Leah Samuels

I was born and raised in Montana with the wilderness as my backyard. My family coveted the outdoors to a religious extent, treating it as a community, an escape, and a lifestyle. We often spent days at a time in the backcountry, backpacking through forests and mountains and deserts: setting up tents in the sun or in the rain. I fought dearly to escape those trips outside, where I was cold and wet and bugs swarmed my face.

As I aged, I came to realize how truly fortunate I was to be raised this way and how, despite my resistance, it was influential in shaping my life. I am most at home when I’m surrounded by trees or mountains or covered in dirt. I feel the most alive when my nose is full of the vanilla-scented ponderosa and my lungs are straining to take in enough oxygen. I feel the most peaceful when I’m calf deep in the icy water of Rattlesnake Creek, or the unnamed alpine lake a day’s hike from the car.

The serenity of the wilderness of Montana is something unique. It is ingrained in aspects of every person’s life, whether or not they realize it. It seeps into our culture, our stores and our communities. It shapes the way we interact with the world. Every person’s interaction with the outdoors is different, and to conserve this place we call home, it requires a myriad of people and backgrounds, who perhaps have only this one thing in common: to share their opinions and voices on the matter.