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Grand Teton National Park Foundation

Leaving a Legacy: Kate Mead Shares Why She Joined the Horace Albright Society

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Horace Albright Society is a group of generous individuals who care deeply about the park’s future and have made a planned gift to the Foundation. Their legacy commitment underscores the important role Grand Teton has played in their lives and assures innovative educational programs, trail improvements, wildlife research, cultural preservation, and other special projects will impact future generations. 

Thirty-five years ago, I met Brad Mead and began to help out on the family ranch in Spring Gulch while we finished law school. It helped that I had spent boatloads of time in the saddle before moving west from Vermont for my education. In the early days of my time with the Hansen/Mead Family, we still grazed our cows at the Elk Ranch near Moran. In late May or early June depending on the grass, we would move 1,500 mother cows and calves to the Elk Ranch—yes, in a great big cattle drive that took a couple of weeks.

Kate riding her horse, Judge, on a cattle drive between Spring Gulch and Grand Teton National Park.

In the fall, usually after the first snow, we drove the cattle back down to Spring Gulch in another multi-day drive. Returning to Spring Gulch was always faster as the calves were stronger and the momma cows were ready to be home after their summer excursion in the park. Rather than stay home with our young boys, I bundled them up in warm clothes, as it was pretty chilly, spring or fall, and ponied them behind my horse until they were big enough to ride on their own.  It was one of the joys of my life and our boys' lives to have been a part of that tradition.  

Riding on the Elk Ranch with a full frontal view of Mt. Moran was breathtaking and I never tired of it despite riding in rain, hail, and snow. Near the Cunningham Cabin, on the bank of the Snake River, I came across a dying bison one morning and watched as it breathed its last breath. My horse Judge and I were riding to the south of Triangle X when he snorted and stopped in his tracks. Immediately in front of us on a narrow trial was a great big bull bison. We turned around quickly and skedaddled out of there. Another time when Judge snorted and put on the brakes was when a young grizzly took off in front of us dragging a calf carcass with him. He jumped over a drift fence leaving the remains of the calf behind.

My attachment to Grand Teton National Park is deep and visceral as I have enjoyed some of the finest days of my ranch life in the park. Some of the saddest as well. My mother-in-law, Mary Mead, died in a horse wreck on Antelope Flats as she was moving cattle on her birthday in June to summer pasture.

When Jack Neckels asked Brad and me to be among a small group of founding members of Grand Teton National Park Foundation, we agreed.  Jack was gung ho to build a new visitor center in Moose. We knew it was needed and we were grateful to be a part of that effort. 

Leaving a gift to the Foundation in my will is a simple way to show my appreciation for all that the park has meant to my family. It’s from my heart to all that is Grand Teton National Park.

Kate Mead is a founding member of Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s board of directors. If you’d like to learn more about Horace Albright Society, please contact Ponteir Sackrey at 307-732-0629.