GET OUT: Invoking renegade woman Geraldine

By on March 17, 2015
Sunshine kisses the cabins of the Lucas-Fabian homestead during a snack break. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

Sunshine kisses the cabins of the Lucas-Fabian homestead during a snack break. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – I often dream of what life would be like if I could live in any of the historic structures in Grand Teton National Park. In this dream, I pick out the place where I would be completely satisfied growing old alone for the rest of my life. Some considerations while brainstorming this dream include accessible fishing, wild snacking, sunlight and good skiing.

My favorite structure to visit in Grand Teton National Park is the Lucas-Fabian homestead. To visit the structure, start from the Bradley-Taggart parking lot and meander up Cottonwood Creek. After a couple of miles, bear west and you will run into an open meadow where you can spot the cabins. For those who like the groomed trails, follow the Teton Park Road up to the Teton Glacier turnout, then go toward the mountains and you will pretty much run into the cabins.

Wild woman Geraldine Lucas was the brain behind this structure. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I find such great enjoyment in her old house. In the late 1900s Lucas defied societal boundaries, left her husband in Iowa and moved to New York. There, as a single mother, she obtained her college degree and worked as a teacher. After retirement, she headed west to Jackson Hole and started this homestead just south of Jenny Lake with some family members. Lucas continued her adventures and, at the age of 58, became the second woman to summit the Grand Teton with the 16-year-old youngster Paul Petzoldt in 1924 (Eleanor Davis was the first woman in 1923).

Had this woman never died, I’m sure she would still be settled down in her little nest of comfort. The Snake River Land Company had tried to buy her house but Lucas informed the agency that it would have to give her silver dollars as high as the Grand Teton in order for her to even consider. Her stubbornness was apparently not in the bloodline. After she died, her son immediately sold it to J.D. Kimmel. Kimmel then sold it to a friend, Harold Fabian, who eventually sold the property to Jackson Hole Preserve, previously known as the Snake River Land Company.

Who knows what could have happened to this place if it was never sold? Perhaps it would have turned into a grid of urban sprawl at the base of the Tetons. Or maybe it would have remained a peaceful and quiet place for people who enjoy the mountains like it is today.

There are 11 standing structures remaining, most of them in perfect condition. Among the structures is a wonderful south-facing porch with a little roof that serves as a respite from the snow and a perfect spot for snacks or a cup of tea. From that porch, you can view those large monoliths known as the Tetons from a new perspective. Another structure that still stands served as a garage for Lucas’ 1924 Buick. The oddity of owning a car in the valley back then further evidences her unique personality.

A little west from the cabin is a giant rock in the middle of a seemingly endless meadow. You may think there is nothing special about this rock if viewing it in the winter months. It is often barely poking out, covered with feet of snow. It could easily be mistaken as a stump or insignificant mound. However, by exposing the rock, you can find a plaque dedicated to Geraldine Lucas. I find this rock inspiring because it reminds me of a woman who never stopped adventuring, did what she wanted and lived life beyond social constructs.

To me, that homestead nestled in a meadow is a lasting statement. Perhaps it’s because it brings me back to a simple time where just viewing the Tetons was an adventure in itself. Geraldine Lucas seemed to live her life to the beat of her own drum. On quiet days, I’ll sit and view the mountains from a sunny nook on the cabin’s porch and listen for the echoes of what once was.

Wonderful views from this historic venue haven’t changed much over the years. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

Wonderful views from this historic venue haven’t changed much over the years. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

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