Sometimes We Forget

Sometimes We Forget

Page Type Page Type: Article
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering, Ice Climbing, Aid Climbing, Big Wall, Mixed, Scrambling, Via Ferrata, Canyoneering, Skiing

Chief Joseph, a statesmen-like leader of the Nez Perce

Prospector Jerry Johnson searched
for precious metals during
the 1880s and 1890s

Sometimes we forget
      The past
      Mountains, wilderness, experience
      Hiking, climbing, feeling alive
            Believing, we are owed.

Andrew Erickson was a fur trapper who survived living alone during the harsh winters

Skookam Woodman lived his life as part of
(and not apart from) the Bitterroot Mountains

            Building mountains

      Creating life
            Changing mountains

      Single cells
            Changing mountains

            Changing mountains

            Changing mountains

            Changing mountains

            Changing mountains

            Changing mountains

Johnny Decker
George Ring
Bill Bell

Sometimes we forget
      The past
      Changing mountains
      Believing, we,
            Are owed ?

Looking west at of a few of the Bitterroot Mountains (from Hamilton, MT to Victor, MT) - best viewed in original size

Winter in the Bitterroot Mountains
Admit it. Each of us who thoroughly enjoys "the wilderness" has felt – probably more than once – that we’re owed such experiences. We convince ourselves that, if for no other reason, wild places should be preserved so we can continue to indulge our desire for solitude. In this, I am as guilty as anyone. But...

A moment’s reflection brings the realization that I’m not the first person who visited any particular wild area of the mountains. Indians, trappers, prospectors, hunters, and farmers walked the mountains, each bushwhacking through deadfall, following animal trails, scratching a living from the land.
Mario Locatelli - a modern-day mountaineer

Forced to earn a subsistence existence, those were the first to visit and exploit the wilderness. Their efforts to survive, improved pathways into the wild and gave us fairly easy approaches to the mountains we visit in the back-country today. They were "real" woodsmen and mountaineers, wearing hobnail boots and using hemp rope with no specialized equipment to help conquer the rock.

Mountain Heather

So, now we sit comfortably at our desks, living far above a subsistence level with the income and free time to allow for recreation, visiting SummitPost and philosophizing about the future, often thinking someone owes us the preservation of the wilderness mountains.

There is an old saying, the source of which I’ve long since forgotten, which goes something like, "There are no philosophers with empty stomachs." I try to remember that when I find myself thinking someone else owes "me" the preservation of wilderness and recall that most of those who preceded us were only trying to make a living – to survive.

I will not blame them for making choices which now seem to have been damaging and incorrect. Rather, I thank them for making it possible for allowing me to "stand on their shoulders" and do my best at emulating what were the "true" woodsmen and mountaineers.

Bud Moore's book, The Lochsa Story, Land Ethics in the Bitterroot Mountains, from which several of the above images were extracted is a good read - both entertaining and informative.

Two things I found especially interesting - his stories about the men and women who helped shape the way the Bitterroots were and are viewed by most people and our government, plus Bud's belief of how the Bitterroot area should be managed, how he came to those conclusions, and how his views of "management" changed through the years.


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Viewing: 1-20 of 24
Bob Sihler

Bob Sihler - Mar 7, 2008 8:58 pm - Voted 10/10


So true-- these were the REAL mountain men, people who made a life with and in the mountains, taking what they needed (sometimes more) but also loving their lifeblood, maybe not as purely as the Native Americans did, but still closer to them than they are to us today, we who live in an age when people (at least in this country) pillage the land not to make ends meet but to rake in profits, long-term costs be damned.

They were hard men, and they deserve that much of a nod, even if I personally don't like some of the consequences their livelihoods brought.

Michael Hoyt

Michael Hoyt - Mar 12, 2008 6:26 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Truth

In my opinion, the really HARD men were the early trappers who lived alone far back in the trackless wilderness during the winter months and ran trap lines, some of them 80+ miles long. Most of those guys used what we think of as "old fashioned" snow shoes to travel though powder snow, which during some winters was more than 14' deep. To survive the conditions, none could allow himself to get lost or quit, ever, no matter what the circumstances. These days, few of us, even during our most difficult mountain excursions, ever require the survival skills those guys needed just to work their trap lines.

And even though it's turned out, some trappers decimated local populations of fur bearing animals, most didn't have the knowledge to understand the consequences of their livelihood. All they knew was, trapping was a good way to make a living - if a person was HARD enough.

Michael Hoyt

Michael Hoyt - Mar 12, 2008 6:29 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice

I agree, Fred. We should do our best to preserve the wilderness, not just for our kids, but so humanity itself is able to survive. The majority of people still don't understand the interconnectivity between wilderness and everything else that exits on this planet. And if you don't understand, it's easy to disregard those who do.

Maybe someday...


MichaelJ - Mar 12, 2008 12:23 am - Hasn't voted

I don't admit it

I've never thought I was owed anything, let alone wilderness. I think wilderness users owe it to others to limit their impacts. Any time I'm on a trail, using a guide book or a topo, I'm acutely aware of those who've gone before.

Michael Hoyt

Michael Hoyt - Mar 12, 2008 6:38 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: I don't admit it

If you've never felt something was owed to you, not even a little bit, then you're an exceptional person. When we feel pleasure, most of us can't help, even if it's just for a moment, that somehow we were OWED that pleasurable experience. Fortunately, many of us are able to quickly move past that selfish feeling after the realization that WE are the ones who owe. Michael, it appears you do not experience that momentary selfishness that some of the rest of us have felt, and for that I am envious.

