“Seas the day,” read the poster on a gaily decorated golf cart that joined the July 4 parade in Dubois.
The spelling might be inaccurate, but the sentiment was right on target for the residents of the Dubois assisted living facility, some of whom rode on the tropical-themed float. It was probably the first time Warm Valley Lodge has joined in the popular parade, and for the riders, it was a much more important kind of “first.”
Thanks to vaccinations, in compliance with government guidelines, restrictions have been relaxed. Finally, residents can enjoy trips outside the facility.
In recent weeks, they have been spotted all over town – viewing the art gallery at the Headwaters Center, learning about wildlife at the National Bighorn Sheep Center, visiting the Fish Hatchery, and watching the Tuesday evening square dance inside the Rustic Pine Tavern. (One resident thought the caller was “very good”, but another wasn’t impressed by the performance of the dancers – many of whom are guests at local dude ranches, square dancing for the first time.)
A tour of the new National Museum of Military Vehicles prompted deep thoughts. To Charlie Edwards, who is a veteran, it was a vivid demonstration of the immense cost of war, not only in dollars but in human lives. Jim Janak was impressed by the poor fuel economy of the heavy, slow armored vehicles – how much gasoline was required to lumber through jungles and over mountains, and how much effort was required to deliver it.
The most popular events, however, are weekly jaunts into the spectacular landscape around Dubois, in the company of activities aide – and tour guide – Marcy Leseberg. “She talks about everything we pass,” said Edwards, “and she knows all about the area.”
Leseberg’s own favorites are the trips that wander back roads off the beaten path, taking her passengers to local landmarks that most tourists to the area will never get to see. Like all the staff and board members at Warm Valley Lodge, Leseberg is a local. The granddaughter of James Richardson, who started a sawmill in the Dubois area, she grew up in nearby Crowheart.
“It’s my history,” she says, “and I love doing it.”
For those in charge of a facility that has never yet experienced a case of COVID among its residents, achieving this new liberty has been anything but a jaunt. “From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to the present, we have remained committed to the health, safety, and dignity of Warm Valley Lodge residents and staff,” according to Dr. Gary Hedlund, who is chair of WVL’s COVID-19 committee. “It has been a continuous effort for the committee to remain vigilant about monitoring all of the federal, state, and local cases, guidelines, policies and mandates, and keeping our in-house policies up to date.”
The new policies – all of which are written to be modified at any time, according to COVID case rates in the town and county – can open the doors in both directions. While residents have the privilege of going outside, now their friends and relatives can also enjoy the pleasure of coming in to visit, under conditions carefully defined to assure their safety.