Tag Archives: Bridger Wilderness

If only … if only … if only … and the prescience of paragraph 4

For those of you enlisted to a frenetic ‘search committee,’ if only this letter had arrived a day earlier rather than be read at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. If only.

It’s all about six benign sentences in paragraph four.

Think of the angst and anxiety and hand-wringing a simple call or text might have saved everyone. But my armchair after-the-fact analysis/critique will be saved for this week’s letter to Ellen and Reid you’ll read next week. Really, it will be an open letter of appreciation to the rest of you.

May 15, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It’s kind of weird to walk into the garage and not see the Harley. I’ve taken a second look several times, and when I pull the car in the garage, the subconscious takes over the steering wheel to pull the Camry a tad to the left so as to give clearance for the bike. It’s only when the car goes into ‘park’ that the realization is made that there’s no longer any reason to give the Road King leeway since there is no Road King. But I don’t miss it at all. There are no second doubts, no ‘yeah buts …’ – none of that. It’s gone, someone else is the proud new owner and that’s perfectly okay. It really is.

Miss Emma is atop the car and that was the real acid test for the surgery. It was awkward to lift it into position but I really didn’t feel anything other that some anxiety. I thought there was a faux-pinch in there but it hasn’t hurt since then. It’s been a four and a half weeks and the literature and the surgeon said return to full activity after four weeks. But I reserve the right to ask some of the Charleston Outdoor Adventures staff for a bit of muscle power tomorrow when the time comes to hoist her back atop the car. There shouldn’t be much of an issue on paddling since my legs are bent and my feet get some leverage against what amount to foot pegs inside the boat. I’m excited about again going down – and back – again although the weather is warming up in a hurry and that doesn’t spell much in the way of good fishing. I’ll view it as a shake down cruise of sorts. There won’t be any oysters this time around; that season is over and I’ll miss the back-and-forth banter with the black oystermen. I don’t know what they do for off-season jobs. Maybe work the shrimpers?

Ellen, you looked great in your cap and gown. It’s okay you didn’t go to the actual ceremony. In a way that’s sad, however, since going through the ritual seems to be falling by the wayside. I would have gone to yours too, Reid, if you’d wanted to go through it. It’s a nice recognition for all the work that you guys have put it. I do still grin at the thought that your ‘ceremony’ was last weekend and not this one.

I’m going to go hiking and camping with some new friends Wednesday through mid-day on Friday. I’m kind of excited about it. The Osprey is all packed and ready to go.


The dehydrated meals for the Wilson Creek trek served as a metaphor for added food-for-thought: as in telling someone – anyone – when I head out of town on an extended excursion.

We’ll head to Wilson Creek and my fly rod is making the trip with me. Don’t know what’s catchable but one of the guys is supposed to be real knowledgeable about the fishing thereabouts. And Reid, there won’t be any infernal bear barrels.

Got invited to Adrienne Furstenau’s wedding the weekend of July 8 in Minneapolis. It’s an honor to be asked. It has me rethinking the plane flight. Scarcely nine days later I’ll pull back through the Midwest to pick up Tom and head west to the Bridger. What if … I drove up for the wedding, spent a few days in MSP, drove down to DSM for a couple of days, then headed east to Chi-Town for a few days before journeying West? I guess that would remove me from Charlotte for virtually the entire month of July and a few days into August. Ellen, are you guys going up to the lake that weekend of July 8 since the 4th falls during the week? That may figure into my plans so let me know ASAP.

The Spain trek is coming together. Ordered the guide book today and a new Osprey Kestrel pack. It’s about one-third smaller than what I tote into the Bridger so it should be a good option to carry just about everything I’d need without being too big and bulky. I’ve yet to pour over Tom’s gear list for the Camino but will do that in earnest when the guide book comes in. Now, I’ve got to get some sort of camera. Reid, any ideas? Nikon? Canon? Other?

Love, Dad

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A trip North, the girls, and black dirt …

For a long while there was active thought given to pulling up stakes in Charlotte for a move to the North. Aside from closer proximity to Ellen and Reid, part of that allure was the specter of a small garden (which I miss terribly here) where the good earth isn’t poured from a plastic bag bought at a home center. It’s already there.

The dirt is black and fertile. If you can’t grow anything there, you can’t grow anything anywhere. Reid I sure hope that’s the case after we left a little something for Emma and Georgia to enjoy a year or two from now.

May 10, 2017

Ellen/Reid: I must say the high point of the trip was your graduation ceremony, Ellen. It was hard to hold the tears back as you walked across the stage to accept your masters diploma.

