Year In Review Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the West

The site is live and looking good (shameless self promotion, I know), and I’ve decided the first “official,” non-explanation of why the site is a mass of jumbles should be a quick year in review because, even though it’s technically been about 14 months, I should get everyone up to speed. Also, I ‘m still a bit confused by this site. I’m not pregnant (fingers crossed), getting married (fingers double-crossed), sailing around the world in a 10-foot bathtub boat (but that would be cool), releasing an album (#jokershenchmen), trying to save the whales (“from hell’s heart I stab at thee”), running for office (insert Romney joke here) or doing anything that out of the ordinary. But then I realized I kind of have/am.

One year ago, I was living and working in New York and on a daily basis I was dealing with this:

Rooftop hanging.

Rooftop hanging.

Then, I came to Wyoming and was introduced to this:

Traffic jam in Pinedale. One of the many things I had to get used to upon arrival.

Traffic jam in Pinedale. One of the many things I had to get used to upon arrival.

Needless to say, it was quite a change.
So, without any further superfluous words or thoughts, I present an abridged year in review and other reasons why I’m loving where I’m living.

Sept. ’11 

Raindrops from Hurricane Irene pound against my window as I pack in the darkness with a lamp strapped to my head. I realize I have a ton of stuff and wonder whether or not this is the right decision to make. That thought quickly passes as I receive a text from my former employer asking if I could pick up his mail while he is doing a shoot in L.A. I don’t respond, readjust the car and sleep in Long Island for the last time.

The journey across the country is a blur. I can’t think of a single person who has not turned his face toward the highway and longingly looked to the west (I can only imagine people in the west do the same except they face east) and wondered what short of adventures he would have on the road. I expected philosophical talks in diners with transients, drunken brawls and maybe even a steamy motel room romance with a traveling saleswoman. Two days driving along the asphalt snake-spine of America known as Interstate-80, I realize this journey will be the reverse of the adage “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” For me, it was all about the destination. The journey would begin upon arrival.

Three days into the trip a cold I contracted somewhere in Iowa still ravages my body as I rumble into Nebraska with Bruce Springsteen playing in the background and Lincoln covered in red. While buying Vitamin C, Advil Cold and Sinus, Vicks and other cold remedies coveted by person without health-insurance at CVS, I ask the cashier why everyone in is crimson.

“For the Huskers!” she exclaimed.

“Who are the Huskers?” I ask.

With that, everyone in line and the store turns to me and cries, “Who the are Huskers?!” I’m pretty sure a song and dance erupted after that complete with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, but I may have been hallucinating from my sickness.

Day four and I’m still a little stiff but the cold is subsiding. I have renewed energy as I climb upward into the high plains and see a sign: “Wyoming: Forever West.” This journey is drawing to a close and I’m loving it.

Day five I blow out of Cheyenne like an outlaw and speed through the remaining 300 miles before turning north at Rock Springs. Nothing but anxiety as I pass nothing, nothing, a town: population 50, nothing, nothing, nothing, cows, nothing, nothing, antelope!, nothing, a town: population 20, nothing, nothing. Then, when I am just about ready to swing the car round and head back to New York, the Wind River Range appears on my right, pine trees begin to dot the landscape and I roll into a town reminiscent of the one I went to college in.

I arrive at my new home.

The rest of the month I settle into a new job, a new town and a new experience.

Looking south down Pine Street toward the Wind River Range

Pinedale, my new home.

Oct. ’11

My first foray into western-life starts unexpectedly while interviewing a local artist about photographs she took of disappearing glaciers. Said artist brought a friend along to check out her pictures. Instantly, I was drawn to him.

With a salt-and-pepper beard, tanned and wrinkled face, deep blue eyes and a cowboy hat that looked like it had been stepped and crapped on by every cow and horse in Wyoming he put a strong hand out and told me his name, which I will omit here but will tell you it was and still is the most cowboyesque name I’ve ever heard. We talked, I remembered I had another person I was supposed to be interviewing and focused on that. Before he left he told me to come up to camp and “chase cows and grizzlies around with him.”

Two weeks later I did and this is what happened Cowboy 101.

Not two minutes outside of town. This is new.

Not two minutes outside of town. This is new.

Nov. ’11 

Town council meetings, girls volleyball, fellow reporter Travis Pearson and I become best buds while hiking up to Sacred Rim. I’m still learning how to perfect the art of the news lede. Feeling good.

