What you might see first, in fact, would be something far more fierce than any person. The search party found a buck mule deer freshly killed by a mountain lion, although so far there has been no sign of grizzly bears that occasionally roam the region.
Just about all of the 1,100 residents of Pinedale -- at the foot of the Bridger Wilderness Area -- seem to have heard about Crouch. They speak of him with concern and with sympathy for his family. As one of Crouch's in-laws put it after spending a few days here, "They'll give you the shirt off their back."
Yet, there is an unmistakable air of incredulity when they discuss his disappearance, similar to the way Kent Islanders might discuss some novice boater on the Chesapeake Bay who had failed to respect the hazards of the water, ending up either drowned or pulled off a shoal by the Coast Guard.
Last Monday, Donna Crouch, her sister and brother took a two-hour walk from near Pinedale up to Photographer's Point for a firsthand look at the wilderness. It is a stunning vista framed by the tallest of the jagged gray mountains, but the valley and lakes below are still a few ridges short of the Island Lake area.
So, on Tuesday they drove out to a small airstrip just south of Pine-dale to board a single-engine plane, which carried them across the area on a 45-minute flight.
Staring down into the rocky canyons and creases, the harsh truths behind the beauty of this landscape were unmistakable, leaving one family member ready to concede the worst.
"He lived his life to the fullest," the relative says, not wanting to give a name out of respect for the family's wishes. "He sailed, he rode bikes, he pushed himself to the limit. But unfortunately the limits got him. He knew how to survive, but when you don't know the countryside, well "
Donna Crouch, according to those who've accompanied her, has tried to remain stoic. She has also tried to take solace from the idea that at least this was a place her husband had loved from the beginning. If there were ever such a thing as an appropriate place to die, especially for someone as young as David Crouch, this might come close.
Entry to spirit world
At least, that's what the Indians of this region have always thought. They viewed the high peaks as a sort of scenic overlook into the spirit world, according to an 1879 report to the Smithsonian Institution filed by U.S. Army Col. Albert G. Brackett.
And they believed when someone approaches death after a long, full life, Brackett wrote: "He finds himself near the top of a high hill on the Wind River Mountains, and, as the breath leaves his body, he reaches the top of it, and there, in front of him, the whole magnificent landscape of eternity is spread out, and the sun-father is there to receive him and to do everything in his power to make him happy."
Pub Date: 9/14/97