Before he was mayor, he was a kid on vacation


FREMONT LAKE – When you’re 10 years old in 1967 and you’re going on vacation, it’s like driving to the end of the world: loading up the blue Dodge Power Wagon and the Mitchell camper in Littleton, Colorado, and trekking seven and a half hours northwest to get to the place your parents have been coming since before you were born: Fremont Lake, Wyoming.

It’s that family tradition that has brought Bob Jones back on vacation ever since. And it’s why Bob retired to nearby Pinedale in 2011 from a career as a real estate developer in Virginia.

The lake is just as magical as he remembered – 607 feet of deep, blue water, deepest lake and bluest blue in Wyoming. And if living in Pinedale doesn’t have that same magical quality, it’s partly his own fault: Bob Jones ran for mayor in 2014 and won.

It’s something he never could have imagined as a kid from Colorado, when the only reason his family came up here to Wyoming was to have fun.

Echoes of 1953

“My dad worked at the Gates Rubber Company in Denver and the guys at work were telling him about this lake by Pinedale called Fremont, and that he really needed to stop by and see it because he was going on a vacation to Yellowstone. This was in 1953, before I was born,” he recalled. “Dad and Mom stopped by and saw the lake and fell in love with it. Ever since then, just about the only place we vacationed was Fremont Lake.”

There’s more than just his own word to vouch for that. The Lakeside Lodge at Fremont Lake still has an old black-and-white photograph of a young Bob Jones and his family with a stringer of fish they had caught. But learning to catch them took some doing.

“Dad, he lived to hunt and fish. He was either working or hunting or fishing. Being a young kid, I was always involved in it. He was very much a family man. He and I were very close. We would get in the boat before the sun was up and we would stay in the boat until the sun went down. I came to hate fishing. I don’t care if I ever fish again in my life. I know every inch of that lake because we went around it and around it and around it.

“We never actually did very well fishing. It was always kind of poor. Even back in the ‘60s, I remember people saying there were no fish in Fremont.”

Fishing lessons

Turned out there were some fish, but it took a couple gentlemen who knew the water to show them that.

“At the time I thought they were really, really old, but they were in their 60s and 70s. They were Bob and Elmer, and I don’t know their last names, but they were miners out of Rock Springs,” Jones remembers. “They spent their summers up in Fremont Lake, and they had an old green boat with an outboard motor on it. Every day they would go out, and they lived on fish. They slept in tents. They just became really good friends, and they taught us how to fish Fremont Lake. After that happened, we always got fish. Even when nobody else was getting them, we got them. And that really got Dad fired up that this was the place to go.”

Later, when Bob was about 10, his father connected with a Pinedale guide named Monte White.

“Monte had got stuck and my dad helped him and pulled him out. His vehicle got stuck while he was loading or unloading a boat. They became friends, and Monte showed my dad how to get ‘the big ones,’ as he would call them. By big ones I mean in the 30-pound and 40-pound range – lake trout. That became the next life-changing event when it came to Fremont Lake for my dad. He learned how to do that and then was a regular catcher of those great big ones. And that was like hell for me, because then you go out and you don’t catch anything but those when you’re fishing for them, or at least the way we were taught to do it. It was pretty boring.”

Fortunately, Wyoming offered adventure on every side.

“As I got a little bit older, 10 years old or so, I would talk him into letting me out of the boat, and I would hike up to Eleven Mile Lake by myself. I would go over the hill and go to Half Moon Lake by myself. It gave me a sense of adventure. I couldn’t wait to get out of the boat.”

And once a summer at least, the family would leave the boat in the water, leave their fishing tackle and everything and just go – drive up to Yellowstone for a day or so. “Hundreds of dollars of fishing equipment would just stay in the boat. We didn’t think anything to just leave and never worried at all about somebody stealing it or doing vandalism or anything like that,” Jones said.

Fremont Lake was just that kind of place.

About being mayor …

He still feels the same way about the lake, where he started bringing his own wife, Laurie, on vacation when he married; where his daughters, Heather and Kim, learned to waterski; where his son, Andy, learned to drive anything that has a motor.

And about being mayor of Pinedale? He only planned to serve one term as mayor and says he won’t run again. He believes the town is in better shape now than when he was elected. He knows not everyone agrees with his decisions as mayor.

“One thing this job has taught me is that there’s an awful lot of gray out there,” says Jones. “My kindergarten teacher wrote on my report card, ‘Bob has a very strong sense of right and wrong and is very black-and-white.’”

That’s another way of saying there has been controversy, even conflict, in the town of Pinedale. And that’s a good thing, Jones says – that’s how democracy works.

And when the town politics gets too much, well, that’s why Mayor Bob Jones leases frontage on Fremont Lake from the Forest Service. Forget the gray, the black and white. Fremont Lake is blue.

Those guys at the Gates Rubber Company in Denver in 1953 were exactly right about this place.

 


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