Living in Dubois: What Could Be Sweeter?

I wrote these words eight years ago. In 2023, I have discontinued this blog. Much of what appears below is no longer accurate. For instance, Joe moved away long ago.

To learn why I discontinued the blog, read my farewell post. All of what appears here was true and genuine at the time of writing.

Echoing the last paragraph here, I have stayed and I have seen and learned a great deal. I am still committed to Dubois, but can no longer be committed to this blog.

As always, thanks for reading.


What could be sweeter than June in Dubois? My companions raise their glasses. No reply is needed. Nothing could.

Unbroken blue sky. Warm sun. Steady breeze. The prospect of long hikes through unspoiled wilderness, of small-town rodeos and parades, and long, warm evenings, sage, and sunshine, beside the river. We bask in the rare privilege of simply being here.

Just yesterday, I met our newest neighbors. Yet another couple from somewhere else have left everything to settle here.

Of course I said “Welcome.”. Congratulations, I should have added. You have discovered Dubois.

Yet for them to discover is the vitality of this remote small town that still echoes the “real West,” the remarkable diversity of its inhabitants, its vigorous and undefeatable community spirit. Of course they are aware of the dramatic natural beauty that drew us all here and captured us, pine forests and badlands. They will soon begin to learn the compelling history that continues to enthrall us.

I’m just back from community central (by which I mean the Friday happy hour at the “the world’s most unique bar”), where I spoke with a pair of coast-to-coast cyclists from Cincinnati, on their way from Washington DC to Washington state. Long-haul cyclists have learned on the grapevine that there’s always a welcome in Dubois. Among its many local missions, St. Thomas Episcopal church acts as host to them, offering dinner and a safe, dry place to sleep.


You never know who you might meet here, or what you might end up talking about. Tonight I didn’t see my old friends the ex-Peace Corps artist, the photographer from Paris, or the wrangler from Stockholm (who fools so many tourists by looking like the most authentic cowboy of them all). But I did see Joe again.

Joe had just arrived after the long drive from his other home in Florida. I asked Joe, the one who taught me how to conserve energy while climbing mountains, if he would be returning this year for his annual trek in Nepal. Probably not, he said. Of course he figured out how to send money to his good friends there after the devastating earthquake, but this wouldn’t be the year to return. Alaska, maybe?

Joe is a retired nuclear physicist, and a widower. How did you amuse yourself, I asked him, during that long and lonely drive this week? He cracked one of his wry smiles. He spent much of the time, he told me, pondering the relationship of faith to the concepts of kennen (acquaintance, in German) and wissen (German for understanding).

Our neighbor Mike, head of the local phone company and something of a visionary, has been important in the national effort to bring broadband to remote areas. We have him to thank for nearly flawless Internet service. This time of year, Mike stays up nights to catch vivid images of the aurora borealis over the Dunoir valley, which he posts on the Internet. (Had I only known about this one, I would not gone to bed so early.)

Down that same valley over which he caught that light show, some of the first Europeans to discover and explore the American West hiked more than a century ago. Later, homesteaders tackled snowdrifts, grizzlies, and much deprivation in order to survive in this valley, Thanks to the local historians who share their stories, we continue to marvel at what those first settlers endured.

Like us, they found the vast and sometimes desolate landscape here to be compelling and haunting. We fortunate few in Dubois somehow cannot leave it behind for long. We have found that, once having seen these sights and met these remarkable people, we can not stop coming back here. Despite our many differences, this is what never fails to hold us together.

The longer we stay, the more we see, the more we learn, the more deeply we are committed here. What could be sweeter?

10 thoughts on “Living in Dubois: What Could Be Sweeter?”

  1. I raved like this for my first three or four years in Dubois, until what you call a steady breeze nearly drove me out of my mind, ditto the isolation and the smug ignorance and casual intolerance of so many residents. I’ll be interested to see if the glorious country and small band of progressives can hold you for long.

    1. Always good to receive comments, Nancydeb. Thanks for writing.

      No one place is right for everyone, of course. No shoe fits every foot, and tastes and preferences are individual. If everybody loved Dubois as I do, we’d be Jackson. (Heaven forbid.)

      We’ve been living here nearly 9 years now. I’ve found many good friends and little isolation, “smug ignorance and casual intolerance.” I find at least as much ignorance and intolerance back in New York City, in fact.

      Many newcomers choose to stay in this valley, as you must have found, and those who decide to leave because of health problems or other circumstances are often very sad to go.

      1. Dubois sounds great, don’t let it become like most small towns in Colorado, first came ski areas, everybody loved to come and live life on the land, it’s beautiful, it used to be anyway, now we have land you can’t afford, campgrounds you have to reserve, buy firewood, listen to the neighbors loud ass music, smell their pot, and worry they don’t get drunk or high and burn down the whole forest. then the liberals moved in, ran up the taxes, bought up all the farmland, and ran the ranchers off making playgrounds for when they want to come and tear up the land with their SUVs, ATVs, and snowmobiles. Tourist traps like Vail, Aspen, Winter Park, Steamboat Springs, dot the mountains and run the wildlife 12 months out of the year, making the Elk and Deer stress. Dude ranches dot the land where real ranches once were the norm and people are too stupid to know how demeaning it is for real cowboys and ranchers to now have to shuffle dudes across the land.

      2. I’m so glad to receive this very well-worded post, Rick. From my perspective years after I started this blog, it describes perfectly the nightmare so many of us hope to avoid — and one reason why I, myself once a “dude” on such a ranch, have decided to stop writing this blog. We have many “exiles” from Colorado who come to Dubois in the summer hoping to escape what you describe, at least for a while, and I do know some people who have moved here for the same reason. They must be some of those who hate to see an increase in our population. We too have seen people tearing up the land with their vehicles, with no regard to neighbors or wildlife.

        I will create a link to this in my farewell post, which I am about to publish now. I’m so sad about what has happened to your town, and to so many others like it. Good luck.

  2. Lois, YES!- it’s been an awesome experience, of course – our friend Joe is and always has been one reason I’ve gravitated here! – yes, I too LOVE this place, it’s grown on me, it attracted me here, it’s kept me here.

  3. As a native of Wyoming, 65 years so far, I find that more and more people are relocating to Wyoming. That is all well and good but they want to bring their way of life that they left behind to Wyoming. We native Wyoming people love our lifestyle and although some changes are good, we like OUR way of life. If you relocate to OUR state, live the way we live. Do not try to change anything to the way you left behind. Conform to us, that is the reason we stay here.

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