Sunday, July 13, 2008

Neither Dictator nor King (the Wind Rivers)

Link to Year 2
Link to Year 3
Link to Year 4

Now rest your eyes on this [view] as far North as Halls and Middle Fork lakes and to the high peaks on the horizon. In my opinion, neither Dictator nor King has a more divine land elsewhere on the Globe. Wind River Trails by Finis Mitchell p. 78

If anyone knows that of which he speaks, it is Finis Mitchell. He was describing the location and view pictured above. Finis spent his whole life and career in the Wind River Mountains as a guide. It started on a hunt with his father into the Winds in 1906 after moving from Missouri with his family on a span of mules. Most of the 4,000 lakes in this 2.25 million acre range were virgin when he arrived. Finis started a stocking program by hauling fish in 5 gallon milk cans with burlap over the tops for cooling and aeration, all on the backs of pack animals. To this day, many of the lakes are such good habitat for fish that they self sustain.

Our trip to the Wind Rivers was much anticipated. Of significance, this venture would include the whole family--mom, dad, and all five kids packing a week's supplies on horse and mule into remote wilderness. While we hope that there are many more trips to come, we know that our aging family dynamic and logistics made this a once in a lifetime trip. We also got to share it with my brother Mike and our friend Randy Johnson. Of additional significance, we didn't own a horse or mule two years ago and I was the only one of us with some experience--and all of that, childhood experience. I am not lost on the fact that my family has humored this two year exercise in preparation with perseverance. There are a lot of chores and still, a lot to learn. Getting up that mountain required total focus and a shift in lifestyle. My heartfelt thanks to my wife and kids for allowing this dream to mature. It reminds me of the ancient wisdom If you see a man on a mountain, you can be sure he didn't fall there. Nothing could be more true. I also give heartfelt thanks to my Heavenly Father who allowed me to share this magnificent experience with my family without incident. Neither child, nor animal was harmed in the making of this memory (except the fish we ate and the marmot my dog Rooster diligently hunted down to be delivered at my feet.)

Our first night was spent in the densely wooded shores of Divide Lake. We were so abused by the mosquitoes that we nearly packed up and came straight back home. We hid in our tents all evening and witnessed our horses completely bloodied by the onslaught. We decided that Mike and I would go exploring for a better campsite the next morning before we gave up. We did find that place and promptly moved camp to the shores of Crescent Lake which was both prettier and more exposed to the wind. Our secret to surviving the mosquito war was simply timing and location. There were two hours in the morning and evening when the air was still enough that we had to hide from them. Otherwise, we could tolerate the breezy daytime and after dark, we were free.

Mike and I did a lot of riding. We logged a total of 65 miles start to finish. No one else wanted to join us on our discovery, but we sure soaked up a lot of beauty through the week. From the rivers and lakes at the base of the peaks to the North, to the quaint Ranger cabin on the shores of Cross Lake near the Highline trail, we wanted to see what was around every corner. Meanwhile, the view from the master suite back at camp was so good, everyone else was content to fish, read, and play games. We did get finally get the family to wander over to the Cross Lake Cabin for a photo-op the day before packing back out.

After the mosquitoes went to bed on the edge of darkness, we came alive around our campfire each night. Food, stories, and music warmed the cooling air.

As the firelight faded about 1:00 am Wednesday morning, and everyone crawled into their tents, I found myself sitting on the ledge overlooking Crescent Lake. The night was completely still and bathed in starlight, a blackened Silhouette of peak and pine cutting its jagged break across the heavens. From my granite seat, I watched an ancient drama unfold in the mirrored black depths below. Reflected there, a portion of the brilliant night sky danced and shimmered in the water. Winged Pegasus lept across the raging current of the great Milky Way River, which flowed out of the dark pines on the far shore. A billion points of light spilled from the Big Dipper and slowly revolved around Polaris, the North Star. A Still Small Voice breathed, "They are mine and I know them." The river across the meadow rumbled and a chorus of frogs cried, YOU ARE PART OF THIS! My heart begged the question of the ages, the question coined by the Psalmist: What is man that thou art mindful of him?

At dawn, the great drama went to rest in the mist hovering over the glassy water, lying to wait for the next still night when a man would sit on her banks and listen to His story.


Huck Finn & Co. said...

Incredible memories you have shared with amazing detail and description. Just beautiful! I am jealous that your family does so many amazing things- I know you must put an unbelievable amount of effort into making these things happen. Good job on building memories for your family!

Pineapple Princess said...

The memories will surely outlast the amazing two years preparation you put into it.

I felt like I was reading a novel. Great documentation brother!

Iditadad said...

Ditto - wish we could have been there with you. WoW

Iditadad said...

Beautiful but you haven't seen Alaska Yet. Sure a lot of beautiful Places. Haines still has it all beat. And you can drive there.

BonBon said...

I loved the description of the night by the lake. I was taken in. I am glad I could spend some time with you when it was all done.

Tamster said...

Beautifully written, as usual!

I have just one question: Do you have to really think about what to write and spend a lot of time on it, or does it just naturally come to you like that? I guess I'm just curious whether this is a gift you had to really work at or if you were born with it, if you know what I mean. Well done, either way! :-)

Rachel Mills said...

Beautiful!! Thank you so much for giving us an opportunity to FEEL the gift that God gave to you. You helped me to better understand why my spirit soars when I am in nature. We love your family. Thank you for living life to its fullest and sharing that fullness in such beautiful words.