Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Finis Mitchell


The person, place and literature that have inspired me are all interconnected. The Popo Agie wilderness, specifically the Big Sandy area has been the biggest inspiration in my life for getting outdoors.

 I fell in love with place before I even ventured into Wyoming. In 2001 I came upon a guide book by Finis Mitchell entitled “Wind Rivers Trails” It’s actually more of a back pocket nature Journal. It included Poetry, hand drawn Maps, detailed routes, supplies and stories of stocking the alpine lakes with fish brought in on horseback inside kegs. The way Finis described the area sparked a curiosity in me. I had never been in an actual wilderness area before; I was instantly drawn to the remoteness, upon completion of the book I began planning my journey.

Finis Mitchell came to the winds in 1906 with his parents he began climbing the area in 1909 (age 8), he climbed all but 20 of the 300 peaks in the Wind River Range during his life time, his last solo ascent was at age 73, he fell and was forced to hike out 18 miles with crudely built crutches he fashioned from some pine.  In 1929 he and his wife began stocking the alpine lakes with fish. They went on to open a tent camp at the Big Sandy Opening which is still in operation to this day but is now a lodge, it was the first recreation area on the Pacific side of the Wind River Range He would charge people for horse Rentals of $1.50 and would guide fishing trips. He would not charge the people for his time just the price of food and the horse rental. He was quoted as saying “What show people the wilderness that belongs to them and make them pay for it? That's selfish, selfish.”

The winds were more than I had expected, I had never felt so free in my life. I had no time schedule and my only responsibility was to enjoy nature. I drank from crystal clear rivers and sat beneath waterfalls allowing the force of the mist to penetrate my body. I watched a moose feed in the hazy morning lake and trout catch mosquitoes in mid air. I watched the same fish completely disregard everything I put on my line. I had a chance to watch elk graze without anyone wanting to kill them. I sat and pondered nature while wolves howled in the cirque.

"We don't stop hiking because we grow old - we grow old because we stop hiking"
Finis Mitchell