Lewis and Clark (and Me)

Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark

“The valley along which we passed today, and through which the river winds it’s meandering course… ascends gradually on either side of the river to the bases of two ranges of high mountains. the tops of these mountains are yet covered partially with snow, while we in the valley are nearly suffocated with the intense heat of the mid-day sun; the nights are so cold that two blankets are not more than sufficient covering.”

So wrote Meriwether Lewis from the headwaters of the Missouri River on August 2, 1805 — exactly 210 years ago today.

On that day Lewis and Clark were about 150 miles north of where I hiked today, but the words still ring true. These mountains too bear snow even in August, and I indeed need a blanket or two at night (even indoors). Given global warming, it’s interesting that they also found it very hot on this date.

I set out today up a logging road about 20 minutes’ drive west of home, with the dog beside me. He hung back at first, panting, until I made it clear I would not head back.

I’ve been reading Lewis and Clark’s journals just now, and as I walked I kept thinking of the two diarists, of their guides Sacajawea and Charbonneau and the rest of the party — their exhaustion from hauling log-built canoes always upstream, the sprains and blisters and tender feet from clambering over rocky streambeds, the digestive problems from tainted water, the constant search for game to eat, the harrowing losses of tomahawks and compasses, the uncertainty about where they were headed, what lay ahead, and the odds of survival.

080215trailLewis wrote with wonder that the local natives, Sacajawea’s mountain Shoshone relatives, could survive at all in this environment. How much we owe to those natives’ kindness to the first Europeans, to the courage and stamina of the explorers and Mountain Men themselves, to the fortitude of the first European settlers who opened this wonderful land for the rest of us.

The dog and I trudged up a very rutted dirt road, through a pine forest that didn’t offer much shade. I didn’t need to carry much: A bear bell, bear spray, a water bottle.

Our trail led to a T-junction, and I chose the right turn, towards a place where the trees were thicker, offering more shade.

We scared up a grouse.

The pine grove opened into a wider meadow, covered with tall browning grass and some wild flowers still blossoming late in the season.

The road curved. What lay ahead?

I can rarely turn back when a slope or a bend beckons with the possibility of a new vista.

And there it was, just a few steps later:080215mountains

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.

© Lois Wingerson 2015

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Shakespeare in the Winds

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Shakespeare returned to the Wind River Valley last night, with a riotously engaging performance of Taming of The Shrew at Dubois’ Dennison Lodge.
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Petruchio arrived in this attire, more a cowboy than a count. He did, of course, get his gal.
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Directed by Diane Springford, the production by the Wyoming Shakespeare Festival Company was supported by the Wyoming Arts Council and presented by Friends of the Library. It’s been several years since the company has come to Dubois. We were very glad to have them back.

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.
© Lois Wingerson 2015

Midsummer Surprises: A Museum Day Storybook

It was a dark and stormy morning. What a strange start to a Dubois story! Who would ever expect rain in in the high mountain desert, in mid-July, preparing for one of the town’s favorite annual celebrations: Museum Day?

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.
© Lois Wingerson 2015

Dubois Rising

demolition_with_boysAt left, two young lads watched with interest as the last building damaged in the devastating December 30 fire comes down. I asked their names at the time, but unfortunately forgot them before I sat down to write this.

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Downtown Dubois on 12/31/14. Photo credit: Alan Rogers/Casper Star-Tribune

The fire, widely reported in the national media, destroyed a half block of historic buildings on the main street. (You can see some more dramatic pictures at Dubois fire.)

The fire was caused by overheating of wooden walls too close to a chimney. Subzero temperatures caused the water lines in the fire hoses to freeze up as volunteer firefighters battled the flames in the wee hours.

Community response was, predictably, immediate and robust, reflecting the strong feelings that residents, former residents, and longtime repeat visitors have for the Dubois community.

A crowd-sourced relief fund raised nearly $12,000 for affected business owners over six months. Another fund coordinated by the local charity Needs of Dubois and St. Thomas Episcopal Church raised about $88,000.

Contributions at the annual Swedish Smorgasbord event in June and other sources raised money for a new fire engine with hoses that will not freeze overnight in Dubois’ high-mountain winter temperatures.

DuboisRisingThe theme of the Independence Day parade was “Dubois Rising” (see the float with that motto in the image at right). Nobody needed to be told what that was about.

Meanwhile, the demolition proceeded. The new empty lot offers residents a startling view, straight through from the hardware store and its parking lot to the world’s most unique bar (the Rustic Pine Tavern) — or vice versa. We’re used to seeing timber storefronts and a board sidewalk.

JeffsBareLotWhat’s going to happen here? We’re eager to find out.

“How could I not rebuild?” said the property owner Jeff Sussman in the local newspaper, not long after the fire. Now that the insurance reports are submitted, architects’ plans are under consideration.

