Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hiking the nonfiction trail with Lee Gutkind, Part 2

This view of the Tetons is in the late afternoon,
after we'd hiked around the lake.
If you're interested, read part 1 here: http://wyomingarts.blogspot.com/2010/10/if-memory-serves-me-part-1.html

Back in Dubois, we checked into our motel and cleaned up, for dinner at the Rustic Pine Tavern.

We settled into a bottle of Kendall Jackson before our steak dinners arrived. Throughout the night, we told our non-fiction stories about compulsive strangers who just as compulsively disappeared, never to be found again, harmonic healing on a backyard deck and levitating at slumber parties, and deep subjects that broached believing in a spiritual power as opposed to we’re a product of evolution.

Having turned out the all the lights, and us not taking the hint, the bartender came to our table and said, “I hate to be rude, but I’d really like to close up so I can go home and go to bed.” We were the only three people left in the bar (we’d moved into the bar after dinner) except for her and her two friends; it was not quite the midnight hour. We quickly obliged, and made it down the street to another open, but mostly deserted, establishment. Just after we’d arrived, the previous bartender and her two friends showed up. Terry had decided we needed to play pool, and had racked the balls. Somehow, we formed teams. Team Lee and Linda only won because Team Terry scratched twice on the eight ball. I think the teams were organized because Terry was a pool shark, and this would be the only way we had any chance at being contenders.

The next morning was a late start, truth be told. Lee was incredibly chipper after his three cups of large coffee from Kathy’s, the best coffee he’d had so far in Wyoming, he said. Terry was working the crossword, and I was sipping my orange juice and taking tiny bites of my toast and dippy egg, what my daughter and now my grandchildren, call a sunny side up egg.

We loaded up and drove to Grand Teton National Park. Construction on Towgatee Pass looked as if it would take several years to complete, but has moved forward since I passed over it at the end of August. There has been a tremendous amount vegetation shear-off in the the making of steep slopes along parts of the road. We were all convinced that a few added passing lanes could have sufficed to mitigate the traffic problems there.

We drove to the trailhead of Two Ocean Lake, so named because the drainage that flows out of the northeast end of the lake ends up in the Gulf, and the drainage that flows out of the southwest end ends up in the Pacific. The rated easy trail, at one time in the not too distant past, used to circumvent the lake, but for some reason, has been closed off from meeting the west side trail at the south end. You can hike the 4.2 miles over to Jackson Lake Lodge from this point. The Two Ocean Lake trail is about 7.5 miles long.

Not the best view of Two Ocean Lake, but we were almost
at the south end of the lake. You can see the old growth
forest on the west side.
 Terry had hiked the trail numerous times, it’s her favorite, and we were able to make the loop, but for new hikers, this would be confusing and frustrating, as they would have to turn around and go back the same way they came, if they didn’t feel confident enough to look for either side of the trail, the west side being more difficult to find in the forest. She also knew that we should hike the eastern side first. That trail is less shaded and the sun beats down on you. On the western side, old growth forest mostly meets the shoreline and is a cool hike during a hot afternoon. The ground on that side was still damp. Terry and Lee had a discussion about why it was so hard for scientists to admit to the mystery of life. Said Lee, "But what is story without mystery?" Also, that he would now sometimes, when talking about story and mystery, be using the word mystery in place of the word story.

We returned to the Cowboy Café in Dubois and at 4:30 PM, were eating dinner. At 5:30, and were on the road back to Casper and had resumed the telling of our fictional story.

Claudia, now Claudia/Irene and Joe decided to go on a writing workshop in Yellowstone to spend some quality time together, but Joe was afraid to get his feet wet, and wouldn’t cross the river. Claudia/Irene came down with pneumonia, and found herself somewhat attracted to the very ruggedly handsome doctor who was treating her at the hospital. Joe had met Yvette Francois and they stayed out all night on a date. Meanwhile, the Sheriff decided to find Claudia/Irene and sent a telegram to his son, the doctor, asking if he’d seen them. The doc was called away to the emergency room, and threw the note down on the floor because he was not all that happy to hear from his father, because of the love he professed he had for Claudia in the note, seemingly not even thinking about or mentioning his former wife, the good doctor’s mother. Claudia/Irene however picked up the note and read it. She was entirely won over by the love that the Sheriff professed for her in the note and decided then and there to get back to him somehow. She began hitchhiking and low and behold, a carcass-removal Forest Service employee picked her up. She couldn’t stand the smell coming from the back of his carriage, as he had only picked up skunks that day. The horse spooked and the carriage fell over the side of a cliff, taking the employee, too. Claudia/Irene decided she would ride the horse back to where The Sheriff was.

From here the details become…sketchy. There is a need to hunt and kill the albino wolverine for food; Joe needs to make a blow gun for this purpose, which he learned to do from an elder in the rain forest, although he had to use poisonous mushroom paste instead of poison from an Amazon frog; an avalanche; a ride down the river on a log, onto which Joe jumps while holding the still live wolverine, no longer afraid of getting his feet wet after a long stint in counseling; suddenly the water disappears into a black hole and only the Sheriff is left balanced on the cliff of the falls; he will dedicate the rest of his life to studying this “mystery;” Claudia/Irene, Joe and Yvette Francois go to a restaurant and are served french fries…whoops not yet. A man at the restaurant usurps the french-fry-on-sandwiches idea, goes to Casper and opens his own restaurant, but when the owner of the original idea finds out, does away with him. Claudia/Irene sees a stranger in the back of the room, and they are instantly attracted to each other, but before he and Claudia/Irene can get together, he has to go swim forty laps, play two rounds of golf and run twenty miles; they open up their own restaurant back in Meeteetse, where Claudia/Irene, whose stage name is Mindy, sings. You may have guessed that there were “personal details” feeding this half of the story line. Credit Lee for that impetus.

Lee said, "There is no hope for bringing this story around, so I am just going to tell you the name of the restaurant." So, back in the 1950s, truckers delivered their wares to the warehouse district, called The Strip, in Pittsburgh. Produce deliveries never really started until around midnight and when the truck drivers finished unloading their trucks, these guys were hungry. Only one restaurant was willing to open—at 3 AM—for this special clientele. Primanti’s is their name, and putting french fries on every sandwich and, eventually, into chef’s salads, was, and is to this day, their game. After nearly seventy years, Primanti’s has several locations. Lee says you now see guys in tuxes and women in formals eating there. “And that is why you,” Lee concluded, “in Casper, Wyoming, have been served a chef salad with french fries in it.”

It was close to nine when we dropped Lee off at his hotel. He had a very early morning flight out. We hugged and told Lee to come back to Wyoming soon. There is always the promise of more stories to tell.

Linda Coatney