hundred feet below the summit of CoffinrnMountain, an isolated brightnessrnglinted from the surrounding brilliance.rnI ealled out to Norma, but the wordsrnwere carried away by the racing stream.rnWhen we caught up with one anotherrnagain I stepped aside from the trail andrnpointed to the gleam on the hangingrnslope.rn”Look—there’s another one.”rn”Another wha^?”rn”Another plane. It was covered whenrnwe rode in the other day. The snow hasrnmelted from on top of it since then.”rnShe took the glasses from me andrnstudied the mountain side. “It does lookrnlike a plane,” Norma agreed.rn”They’ve had one missing from Aftonrnsince last November. We need to stop atrnthe guard station on the way out and letrnthem know about it.” I brought thernhorse around parallel to the bank in therncreek and stepped up from it as hernmoved out into the water, missing thernstirrup and falling into the rushing,rnchest-deep cold. “I’m surprised the environmentalistsrndon’t have something tornsay about sky dumps like that. Get overrnhere, you knothead sonofabitch,” I toldrnthe horse, pulling hard on the reins.rnThe Forest Service spotted the wreckrnthe same weekend but it took them arnweek or more to reach it by helicopter. Itrnwas the Afton plane, flown by a couplernfrom California who had ignored warningsrnagainst taking off in a snowstormrnand crashed at full throttle as they attemptedrnto gain elevation to clear thernhighest peaks. The pair were strappedrninto their seats when the salvage crewrnfound them, and the maggots were justrnbeginning their own clean-up job on thernmountainside.rnAll that summer in the mountains Irnwas aware of airplanes, their intrusivernrumble overhead and the unsightly eontrailsrnbinding the sky like string, takingrnthe measure of the earth.rn”Where did this fascination withrnplanes come from?” Norma asked.rn”I don’t know. I used to run out of thernhouse when I was a kid to see the B-52srnfrom the Air Force Base in Burlington fallrnout of the sky.”rnIt was a dry fall that year, with a fullrnmoon for opening day of elk season. Thernherds grazed in the parks at night andrntimbered up near water during the day.rnTracy Thompson and I worked hard tornfind them, riding horseback for long distancesrnand going on foot through thickrntimber while outfitters in charteredrnplanes scouted in circles overhead. Onrnthe third morning I shot a cow at thernbottom of a steep gully half a mile fromrncamp. I climbed down hand over handrnto field dress the carcass, climbed uprnagain, and went for Tracy and the mare.rnWhen we couldn’t get her down thernsteep I snubbed her short to a pine treernand Tracy and I descended to the kill,rnwhere I boned the elk and packed thernmeat in plastic bags for Tracy to lug uphillrnto the horse. While we labored inrnthe cold forest shadow a plane approachedrnIndian Ridge from FontenellernCreek, banked, and made a half-turn tornthe east over Minnie Holden Creek. “Irnhope the sonofabitch crashes,” I said.rn”It’s illegal to scout elk with a damn airplanernanyway.” We packed the meat intorncamp and rode down with it the nextrnmorning to Fontenelle Crossing behind arnstorm front that had moved in overnight.rnI bought a Star-Tribune in town and readrnthat the Game and Fish Departmentrnhad lost a plane the day before, somewherernin the vast wilderness area surroundingrnthe southeastern corner of YellowstonernPark. The charter pilot and tworngame biologists assigned to track grizzlyrnbears by electronic transmissions fromrntheir fitted collars had been flying withrnthe radio shut down when the plane disappeared.rnThe Game and Fish plane was the objectrnof an intensive search for two yearsrnbefore the Department gave up activelyrnlooking for it, but its fate was still a matterrnfor speculation when Norma and Irnrode up the Wiggins Fork of the WindrnRiver to Emerald Lake in the AbsarokarnRange. It was an easy ride following therncreek between the forested blocks ofrncompacted lava ash, carved by the windrnand by water. We camped the first nightrnon a gravel bar and climbed the next dayrnabove timber line to a thin high world ofrnalpine flowers and elk in their red summerrncoats grazing across the steeppitchedrngreensward. Late in the day asrnwe descended, leading the horses tornstretch our legs, I looked up from myrnboots and saw light glinting from a siderncanyon across the blue haze of afternoon.rnIt vanished when I had gone twornsteps farther and I backed the horse inrnthe trail until I had the angle right again,rnand put the glasses on it. It could havernbeen metal, or it could have been a patchrnof snow or a water seep. Whatever itrnwas, it was on a ledge 50 feet or so beneathrnthe canyon rim, hidden fromrnabove by an overhang of rock and visiblernfrom this little used trail for only a fewrnminutes a day when the sun’s rays foundrnit.rn”There it is,” I said.rn”What?”rn”The Game and Fish plane.”rnI made calculations and marked thernplace with an X on the topo map.rn”I’ll take it in to the Forest Service firstrnthing in the morning,” Norma promised.rnThe plane was found more than a yearrnlater by two women elk hunters whornwalked up on it 300 yards off a well-usedrnhorse trail: a burned-out airframe upsiderndown in the tree tops, the three skeletonsrnhanging in their harnesses. Airplanes arernfascinating things, like women, fate, andrnGod.rnThe following summer I rode withrnNorma from Brooks Lake 22 miles in tornSouth Fork of Buffalo Creek. We foundrna big outfitter’s camp with Eastern dudesrnin lawn chairs, a recreation tent, gourmetrnfood, and no power tools in this designatedrnwilderness area. There werernmountain sheep on the heights and bearrnscat in the trail, and the smoke from forestrnfires burning to the west over in Idaho.rnIn Dubois again wc left the horses atrna friend’s ranch and went for supper atrnthe Yellowstone Garage.rn”It’s a rugged, magnificent Paradisernback there,” I said over the first bottle ofrnwine. “A fine place to die, when therntime comes for it.”rn”Did I tell you,” Norma asked, “it’srnwhere they found the plane? Just a fewrnair miles from where we were camped.”rnSujJsmiitioLi Uei!tu-tiueidrntlsTCUIS-^rn• I f O t l ^ f 8 ( | l ^ ‘ ^ fWlrnMount Morris,’rnIllinis61054rn50/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn