“Wilderness has her way with you. She reveals and she conceals.” DJ Lee’s Remote: Finding Home in the Bitterroots explores her family’s connection and history with Moose Creek, a ranger station ensconced within Idaho’s Selway-Bitterroot corridor.
Lee has an endless fascination with the Bitterroots through two perspectives. Her grandparents, George and Esther, lived in the region during the 1930s. Connie Watson, a friend, ranger, and guide known as Mama Moose, vanished from the region in 2018. Lee searches for signs of her missing friend while simultaneously searching for clues about the true relationship between her grandparents. Esther had written she was miserable the entire time they lived in the Bitterroots and Lee wants to figure out why. She gleans pieces from archival research, photographs, Esther’s brief memoir, and from her mother, Shirley. Lee also tries to establish better rapport with her mother, despite the divisions in their relationship.
Lee does commit a couple of historical errors. She discussed the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 and the surrender of Chief Joseph in 1877 and claims those occurred under President Andrew Johnson when actually the first occurred under Ulysses Grant’s presidency and the latter in Rutherford Hayes’ term.
Remote is a haunting read due to Connie’s inexplicable disappearance and the vast landscape. Lee includes numerous pictures and a map that enhance the story and allow visualization of the beautiful terrain and the people she describes. I enjoyed learning about the array of personalities punctuated in the region, especially pilot, photographer, researcher, and fact keeper Dick Walker.
After fifteen years of research and inquiry, I feel that the author did discover a sense of what she was seeking. She developed a deeper comprehension of both her mother’s and grandparents’ stories. Life in the wilderness can be glorious, but empty, picturesque but pernicious. Lee sums it up with “it is an ecology of stories that connects us all.”