On the way to the massive Fremont Lake.

On the way to the massive Fremont Lake.

Dec. ’11

Decide to stick it out in Wyoming for the holidays as winter comes in full force but not as strong as usual. Temperatures drop into the negatives, a first for me, and I become acquainted with the local bars and sometimes seedy, always genuine characters who inhabit them.

Who is this guy?

Who is this guy?

Jan ’12

The New Year begins with a first, Welcoming the New Year Counting Birds

I head back to New York for the first time since coming out west and laugh out loud when I see my sister bundled up from head to toe in mere 30 degree weather. The trip is a whirlwind, as it always is because when you’ve been somewhere and come back for a visit everyone wants to buy you a drink, tell you a story and eat up all your time. It’s good to have people who love you.

Back in Wyoming, a local resident comes in and tells me two mushers taking part in the annual IPSSSDR are crashing at her place and asks if I’d like to interview them. I do, Call of the Musher.

One of the IPSSSDR athletes.

One of the IPSSSDR athletes.


Feb ’12

More cold and snow and I tell myself it’s almost over, but it’s not and someone informs me last year they had a foot of snow on July 4. The lady who hosted the mushers invites me on a snowmobile trip through the Wyoming Range and have a blast knowing the excursion is purely for enjoyment and won’t require me to write a story about it.

A snowy meadow on a frigid morning.

A snowy meadow on a frigid morning.

March ’12 

Winter holds tight, but I take part in a classic winter past time, Fishing A Hole.

Ever get the feeling you're being watched?

Ever get the feeling you’re being watched?

April ’12 

The cold weather begins to break, slightly, and having made enough friends and contacts, I begin collecting camping gear for the upcoming hiking season. Snow falls at the end of the month and I begin to go a bit stir crazy, but Travis and I begin planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park and that keeps me occupied, as well as a celebration of beer, A Brotherhood of Brewers.

Hoarfrost in April?

Hoarfrost in April?

May ’12 

Spring arrives, but I realize it can be just as cold as winter. With a sleeping bag rated to 30 degrees, Travis, Andy, Abbie and I head up to Yellowstone for an experience we won’t soon forget, To the Land of Geysers, Bears and Tourists.

Andy taking in the view of the Lamar Valley.

Andy taking in the view of the Lamar Valley.

June ’12 

School ends and for the month of June it’s kind of a struggle to come up with story ideas. We make do and have some fun in the office being goofballs. Hiking begins full force and I spend most of the afternoons exploring Half Moon Lake, fishing and enjoying the fact the sun doesn’t go down until 9:30.  p.m. I also decide to conduct an experiment – eating only locally grown, harvested and raised food for an entire week. I start by collecting food from local vendors, farmers and ranchers Eating (as) Local (as I can), before putting myself to the test, A Week of Eating (mostly) Local. Mom and Max come to visit and get wiped out by the elevation.

Mom and Max checking out the glorious west.

Mom and Max checking out the glorious west.

July ’12 

Rodeos, Chuckwagon Days, the Fourth and Rendezvous (more on this later). I am more than thrilled when one of my best friends comes to Pinedale for a visit. He is the first New Yorker I’ve seen since January, and the first non-family member to come out west and see what his friend is up to.

My buddy Tom came to visit, only to realize his Long Island pal had become a Mountain Man.

My buddy Tom came to visit, only to realize his Long Island pal had become a Mountain Man.

Aug. ’12 

With the madness of Rendezvous over, I relax and enjoy some hiking and camping trips with friends and fall ever more in love with Sublette County and the west.More friends and family show up for a visit and I meet a new lady, who, after seeing me without an excessive amount of hair, agrees to spend some time with me.

My newfound western friends helped me show friends and family around the county.

My newfound western friends helped me show friends and family around the county.

Sept. ’12 

My life in Wyoming comes to a head as I take a five day hiking trip through the Wind River Range and attempt to summit one its highest peaks, It’s Entirely Possible to Fall Off of a Mountain.

At the headwaters of the Green River on our way to Peak Lake.

At the headwaters of the Green River on our way to Peak Lake.

That’s what I’ve been up to for the past year.

Now that you’re up to speed, keep checking in for all of my newest adventures.

A special shout-out and welcome to all of my new followers, Ali (aligettingreal.wordpress.com) and Cory (corymerchant.com). Check out their blogs, follow and like.

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