I wanted to take a moment to thank America, past and present, for its greatest natural resource…public land! Our public land has afforded me some of the greatest memories that are recorded in my brain. Most recently thanks to us, I have found a new love, elk hunting. However, it’s not just the “hunting” that has inspired me, it’s the mountains, comradery, motivation, preparation, pain, gain, serenity, and recollection.
Through our great publics lands I have gained two specific friendships that rival the best out there. We were initially brought together through work but ultimately the relationship was solidified in stone on the mountain chasing our beloved elk. It started several years ago when my partners and I decided to live a dream and actually make the trip out West to hunt elk. We researched multiple options and ultimately decided that going the public land route was to be our best options all things considered.
We were led to the White River National Forest, CO, once again thank you America. I had never seen the Rockies and oh so inspiring they were. Staring up at the snow covered peaks and seeing golden aspens for the first time are scenes that are frequently replayed in my mind. Riding my horse with the pack train along the rock studded path is what writers write about. The feelings of euphoria overtook me and I wondered if the trip up the mountain was real. Thanks to this public resource I had the esteemed pleasure of calling a canvas wall tent home and drank water from an icy clear mountain creek. I had never seen an elk prior to this and honestly may never have if it were not for this gift from America. Speaking of which, eating the protein rich sustenance from these beasts is nothing short of phenomenal, even considering my mediocre culinary skills.
Once bitten by the aura of these public mountains it was time to test myself as a human in ways only a few of us get to encounter. That is, carrying my livelihood on my back in to the depths to exist for a given piece of time in the Uncompahgre Wilderness, CO. Thanks again. There were no rules per se, just live. Living can be looked at from two different angles in this situation; live as in remain alive and live as in be alive. Both definitions are
very important and sometimes the complexity of each is forgotten. Setting off into the unknown in hopes of filling a tag was a high that cannot be explained and very few things can top. The only power to be had was that of my own body. Until you have ridden the mental roller coaster of hunting elk and spent three days packing your family’s food source for the year off this public wonder you can’t appreciate sitting down at the supper table like I do. The therapy found in these gifts from ourselves is far greater than any doctor could deliver.
These public rewards are not limited to the West and should be protected with equal ferocity in all parts of the United States. I had never adorned a set of waders or seen a trout until utilizing the premium offerings found in the Manistee National Forest, MI. Talk about gifts that keep on giving, thank you people of America! Many Springs were spent camping alongside the Muskegon River inhaling the scents of earth, water, and virgin pine. Hooking and landing a fresh steelhead from one of our Great Lakes rivals any sporting activity available to you or I. Without the gift of access my only option would be to read about screaming drags and rainbows of colors. But thanks to you I have indeed experienced it first hand and will tell my grandkids all about it someday with hope that they will share the same joy I did.
While the largest bounty is found at the national/federal level there are similar donations available at the state level. To this day my favorite hunting trip was with my father and brother in the Brule River State Forest, WI. I am forever grateful America. The time shared in the North Country with my family is something that cannot carry a price tag. That trip was the first and only time I saw my father carry a rifle into the field to hunt big game. It was a Marlin 30-30 which I had gotten him for Christmas a few years prior. I bought it for him based on a passing statement that he had always wanted one since he was a child. The only time I have seen tears in my dad’s eyes was when he opened that gift. When he shot the only deer of the trip with it you could have seen them in mine. Memories are priceless just like our public lands.
With all you have given me America I wanted to make sure that you were aware I appreciate all your efforts to protect these lands. Some may say that memories are all we really have. If that is indeed the case then I am forever grateful for the ones you have provided to me. So please keep fighting the good fight and don’t forget about my gift to you as well.