May 2021 - 23
Christine Peterson carries her daughter in a backpack across a creek in the Bighorn Mountains in 2018. It was the first of
what would become many more backpacking trips for her daughter.
where butterflies rose from the grass and baby aspens
and pine trees were whipped by bull elk.
We caught more brook and lake trout. We still
didn't catch any goldens.
But we stood on our rock, Miriam looking more
like a toddler and less like a baby. We explained to
her why we were there. We knew even on little sleep
that we would be thankful for the trip.
While this may seem like a story about traditions,
and the value in continuing every year no matter what,
it's also a story about letting one go.
In the summer of 2019, when Miriam turned
3, we couldn't make it to our lake in the Bighorns.
Instead, we had another promise to fulfill. We drove
8,500 miles to Alaska and back, 10 years after we
drove the Alaska Highway for the first time. This time
with our daughter.
And just like that, our streak in the Bighorns ended.
So in 2020, in the throes of a global pandemic
with the world shut down, we had a decision to make.
Would we go back to those lakes again, or would we
toss that arbitrary tradition now that we missed a year?
Neither of us hesitated, which is why we found
ourselves cuddled in a tent in the middle of a high
mountain thunderstorm with a chatty little girl and
shivering old dog.
Miriam packed herself in this time. It was her first
solo backpacking trip. A bright pink sun hat covered
her head and a yellow, fuzzy bumblebee backpack
filled with trail mix, fruit snacks and water draped
over her shoulders. I told her Disney stories as we
walked - drawn-out tales of princesses that make ice
with their hands, magic carpets and tropical islands.
The rain storm finally moved on without dropping
any snow. The dog stopped shivering. We started
fishing, standing on the same land people from the
Shoshone, Crow, Arapaho and Cheyenne walked for
Miriam caught her first brook trout.
We showed Miriam pictures from earlier trips. And
we stood with her on the rock - my throat tightening as I realized how much she'd grown. We weren't
carrying her now. She was standing there on her own.
In a world of deadlines, economic insecurity and
pandemics, standing on a granite rock at the edge of
a lake in the heart of the Cloud Peak Wilderness and
smiling for a cellphone camera set on a timer seems
like the smallest and most insignificant of acts.
But perhaps because of the deadlines and economic insecurity and pandemic, creating a tradition
and sticking with it - even if you skip a year here
and there - will actually turn out to be the most
significant act. Perhaps it's those experiences that
keep us tied to the land, the water and the wildlife.
Even in the rain.
- --Christine Peterson has spent nearly a decade writing about
Wyoming's fish, wildlife, outdoors and environment. She is a
regular contributor to Wyoming Wildlife.
Wyoming Wildlife | 23
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of May 2021
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