T Sharp

T Sharp - Mar 12, 2008 12:39 am - Voted 10/10

Interesting Point

I too have enjoyed the article Mike, most especially the poem that sets the tone for your thesis. I admit guilt in blaming many of the loggers and miners that have left their mark on the land while trying to eke out a living, for their short sightedness of the impact they were leaving. In their defense, most of them were working for the "Man", the Marcus Dalys of this region. What I find most disturbing though is the new breed of "Robber Barons" that continue to demand unfettered use of the ever dwindling resource.
One sure sign of maturation is the realization that we owe, rather than are owed.
Congratulations on another fine addition to the wonder that is Simmitpost.

Michael Hoyt

Michael Hoyt - Mar 12, 2008 6:43 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Interesting Point

Thanks, Tim. I'm happy you liked my "attempt" at poetry, lame though it may be. With this little article, I thought I'd see if poetry was something acceptable on SummitPost. So far, it appears that it is.


mtybumpo - Mar 13, 2008 7:18 pm - Voted 10/10

Bud Moore

I have read his book and watched and Outdoor Idaho program featuring him on it. I think his views are worth listening to. He has experience not just knowledge so he knows what he's talking about and why.

Michael Hoyt

Michael Hoyt - Mar 16, 2008 11:06 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Bud Moore

He does indeed - know what he's talking about. I truly appreciated his explanation of how his views changed over the years. Rather than beat the reader over the head with "how things should be", he details his own journey. His book is very well written and thought out.


Saintgrizzly - Mar 15, 2008 1:59 am - Voted 10/10

Not afraid to try something different!

Good for you!

I've never felt like anyone "owed" me wilderness; in a selfish outlook on things natural, I believe I owe it to myself. But more, I also believe we as a society owe it to ourselves, and to our progeny—and for many, many reasons. We don't view wilderness the same as the individuals you've mentioned above—although I think they'd be quite distressed at our encroaching "civilization." They couldn't have known what those first forays west, all the way through to the West Coast, would mean in a hundred or two-hundred years. It's probably worth noting that the Native Peoples, at the time of the first European settlers, didn't have a word in their language for "wilderness." They did, however, have words for "home."

No one owes us anything. We owe it to ourselves.... The belief, the preservation, the fight, if it comes to that, doesn't come from outside, but within.

Thanks for the post, Mike—well done.

Michael Hoyt

Michael Hoyt - Mar 16, 2008 11:15 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Not afraid to try something different!

Thanks, Vernon.

Yes, WE are the ones who owe - to ourselves and to the future. I believe that those of us who have come to this understanding should help others reach the same point AND have patience during the process.


hasue - Mar 15, 2008 12:56 pm - Voted 10/10

tis a gift to be simple

Your prose is great! The best poems come from non poets. Your message is deep yet simple. Tis a gift to be simple and humble and to be greatful for everything. I do not condemn those pioneering spirits nor do I feel Im owed a wilderness experience. I think maybe a better word would be expect, I do expect the wilderness to always be there. I also expect the mark of man to be there too. I think the forces of mother nature are stronger than the will of man and there will always be wild places that are unhospitable to man. There will be scars from men trying taking advantage of our great mother. I think we are mere fleas and the earth will perservere for millions of years! Our impact on the earth will affect our current world and not the greater destiny of the earth! She has the ability to adapt and survive too, we dont give her enough credit and think we control her destiny. Another life form with "intelligence" will become successfull at survival just as we have.

Michael Hoyt

Michael Hoyt - Mar 16, 2008 11:18 am - Hasn't voted

Re: tis a gift to be simple

Thanks for your kind words.

Agreed. If human cultures wish to survive along with mother earth, they must reach a better understanding of their place. The earth will survive. Mankind, I'm not so sure about and even less sure it matters.


lcarreau - Mar 15, 2008 9:56 pm - Voted 10/10

Beyond words ...

Awesome page and wonderful history! Would like to see much more of this kind of page on Summitpost. - Larry - (very well done!) A true inspiration of historic value!!! Thank you.

Michael Hoyt

Michael Hoyt - Mar 16, 2008 11:22 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Beyond words ...

Thanks Larry.

Well, since this "something new" test has proved at least partially successful, you're likely to see more of the same, both from me and others.


mvs - Mar 17, 2008 9:44 am - Voted 10/10

Plug for Gone Beaver

I read a great book about trappers. Kind of historical fiction, but very engrossing and gave me a lot of respect for the people who lived that way in the 19th century. Amazon lists the book, but it may be out of print.

Gone Beaver.

It's written by my mom's neighbor in Texas. He did an extraordinary job. I'm sorry if it's out of print and no one gets a chance to read this great book.

Thanks for the reminder to honor the pioneers Photohiker!

Michael Hoyt

Michael Hoyt - Mar 17, 2008 12:04 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Plug for Gone Beaver

Yes, that does look like an interesting book. Too bad it's out of print.


SpiderSavage - Mar 17, 2008 9:39 pm - Hasn't voted


Thanks for bring some history into the picture. This is good stuff.


tp - Mar 21, 2008 12:03 am - Voted 10/10


I've often though along those same lines.


alpinistahombre - Mar 25, 2008 3:24 pm - Voted 10/10


Much appreciated statements... lead on!

Viewing: 1-20 of 24



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