Called to the headwaters
Last night, I took my boys to Inman Creek south of town and walked a few minutes up the trail.
We threw rocks and watched tiny trout dart under cover in the rare pools big enough to hold a few gallons of water. The boys have a shared and oft repeated goal of following any water we encounter to its source. Within a few minutes, they were bushwhacking through the willows and the aspen, trying to stay in sight of the creek lest they lose it. I strolled along above, walking the trail 20 feet away.
To them, all of four years old and brave as warriors in spurts, this was wild county yet to be explored. A few acres will hold their energy and their imagination captive for hours.
It won’t last though, this I know from experience. The headwaters still call me. On summertime blue-line trips and fall grouse hunts it’s always upstream travel, away from the road and into the unknown.
The need to move will take them further. They will outgrow the juniper forest that grows downhill from our house and the tiny creeks that spring from the mountains near our town. They will move faster and further, wanting to get down the trail, until one day they’ll leave the trail behind and set off into big, wild country.
I want that for them. I want them to look at a map and see big patches of green that call to them like a siren.
It’s there now, places big enough to capture the imagination of girls and boys old enough to journey.
But those places are not there by accident. They are intentional, left by those who wandered the wild country and came home resolute to protect it.
Most of us have been there. Our minds and hearts are filled with the things we find inside the blank spots on the map.
And so the mantra that guides so many of us, “protect it like it is,” is about more than ourselves. We, as those who came before us, protect it for our children. We protect it for our nieces and our neighbors. We speak up for wild country not for the land itself, but for horses yet to be foaled and english setters yet to be whelped and for little boys and little girls who will someday take pleasure wandering, looking for the source of things unexplained.
And the threats to those places are not abstract.
Even now, there are real threats to wild country - mining, unmanaged motorized use, efforts in Congress to scuttle important laws like the Clean Water Act ... and the desire of a few to sell off our public lands.
We must be intentiona and methodical in protecting what we have, so that our children and their children will have places to look for the source of things less tangible than water.