OUTDOOR REPORT: Confessions of a white-knuckled flatlander

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We could hear western meadowlarks singing as we crossed the Wyoming border on I-80 in our overloaded truck. But our excitement of closing in on our new home soon turned to white-knuckled driving.

Heavy snow and high winds forced us off the road near Burns. We took a 30-minute break, checked the radar and then decided to continue. The snow and rain followed us to Cheyenne where we considered looking for a hotel. Our first view of mountains to the west inspired us to keep moving.

We were tired after 11 hours of driving by the time we arrived in Casper. Our goal for the day had been to arrive in Buffalo to stay with friends before pushing to Powell the following day. We didn’t reach our goal.

The next morning we intended to leave early, but rock slides near the Boysen Dam and road closings on I-25 forced us to stay put. I refreshed the WYDOT web page every 30 minutes with the sound of the train yard in the distance until we gave up and went for a walk. Sleet stung as it hit my face.

We’ve been through worse — fishing ice-out walleye in western Nebraska, foraging for wild mushrooms in thunderstorms on the Missouri River Valley or chasing deer through blizzards in the Loess Hills of western Iowa. My wife Diana and I love the outdoors. Sometimes the weather refuses to cooperate. We usually don’t let it stop us from having our fun, yet we have a healthy respect for Mother Nature. We’re all about adventure.

But the adventure wasn’t supposed to start until we arrived in Powell.

The trip was supposed to be a scenic, 24-hour drive from Indiana. We envisioned arriving in time to get the boxes unpacked and explore the northwest Wyoming town before starting a new chapter in my career as the outdoor reporter for the Tribune. Traveling through the state was an early reminder that every move made here can turn into an adventure.

If I sugar coat it, I would say that I’m bringing a pair of fresh eyes to northwest Wyoming. But that’s just a nice way of saying I know nothing about the region other than what friends and coworkers have told me. I’ll be a white-knuckled flatlander at first, but I’m eager to learn and I’m passionate about the outdoors.

I love the hook and bullet sports, but I also enjoy biking, hiking, birding or anything that gets me out from behind a desk and into the wild. That’s why I jumped at the chance to work for the Tribune. It’s right in the middle of one of the wildest places in the country.

It will be a steep learning curve — one that I will take seriously.

I also bring my love of photography wherever I go. I have 35 years experience in photojournalism covering stories in a wide variety of places — from tiny unincorporated towns to cities like Tokyo and New York. 

My very first professional sports assignment was a lopsided game in 1984 between the Wyoming Cowboys and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. I was hired by the university sports information department to document the Cowboys’ trip to Lincoln.

My favorite subjects to cover are sports and wildlife. My least favorite are tragedies and war zones. I’ve covered countless accidents, fires, floods and murder scenes as well as working in two war zones. While I hope I never see another tragedy unfold, I know as sure as there will be another game to cover, there will also be human suffering.

I fully realize that my opportunity in Wyoming is the result of a tragedy. While I’ll never be able to fill Gib Mathers’ shoes, I hope I can be successful in demonstrating the same passion for the outdoors as he had as he lived and died while working here. I never had the privilege to meet Gib, but his stories will be an amazing guide to Powell, Park County and the great state of Wyoming.

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