. [Courtesy Scott DeHart]

I grew up an outfitter's daughter, in what is now the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. My dad, Jim Renshaw, was raised along the Selway River on what is now called Selway Lodge. At the time he was growing up, his parents, Alvin and Elna Renshaw, called it the 51 Ranch. They ran a dude ranch, packed for the Forest Service, raised a few head of cattle, and grew a garden. That was 1932-1948.

My mother was raised on the Oregon side of the Snake River, across and downstream from Pittsburg Landing, on Somers Creek. Her folks, Frank and Minnie Wilson, had a sheep and cattle ranch.

My Dad's parents sold out up the Selway. My mother's parents went into the business of outfitting, and it just happened that they were outfitting out of the Selway ranch when my dad went to work for them. He met their daughter, Darlene. That next summer they got married, bought the outfit, and soon bought a 51 acre homestead a couple miles up from Moose Creek Ranger Station, along Trout Creek. They built a cabin there. Us kids — there were four of us — would get to fly in for our Thanksgiving vacations. Our dad would be in there guiding hunters until after the first of December.

I helped my parents with the summer pack trips, then hunting camps. It was a great life. My parents would send me and the guests out ahead of the pack string. We enjoyed the scenery, riding the ridge tops until we reached the next camp near a high mountain lake with good fishing, savoring a long green meadow with a stream running through it. The main camp was near Fish Lake, which has an airstrip. Occasionally we'd get a surprise watermelon, or ice cream, in by way of plane.

So, I come by it naturally, it's in my blood. I'd rather be in the mountains, between the Lochsa and Selway Rivers. And if I'm not there, I may be with my dog and cameras exploring the front country, the river corridors.

My mother used to say she didn't need to travel because there was so much she wanted to see within a 100 miles of home. I agree.

[Photo by Helen Kettle; Courtesy Gail Renshaw]
This fall, my Dad, Helen Kettle and I helped Marge bring the Lodge's stock down the Selway. [Photo by Helen Kettle; Courtesy Gail Renshaw]

[Photo by Helen Kettle; Courtesy Gail Renshaw]
Crossing Three Links Creek; I'm riding the white mule. [Photo by Helen Kettle; Courtesy Gail Renshaw]

[Photo by Helen Kettle; Courtesy Gail Renshaw]
[Photo by Helen Kettle; Courtesy Gail Renshaw]

I was lucky. I had the Sawtooth mountains to hook me, back when I was eleven, back when it was known as the "primitive area," long before I realized what designated wilderness meant.

It was a week-long 50 mile hike sponsored by the City of Boise, with about 15 kids and several adults on horseback. We started in Grandjean and made a big loop, hiking to Elk Lake, Ardeth, Spangle, Benedict and a dozen other lakes. We were in heaven.

[Courtesy Bruce Reichert]
Before heading into the Sawtooth primitive area in 1965, back when the fences were in great shape. In front are friends Larry Reilly and John Rockne and my little brother Steve. [Courtesy Bruce Reichert]

After that, I spent nearly every summer hiking in the Sawtooths. My folks would drop my buddies and me off near the mountains and say, "See you in five days." One of our favorite lakes was Toxaway. I remember we latched logs together with twine an old miner gave us and floated out to the island. We also climbed to the very top of the mountain at the far end of the lake, spotting more than 20 lakes from our 10,000 foot perch. For us teenagers, wilderness was a blast. There was wonder and surprise and the feeling that we were on our own.

I have to say that today, for me, the Bighorn Crags in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness seems a more "wild" experience. I've been there twice; and lakes like Ship Island make you really work for it. If you go, take lots of photos, 'cuz you never know when you'll be back there. You are a long way from civilization and truly, truly on your own.

But the Sawtooth primitive area was my first wilderness, and you know what they say about the glory of first love. It will always make you smile.

And it does.

[Courtesy Peter Morrill]
Perched above the back end of Ship Island Lake, looking down into the deep ravine leading to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. [Courtesy Peter Morrill]

[Courtesy Bruce Reichert]
From the trail above Airplane Lake, with Ship Island Lake in the distance, in the Bighorn Crags of the state's largest wilderness area. [Courtesy Bruce Reichert]

My first encounter with hiking in the wilderness area was in 1977. My oldest brother, Dennis, was often gone for weeks at a time exploring the backcountry on solo trips to the Sawtooths. He and my middle brother, Richard, arranged a meeting point and time for me to join Dennis on a backpacking trip. Richard borrowed a pack for me and helped me get the supplies I would need for a four day hike. Dennis had gone up a week before to hike on his own before he was to meet up with his baby sister. We met at Petit Lake for an adventure of a lifetime.

