The snow here in Middle Tennessee this weekend brings back a poignant memory which I want to briefly recall. It involves good friends and adventures I love to remember. Today, while I mainly base myself back in my home country (at least for now) there were years I lived in Wyoming year round. Because the cabin I owned in the Buffalo Valley of Jackson Hole was only accessible part of the year, I'd spend cold weather months elsewhere, nearer to town.
The stock photo above captures the essence of where I lived one cold and snowy winter. It was in a log house on Antelope Flats in the middle of Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) near Moose, Wyoming. It was in an inholding owned by good friends and fascinating people, named Frank and Shirley Craighead. I have been privileged to know some of the real people of that beautiful, rugged land over the years.
From almost the first time I moved to Jackson Hole as a homeowner, I knew the late Frank Craighead and his second wife, Shirley a former nun (who had married Frank after his first wife Esther had died). I had met Frank's son, Lance who lived in Montana, at a conservation meeting in Washington D.C. and he couldn't wait to introduce me to his family back in Jackson Hole when I got to Wyoming that summer of my move West. Soon after meeting Frank and Shirley we became great friends. We all shared a passion for the outdoors, wildlife conservation and fly fishing. But little did I know when I first met Frank, that he, along with his twin brother John, was renowned to be one of the greatest wildlife biologists/ researchers in the world. Both brothers were also some of the greatest outdoors men. Shirley could keep up with the brothers too.
I, a stranger in a strange land, from the South, couldn't believe my good fortune at meeting such kindred spirits and kind people. They were people of the land and lived modest, humble, no frills lifestyles. And they took me under their wings.
One summer, Frank and Shirley called me to ask if I wanted to live in their house on Antelope Flats ---right in front of the Tetons---while they wintered in Florida that next winter. Frank had Parkinson's disease and felt warmer climes improved his health. I could stay for free and if I had time could I look over what would turn out to be one of Frank's last manuscripts before he died in 2001 and give them some feedback?
How could I say no?
That next winter, I lived in Shirley and Frank Craighead's log house in the middle of GTNP with the most spectacular view in the world. All kinds of wildlife---moose and elk---were at my doorstep and in the yard, all winter.
The most challenging part was that the Park Service didn't plow the roads and driveways, so it was up to me to get in and out from the nearest plowed road without a car. It was about a half mile, one-way from where I parked my car to their house.
I came and went each day and night on cross-country skis, often with a rope---connected to a sled---tied around my waist so I could ski groceries and other stuff in and out. At night or in snowstorms, I wore a little miner's headlight on my forehead to light my way as I skied. Of course, if I really needed a snowmobile there were neighbors--including son Charlie Craighead---who were delighted to help. But I usually preferred the exercise of hoofing it.
When I invited house guests or friends for dinner or visits, I would tell them to get their xc-skis and their headlights on and come as they were. This snow in Tennessee, jogged my memory of one of the greatest and snowiest winters of my life.
And some of the best friends of the greatest adventures of my life.