County History - Skinner Brothers Wilderness School: A Camper's Story

How do place and experience affect your soul and being? I am sure this can be answered through both a scientific and spiritual lens. At the core of the answers to this broad question might be that the qualities of the landscape, of the air, trees, lakes and mountains, become indelible somehow and that the quality of the experiences, especially if they are novel and embody a sense of adventure, foster a sense of wellbeing and growth. These elements leave an imprint on one’s development as a human being on both an atomic and physical level and on the level of the conscious mind. That is what Pinedale Wyoming did to me. It got into me.

In being asked to reflect on my time at Skinner Brother’s Wilderness School in Pinedale during the summer of 1977, it sparked my memory and imagination. I was one of a handful of girls amongst a larger group of boy campers there. Memories flooded in: the tipis where we slept in a circle on cots, the quiet water of Fern lake, the Skinner Brothers themselves, Monty, Bob, Courtney.

And then more specific memories: scooping a pre-mixed peanut butter and jelly spread out of a two gallon vat and spreading it onto bread to prepare lunch, making a sewing needle from a horseshoe nail for the primitive style backpack to carry our sleeping bag, clothes and the tarp on our survival hike. But my most graphic memory is the one that earned me a type of bragging rights: eating a chipmunk! I gave my only 22 bullet for the 22 caliber gun we were allowed to use to my counselor and asked her to shoot a small chipmunk. I later skinned, seasoned, boiled and ate for dinner my very first (and most likely my last) chipmunk.

The camping experience was multilayered. There was the emphasis on self-reliance and efficiency, and an emphasis on being in a community and learning to be a part of a team. There was healthy balance of pushing campers to work hard and try new things both independently and as part of a team. This push was balanced by the care and nurturing the brothers and other counselors delivered. Riding horses and the final river rafting on very raw and basic wooden rafts were both completely new experiences. I felt I was well prepared to approach these with confidence as a result of both the training and the adventurous mindset that was instilled. My rafting experience washed over me when I visited the outdoor exhibit at the Museum of the Mountain Man. Standing in front of one of the actual rafts I was brought back the Green River and realized rivers had been a large part of my life since, spending a lot of time on the Fall River in California.

Wyoming got into my bones and psyche as a twelve year old camper. I’ve returned a handful of times since 1977. For an art exhibit in Jackson Hole, I created American History Part 1.

My work still captures a rustic aesthetic. Skinner Bros planted a seed that grew. On my recent trip to Pinedale I met up with a friend from my high school and we took a five-mile hike to “Photographers Point” off a trailhead at the end of Fremont Lake. The rangers we ran into on the trail told us there were grizzly bears and the next day at breakfast we saw these rangers again, who commented that our footprints were later covered by a bear track! That was a little frightening to think about. At the same time my sense of being part of a wilderness and something much more rugged than my average daily life in a big city inspired me.

As a painter I am able to express myself in pictures and bring ideas and aspirations to life. This recent painting was inspired by the Wyoming I experienced recently, the Wind River Range, the yellow foliage, hunter orange and the starry nights.

I am concerned about American identity and feel fortunate to have ties to different parts of our great country. The Skinner Brothers taught me to love adventure, take risks, but to be prepared. On my hike with my friend I kept talking loudly and kept my brightly colored jacket on throughout the entire hike, even when I got hot. Our proximity to a grizzly has provided another good story even though I have some question of whether we took too great a risk that day.

Returning to Pinedale was the highlight of my fall. I’ve been a long time educator, perhaps inspired partly by Skinner Bros. Enjoying a retreat this fall in a place where my roots are strong and my memories vivid was bit of a homecoming. Viewing the exhibits at the Museum of the Mountain Man added a dimension beyond my expectations. Thank you Pinedale, Wyoming for being you and welcoming me back after all these years. Your landscape is gorgeous; long live the Skinner Bros Wilderness School and all the seeds it planted in its campers!

Lisa has two upcoming art shows. Her show entitled "Vintage" will feature paintings of healthy masculinity which she thinks was embodied so beautifully in the Skinner Brothers! Below is some information on her upcoming shows!


Art Shows

Lisa Bostwick – Vintage


3086 24th Street

San Francisco, CA 94110

November 11 – Jan 1, 2018

Opens November 11, 5-8pm

In a time where toxic masculinity has moved into the spotlight, Lisa Bostwick’s show at HAUS is an antidote. Titled “Vintage” the show features 7 paintings of the healthy masculine. There are men at work in the two paintings of fishermen, and at leisure, a painting of a man relaxing in a Paris square, and in relationship, the largest piece of a Chinese couple coming to America in 1948. This piece title “Lucy and Coy Come to America” features a couple before they settled in Hanford in the Central Valley of California and went on to have five children. To top it off the exhibit includes a painting of a vintage motorcycle with an aged patina and its headlight lighting the way as if to communicate a way forward for the masculine. This show is Lisa’s second at HAUS, 3086 24th Street, in San Francisco. Lisa’s 2016 show of American Flags garnered strong response when it opened right after the presidential election. It celebrated multiculturalism and patriotism. One of those Flags hangs at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art through November 19, in AbstrAction, curated by Catharine Clark. See “Vintage” November 11- Jan 1 2018 in the Mission district of San Francisco.

Lisa Bostwick


A National Juried Show


500 Palm Drive

Novato, California 94949

Juror: Catharine Clark

Through November 19, 2018

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