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Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness heads into 2021

by PHIL HOUGH Contributing Writer
| March 31, 2021 1:00 AM

Few people would have predicted how dramatically our world and lifestyles would have changed over the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic challenged us all on our ability to reach out, get out, and meet the needs of our community.

But challenges and change has helped us grow. Rather than “return to normal,” the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness plan on continuing to evolve. Thanks to a dedicated community of volunteers and supporters, we were able to bring the outdoors online and get people into their wild backyard when they needed it most.

For both work and play more people found themselves online. So we entered the world of podcasts, with ‘Your Wild Place.’ We now have over 30 episodes available on our website (scotchmanpeaks.org) and most streaming platforms. Let us know if you have a wilderness story to tell.

Online events have helped connect folks from across a broad geographic area. Connections we want to keep alive even as in person events return. We gathered outside in the summer and fall, in small groups, around a campfire, on a trail, or in our favorite local park. Many people came to value these smaller outdoor gatherings. We hope to continue to have connected conversations in more intimate settings.

Our winter tracks 2021 youth education program combined remote instruction and hands on projects with our G.O.A.T (Great Outdoors Accessibility and Teaching) boxes. The boxes are a hit. And will find their way into our future youth education programs.

While Wilderness is for our kids and our future; it's also for all of us, right now. The last year has been stressful, especially for those working and living in close quarters. It has clearly shown that we need wild places close to home. Places where the rhythm of the day is more natural. Where we can find focus and connections to restore our serenity and our sanity.

To cope with the stress of the last year, many people went outside, where they discovered the value of quiet recreation on our public lands. Our region offers many great opportunities for outdoor outings - none more stunning than the summit of Scotchman Peak. The number of hikers on Scotchman Peak last summer increased dramatically, nearly doubling from the year prior. Many people discovered this Idaho Gem for the first time. In fact, many were on their first hiker ever.

As we start 2021, we have scheduled more winter hikes than ever. Participation and interest is very high. Because of the benefits of recreation and reflection in quiet, natural places, interest in hiking is not likely to decrease. We will have a full line up of summer hikes for all ages and interests. For those who prefer to explore the Scotchmans on their own, we are publishing a new hiking map, out in time for the summer season.

We want to thank everyone who has contributed their time, talent and passion over the years. Our programs and activities depend on volunteers. Our work, and our volunteers, are needed now more than ever as public lands and trails in the Scotchmans are seeing record use.

We need volunteer trail ambassadors to help keep trails open, hikers safe and mountain goats wild. Volunteers are needed to pull on a crosscut saw or swing a Pulaski to clear trails. We need trail adopters and hiker leaders and volunteers to teach youth. Or perhaps you have a podcast idea or want to lend your voice to a story. We have a place for you. Visit our website to sign up as a volunteer, or become a Friend of the Scotchmans. Or follow us on Facebook or Instagram. Visit scotchmanpeaks.org.

Our many dedicated volunteers share a common passion: our wild backyard. They want a place for the kids in our lives to be free. To discover nature. To grow up wild. Join in to save the Wild Scotchmans for all the kids and grandkids in our community.

Phil Hough is executive director of the Friends of Scotchman Peak Wilderness.

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(Photo courtesy FRIENDS OF SCOTCHMAN PEAKS WILDERNESS)

A pair of Scotchman Peaks trail ambassadors pose for a photo.

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(Photo courtesy FRIENDS OF SCOTCHMAN PEAKS WILDERNESS)

Rebecca Sanchez captures a photo of a jump into the snow on Star Peak in the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness area.

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(Photo courtesy FRIENDS OF SCOTCHMAN PEAKS WILDERNESS)

Rebecca Sanchez captured this photo of an ascent of Star Peak.

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Howard Shay, one of Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness' trail ambassadors, gets his photo taken.