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Sharing Sights and Sites
By Molly Loomis

Henry Taves, taxed by a long day of ups and downs through the rough terrain of the Wind Rivers, finally stops and lays his pack to rest for the evening. It is 1971 and he and his fellow expedition members are on a NOLS Wind River Wilderness course in Wyoming, setting up camp alongside the alpine lake they’ve chosen as the night’s destination—Lake Prue.

Lake Prue is one among a thousand small alpine lakes sprinkled over the Wind River Range; it is gem-like in color and contained by sharp and angular granite. On a good day, NOLS students here can supplement their rations with any number of trout fished out of the shadows.

Little did Henry know, camping that night by the shores of Lake Prue, that 30 years later a daughter of his own would one day stop at that same spot while on another NOLS course, a scenario beyond the wildest dreams of this 17-year-old boy.

The choice to participate in a NOLS expedition was an easy one for Henry Taves—he was somehow drawn to the West. The journey to his course in 1971 was his first long-distance trip. Taves rode the train all the way from Massachusetts to Rawlins, hopped on a bus to Lander, and then checked into the Noble Hotel all by himself, eager to start his 35-day adventure.

Henry’s course began by canoeing across Fremont Lake, a standard part of the route in those days. The students then traversed west to east across the Wind River Range, cutting through the heart of the mountains and ending up in Sinks Canyon, just outside Lander.

Taves, who was the associate editor of his school newspaper, The Red and White, wrote after his course about visiting “beautiful, wild Wyoming.”

“Constantly, even while hiking, we learned hundreds of scattered bits of information about a number of subjects,” Taves wrote. “Spruce needles are square, fir needles are flat. A ring of rocks around a campfire is a ‘no-no.’ Wool clothing can be warm when soaked with cold water. Snake-tongues in pine cones signify Douglas Fir…”

But the highlight of Taves’ NOLS course was when he got to meet the school’s founder, Paul Petzoldt. “[Petzoldt] was with the expedition for the first few days,” remembers Taves, “and it was such a memorable experience for me. Just having the chance to know him; Mr. Wind Rivers himself.”

Henry considers his NOLS course one of the greatest parts of his teenage years. So did his father, who wrote a letter to Petzoldt after his son returned home. “This was obviously a great thing for Henry,” said the senior Taves. I think your program is great, and I’m very glad that Henry was able to participate in it.”

Thirty-one years later, in keeping with this fatherly encouragement of NOLS, Taves was thrilled when his daughter Melanie decided she wanted a chance at an adventure in the mountains. “Dad still talks about [his course] all the time,” says Melanie. “I had heard so much about NOLS and it sounded like a good, really fun thing to do.”

  Melanie Taves, second from left, enjoys a break not far from the same spot where her father stopped 30 years earlier.

In 2001, when Melanie signed up for a Wind River Wilderness course, Taves pulled out his old set of Wind River maps and described his route, marked with a faded red line, to his daughter. When she returned from her course they compared journeys on their sets of maps and found several spots where their separate red lines intersected.

“It was a fun way to compare,” reflects Henry. “I think it must be one of those cosmic things.”

Although Henry never pushed Melanie to take a course, he always hoped she would be interested. “It is such a character building experience,” he says. “It was for me and I see the difference in Melanie as well. Her maturity racked up a few notches.”

Like her father, Melanie had a terrific course, and, also like her father, challenge was one of the course’s highlights. “Angel Peak looks really hard and steep, but we were amazed to see that there was an easy way up,” says Melanie. “It was at a turning point in the course. Like my dad I was really tired my first week or so, getting used to the pack and the altitude. Finally I was getting used to the routine and feeling stronger so enjoying it more.”

Taves believes sharing a growing up experience with his daughter is not only an interesting coincidence but also a reminder of how important it is to preserve wild places. He’s glad Melanie was able to see Lake Prue just as it was 30 years ago when he passed through the area, and that the Wind River Mountains still stand in the remote, wild grandeur that so many NOLS grads have come to cherish.

This fall Melanie will be a freshman at the University of Michigan. Melanie’s younger sister, 14, might be the next in line for a NOLS course. If not, maybe a son or daughter of Melanie’s will one day set a pack down near Lake Prue, but that’s probably the furthest thing from this 17-year-old’s mind.

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