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Stories From the Circle EW

“What’s your favorite thing about monitoring visits?”

I get that question a lot. As a member of the Land Trust stewardship team, I love spending my days outside, walking around some of the most breathtaking and spectacular properties in the state of Wyoming. Oh – and the wildlife. From huge herds of elk, to great gray owls, moose, and everything in between. But that’s not my answer. My favorite part of monitoring visits, hands down, are the people that I meet. And sometimes, it’s the ones that I hear stories and legends about – that I haven’t even met – that make the biggest impressions.

The Circle EW Ranch is the most northerly piece of private land on the southern end of Grand Teton National Park, adjacent to the Snake River – just south of Moose and the Murie Center. It was purchased in the late 1920s by Eli and Elsa Wiel as a ‘fishing camp’, back before Grand Teton National Park even existed. Three of the buildings from those early days are still in place today.

This August, I had the pleasure of monitoring the property with Todd Wagner, the Circle EW’s ranch manager, and Steffan Freeman from the Land Trust. When we pulled up, Todd was standing in the middle of the road with his two dogs. Upon first look, I thought Todd was going to be a rather quiet, perhaps even slightly gruff, rancher. I was so wrong! Todd won me over in just a few minutes when he spotted and gave me a red-tailed hawk feather.

As a newcomer to Jackson, I especially appreciate people who take the time to fill me in on the history of the land. Todd clearly thought it was important that I learn about Elizabeth McCabe (Liz), the ranch’s late owner and easement donor. He soon had us laughing with stories about Liz’s gracious hospitality, spunk, and love of life.

Liz’s parents’ purchase of a fishing camp evidently had a big impact on her life, because she became an avid fisherwoman, exploring all around the state of Wyoming and even down in the Cayman Islands. Even up to the spry age of 101, she was out on the water fishing. Liz’s love and enthusiasm didn’t just stop at fishing – it also included photography, 4-H programs, the Fair, entertaining, and bringing people together. Liz was born 3 months too early, but that didn’t stop her from living life to the fullest. She once told Todd, “I came early to this party and I’m staying late.” And she did just that. Liz loved life and had an enthusiasm, even at the age of 101, that some people may never find in life.

Today, the ranch is mainly taken care of by Todd, although it’s apparent that he feels Liz’s presence on the property. When Liz passed away at the age of 101 last June, she was survived by her 4 daughters. The family recently remodeled the house to include space for her great-grandchildren to come and stay. I can only hope that the impact the Circle EW had on Liz will be transferred to her great-grandchildren. Having a beautiful piece of land to frolic on and explore can do wonders for the soul.

I think the world would be a more wonderful place if we all took a little bit of advice from Liz McCabe and focused on bringing different people together and living life with even a fraction of her enthusiasm.

Rachael Panning, Stewardship Associate

Liz McCabe was an avid photographer

Todd gave the Land Trust a book of Liz’s photos called “The Soul of a Centenarian” – this is just one of the gems

Another photo from Liz’s book – this one’s of the cutthroat trout that she loved to catch

A monitoring photo of the Circle EW in winter

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