No, wait. Ha ha. How could we miss it by a week? I laughed about that several times on the ride home. But those things happen. You just gave us something to grin about. Let me know how the real ceremony goes this coming weekend.

It really was a good trip. What I do know is I don’t possibly have enough energy to keep up with the girls. They are just a whirlwind of go-go-go all the time. Emma just goes non-stop. The house is coming together nicely although Tim has his work cut out for him on the yard. It was neglected for so long. I don’t know how you get rid of the weeds without spraying copious amounts of weed killer, and you don’t want to do that while the girls are running about.


While under “close supervision” by a site manager who lounged in a chair nursing a beer, Reid does the heavy digging to prep a raspberry patch. This black Minnesota soil doesn’t need organic matter to improve its fertility.

Thanks for letting Reid and me plant the raspberries. In hindsight, Reid, I wish we hadn’t of mixed in the peat moss. It just created such a mounding effect, and that good black dirt probably didn’t need the added organic matter. But Tim can sculpt that space a bit if he thinks it’s a tad too unsightly. I sure wish I had a bit of a garden like that, let alone that good black soil.

Thanks, Reid, for driving up and back with me to MSP. That you could spell me behind the wheel really helped. And it was good to talk. Just keep your head up on the job thing, keep working your contacts, keep plugging forward. All it takes is that first conversation, that first proactive outreach and that will set the tone for what will follow. I think sometimes it’s hard to take that first step but once you do the ice is broken and the process will become a little more habitual and old hat, and it will build your confidence at reaching out and putting yourself on the line. That’s really how you’ll land a job. Just keep at it. Going after a job is a job in itself.

It was a tough drive home from Chicago to Charlotte. I was running a fever and had the chills and it was just a slog all the way. Bunked at some fleabag north of Knoxville, Tennessee but didn’t sleep a wink. Should have kept going. I alternated between shivering and being hot. But I just set it on cruise control and let it go.

I did stop in Asheville to check out those small homes I’d emailed you guys about. I was so hopeful about them. But they were packed into what basically was a flat hole carved out from a hillside. The homes were nice but the setting left something to be desired. There was absolutely no view of anything, and there was no covered garage on the smaller units. So those were crossed off the list and I’ll move on from there. It was very disappointing since I was ready to pull the trigger on those style of smaller homes. I’ll head back up that way before too long to take another look. I really don’t have much of a feel for Asheville.

Just RSVPd to Adrienne Furstenau’s July 8 wedding in Minneapolis. I’ll fly this time rather than drive. They have events all weekend. Then, scarcely 10 days later, I’ll zoom through the area again as Tom Bohr and I drive west to the Bridger Wilderness.

The new microwave was installed this morning. It’s a behemoth. It sticks out a few inches further than the old defunct model and that will take some getting used to. All that money just to be able to nuke a cup of coffee. Then it looks as it my water heater has gone kapoof. It’s only money.

Love, Dad

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The bonehead and another fishless trip …

What was it that Forrest Gump said? If memory serves me it was ‘Stupid is as stupid does.’

I can relate.

And don’t ask why I mention a recovery period twice and in two different manners. Letter writing must not be an exact science. But refer again to the Gump quote.

April 10, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Sometimes your dad is just a complete bonehead, and last night was one of those all-too-frequent times. Sondra and Jody invited me to watch the final round of the Masters with them, and when I was leaving and with a clear head after only a couple of glasses of wine, your knucklehead of a father inadvertently backed his car into a tree, giving his left rear bumper a good indentation even though the car was hardly moving. What an idiot, moron, klutz. I just couldn’t believe it. It’s just so irritating. Geez.

Well, knock on wood, but the Medicare thing has at long last moved through the pipeline. Finally, my Part B insurance is restored and the surgery is scheduled for this Friday morning at 9:00. That would give me ample time to heal completely (about six weeks to full activity) and still get in adequate shape for the Bridger Wilderness. Man, this whole process has taken a long time. The Social Security and Medicare systems are just big bureaus that move at their own pace. They’ve got tens of millions of ‘customers’ and it just takes a while to move through the snake. I’ll keep you posted on how Friday goes down.

Since the surgery appears to be set in stone, I’ll celebrate with a final short trip to Charleston to put the boat in the water and fish since it would be my final time on the water for quite a few weeks (4 – 6 according to the hernia literature). Miss Emma and I journeyed down last week and snagged a few nice black drum toward the end of the day so it wasn’t a total bust. There was kind of a different ending to the excursion, however. As is my custom, I gave one of the big drum to one of the black oystermen, and he in turn gave me 25 lbs. of what they call South Carolina oyster clusters.