A New York commercial real estate broker, Jeff and his wife Susan also own and manage the Diamond D ranch here. Jeff and Susan are anything but absentee landlords. You often see them in the Rustic when they’re in town, and they celebrated Jeff’s recent birthday with an open bar.

When I spotted Jeff in town not long ago, I mentioned that heart-warming statement in the Frontier, which was a beacon of hope at a devastating time for a town whose economy relies heavily on tourism and therefore on the face it presents to those passing through.

“I meant it,” he replied. “We’ve lived here for years. I wasn’t just going to take the insurance buyout. This town means a great deal to us.”

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.
© Lois Wingerson 2015

Dubois Love Letter #1: A Study in Contrasts

cropped-petesgate.jpg Fifteen minutes’ drive west of Dubois, you are hiking in high alpine forest.

The scent of sage mixes with the fragrance of pine. The air is so cool you may need an extra layer in midsummer.

Your eyes behold the most beautiful color combination in nature: sagebrush and lupine.

You’re only a few miles from the Continental Divide here.

Just a mile or two east of this spot the spectacular red-rock badlands begin. They rise stunningly over the center of town, and continue to a long distance to the the east, standing above the valley like a vast array of monuments.

hikers_072215From a distance they look like solid rock, but up close you find that they are slowly dissolving sand. My husband calls them “melting ice-cream,” in geologic terms.

These hikers have just completed a hot and dry hike up Mason’s Draw and back, stopping often to give the dogs (and themselves) a drink of water.

Where they turned back at the top of the draw, it seemed as silent as the back side of the moon, except for the breeze.

Here you see the kinds of flowers that dominate in one landscape (left) and the other, just a short drive away (right).

RocksNFlowers2

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.
© Lois Wingerson 2015

Independence Day In Dubois (A July 4 Scrapbook)

Lucky tourists stumble on our charming parade. Some folks travel a long way on purpose to see it.

Dubois July 4
Slow, but far quicker than the original, a Conestoga wagon starts the parade.
Dubois July 4
“Dudes” from the CM Ranch, the first guest ranch to be established in the upper Wind River Valley, join the Independence Day parade every year.

The thing to do on July 4 in Dubois is to catch the parade, which must rival any in the United States for charm and originality.

Another thing to do is find a spot under an awning, or bring an umbrella. The volunteer firefighters come by near the end of the event to offer a refreshing shower — or a moment of embarrassment for the unprepared.

The parade is a lucky find for visitors who happen to be in Dubois that week. But some out-of-towners travel quite a distance on purpose, just to experience it.

Dubois July 4
The CM Ranch also likes to feature its vintage fire engine. Behind it you can see the Twin Pines Lodge (and cabins), which is about as old and venerable the CM Ranch. The “vacancy” sign is often dark.

We met some people from Cody who had come to Dubois just to catch the parade. They said that to get a decent viewing spot in Cody you have to stake out your location days ahead.

Dubois July 4
This “race car” powered by a custom-restored antique agricultural “hit and miss” engine makes its way along the parade route every year at a suitably moderate speed.
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Another interesting mode of transport, brought to town by someone proud to show it off to neighbors again this year.
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Deb proudly shows off her own means of independence, representing the new assisted living facility, Warm Valley Lodge. The Lodge itself represents independence for many long-term residents of this warm valley, who no longer have to decamp to a large city somewhere else when they begin to need help day to day.
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This wonderful vintage ambulance was one of several military vehicles in the parade. Sorry we didn’t catch pictures of the authentic WWII tanks also owned by a resident of the valley. There’s easily enough space out here to store vehicles like that year round, out of sight.
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After the parade, St. Thomas Episcopal Church sponsored its annual ice cream social (handmade vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and cherry). The line of hot and hungry spectators reached all the way to the corner. (Here you see the last of those served.)
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Here’s what I brought to coffee hour at St. Thomas church on July 5. The color scheme was complete serendipity: As I pulled the third item out of the oven, it suddenly dawned on me what I had created.

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.
© Lois Wingerson 2015

Don’t Like the Weather?

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At long last, back in Dubois.

This is the moment we have waited for! The dog and I set off west up the highway towards the Sheridan Creek area, just inside the Shoshone National Forest. Here is the alpine high-mountain forest region of the local ecosystem. A few minutes back down the highway, we could be clambering around in red-rock badlands. That’s for another day …

Today we’ll do an easy hike, just up the main road. Mustn’t push myself, only one day after I have returned to 7.500 feet above sea level.

Oh, no! What’s that heading in from the southwest? Ominous; there’s thunder.

Drat! We turn back towards the car.

Partway back, I turn around. What’s this?

HikeSunny

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.

© Lois Wingerson 2015