I Went to Rendezvous ... Again

Photo: Aaron Agosto


By Wendi Rank


Me again.

Still not sure what I’m doing here.

But Land Tawney called me out by name in his winter Backcountry Journal editorial.

And it took me six months to see it.

I will angst about that for – let me see; calculating here – yep, forever. I will angst about that forever.

So I will do what Land called me out for doing. I will share my Rendezvous experience, which Land calls my slant on conservation. I call it complaining but, hey, should I argue with the CEO after I ignored the CEO?

Probably not.

So yes. I went to Rendezvous again. As long as BHA hosts Rendezvous near enough a hotel and not a campground – looking at you, Muster in the Mountains – I will attend.

Especially since the rumor swirling through this year’s Rendezvous grounds at Fort Missoula was that next year the Rendezvous vendors will be hosted indoors. (True, at the Missoula County Fairgrounds)

That is clearly my influence on BHA. Add a horror movie showing on Friday night, and I’ll consider my work here done.

The Field to Table Dinner at Rendezvous was held indoors, too. You’re probably thinking I’m happy about that. You’re thinking I relaxed with some wine and beaver and bone marrow cheesecake.


Photo: Aaron Agosto


But, no. I wasn’t relaxed. You guys have met me, right? If not in person then through the pages – physical and online – of BHA? I’m not a relax with wine and beaver and bone marrow cheesecake kind of girl.

Because, as it turns out, there was plenty to worry about at Field to Table.


First, the dress code. We need to talk about the dress code.

Semi-formal Western attire.

I am a jeans and T-shirt girl. One of the things I love about BHA is that you are a jeans and T-shirt organization. Semi-formal Western attire? Are you trying to kill me? Why don’t you just, I don’t know, host a snake petting zoo at Rendezvous and kill me outright?

My only point of reference for anything Western is Yellowstone. What would Kevin Costner wear to Field to Table? Would Kevin Costner be at Field to Table? What if Kevin Costner attended Field to Table?!

And we were cautioned against wearing heels. Guys. Help a girl out here. I cannot pull off a dress in flats. It’s not a good look. So do I risk heels at a wildlife refuge? Or do I risk the sartorial disaster of flats and a dress?

And what does a semi-formal Western dress even look like? Should I dress for warm weather? In layers? Will it be hot? Snowing? Both? I should probably get a new coat, right? A semi-formal Western coat?

“You’re overthinking this,” my husband said.

Which was obviously not true. I know I thought about this just enough because when we lined up for the buses to Teller Wildlife Refuge, BHA Director of Innovative Alliances Rachel Schmidt and I were dressed alike.

Exactly alike.

Just in different colors.

Finally – finally! – I could relax. Kevin Costner wasn’t there. It was too cold for snakes. I could enjoy the night before me.

That was when Land Tawney, Ryan Callahan and T. Edward Nickens boarded my bus.

“Umm, hi.” Riding to Field to Table with those three is like riding to a Spice Girls concert with the Spice Girls. How can anyone possibly relax with the Spice Girls on their bus?

Then it got worse. We were going to play a game. A game. Land Tawney: You want to play a game? At a time like this?

We had to come up with what animal we’re like. And why.

Have I ever thought about what animal I’m like? No. Not at all.

I know what animal I like. Blue whales, of course. And dinosaurs. Oh! Dinosaurs! Could I be a dinosaur? Do cryptids count? The Loch Ness Monster? Anyone?

“You’re overthinking this,” my husband whispered.

Oh, not at all. No. No amount of thinking could help me here. The Spice Girls wanted to know what animal I’m like. When I was dressed in semi-formal Western attire.

I stumbled through an answer. How much booze would BHA have at Field to Table? Because I needed it. All of it. I was wearing flats with a dress and I was telling the Spice Girls what animal I’m like.

Mercifully, we arrived at the refuge. It was beautiful.

And totally doable in heels.

And the barn! Strung with lights in the setting sun, hearty outdoorsmen milling about – it was straight from a romance novel. It even had indoor bathrooms.

I’d like to think that’s my influence, too.


Photo: Aaron Agosto


I was eating bear and drinking a beer when Land swooped in for a chat. I hugged him, which I think he knew I needed. It had been a stressful bus ride.

Land and I discussed our current reads. As he wandered onto the next cluster of BHAers, I groaned to my husband. I should have told Land about the other book I was reading. The one I just finished. It was far more apropos to BHA.

And it could save some BHA lives. It’s a true story. Russian college students in the 1950s. They disappeared in the Ural Mountains. Which they were hiking. In February. They all disappeared.

Don’t hike, guys. Please. Can’t you see I have enough to worry about without stressing over BHAers hiking about all willy-nilly?

“I could have saved his life!” I lamented to my husband.

“You’re overthinking this,” my husband said.


As if that could ever happen.


Meet our friend Wendi Rank, Land Tawney, Ryan Callaghan and more at this year's Rendezvous. You don't have to wear semi-formal Western attire or listen to the Spice Girls. We promise. More information on Rendezvous, the famous Field to Table dinner and more  HERE.

About Wendi Rank

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