The large windows that make up the far end of the A Concourse at Denver International Airport afford a panoramic view. I sit at gate A52 en route to Lander and watch the setting sun splash red, orange, blue and purple hues across the sky, painting the taxiing airliners with its glow. Of course this is not where my plane boards.
The dungeon below Concourse A is where one boards the flights to Riverton, WY. It is a white hallway with seats on the side. Usually not even a flight attendant is present to whom to ask questions. This stark, empty hallway is not just another stop on my journey across the west though, it is an indicator that I am almost home. Whether traveling from Tucson, Seattle, Manchester or Coyhaique the last stop on my journey is the Great Lakes Airlines gates on the ground level of Concourse A. It is not all bad, a recently added small bar as well as a coffee stand offer the crucial amenities. A lot of mustaches as well, big ones too and sometimes I see the friendly faces of people coming out of Riverton heading to spread the NOLS gospel somewhere, drum up some students, or teach a course.
Working full-time for The NOLS, I get the opportunity to take occasional business trips. Working primarily out of the school’s home in Lander, WY allows for me to jet around the western US (and sometimes western hemisphere) from Fremont County’s gateway to the world. Leaving from Riverton, if Great Lakes can manage to get their turbo props onto or off of the airstrip, is usually a pretty pleasant experience. The Riverton airport, though not exactly close to Lander, offers the opportunity to quickly and without hassle, check bags, go through security and most importantly, park for free. Yes, free long term and short term parking. This increasingly rare perk is an asset for someone like myself who isn’t afraid to call his truck home. So all in all, flying out of Riverton isn’t too bad as my connecting flights rarely depart from gates A54-68. Once in Denver I can easily climb the staircase and find amenities such as windows with a view or wi-fi. Sometimes I wonder though if it is worth losing the comfort and familiarity of work boots, plaid shirts and Carharts.
From the rain and cool of a morning in Seattle to walking across the pavement of the DIA’s tarmac in the cold, clear night, I savor the anticipation of Lander, friendly faces and bighorn dolomite. The pilot greets me as I reach the Beech 1900D, a 19 passenger tin can with wheels and wings, taking one of my carry ons and stowing it away. Soon we are down the runway and northbound into the darkness.