Liberation: the open road and a cup of black coffee …


After a long break (one month) of nothing written to the kids, the letters to Ellen and Reid have resumed. This one is largely a reprise of the nearly five week trip to the West (I know, it gets old to read my constant praises of Wyoming). The whole adventure really was everything I envisioned, and more.

But other doings are going on in their lives, including Ellen’s move within St. Paul. Other news is afoot, too, and it will be mentioned in coming weeks just as much as Wyoming, if not more.


August 9, 2016

Ellen/Reid: Holy cow, what a month of July. It just frosts me that what is contemplated and planned and anticipated for so long speeds by so quickly; it’s all just a blur in the rear view mirror. I tried to reconstruct portions of the trip the other night (rather than count sheep) and every leg of the trip just seems like eons ago. It really does.

There was no hard-core fatigue factor once I got home. That tells me it probably isn’t such a bad way to go about it. It might have been different if stops to see you in Chicago and St. Paul weren’t included; I probably would’ve flown here and back to Jackson. But there was something liberating about grabbing a cup of black coffee, climbing in the car and just jetting down the road with the iTunes pumping through the stereo. We likely all need a road trip now and again. I did let out a little yelp after pulling in the garage but that was just because of the mileage. The last few hundred crept by. In the final analysis, I’d do it all over again.

Reid, it was impressive to see how Liz handled everything we threw at her.

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Reid and Liz on the trail up to the No Name lakes. These two were fun to hike with, and better than average fly fishers – indeed, Liz caught that largest trout of the trip: a monster cutthroat.

She took to fly casting (and landing fish) like a champ and except for that one dehydrated dinner you two moaned about, she took the so-so food in stride. You guys did a nice job with the gear. It would have been easy to let pack weights get out of control but you kept things in check. I’m sorry again for coming unglued when the rangers forced us to move; you handled it much better than me. I hope that didn’t color her impression of the trek.

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This was our view of the Cliff Creek fire from 10,800 ft. at 9:15 p.m. on July 20. We could see, and smell, the billowing plumes of smoke. We just had to get the hell out of the mountains – even if we had to hike in the dark with headlamps. We emerged at 1:15 a.m.

I see, too, that as of this morning the Cliff Creek fire has scorched 32,000 acres. That was the worst stretch of the entire trip, walking out in the dark. We just had no way of knowing how far away the fire was let alone how fast it was moving. It truly was a better-safe-than-sorry situation and I’d make the same decision all over again. Basically, it cost us at most half a day. And it gave you guys more time to laze around in Jackson. Nothing bad about that.

We had a good time in the second half of the trip in our circumnavigation of the Cirque of the Towers, albeit there were tons more people. A lot of them labored under packs woefully overloaded. That’s where Tom’s less-is-more approach paid dividends. He really knows his way around. He’s such an extraordinary planner. The one bad part was my left knee. It progressively worsened and the killers were the downhill sections. It was problematic on every step. It feels a little better now but not much. I’ve put in a call to my GP for a referral to an orthopedist since limping around is getting old in a hurry.

Once everyone departed Wyoming, the singular best solo moment of the trip was Saturday morning along the gravel road cutoff from Daniel and Alpine. I’ve heard wolves before and their howling woke me up about 5 a.m. Not long after came bugling from elk not that far away from my tent.

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The view from my tent my last morning in the Wyoming Range. Wolf howls and bugling elk. If you have to be woken up, let it be wolves and elk.

The howls started again about 6:00 as I drank coffee and heated a spare oatmeal breakfast. It was completely windless and it just made for a surreal sunrise scene just to sit there listening to what was around the camp. It made me appreciate that part of Wyoming all that much more. And Ellen, tell Tim his flycasting pointers proved invaluable.

As for the other sidelight of the trip, I’m increasingly comfortable with the decision. It’s high time and, in some respects, somewhat overdue but likely not entirely a surprise to either of you. Ellen, you and Tim did the right thing on the other house. A short term rental ought to be palatable for a little while, and it sounds like the new living situation will be much better for the four of you over the long haul. You’ll have to send a few pictures to help me get a grip on where you’ll move. As for mine, it’s time to get a move on. My to-do list continues to grow and I’ve go to get off my duff.

Love, Dad

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