Not even a picturesque and fully-rigged Miss Emma could bring her handler any good fish karma on a beautiful day outside Charleston. Skunked again.

Since the fish need to go on ice, my routine is to stop at a nearby gas station for a 10 lb. bag of ice. When I pulled in there was a guy parked near me with what appeared to be a full load of beer in the open hatch of his SUV. I made an offhand comment as I walked by that ‘I need one of those,’ referring to the numerous six packs and cases in plain view. As I got to the car, he said ‘what do you drink?’ I said ‘anything’ and he proceeded to walk over a six pack of IPA. After we shook hands and exchanged ‘thank yous,’ as he turned away I told him to hold on a minute: ‘Do you like oysters?’ and he replied ‘you bet.’ I opened Camry’s trunk and handed over the bag of fresh clusters, in what seemed like a pretty fair trade for both sides. In turn, he gave me even more beer since he worked for Stone Brewery. The two six packs and another separate large bottle of amber ale when into the trunk and off I went. It’s never dull down there in terms of the people one meets. That’s what’s so very fun about the whole down-and-back thing. I’ll miss it immensely during the rehab.

The idea of a book continues to gel. It’s gaining a critical mass. I dream about it, think about it and on occasion talk to myself about it. Some of that owes to the TED Talks inquiry. The specter of that made me put two and two together and begin to consider how this narrative might go down. Since there won’t be any heavy lifting or golf or walking or fishing or YMCA perhaps there will be ample time to built in at a coffee shop to sit comfortably in loose clothing and write, of which I make scarcely enough time for anyway. I write for you two and a few others and that’s about the extent of it. My mentor, a guy named Don whom both of you met when you were toddlers, is a very successful author of journalism books and he might be willing to lend an ear and grace me with his advice. He and I just reconnected and my intent is to ask him.

Okay, you two. Over and out. I’m off to the store and to contemplate bird feeders for the birthday girls. Two will be sent in short order.

Love, Dad


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Repeating myself …

There are times in letter writing when topics are rehashed – and rehashed. Then rehashed again for good measure.

Repetitious cases in point: kayak fishing, home sales, job searches, et al.

I wish it might be otherwise. But since we are creatures of habit we tend to do the same things time and time again. It’s just a matter of how you mix up the retelling of those reoccurrences. It’s all in an effort so Ellen and Reid don’t get bored more than they already are when they read the same things over and over. And over.

February 6, 2017

Ellen/Reid: This birthday thing is no big deal. It really isn’t. As of this moment I am declaring 67 to be the new 63. Knock on wood, but I’m feeling pretty good, continuing to not slow down (okay, maybe mentally) and feel generally pretty good about things. Of course, that’s a serious knock on wood. Life is fairly fragile and it can turn on a dime.

Ellen, your photos make it seem that you are ready to move in, maybe before I arrive in a couple of weeks. This really has to be a time of wonderment for the girls. They just have to be so excited at the prospect of their own rooms, their own bath, a new yard to play in. My perception is it’s a great neighborhood. Can’t wait to see it. It just looks so cool. Your contractors have really motored along. Can’t always say that about hired help. Maybe it’s the Minnesota work ethic.

Reid, tell me more about this London thing. Sounds intriguing. Are they paying you for your ideas and work? I wish I’d of visited you when you worked over there. Why didn’t that happen? That would have been a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see you in overseas action. That certainly was a marvelous experience. Once this home move comes to pass then I can turn attention to the Spain/England walkabout later this year. I’m going to pump some of the proceeds of the house sale into the trip. I’ll try to tap into the experience and wisdom of Tom and Vince and my friend Richard, all of whom have hiked the length of the Camino in one swoop. My penchant is to go over and hit the road  in an uneducated fashion but since I’m not the natural, intrinsic planner I need to take a step back and really get the logistics worked out. It will be a great solo adventure.

As for Wyoming there is now one more very interested/likely hiker. His name is Ted Ingold. He’s in my golf group and it’s 75/25 that he will make the trip. As of this writing it looks as if the likely hikers are Ted, Tom, Vince, Katy and me. Not a bad core group. Ted is really keen on fishing and being part of the great adventure. It would be great if you and Liz could make it, Reid, but when you land a new job your time will be spoken for. If we could entice another 2-3-4 people to sojourn with  us that would be fabulous. The more the merrier.

The new Realtor, the W Group, seems to have their act together. All three floors have been completely reconfigured per the suggestion of their stager. Frankly, she wanted to soften the rough edges Continue reading

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A trail of tears and softened edges after 10 years …

Time flies when you’re having fun.

