Elka Pentelka in the Wild West


The United States of America, popularly known as the USA or simply the States, is a country that the average inhabitant of the globe associates with “AMERICAN DREAMS”, i.e. the freedom to pursue and fulfill great dreams. Those dreams have been and still are attracting people from all over the world to America.

If we ask a financier about the symbol of this country, he will probably answer Wall Street… for a businessman it will be the US dollar… an actor will answer Hollywood… a tourist might say the Statue of Liberty… and for a child it may be Coca Cola/Pepsi Cola. In a word, the Great Country of Many Symbols.

Of course, I also had and still have my associations that embody my ideas about the USA. When I was a kid, I looked at America through the lens of westerns I watched on TV with all the cowboys and cute little wild west towns. When I became a teenager, my choice fell on the icon of American beauty, grace and intelligence – Marilyn Monroe. Later, I saw so much of America in Margaret Mitchell’s novel “Gone with the Wind”. Many things symbolized the American spirit to me.

Texas Yeti in Challis, the Wild West
Pat Taylor in Challis, Idaho

Then I met Patrick the Texas Yeti. He became for me a symbol of freedom and independence of man in pursuit of his own dreams. And the places he chose to achieve this goal in Idaho became for me symbolic of the American spirit. So we planned an adventure… a trip to the West so I could see it and feel it for myself.


And it happened. On August 24, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. Utah time (9:30 p.m. Polish time), exactly after a 12-hour flight, Pat and I landed at the Salt Lake City airport. Are you curious what I felt? EXCITATION AND GREAT JOY, because MY GREAT AMERICAN ADVENTURE in the country where Pat came from had begun.

Elka lands in SLC to being touring the Wild West
Feeling Welcome in America

America welcomed us warmly. It was over 40 degrees Celsius outside. Jessie (Patrick’s mother) and Frank (Patrick’s brother) and a friendly Border Guard officer who said “Welcome to the States” greeted us with similar warmth. Good afternoon America, I thought. This adventure promises to be great!


Those who know Patrick know perfectly well that his travels and expeditions are always carefully prepared. He planned time to rest and recover after my first transatlantic flight. After two days in Salt Lake City, we headed to Idaho, also known as the Gem State because of its rich mineral deposits. It is also called the “Potato State” because, as the name suggests, potatoes are plentiful there.

Like Pat, I prepared myself for this escapade. I read a bit about the States and especially about the places where we were supposed to spend our holidays. I learned that Idaho is in the Pacific Northwest. It is bordered by Washington and Oregon to the west, Nevada and Utah to the south, Wyoming and Montana to the east, and Canada to the north. The northern and central parts of the state are mountainous. To my surprise, there are less than 2 million people in the entire state.

Idaho Mountains in the Wild West
Heading North Through the Lost River Range

We headed to the mountainous part of Idaho to Challis and Salmon, where Patrick spent the last eight years.

“WOW! What an amazing place,” I thought sitting comfortably in Frank’s truck and watching the rapidly changing landscape of this state. The open space makes an amazing impression. We passed great ranges of mountains, farms surrounded by huge fields irrigated by gigantic sprinklers that seemed to stretch for miles, and empty roads as wide as airport runways. At one point we stopped on the side of the road. We all got out of the car and then I felt what it means to live in a big country. Sorry, Europe, we love you, but you won’t find such XXL spaces on the old continent. Welcome Idaho!


First impression when I saw Challis and Salmon: Wild West at its best. These places had their own character. You will not find such places in Europe. The low-rise buildings located along a wide, straight street, combined with the character of this development did not give the impression of overwhelming local urban planning. Those who built these buildings knew what they were doing. They integrated the architecture perfectly into the landscape of Idaho.

Space, Space, & More Space

From almost every point of the city, I saw beautiful landscapes of rugged mountains sparsely covered with vegetation. The high desert view was diversified by the Salmon River, which was also the goal of our trip because Patrick planned 5 day rafting on this river.

It was a real adventure of my life, which requires a separate story because it provided us with a lot of positive emotions and impressions, and at the same time was a valuable lesson in geography, biology and history in the field.

Each of these places we visited had a story associated with the people who lived there and Patrick, who spent almost 7 long years of his life in the wildest areas. I walked the trails he traveled, and saw rocks with pictograms of the indigenous inhabitants of this continent and places that the settlers chose to settle. I stayed at the remote ranches where he lived and worked.

texas yeti at the Flying B Ranch, Idaho
Texas Yeti at the Flying B Ranch

You won’t find such places in big cities. It was for this natural spatial landscape architecture and the areas that Patrick told me about that I wanted to see them and feel the power of nature and the power of space.


This power of nature, which on the one hand provided amazing experiences, but on the other hand was also sometimes difficult and required good conditioning. The continental climate with hot summers and dry air made my throat constantly dry and required me to drink large amounts of water. Plus, the dust in the air, especially outside of an urban area, made me realize the reason cowboys used scarves over their mouths.

Of course, we also visited local bars and shops, especially those that related to the history of the region. It was nice to sit in such an atmospheric bar, order something to eat and drink, watching people and cars on the street. It was nice to enter the store and in one second feel in a completely different reality; ranchers, farmers, and cowboys with all those hats, cowboy boots, jeans, etc.

Wild West Denim at the Feed Store

Yes, it was a big attraction for me! I found myself in the real heart of the Wild West. Very natural and simple, being part of the wild nature, an element of not only the history and culture of this country, but a timeless lifestyle, cultivated to this day!


Americans are by nature open, smiling, and kind. They are positive about life and other people, even those they don’t know. They are more laid back. In Utah and Idaho I met and talked to many people who were just naturally spontaneous. I experienced this spontaneity in many places, both on the street and in stores. The natural behavior of people passing each other on the street, not even knowing each other, or the cashier in the store, was to make pleasant conversation.

“Good morning. How are you?”

It’s something like the Polish equivalent of “Dzien dobry”. And with one short answer … “I’m fine”… and nice smile, everyone seemed so likeable. In this respect, we Poles are less open to other people. Sometimes we have a problem with smiling back.

This openness also makes Americans quickly break barriers during the first conversations, shortening the distance, so the conversations become more friendly than official. I met wonderful people with whom I quickly established good verbal contact; even though my English is not perfect, none of them felt the need to correct my pronunciation. On the contrary, I felt the support of these people.


Americans are a country of people who love their freedom and independence. I must admit that I looked with great admiration and respect at people who had the courage to live according to their own rules, choosing a life away from civilization, without access to all the amenities offered by the modern world, and people who work hard. Women and men.

I looked with admiration and respect at the beautiful young women piloting the rafts on which we ran the Middle Fork River, who worked just as hard with the men and never complained about their work or showed dissatisfaction. Women who spent almost 7 months a year living high in the mountains, living in modest conditions, running special camps for tourists, or teenagers who worked with their parents helping to run a farm and local businesses. They are really hard-working people who know the value of work and are not afraid of any work.

Elka Pentelka on the Middle Fork in the Wild West
Appreciating Danny & the River Crew

This is what the Wild West is like… beautiful, unbridled, simple and free. An ideal living space for people open to new challenges who are ready to abandon their comfortable lives. Just like Pat, David, Danny and many other wonderful brave people did. I was surprised to meet people who had Polish, Serbian, German, Dutch, Estonian roots and were proud of the homeland of their ancestors, but already felt emotionally attached to America, which they loved and respected.

Now you understand why you should start with places like Idaho or Utah if you want to get to know this country better. Because America is the Wild West.

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  1. Wonderful story, both states are beautiful and rugged, and a large part of the great American West.

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