Susan Marsh is an award-winning writer in Jackson, Wyoming. Known for her intimate knowledge of the wild country surrounding Jackson Hole, she has introduced many others to its wonders through field trips and workshops. She worked for the U.S. Forest Service for over thirty years, leading the recreation and wilderness program for the Bridger-Teton National Forest between 1988 and 2010.
She has spent many days working and playing in Cache Creek, including over four hundred to take photographs and gather information for her book Cache Creek: A Trailside Guide to Jackson Hole’s Backyard Wilderness. With a background in geology, botany, and natural science, she has integrated her love of our precious public land with her love of writing to produce several other books, numerous articles and essays, and technical documents for the Forest Service.
Her books include War Creek, A Hunger for High Country, The Wild Wyoming Range, and Stories of the Wild. Her forthcoming book, Too Special to Drill: Saving Wyoming’s Hoback Basin from Natural Gas Development, co-authored with Florence Rose Shepard, will be available in fall 2016.
War Creek by Susan Marsh was a finalist for the Pacific NW Writers Association’s Pearl Award.
War Creek won the 2014-15 May Sarton Award for contemporary fiction.
Q. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR LIFE IN ONLY 9 WORDS?
A. How about 6 words? I remember all the secret trails.
Q. WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST FEAR?
A. That humanity won’t come to its senses before we ruin the biosphere.
Q. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
A. Helping to protect rivers that are now part of the Wild and Scenic system.
Susan Marsh in the Media
Susan Marsh made a presentation at the Teton County Library on:
Our Public Lands: Treasure and Legacy
Born in Seattle in 1953, Susan Marsh was drawn to the wild from an early age. At first, wild animals were her primary conduit to the beauty and mystery of forests and mountains. She read books illustrated with photographs of mythical creatures: elk, moose, bears. She didn’t know how often she would encounter these creatures later in life. Later she followed professional botanists on hikes in the backcountry, learning the names of wildflowers and influenced by her mentors’ love of them.
When she attended high school, she had planned a career in marine biology. But she balked when the biology teacher, a kind man who was one of her first mentors, asked her to collect a moon snail off the beach and put it in a jar of formaldehyde. “You have to be hard-nosed if you’re going to be a scientist,” he said. That was the end of her career as a biologist. Instead she chose geology for her undergraduate degree. You didn’t have to kill, and the only snails she brought back to the lab were fossils.
She met Don Plumley, the man who would become her husband, in the mid-1970s as she was finishing her geology degree. He told her about the work his sister did, assessing the impact of many pairs of boots on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire. Getting paid to hike sounded like a perfect career choice. Susan learned that her sister-in-law had studied landscape architecture so she went to graduate school to do the same.
After she took her Master of Landscape Architecture degree, she accepted her first permanent job with the U.S. Forest Service. She worked in Oregon, Montana, and Wyoming before retiring in 2010 after thirty years. Since then she has devoted her time to writing, art, and volunteer work for local wildlife and conservation groups. She is active in the Teton Chapter of the Wyoming Native Plant Society, for which she leads field trips into the mountains.
Since childhood Susan has pursued writing. She wrote her first short story before entering grade school, a maudlin tale of an abandoned child rescued by – who else – the author. Her sixth grade teacher praised her poetry, inspiring her to work more seriously. She began publishing poetry and essays in the early 1970s. Her work has always been inspired by the natural world.
“The beauty I find in forests and mountains never fails to move me,” she says. “I have not strayed far from them. I am interested in people’s ability to discover hidden aspects of themselves through encounters with wild nature, and how we change as a result. Whether in the form of a novel, memoir, non-fiction narrative, or poem, these are the things I write about.”
Susan Marsh received the Wyoming Arts Council’s 2003 Neltje Blanchan Award for her creative nonfiction entries “Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues” and “Imagining Wolves.” The awards were judged Alison Hawthorne Deming, director of the University of Arizona Poetry Center in Tucson. Deming said of Imagining Wolves:
“What I admire most about this work is the graceful negotiation between inner and outer worlds, both of which are carefully observed and rendered into prose that is beautifully lyrical and reflective. Without sentimentality or didacticism, this essay celebrates the hunger to experience the magnificence of the natural world, while owning up to the folly and complication that such hunger can produce. This is writing alive with voices, both human and wild, precise in its craft, and it merits wide reading and celebration.”
Five minutes from the hubbub of Jackson’s town square, Cache Creek offers the chance to immerse ourselves in wild nature. It’s a place where you can see how the world works, and Cache Creek:A Trailside Guide to Jackson Hole’s Backyard Wilderness shares some of the ways you can do it. No experience needed: bring your attention and a few hours of your time. You will be enchanted.