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Wilderness inspired: Artists team up to create note cards to mark act’s 50th anniversary

Hamilton artist Karen Savory shows a selection of the wilderness note cards that she and her friend, Hannah Spencer Fast, created last winter to support area wilderness organizations.

Wilderness had always been an important part of their friendship.

Karen Savory and Hannah Spencer Fast met years ago at a watercolor painting class. It didn’t take long for them to realize they’d each met a kindred soul with a love for all places wild.

“We’ve shared a lot of wilderness adventures since then,” Fast said. “We know how it makes us feel. We wanted to find a way to get other people excited about getting out there and exploring all of this amazing wilderness that we’re surrounded by.”

Fast’s husband, Geoff, is a wilderness ranger in the River of No Return Wilderness. Last winter, the couple began talking about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the passage of the Wilderness Act.

“I had just started doing some block printing,” Fast said. “He had this idea that maybe I should make some notecards that could be used to support local wilderness organizations.”

One day, Fast brought up the idea to her friend Savory while cross-country skiing at Chief Joseph Pass.

“She said she had the best idea ever,” Savory remembered. “We could make a series of blocks depicting wilderness scenes and then sell them to benefit wilderness. It would be our way of giving back.”

“Right away, I said; ‘OK. I’m on board,’ ” Savory said.

By that time, Fast was living on the Idaho side of the pass. Savory lives on the edge of Hamilton.

All winter long, they’d meet on top of the pass and go over their ideas and pictures inside their car. When the meeting ended, they’d strap on their skis and head into the wilds.

“A lot of scenes we used for the cards were inspired by times that Geoff and I spent in the wilderness,” Fast said. “Most of the images were inspired by unique wilderness traditions that are slowly being lost.”

“There’s one of a horse packer. There aren’t too many young people interested in learning to be a horse packer anymore. And there’s another of a lookout girl. There aren’t many people manning lookouts either.

“These are all unique traditions that I would love to see continue on into the future,” Fast said. “We hope that young kids might be inspired if they see our note cards.”

The two dug deep into their own pocketbooks to print 500 sets of cards. As of now, they have about 50 sets left.

The women are working with the Selway-Bitterroot Foundation, Friends of the Clearwater and the University of Montana’s Wilderness Institute. All of the money raised beyond the cost of printing is donated to those organizations.

“People love them,” Savory said. “We have been doing a pretty good job of selling them.”

The cards can be purchased at Click on wilderness.

The artists also plan to have their note cards available at the inaugural showing of the Forest Service’s Northern Region’s showing of “Brandy” on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Bedford Building, 223 S. 2nd in Hamilton.

The short film focuses on Hamilton’s Stewart Brandborg and the role he played in the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. The showing is free to the public. Dessert and beverages will be served.

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at


Associate Editor

Reporter for The Ravalli Republic.