Somehow, Ellen and Reid have never read even an abbreviated version of my move to Charlotte; but here I am, 10 years later and my head is still above water. In a lot of ways, the move to the South marked a wholesale overhaul of the tone and tenor of the letters.

What was a light heartened effort to occupy their time in college and in their early 20’s made an abrupt 180 degree turn. It was now about overcoming distance between me and them, and describing the mixed feelings/emotions as their dad muddled along with unfamiliar environs, the complete lack of friends, a stifling work culture, and a jury rigged life below the Mason Dixon line.

August 29, 2016

Ellen/Reid: It’s hard to believe but earlier this month my 10 year anniversary in Charlotte quietly came and went. I’ve tried hard to make heads and tails about the how and why I got down here at all for nearly one sixth of my entire life. It really has been a mostly surreal decade, what with reinventing virtually everything in my life from work to friends to living arrangements to adapting to Southern life to you name it. As I drove around on that recent day, August 15, I tried to assign my tenure a grade on the 1-to-10 scale. Of course, assigning grades is an exercise in the moment and reflects one’s mood at the time. I dunno, but since it was mostly a melancholy day, I gave it a 6. Any other day it might have been a point higher or lower. It’s kind of like opinion polls where the margin of error is a point or two.

Reid, what I do recall, vividly, is walking out of the Bridger Wilderness with you on Saturday, August 12, 2006, driving back to Des Moines, loading my BMW with literally all my worldly possessions Sunday night and Monday morning, and then – bingo – pulling into Charlotte at 10 p.m. in a driving rainstorm as I wiped away tears (wondering just what the hell I’d gotten myself into) and setting up temporary residence in a bland all-white condo owned by the bank. My memory as a rule is spotty but I remember that entire sequence as if it were yesterday. But time tends to soften the hard edges and I’ve inured myself to things here. Yet I’ll never really be considered a local by my or anybody else’s standards.

And to think all of this is about to come tumbling down. Even though the 10 years has gone by in a flash, it’s just another blip on the life scale. I’d like to think of myself as somewhat resilient but reinvention of self is just another way to say ‘go with the flow.’ And I’m about to do that.

Ellen, you guys are also the rolling stones that gather no moss. I didn’t realize the re-hab gymnastics you and Tim are doing before you move into your new place. You need to send me a few photos since I can’t visualize what you’re getting yourself into, and I say that in a positive vein. Tim’s photo of you vacuuming in Des Moines was just a scream. Sometimes you just have to let things go.

The house is slowing but surely coming around. Sealed the deck and worked on the mundane living room over the weekend but I irresponsibly jilted my pressing responsibilities on Sunday afternoon to go play golf with my friends Sondra and Jody. She is one hell of a cook so after golf I got to eat her pasta and all it cost me was a bottle of Malbec. I’ve got to get cracking on the garage and the infernal spare bedroom/office. While the garage should be manageable, the bedroom is going to be a frigging nightmare. Hope to sell both twin beds and the wooden desk on Craig’s List, but if my results are no better than the non-response generated for the Harley,


For sale: A Road King Classic. I’d of thought someone would snap it up by now; ‘… or best offer’ doesn’t sound too bad right about now.

then I’m really going to be pissed. It is so disheartening for the bike not to have sold. Ellen, your suggestion to take it to the Harley dealer is one I’d hoped to avoid but it looks like that will be the action of last resort. But I want to be rid of the thing. You don’t know how many times I’ve rued that purchase and wished I had the old Heritage Softail back. It was one hell of a ride. Stupid is as stupid does.

I see the doctor this afternoon about my left knee. It continues to be sore all the time. Perhaps any surgery can be put off for a few months. If I can limp through several weeks in Wyoming on a bum leg, I can sure as hell gimp around getting a house ready to sell. Ellen, I’ll head out today to get the succulents you and Liz recommended for the copper tray in the kitchen. It’ll lend a little class and dress up the windows. I’ll tell you what: you send photos of your new abode, and I’ll send you pics of the new flower arrangements. Deal?

Love, Dad

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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.


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.


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.


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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No shortage of things to write about …

No letters were written to Ellen and Reid the entire month of July. That is by far the longest letter-less stretch in more than 15 years.

And the omission was for permissible reasons: stopovers were made at their homes during my journey to the West, and not too many days after a July 4 weekend in Chicago, Reid (and Liz) strapped on their backpacks to good naturedly walk 30-plus miles of trails with me on the northern half of the Bridger Wilderness.

I missed the writing. The loss was part habitual, part that there was no shortage of things to say.

But the weekly letters resume today. And, in a break for you, there won’t be any lengthy diatribe about Wyoming other than it exceeded my expectations and then some. I can’t wait to do it all over again in July of 2017.


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