The World At My Feet
By Amy Hern
If you’re looking for a story about the conquests of mountain peaks or the chase of big trophy game across continents, this is not it. This is just a simple story of a girl who dared to dream and to venture into the horizons of her sights.
I was born in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. I grew up in a hot, tropical, concrete jungle. My grandparents, both paternal and maternal, lived in what you would call “the country side”. It was a treat for my older sister, younger brother and I to visit them. I remember using outhouses, getting water from the well, running around chasing clucking chickens, quacking ducks, and being chased by honking geese. I remember helping to start the fire for the woodstove, collecting chicken eggs, and climbing papaya trees.
There was no television and no electricity. We used oil lamps and caught fireflies in jars. We listened to the crickets singing in the night. I used to explore the oil palm plantation across from my grandparents’ home. We played hide and seek in the tall ferns, always wondering what’s on the other end of the plantation – the rows of oil palms seemed to stretch endless into the horizon. One day I braved myself to walk all the way to the other end of the plantation, away from my grandparents’ home. What I saw was bare ground, heavy equipment bull-dozing the land for future homes. I never ventured there again.
In spring 1998, I arrived in the United States of America with my late husband. It was just past midnight and the streets of Los Angeles were almost devoid of traffic. It was a long flight, and my first meal in the Land of the Free was a Subway sandwich. Our destination was Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. My adventures were just beginning. Yet, they did not truly begin until almost 10 years later; a few years after my husband had passed on.
Figure 1 “Photograph” A scenic view of Idaho, Amy Hern’s new homeland.
On a beautiful, spring morning, a day I had planned for days. I packed a small cooler with water and some snacks. I loaded up the rest of the gear into my car – fishing pole, fishing net and a bucket, remembering the cup of worms, and my fishing license. I looked at my two Red Heelers, and said, “One of you is going fishing with me.” Sam, the mellower of the two, became my fishing companion. He gets excited now when he sees me grab the fishing poles and the tackle bag. Fishing on my own with my dog, Sam, was not my first outdoor experience in America; it was my first outdoor experience on my own.
When my husband was alive, he would fly us into fly-in camps in the heart of Idaho wilderness. It was not something we did often. Flying in the Cessna 170 always made my stomach queasy, but I never had to use the bag. Seeing the land from a different perspective high above and flying across the Rockies from Idaho into Montana was a sight to behold.
It was a few years after he passed on that I started exploring the outdoors on my own with my two dogs as my companions. Fishing became a great past time for me with Sam. I read as much as I could about fishing, after all to catch a fish you must think like a fish. I had great instructive conversations about fishing with other fishermen; after they grew accustomed to seeing me reel fish in from the lake. I learned to observe the ospreys and bald eagles around the lake. I watched the weather and soon learned when the best time to fish was, and which method to use. It isn’t just about the fishing.
Figure 2 “Photo” A photograph that Amy Hern took while out scouting the wilderness with her camera and fishing pole in hand.
There were times when I was out at the lake early before anyone else arrived. I have always been comfortable with solitude. It is a time for quiet observation of the world within me and around me. There is nothing more beautiful than watching the darkness of the night being slowly pushed away, as the sun lights its way into the sky. Or observing the resident blue heron, shrouded in early morning mist, take a graceful flight in silence. It barely breaks the calm waters of the lake to land itself a nice catch. When the fishing is slow, there is always my camera to keep me busy. My pictures of the world around me are memories of the great times I have outdoors.
When it gets too hot for fishing, I often take my dogs up into the mountains for explorations and short hikes. Of course, going up to the mountains require more preparation than going fishing. I bring food, water, extra blankets, a flashlight with good batteries, firearms, GPS and a good mountain road map – plus my killer dogs. Well, I am sure my dogs would protect me if I encountered danger. A reliable vehicle, good knowledge of road conditions and the weather are essential before venturing up into the mountains in Idaho. In my mountain explorations, I’ve seen lots of game – deer, mule deer, elk, moose and even black bear. I learned a lot about the wild flowers and wild plants of the woods and found huckleberries on my own. There is nothing more delightful than eating fresh huckleberries straight off the plant. My dogs enjoy them too.
Figure 3 “Photo” A photograph of some Elk that Amy captured while hiking in the mountains with her trusty dogs.
Always with a camera, I’ve taken a lot of pictures of my mountain adventures. Photography has become second nature to me. I love hiking in the mountains, with my dogs. Sometimes I go alone in the higher country where the ground is too rocky for my dogs. I bring back pictures of the land my eyes have seen. The mountain world is peaceful and quiet, and the vast expanse of nature surrounding me, always has a humbling effect on the soul. Bear in mind that the remote mountains can be a dangerous place. I always go prepared as best as I can, and respect the nature around me. And I never go without telling someone where I am headed.
It wasn’t long before I took up hunting with some of the people I worked with. I did a lot of reading and research before buying my first hunting rifle, a Winchester 30.06, with the help of a friend and his father. I went to elk camp for the first time, not knowing what I was getting into; and have not looked back since. I have seen elk in the wild but have not been able to get a shot at one. I have helped pack elk, carrying what weight my small 5’ 1″ frame would allow me to carry. I have helped butcher and wrap elk – a long, tedious, but fun filled task surrounded by good friends. Just as I did with fishing, I read about hunting as much as I could.
But the best skill is acquired out in the field. Three important factors are following a well used game trail, understanding the terrain, and knowing which direction the wind is blowing. It’s important to have a good mentor to show you how to do it right. I have been lucky. I had good mentors – those who accepted me in elk camp and one who helped me get my first deer.
Figure 4 “Photo” Amy Hern with her first deer that she harvested in Idaho.
I have a good friend and mentor now, Andrew Pershern, who has expanded my horizons farther and higher. He’s shown me worlds that I’ve only dreamt of like the beautiful world of fly fishing and hunting big game in the high country. Maybe one day I will get my dream elk. I may not be a Jägermeister, but I dare to dream, and I couple that with the wild restlessness born in my soul. I have the world at my feet. If you dare to dream, nothing is impossible!
Afterword: I would like to thank Ricky Mills and Ammala Louangketh for their support and encouragement in my participation as a member of WILD Jaeger. I would also like to thank Andrew Pershern for believing in me, and never giving up on me.