I don't know if the offer to take me hiking included bringing my dog, but I promised he would be no problem and he kinda wanted to go too. Over the next few days we hiked the loop to Alice Lake, Twin Lakes and Toxaway Lake. I think we only saw maybe four people total the whole time we were hiking. Dennis made camp, cooked for me and supplied me (and my dog) with the use of his military issue pup tent. I remember one night it started storming and the thunder rolled. I heard a polite request from my brother, "Can I share the tent with you? I'm getting pretty wet." At some point I woke up to see my dog lying across Dennis' chest, panting like crazy and drooling because he was scared of the thunder. My dog's face was only inches away from my brother's. I slept just fine, but I think Dennis was a little short on sleep that night.

Because of the experience I had early on, my craving for hiking and exploring areas that are protected has increased the older I get. My most recent backpacking trip was last summer with a good friend who had not hiked in the wilderness before. It won't be the last trip we share together exploring what Idaho's wilderness areas have to offer.

Shari with her Australian Shepherd Fudd near Toxaway Lake, 1977 [Courtesy Shari Hart]
Shari's brother Dennis with Fudd near Toxaway Lake, 1977 [Courtesy Shari Hart]

 

July, 2013 was when the two lake images below were taken. I took my long-time friend, Ruth Harder, on a three day backpacking trip, her first. We camped at Alpine Lake, then hiked to Sawtooth Lake the next day. Our first night at Alpine Lake included some way happy people on the far side of the lake. They laughed a lot and played their music. They departed sometime the next day, so we wandered over to the far side of the lake to see what the view looked like from there. We found a small rock cairn . . . then proceeded to build one of our own, Ruth being the construction manager.

Our trip to Sawtooth Lake included hiking to the mouth of the lake, then back the same way we came, then traveling up over the saddle to the next valley — what a view! The next ridge had been badly burned by a fire a few years earlier, but the area shows signs of recovering nicely.

Alpine Lake at evening [Courtesy Shari Hart]
Alpine Lake at evening [Courtesy Shari Hart]
Sawtooth Lake [Courtesy Shari Hart]
Sawtooth Lake [Courtesy Shari Hart]

My wilderness experience is always enhanced by the company I take with me. I get to share the experience of visiting a landscape that hasn't changed much for nearly 14,000 years, altered only by the forces of nature. Sharing the wilderness allows the adventurers an opportunity to observe and to interact with the splendor of untrampled wild land and its abundant wildlife. In the end, we are rewarded with wilderness memories that last for years.

The wilderness offers us natural values. We witness watersheds that provide a cycle of life that benefits us directly in terms of natural diversity, wildlife, and inspirational landscapes. I find wilderness to be the most productive wildlife sanctuary we have, with our wildlife refuge system adding to diversity. The wilderness is a haven for the natural cycles of wildlife and perpetuates these valuable resources for all of us to enjoy.

We get to walk into the wilderness and sit, fish, hunt, photograph, paint, and build friendships. Then we return to the unnatural world with its protection and the safety of home. But the wilderness always beckons us, waiting for us to return to its many peaks, valleys, and waterways, to receive our reward, each in our own way.

Norm Nelson, sitting at Enos Lake [Photo by Doug Copsey]
My favorite studio, the wilderness scene, with all its changing dynamics and inspirational forms. [Photo by Doug Copsey]
Owyhee Canyonland Wilderness [Courtesy Norm Nelson]
The Owyhee Canyonland Wilderness proves that lands of wilderness value can be conserved through negotiation and honest concern for the quality of land, wildlife, and water resources. [Courtesy Norm Nelson]
High mountain lake in the Frank Church Wilderness. [Courtesy Norm Nelson]
Pristine high mountain lake in the Frank Church Wilderness. Wilderness is not locked up land. [Courtesy Norm Nelson]

Over the years our family has built lasting memories together enjoying Idaho's great outdoors — camping, fishing, hiking, boating, or soaring over Idaho's beautiful landscape in our small plane.

It has only been within the last three years that I have discovered the joy of landscape photography. It has opened up a whole new world to me, and I've sought never to miss a sunrise or a sunset. My husband and I take every opportunity to escape the chaos of daily life and head to the mountains to explore another pristine lake or back road hide-away.

