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Friday, April 4, 2008

It's a Small World

I spent my teenage summers working for our family business, Teton Wilderness Outfitting. We offered guided fishing trips in the summer and hunting trips in the fall, in the heart of the Bridger-Teton Wilderness, a protected area bordering the South East corner of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, the second most sparsely populated state after Alaska. Stringent rules regulate land use in a Wilderness Area: no roads, no motors of any kind, no hard-walled structures - just tents, no corrals, fences, roads, electricity.. it's wilderness, and not just any wilderness, but the one featuring the most remote point in the lower 48 states. Our camp, only a few miles away, was by our calculations the most remote camp. Getting there from Cody, Wyoming (already "the wilderness" to city folks) requires a 1 1/2 hour drive up the South Fork of the Shoshone River to the Deer Creek trail head followed by a 10-12 hour horseback ride traversing steep canyon walls and raging rivers, climbing over 10,000 foot Deer Creek Pass, then gradually winding down into the wide valley of the Thorofare River. Work days started well before sun-up and ended long after it set, but in some of the most beautiful country there is.

The reality of my teenage summers is so removed from most folks' realities, even those who live "normal" lives in Wyoming, I rarely find much satisfaction trying to explain what it's like to live and work in the Wilderness. That whole world is 2000 miles, another culture, another life, and 25 years in the past from where I am now, playing the role of Buffalo Bill in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, only a half hour from Paris, France. Those days have become distant memories and I've accepted that I won't likely meet anyone else who can relate to them.

But it's a small world after all.

I arrived at the Wild West Show today and overhead in the cowboy dressing room our newest returning cowboy, Jesse James Townsend (his real name), telling another cowboy he'd spent last summer and fall working in a hunting camp in the Wilderness in Wyoming. The Bridger Teton Wilderness. A couple miles from Bridger Lake, just across the Thorofare from the very camp where I spent my teenage summers. He even knows Nate Vance, my father (legal guardian, to be more precise). Wilderness Guiding and Packing is not a common occupation. Being one in that specific part of that particular wilderness and then somehow ending up on the other side of the world in Paris, France in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.. I find remarkable even in the age of globalization. It was a real treat to talk to someone about those days. He seems a good guy too, Jesse. It made my night.

How about you? Ever cross paths with someone somewhere sometime when you never expected? Actually, I've got another one.. maybe I'll share later.


Anonymous said...

I remember a place much like that from my earlier years. What a small world indeed!--Bret

Anonymous said...

Well... there's this guy I met in Washington, DC... who took my best friend of the time to our Senior Prom in Connecticut... who 20 some odd years later I keep bumping into on the internet...