Finding serenity in the intensity of Idaho's back country
As Sarah Rose watched the cabins at Taylor Wilderness Research Station shrink below the Cessna wings, her thoughts turned to how and when she could return to this educational sanctuary.
Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Sarah visited the West twice, once on a family vacation through Bryce Canyon, Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes national parks, and the other with her scout troop to Rocky Mountain National Park. When she was named a National Merit Scholar in her senior year and the University of Idaho was an option, the intrigue of the West tugged hard. She began studying the list of participating schools like she was preparing for SATs.
While UI made her short list, her parents weren’t convinced heading two time zones away was the right choice. Her desires became the theme of a persuasive research paper (her mom is a geography teacher).
“I compiled facts to convince my parents,” she said. “I used Taylor as an example of field learning, and eventually convinced them that Idaho was the right choice.”
Little did she know that Taylor would envelope her in its charm and possibilities. It would become the site of her senior project for her ecology and conservation biology degree and home for nearly six months of her college career.
“It is also how I learned I could fit everything I need into a 15-gallon tote,” Sarah said.
As a member of the first cohort of students to enroll in Semester in the Wild, an immersive interdisciplinary educational experience held at Taylor Wilderness Research Station during the fall semester, Sarah fully engaged in the experience.
“I slept in a tent just for the experience,” even though cabins were available. “It was so hands-on. I learned more than in a traditional classroom. The professors lived with us. The classes didn’t end when class let out.”
Without the distractions of modern technology and by shear location, they were fully engaged in learning.
“That was our life. Everyone did all the reading. Classroom conversation continued into the evenings.”
She often found herself standing in the open field with a cup of tea, savoring the sun as it shone in the river canyon.
The serenity of life at Taylor followed Sarah home.
“I’ve spent a lot of time trying to appreciate the little things.”
It also inspired her to return as a summer intern. Return she did and she used her interest in sustainable agriculture and background working at the Soil Stewards Farm, a UI club for organic farming and sustainable community food systems, to create a garden.
“I am grateful the college let me use my interest and background and push the boundaries of a senior project to build the garden at Taylor.”
Not only did she build a garden, but she created it in the shape of the letters U and I. The garden now provides the majority of the fresh produce for Semester in the Wild as well as the summer interns and visiting researchers.
Finishing her senior year and double major in ECB and rangeland ecology and management this year, Sarah no doubt misses the solitude of Taylor. But she finds refuge at the Logger Sports arena, where she has practiced and competed with her peers since first arriving on campus.
“I had never chopped wood. I had never held an ax,” she said. Now she takes careful aid and launches full-sized axed toward wooden targets like she grew up hurtling sharp objects.
In four years, Sarah has filled her 15-gallon tote with new experiences, a love of the West, a passion for working outdoors and a sense of serenity.
"I compiled facts to convince my parents. I used Taylor as an example of field learning, and eventually convinced them that Idaho was the right choice."