[Courtesy Sharon Breshears]
The Bighorn Crags are a beautiful backpacking destination located in Idaho's Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. [Courtesy Sharon Breshears]

[Courtesy Sharon Breshears]
Summit ridge overlooking Yellow Jacket mine and Frank Church Wilderness area. [Courtesy Sharon Breshears]

[Courtesy Sharon Breshears]
Camas Creek trail head leading to Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. [Courtesy Sharon Breshears]

I'm beginning to wonder if backpacking is dead. During recent trips to some of Idaho's wild areas, I saw few hikers. And in non-wilderness areas, many people were getting around in ways that aren't allowed in wilderness areas. What this says to me is that a lot of backpacks are being left behind in the closet. Has backpacking's time in the sun passed?

I was a teenager in the early seventies. Back then, backpacking meant more than just camping out. It was a way of connecting with the natural world and refreshing your soul. I remember in the summer of 1973, a friend and I went hiking for three days in Maine around Mount Katahdin. We battled blisters, mosquitos, crummy food and equipment. We measured ourselves against the wilds of northern New England. It was a great trip. We experienced solitude and long conversations that helped deepen our friendship. This hike symbolized to me what backpacking was all about.

In hindsight, this era was probably the highpoint for backpacking. A few years earlier, America had celebrated its first Earth Day, and John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" was a top ten hit. Putting on your backpack and getting in tune with the woods was a symbol of the times. Henry David Thoreau would have been proud!

Four decades later, the state of backpacking seems very different. Some people are still opting for outdoor experiences, but quicker daylong jaunts — like mountain bike rides — seem to be the norm. More troubling are the increasing number of people opting to live life virtually, on the web.

This summer, I went on two hikes that symbolize to me how people are using, or not using, our wild areas. In July, I journeyed ten days across the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho with friend Jeff Tucker. A week later, I hiked four days into the White Cloud mountains. They were a study in contrasts.

The Frank hike entailed traversing its borders — from west to east — about 87 miles in total. I followed Big Creek River down to its confluence with the famed Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and then up into the Bighorn Crags. During the first six days, I passed an average of one other hiking party a day, outfitted groups with pack animals about the same. Since the Frank is a designated wilderness area, both motorized and mechanical devices, like mountain bikes, are prohibited. The Frank seemed like what you would expect from a wilderness area . . . a whole lotta land, and not many people.

The White Clouds trip was a very different experience. This area is not wilderness, but has many wilderness-like attributes. It is part of a broader swath of land under consideration for Monument protection status by President Obama. But it differs from The Frank because motorized and mountain bike access is allowed along designated corridors.

As I entered the White Clouds from the Little Boulder Creek trailhead, I saw several outfitted trips with pack animals, long distance trail runners, motorized trail bike users and dozens and dozens of mountain bike riders on day rides. What about backpackers? I saw a few. The takeaway for me was that not many people are hiking these days, and they're utilizing methods that aren't allowed in traditional wilderness areas.

For me, backpacking is alive and well. Just like in 1973, I tested myself against the rugged land, gazed at immense vistas and spent some wonderful time with friends. This is to me what makes backpacking so special.

Airplane and Ship Island Lakes [Courtesy Peter Morrill]
Airplane Lake, with Ship Island Lake in back of it, in the Bighorn Crags. [Courtesy Peter Morrill]
Ridge behind Ship Island Lake [Courtesy Dan King]
Jeff Tucker and I on the ridge behind Ship Island Lake, in the Big Horn Crags. [Courtesy Dan King]
Castle Peak [Courtesy Bruce Reichert]
Castle Peak in the White Clouds, perhaps the most impressive mountain in Idaho. [Courtesy Bruce Reichert]

For me I find that the wilderness experience reaches its zenith when I go out on my own and challenge nature one on one. Many call that foolish and irresponsible; I call it exhilarating. The key is not to push yourself beyond what you expect of yourself. Yes, I know things happen that are beyond your control, and in situations like that it is best to have a companion. But if you are out there setting personal goals for yourself, which can only be achieved by going solo, then the rewards outweigh the risks. At least for me they do. I do enjoy taking trips with others and sharing experiences and gaining valuable friendships, but there are also times I need to go out on my own and answer the "call of the wild".

I know there are many reasons why people go "into the wilderness" — to "find oneself," to find "God," to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, to hunt, to share camaraderie . . .

