MEETEETSE — The dot of land deep in the woods, dozens of miles from any town, would have been perfect.
To get there, she would have had to pack in. The first car to drive even close came through just 12 years earlier.
That’s why Amelia Earhart picked it.
The famed aviatrix would have gone unnoticed and unbothered.
Mount Sniffel to the south would have cast long shadows in the summer afternoon, enveloping her cabin in cool.
Below, Wood River would have whispered the only sound.
Yes, it would have been perfect. The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic asked friend and Meeteetse rancher Carl Dunrud to build her a summer home on the spot. He cut logs and laid the beginnings of walls in 1936.
One year later, Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10 Electra disappeared over the Pacific Ocean during her attempted around-the-world flight, and Dunrud stopped building.
July 2 marked 75 years since Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan went missing. Researchers with the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery return to the Pacific atoll Nikumaroro this week with sonar and robots to try, once and for all, to find Earhart’s plane. A 1937 photograph discovered earlier this year shows what could be a landing gear sticking out of the Pacific.
Had history gone much differently — had potentially credible radio signals gone noticed, had Navy ships and planes found clues in the ocean — Earhart would have come here, to the Wyoming quiet, to get away.
The remnants of Earhart’s cabin have endured more than seven decades of wind and winter on the Shoshone National Forest. Two walls have been weathered away completely, evergreen trees growing in their place. What’s left are four logs splintering and sinking into the soil.
Earhart’s connection to northwestern Wyoming began with her husband, publisher George Putnam.
Putnam, his son and first wife, Dorothy, took a trip to Yellowstone National Park in 1921. Carl Dunrud, a packer for tourists in the park, led the Putnams on their trip. A few years later, George Putnam came back.
Years later, Dunrud purchased the ghost town of Kirwin — a remote mining camp dead since 1907 — and ran the nearby Double Dee Ranch outside of Meeteetse.
Putnam wanted his second wife, Amelia Earhart, to camp and experience the Wyoming he had in the ’20s. They planned a trip to the Dunruds’ ranch for July 1934.
Earhart arrived first. She drove cross country in her air-cooled Franklin and went unrecognized until she reached Douglas. Dunrud had to adjust her carburetor to the 8,200-foot altitude so she could make it to the Double Dee, said Jim Dunrud, Carl’s son.
During Earhart’s stay, photographer Charles Belden snapped images of her sitting on the corral and joking with Carl Dunrud as he pretended to cut her hair with sheep shears.
Earhart liked the sound of the stream at night; it put her to sleep, Jim Dunrud said.
Carl Dunrud led the couple on a two-week pack trip through the mountains. Before they left Wyoming, Earhart filed on a mining claim one mile upstream from Kirwin.
Prior to her final flight, Earhart sent some of her things to the Double Dee Ranch to be stored until her cabin was finished, including a flight jacket and a buffalo coat given to her by actor William S. Hart.
Joan Dunrud said Carl likely harvested timber on the spot to construct the cabin. He wrote in his book that four walls had been built about halfway up by July 2, 1937.
By the 1970s, the cabin had begun to rot. Carl Dunrud wanted the community to remember her, so he had a small stone monument erected in Meeteetse.
A photograph from 1984 shows four walls — only a few logs high — and a door frame.
Last week, Jim and Joan Dunrud went back to the cabin to show two journalists the site. They hadn’t visited in a couple years.
The door frame is gone. The remnants of only two walls are left.
“Boy, it is really melting away,” Joan Dunrud said.
Any human remains out in the Pacific would be long gone. Pieces of plane would be deep on the ocean floor.
Earhart’s cabin, too, will soon crumble away, leaving no traces behind.
“To be out in the weather that long,” Joan Dunrud said, “it probably stands to reason we’d all deteriorate.”