Any trip into the White Clouds is special, certainly for me. I’m super close to this Idaho landscape, in no small part because the long road to a wilderness designation tracks much of my professional career. I also just love the place.

Our trip this summer was special for a number of reasons: it was part of ICL’s summer series, we had a great set of guests helping steer many conversations, and we had horse support to carry our gear. Let me talk about all three.

The past summer’s ICL member trip series included three outstanding opportunities to adventure with like-minded folks in the Idaho wilderness-a horse pack trip and two river trips. Last year we offered just one outfitted overnight trip for ICL supporters and this year we planned for three. Overall, these are a bit of an experiment. Would ICL supporters want to join trips where they get a special view into our work in a special part of the state? The answer, clearly shown by three filled trips, was yes.

We all know that every trip outdoors, for even one night, includes special conversations-whether in camp, on a trail, or on a boat. What happens when you bring together a set of dedicated ICL supporters and experienced ICL staff in the White Clouds? Here are highlights from just a few of the many rich conversations that resulted.

  • Rod Gramer, an ICL member with us in the White Clouds, co-wrote the definitive biography of Sen. Frank Church, an Idaho icon in many respects and most certainly in conservation and wilderness. Joined by his wife, Julie, Gramer added rare context as we talked about conservation politics and history. Fighting the Odds is his book chronicling Church’s life and four-term senate career.
  • Conservation politics were especially on our mind as we looked up at the "mountain that made a governor"-Castle Peak and Gov. Cecil Andrus. This would have been a powerful catalyst for conversation on any trip, but especially this time as we all knew Andrus was declining as we hiked in. He would pass away while we were camped in the White Clouds. We shared many Andrus stories into the evening.
  • Betsy Mizell, ICL staffer in our Central Idaho office, is an energetic wilderness traveler who’s gained much of her wilderness knowledge in the White Clouds. She also created ICL’s wilderness stewards program. She led our conversations on ┬áthe impact we’re having, and the many ways we can lessen the impact of others. This was made tangible as we hauled out the modest bits of trash we found.
  • Additional conversations included everything from hiking pilgrimage routes in Spain to understanding the work of irrigation districts in changing times for Idaho water to understanding ICL’s tactics-one guest serves on the board of Advocates for the West, ICL’s valued partner in much of our legal work.
  • And, of course, I have a story or two to tell about the path to wilderness designation for the Boulder-White Clouds, a journey that for ICL spans Andrus’s and Church’s work in the Sawtooths and White Clouds, and continues up through a trip to the White House in 2015.

And then there were the White Clouds themselves. Mike Scott and Louise Stark with White Cloud Outfitters-as well at Dan, their great wrangler-provided terrific background on the place and wildlife, as well as day hikes and, of course, terrific food. And no small thing: the pack string carried in our gear! I have done countless backpack trips into the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains. I treasure each and every one. But let me just suggest that having a pack string of horses carrying in all your food, beverages and gear, well, that’s pretty unbeatable.

Should we go back next year? That’s a question we’ll ask our supporters in the coming months.

Opportunities like this are just one of many reasons to become an ICL member today!