[Courtesy Daniel King]
On a solo backpacking trip to Alaska in 1990. [Courtesy Daniel King]

But whatever the reasons, we all have ones that are just our own. Mine have changed over the years. I used to love to get out to where I would find the fewest people, clear my head, and fish. Now I love to get out to where I will find the fewest people, clear my head, and take photographs. Some of the photos I share with you, others I keep in my mind to myself and hold dearly. Those images can never be taken away.

The main reason I go to the wilderness though is because I feel comfortable there, and because I was meant to be there. I do not feel whole if part of me is missing. To become "whole," I need that alone time where my thoughts are not interfered with by outside influences (i.e., people). Again, some call me crazy. Maybe I am.

[Courtesy Daniel King]
The Big Horn Crags as you come over the ridge and view the whole range for the first time. I put it in black and white because the Big Horn Crags is a place that has been around a very long time, and I wanted the photo to capture that timelessness. [Courtesy Daniel King]

[Courtesy Daniel King]
Ship Island Lake in the Bighorn Crags. [Courtesy Daniel King]

I moved to Mackay in October 2006 from NE Ohio when my husband was transferred to INL. I just looked on a map, called a number listed in the Arco Advertiser and ended up renting an old church in Mackay. I was certain we had ended up in a different world.

Although I considered myself well traveled, I didn't realize places like Custer County still existed. My husband is from NW Colorado so he felt right at home. We somehow survived minus 40 degree temperatures in a house with little heat, and that spring we finally had the opportunity to explore the beauty around us.

[Courtesy Michelle Peterson]
Mt. McCaleb overseen by a fuzzy dog. This was taken on BLM land while hiking behind our home in Mackay. [Courtesy Michelle Peterson]

We bought a house which provides us a daily look at the Lost River Range, especially Mt. McCaleb. We have explored many of the wilderness areas around Custer County, and there are so many more to be discovered — Hidden Mouth Cave, Pass Creek, Trail Creek, Copper Basin, the Sawtooths, Wildhorse, Upper Cedar Creek, Iron Bog, and many alpine lakes. We are planning to climb Mt. Borah this summer.

[Courtesy Michelle Peterson]
An old mining structure up high on the "Mine Hill" overlooking the Lost River Valley with a view of the Lost River Range. [Courtesy Michelle Peterson]

For me this move has been transformative — a forced slow-down of a hectic life and an appreciation for this wonderful place which we call home. We love the community and the access to world-class fishing, hiking and biking. I'm not sure I can ever go back to my previous way of life.

[Courtesy Michelle Peterson]
Devil's Bedstead with Wildhorse Creek running through in the Wildhorse/Trail Creek/Copper Basin area. I took this while on a camping trip the spring after we moved to Idaho. [Courtesy Michelle Peterson]

I'm glad that some people have been able to see far enough into the future to set aside wilderness areas. It can seem in this "modern age" we live in that "it's all been done." Humanity has trod the Earth beneath its collective feet. There are no more places left to explore, to conquer, to be the first to set foot upon.

Wilderness, particularly wilderness areas in Idaho, have been of great value in my own life. Yes, someone went ahead of me, and did the exploring and mapping and blazing and naming. Yet, for many reasons, they couldn't tame the lands, or they decided they wouldn't tame the lands. They saw the value in leaving them untamed for people who would follow in their footsteps. People like me.

Wilderness journeys have given me an opportunity to see places where few have gone, to be in places that can only be reached by foot or hoof or paddle or wing. Idaho's wilderness areas have beckoned to me with their call, and are still beckoning me.

[Photo by Tyler Parrish; courtesy Ron Whittaker]
Ron takes a rest stop along the Idaho Centennial Trail in the newly formed Bruneau-Jarbidge Rivers Wilderness area, in southern Idaho. June 2012. Photo taken by my son-in-law Tyler Parrish. [Courtesy Ron Whittaker]

[Courtesy Ron Whittaker]
Ron and Jerry (Frog) Finnegan in September 2009, at the highest point of the Idaho Centennial Trail, the 9,200 ft pass at Ross Peak in the southern end of the Sawtooth Mountains. This was Jerry's final segment for his completion of the ICT. We unoffically call our hiking partnership "Doofus & Lark" instead of Lewis & Clark. [Courtesy Ron Whittaker]

[Photo by Jerry Finnegan; courtesy Ron Whittaker]
Ron crosses a lingering snowfield in July 2006 above Hunt Lake while traversing the Selkirk Mountain Range in northern Idaho. This is also a part of the Idaho Centennial Trail. Photo taken by Jerry. [Courtesy Ron Whittaker]

My first wilderness backpacking trip was to He Devil Lake with Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue (IMSARU) in 1965. Several members of the unit planned on climbing He Devil Peak after reaching the lake. It turned out to be a long trip in thanks to getting slightly disoriented. We came out the route we should have gone in close to Mirror Lake.

