Friday, June 21, 2013

Discovering Wyoming: Karen & Andrea's Excellent Adventure (Part I)

When WWW member, fiction writer and western history aficionado, Andrea Downing, invited me to spend a week with her in Wyoming, I got excited. Very excited. Wyoming had long been at the top of my travel wish list.

Oxbow Bend on the Snake River, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Since Andrea and I had only met face-to-face one time at the Women Writing the West conference last year, we discussed some of the critical points of sharing a living space for a week. Her favorite breakfast is cereal and fruit...mine is a quick scrambled egg. She sips tea while I gulp coffee. She’s a night owl. I’m the early to bed, early to rise type. Andrea is from New York City (via England). I’m from South Central Texas (via the Gulf Coast.)

However, we soon discovered our shared love of western history and landscapes made us boon companions on a quest to learn about Wyoming’s past and geographical beauty. We wanted to learn “the lay of the land.”

The serenity of Wyoming’s Teton Mountain Range often left me awestruck. We followed the Snake River north from Jackson to places foreign to me. Menor’s Ferry, Death Canyon, Gros Ventre, Slide Lake. We crossed Antelope Flats where buffalo truly roam. (Who knew?)

At OxBow Bend we stood for long moments absorbing the splendid grace of the region, the clean line where unaltered nature butted against human footprint.

"Cowboy" Raven who has secrets to tell.
When it came time to leave Oxbow Bend, a Raven, black as pitch, stood at Andrea’s car door and would not move even as she tried to back out of the parking area. I suggested that the bird might be an omen. He had a message for us, maybe, and we needed to be very still in order to learn what it was.

At Yellowstone National Park our last full day of exploring, it rained. But our spirits were not dampened.

Yellowstone Lake at Geyser Basin
We photographed Old Faithful then drove to Geyser Basin where the dark and damp sky seemed oddly appropriate for the otherworldly bubbling mud and smelly steam wafting all around us.

Wyoming did not disappoint. I hiked around hidden lakes, gazed across broad valleys, breathed deep the scent of thick pine forests which, thankfully, has stayed with me.

I am just as inspired by the fact that two women from vastly different backgrounds and lifestyles easily found common ground through travel and historical study. It helped, of course, that both of us enjoy a good belly laugh.

That old black Raven might end up in my next tome - like the fairy tale toad who is turned into a prince. “Raven” will be a young black headed cowboy who gallops down one of the Teton Mountain passes on his way to the Stagecoach Bar and Grill to look for his favorite two-stepping gal from New York City.

Thanks for the memories, Andrea!

Karen Casey Fitzjerrell's novel The Dividing Season, won the 2013 EPIC Award for Best Historical fiction.

(Blog Coordinator's note: Check back next week for Andrea's side of the story....)


Anonymous said...

Still laughing, Karen. Thanks for the memories.

Karen Casey Fitzjerrell said...

We must do it again, Andrea....blaze new trails!

Anonymous said...

After having met you two at WWW last year, I can only imagine the fun and belly laughs you enjoyed traveling together. Your post took me back there for a quick visit and I look forward to the next one. The other side of the story. Wyoming is truly an extra ordinary experience.

Eunice Boeve said...

Pretty cute. Glad you two had such a good time. I know Andrea through e-mails. Almost met her once in Montana, but our plans went awry.
I like your take on the stubborn raven. Who knows how and through what or whom, our stories come into being.

Karen Casey Fitzjerrell said...

Velda - Absolutely! Wyoming is beautiful and I came home full of story possibilities. I can't wait to let my imagination fly - just need to get this next book, Forgiving Effie Beck, launched first.

Karen Casey Fitzjerrell said...

Eunice - I'm sorry you and Andrea didn't get to meet in Montana - makes me want to hum the tune! Sometimes we women just have to make things happen. Andrea and I met through WWW list serv and our friendship blossomed much like pen pals in the "old" days. Goodness knows it was hard for us to squeeze such a trip into our schedules....but so worth every effort. Andrea had just had eye surgery and I was recovering from a horrid fever, sore throat. In fact we drew a lot of attention wherever we went. -Me blowing like a tuba, Andi squinting in sunshine like a hoot owl.- Lots of material for our stories, that's for sure.

Julie said...

What fun you two had! I was close, but too far this time to join you. You captured some of the amazing sense and feel of the Tetons and the Park. I have visited both three or four times, and got evacuated during the year of the big fire (see Linda Jacobs book). Looking forward to the next installment.

scribbler_kate said...

I get nostalgic and homesick and giddy all at once, reading this post. Wyoming is my home - I was raised in Pinedale, 70 miles south of Jackson Hole - and I want to eat up these words. This post moves me, too, for the friendship and strong bonds that a love of writing can forge. Finding those connections where you can be silly and let loose and in the next hour be serious and working, what a priceless blessing. One of my best friends, whom I met in graduate school as we were both pursuing MFAs in creative nonfiction, have awesome memories of long weekend writing retreats at Midwest bed & breakfasts. I so recommend tapping into these connections for all they're worth, and for letting the road take you where it may ... Thank you for sharing, and thank you for loving my Wyoming.
author of Tough Love: A Wyoming Childhood

Helen Ginger said...

Sounds like y'all had a great time. Love the idea of taking a road trip with a friend. And Wyoming is spectacular.

Karen Casey Fitzjerrell said...

JULIE - I did read Linda Jacobs books. I kept trying to imagine the fires while driving through all that beauty...must have been really sad to see all that gorgeous country on fire. But Mother Nature has done her thing and all is well now. Thanks for commenting. We would have loved having a referee along. *;-)

Karen Casey Fitzjerrell said...

Kate - I'm glad if my post had a positive aspect for you. As I said in the post, I'd always wanted to see Wyoming -- and Montana, for that matter -- the two places I'd read about that I imagined would hold me sway like my own native state. Wide vistas, rich history, story possibilities everywhere.
To be sure you and I have been blessed to find writing pals who love adventure just as much as we respect the quiet reflective time that is so valuable to writers. I checked your blog, read about your book - - something I'll put on my book wish list. Thanks for commenting!

Shirl Deems said...

Looks like we both saw the wonders of the Tetons this year. I just got back from there, Yellowstone and the Badlands in South Dakota. I live in NW Montana and I think it iall is just breathtaking.