pertime in the cafe adjacent to the Texacornstation in Cokeville, terrifying therncowboys and oil field roughnecks out ofrna year’s growth and their half-eaten suppersrnbefore she was escorted away by thernlocal constabulary. (“I hear you had arntopless young lady in the Texaco,” a residentrnlater remarked to the police chief,rnwho replied in a disgusted tone, “Itrnwasn’t any young lady.”) When itrnsnowed three inches last week, the Rainbowsrnbought up every blanket and articlernof warm clothing to be had in Kemmererrnand Big Piney. Although most of thernresidents of the area seem amused ratherrnthan outraged, there has been dark talkrnin the bars at night, and local pickuprntrucks with guns across the back windowsrnwander north in the direction ofrnSnider Basin. If the entire complementrnof 30,000 Rainbows should show up,rnthey would comprise Wyoming’s thirdrnlargest city, however temporarv. In Kemmerer,rnthe municipal police are rumoredrnto meet almost daily, and the countyrnhospital is on full alert; tens of thousandsrnof condoms are being shipped byrnaltruists to Snider Basin. Here apparentlyrnis what the feds have in mind whenrnthey talk of range reform. Kick thern29,000 grazing leaseholders off the publicrnlands and replace them with 30,000rnfornicating hippies.rnFortunately there are plenty of trails,rnmost of them negotiable by horse, intornthe Wyoming Range, which includes anrnimmensity of ruggedly spectacularrnwilderness. Following a winter of normalrnsnowpack, horse travel is problematicalrnuntil around the Fourth of July owing tornvast drifts of rotting snow through thernblack timber, dangerous snow cornicesrnabove timber line, roaring swollen creeks,rnand trails slippery with mud. But thernwinter of ’93-’94, like the eight previousrnones except for that of ’92-’93 (a “normal”rnwinter that was experienced by thernhuman and animal populations ofrnWyoming as a sort of frozen Deluge inrnthe context of ongoing drought), wasrnpainfully dry, making access to the highestrnparks with their desiccated soils,rnsparse grasses, and muted floral displayrnpossible by early June.rnLeaving the pickup and trailer in LarnBarge Meadows, the headwaters of threernmountain creeks or small rivers, I rode uprnLittle Corral Creek, crossed over thernsaddle, and followed Poker Creek downrnto Lake Alice, a long, narrow body fillingrna fissure produced by an earthquake inrnthe eady part of this century and namedrnfor a voung girl who drowned in it inrnthe 20’s. I camped on the lakeshorernovernight and in the morning proceededrnalong the terrible trail, where the horsernnearly rolled over me as I led him, up AlicernCreek and onto a high ridge 1,000rnfeet or more above Coantag Creek,rnwhich I followed in a sweeping curvernnorth to Mt. Isabel. Ascending the oppositernridge on its western aspectrnthrough the twilight shadow of a pinernforest, we started a herd of elk that broke,rnmore heard than seen, over the summitrnwhere the late afternoon sky showedrnthrough the trees and where, followingrnmore sedately, we rode straight into thernastounded elk who, having arried in thernopen park on the south slope, hadrnstopped to crop the forbs that growrnthere. They v ere so close that by leaningrnfrom the saddle I could have touchedrnone or two of them with my riding bat,rnand after a long, petrified stare theyrnwheeled, fled almost as one animal intorna draw, and vanished. It was growingrnlate, the trail had long since been erasedrnby the elements, and I rode for the nextrnseveral minutes with my face in a map,rnsearching for a way across to CommissaryrnRidge and growing slowly aware of arnsound which I took for the erv of a circlingrnhawk until, turning as we rodernacross the lengthening shadows of thernspired firs, I saw that vyc were being followedrnby two calf elk. Left behind byrnthe running herd, thev had sensibly attachedrnthemselves to the largestrnquadruped m sight. One was slightlyrnlarger than the other, but both were stillrnin spots. Of course they could not havernseen a horse or a human being before;rnliving so deep in the range where evenrnhunters rarely venture, the herd itself wasrnprobably as innocent as its young. Forrnten minutes they circled the horse, pawingrnthe ground and tossing their heads,rnwhile Saab Star pranced and pawedrnin response. 1 managed to unfasten thernpack attached to the saddle behind mernand remove the cheap camera I carry onrntrips into the mountains, but it youldn’trnwork. At last the larger calf ran off arnhundred yards and lay down under arntree, while the smaller one simply foldedrnher legs beneath her to rest. I dismountedrncarefully, walked over, andrnstood a few feet behind her as shernwatched me across her shoulder withrnmoon-creature eyes. As I remountedrnand rode awav, she was still watching.rnFrom my camp on the brow ofrnCommissary Ridge I looked up thernCreys Creek Valley that separates thernW}’oming and Salt River ranges, wherernWyoming Peak rose in full view and, 90rnmiles distant, the horn of the GrandrnTeton appeared. By eady June, the oncelovelyrntown of Jackson is refilling withrnthe beautiful people, as well as the not sornbeautiful: hard to say which I appreciaternless. Not more than five miles distant byrnline of sight, the blunt southerly abutmentrnof Mt. Darby frowned down uponrnSnider Basin and its thousands of hippierncampers, dissenters from American societyrnvet so utterly and hopelessly Americanrnin their desire to experience wilderness,rnlike the tourists in the Yellowstone,rnas a mob. How is it that so many peoplernwho have turned their backs on Americarnsince the 1950’s for its unloveliness arernamong those responsible for havingrnmade their country, to paraphrase EdmundrnBurke, so unlo’ely?rnBut seated here on a flat fragment ofrnshale, rising now and again to dodge thernfanning smoke of the small pinewoodrnfire that heats my supper of beans andrnchile while I suckle a pint of Jim Beam;rnwatching the night rise in a slow lavenderrnsea over the edge of the golden plain tornthe east, the talus slopes glow red in thernreflected glare of the setting sun, andrnthe canyons and valleys fill with a lightrnlike some newly discovered substance,rnpart water and part smoke, I find it hardrnto condemn these people for havingrn”dropped out”—dropping out being, inrnthe context of mass American societyrnand the coming totalitarianism, a rationalrnand even laudatory act. I myself, afterrnall, am a dropout from that world farrnbeyond the fading rim of the GreenrnRiver Basin—the world of money, ofrnpower, and of politics; of careerism andrnthe Great Game; of sycophancy and selfpromotion;rnof imperial culture and therncultural imperialism of the modernrnmegalopolis; of the effacement of God’srncreation bv that of man; of growing terrorrnand unreality. Dropping out is notrnthe issue, it is where vou land that matters.rnAnd here I am, seated beside arncampfire eating beans and drinkingrnwhiskey, listening to my horse crop thernlittle grass he can find, and watching thernMilky Way form its gaseous belt diagonallyrnacross the sky. From an elevation ofrn10,000 feet, with no one to my knowledgernwithin 30 trail miles of us, life onrnthis first day of summer, June 21, 1994,rnlooks good to me. “Here,” GeoffreyrnChaucer wrote, “is but wilderness.” Yourncan have the rest. crn50/CHRONICLESrnrnrn