[Courtesy Steve Alters]
With Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue, 1965. [Courtesy Steve Alters]

When my oldest son Stevie was a baby my wife Gale and I used to take him into the Seven Devils in a special backpack for infants. We moved to Lewiston, and learned that one of our neighbors, Bud VanStone, backpacked and fished high mountain lakes every chance he got. We decided we had a lot in common and started joining him on his excursions. For 30 years we have experienced many of Idaho's great wilderness areas together.

Almost 50 years later I'm at the top of He Devil with two of my three sons, Chris and Trever, and my dog Molly. We decided to place a memorial for my son Nate who was killed in a car accident earlier in the year. This is the umpteenth time my boys and I have backpacked into the Seven Devils.

We also discovered Gunsight Lake in the White Clouds, another favorite place to go backpacking.

[Courtesy Steve Alters] Steve Alters
Steve with sons Chris and Trever and dog Molly at the top of He Devil, 2010.

[Courtesy Steve Alters]
Gunsight Lake in the White Clouds. [Courtesy Steve Alters]

I'm not a rugged outdoorsy adventurer. Still, wilderness has been part of my summers for many, many years — hikes with friends, backpacking with my kids, even a few solitary day trips. That I make the effort to find my way there speaks to how I value the perspectives and challenges of being in these primal and uncivilized and achingly beautiful places.

[Courtesy Gens Johnson]
Day hiking in the Sawtooth Wilderness [Courtesy Gens Johnson]

On an intellectual level, wilderness is near the top of my list of "What 'we, the people' and our government need to do" to take care of our planet. Identifying wilderness areas and treating them differently than other forests and mountain areas is about so much more than recreation. Wilderness areas provide critical protection for watershed origins, wildlife, and entire ecosystems. The "Big W" designation sets aside areas for very constrained use, as it, more importantly, protects those areas from particular abuses. The Wilderness Act has served its purpose for the past 50 years by providing a process to cordon off wild preserves.

I, along with most probably, idealize wilderness as unchanging even as the world around it changes. But it's simply not true. The changes in those wild areas have been hardly noticeable until more recently. The "hands-off" management — letting nature take its course — worked only until it became unavoidable that settlement and industry, energy, pollution — all those effects of expanding human population — grew to impact even those areas on our planet where humans are not. Now there is a different need to balance the ideal with a new reality. Preservation is not possible without active management that can address invasive weeds, fire, and whatever yet unknown threats.

[Courtesy Gens Johnson]
Fire was here, Sawtooth Wilderness [Courtesy Gens Johnson]

"Big W" wilderness is not just an alternative to a theme park, a health spa, or a spiritual retreat. To me, it denotes a responsibility for being placed on this planet at this point in time. A time when our civilization gives us the power to change the world, literally, even as it gives us the technologies for easy living. Protecting wilderness — the experience and the ecosystem that exists even without people there to experience it — is the price we need to pay for our lives of privilege.

[Courtesy Gens Johnson]
Sisters, at Eagle Creek in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness [Courtesy Gens Johnson]

In 1984 I was working a summer job on the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam — great job. We went to Vernal to get some groceries and culture and decided to take in a movie. Pale Rider was playing, and that opening scene of the cowboys riding full bore at the base of those amazing peaks made me stay until the ending credits to see where Clint had done his filming. "We would like to thank the Sawtooth National forest for all their cooperation on this film." I want to live THERE!!

Fast forward to October of 1988, and I have my dream job with Idaho Fish and Game at Sawtooth Hatchery at the base of the Sawtooths in Stanley, Idaho. Does a kid from Iowa believe in divine intervention? You bet he does. On my first real big game hunt in Idaho we trekked up the East Fork of the Salmon River. That unforgettable first day I saw nine species of big game!

I will never live back in Iowa. Wilderness exists to make me feel small, insignificant. I love that feeling. I love the cleansing silence of wilderness. I dream of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery surviving in what is now Idaho. I envy them.

[Courtesy Doug Young]
My Wilderness. Upper Pahsimeroi. October 2014. [Courtesy Doug Young]

[Courtesy Doug Young]
The view into Oregon and beyond. Hells Canyon, Idaho. October 2013. [Courtesy Doug Young]

[Courtesy Doug Young]
Quick Storm. From Sunny Gulch looking west over Red Fish Lake. November 2011. [Courtesy Doug Young]

I have always loved exploring the wilderness, especially trails, not knowing where they will go. When my girls were small it was a big deal to get on a dirt trail just to see where it would end up and what we might find around the next corner or over the next hill. Would we see wildlife, would we come across a hidden lake or waterway, would we find a new place to picnic or camp, would we get lost . . . just what treasures would we find? The anticipation of what we might see or find kept us going and going.

Idaho's wilderness is more than a place for recreation. It is the best place I have found for inspiration, for filling my soul with joy and God's peace. Idaho has much to be explored, and I know I will never get to see it all, but not for a lack of trying. It is more to be admired and enjoyed than used. Idaho's wilderness is full of surprises.

Waterfall in the Boise National Forest [Courtesy Charlene Aycock]
This waterfall has no name and is not easily found. It is one of the Boise National Forest's hidden treasures. [Courtesy Charlene Aycock]
Bear grass in bloom [Courtesy Charlene Aycock]
Bear grass is a wildflower that blooms in spring when conditions are right. This year it could be found in the higher elevations all over the state. [Courtesy Charlene Aycock]
Winter lake [Courtesy Charlene Aycock]
One of the views that always takes my breath away. Whenever I bring someone around the corner to this view for the first time, I always hear them gasp. [Courtesy Charlene Aycock]

My fantasies about being in the wilderness began when as a child I would watch The Little House on the Prairie show in black and white. I lived in Los Angeles for almost thirty years. Two years ago, my wife and I moved to Garden Valley. When I knew we were moving to the mountains of Idaho, I started watching that show again to prepare me mentally for the change of habitat and the cultural shock I was about to experience.

As I watched the show, my childhood fantasies of exploring wilderness with creeks, barns and wildlife started to surface again. Now they've actually come true as I explore the wilderness of Idaho on my photo treks with my dog Barkley. I had never fished in my life, and to my surprise, I actually caught two trout the first time while camping.

The Stanley Lake area and the Sawtooths have been my favorite places until recently when I made a trip to Blue Lake in the Cascade area. The view from the trailhead captured my eye and my camera lens. As I hiked around the rocky ridge, I found some wildflowers growing among rocks in a very late June afternoon.

Idaho's wilderness is a photographer's dream come true, and for two years now I have been photographing it. My bucket list of places to photograph continues to grow as does my love for the rich and diverse places Idaho has to offer. As a photographer, I find myself going alone on my photo trips. When accompanied by people who are not photographers, they may grow weary of the photographer's patience to wait for the right lighting, to set up a tripod and play with exposures and different angles. The same can be true even when accompanied by other photographers, since their style and patience may differ. So I have learned to cherish my solitude in the wilderness even though it can be dangerous at times. Some of the places are only accessible by quad, and on those occasions even my dog can't come along.

Hiking in the spring and summer is my favorite wilderness activity while I carry my camera, tripod and backpack around. Photographing elk is another activity I will never tire of. Living in Garden Valley I see great herds in the fall and spring, but it is a scene that will never become too familiar. I love it when photographing a herd — how the leader makes eye contact with me and stands guard to see if I'm a threat or not, or as if posing majestically. I was intimidated once by a deer in my own backyard when I had been in the mountains for just a couple of months and had never interacted with wildlife before. I was photographing him at about 50 feet and he started stumping. I was naïve and thought he was posing. He went from stumping to hissing at me. He won because I realized he was not happy; I went in the house!

The many hot springs of Idaho are another enjoyable thing that the wilderness offers. My favorite is the one with a waterfall at Pine Flats between Garden Valley and Lowman which has a great view of the South Fork of the Payette River.

I no longer have to fantasize about The Little House on the Prairie or The Swiss Family Robinson. I am now living my own wilderness fantasies and photographing them!

Wildflowers on the rocky ridges of Blue Lake, Cascade. [Courtesy Francisco Lozano]
Wildflowers on the rocky ridges of Blue Lake, Cascade. [Courtesy Francisco Lozano]
My wife Donna enjoying the water fall of the hot springs at Pine Flats between Garden Valley and Lowman. [Courtesy Francisco Lozano]
My wife Donna enjoying the water fall of the hot springs at Pine Flats between Garden Valley and Lowman. [Courtesy Francisco Lozano]
Stanley Lake and the Sawtooth mountains. [Courtesy Francisco Lozano]
Stanley Lake and the Sawtooth mountains. [Courtesy Francisco Lozano]