Backcountry memoir

  • Bison tracks as seen from the cab of Wehrman's snow groomer.

    Terry Werman
  • Marjane Ambler, Terry Wehrman and Tucker, in Yellowstone, 1992.

    Joan Earl
 

Yellowstone Has Teeth
Marjane Ambler
223 pages,
$16.95.
Riverbend Publishing, 2013.

Cindy Mernin puts it bluntly: "Paradise isn't for sissies!" she says, recalling the 14 years she spent as a ranger's wife at Yellowstone National Park. In particular, as she tells author Marjane Ambler, the winters weren't for sissies. The couple had moved there in the early 1970s, before the roads to Lake Village, Wyoming, were groomed during winter. Mernin, who grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, learned to fix Ski-Doos and survive "brutal" winters in the park with a handful of rangers, workers and their families, who had to fend for themselves from fall through spring. But it wasn't easy. "I wasn't chained down," she told Ambler. "But at the same time, I was just as confined."

Ambler herself spent nine winters at Lake Village when the park hired her husband, Terry Wehrman, as a snow groomer in 1984. (If Ambler's name seems familiar, it's because she worked as an editor at High Country News from 1974 to 1980, when HCN was based in Lander, Wyoming.) In her memoir, Yellowstone Has Teeth, Ambler doesn't romanticize the isolation of Yellowstone's backcountry in winter. At that time, Lake's winter population consisted of 12 employees and their spouses. With travel by snowmobile the only way in or out of the village – on a route that required crossing avalanche-prone Sylvan Pass – there was plenty of "forced togetherness" and little privacy. The friendships forged in such intimate and interdependent conditions, however, have survived for decades.

Ambler, the kind of third-generation Colorado native who was always handier with a chainsaw than a curling iron, finds herself content on the "fringe of civilization." And unlike the folks she interviews who wintered in the park during earlier decades – before electricity or Ski-Doos – she and Terry had a full-sized refrigerator. With the help of an antenna and booster, they could even listen to NPR.

As much as anything, Yellowstone Has Teeth is a story of beauty – of solo ski treks beneath crystalline skies and the "deep moan" of lake ice freezing. Ambler has consciously penned an ode to those Yellowstone winters now passed. But between the lines, she also shares a love story –– of a husband and wife who weathered adventures together and built a life based not only on affection, but also on real trust.

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATERSHED PROGRAMS COORDINATOR
    Are you looking for a positive and success oriented work environment, the opportunity to join a (small but) dynamic group of people supporting watershed activities...
  • BACKCOUNTRY FILM FESTIVAL MANAGER
    Boise-based Winter Wildlands Alliance is looking for an experienced and highly motivated individual to organize our annual Backcountry Film Festival and Tour and coordinate additional...
  • LAND CONSERVATION MANAGER
    SUMMARY Leads, administers and manages the land conservation, conservation easement stewardship, and property management activities of the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department within...
  • CLEAN ENERGY PROGRAM ATTORNEY, NEVADA
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a Staff Attorney who is passionate about Western communities and the protection of the natural environment to...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Deschutes River Conservancy in Bend, Oregon
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...