When beloved Jackson Hole resident Bernhard Rietmann did not return from a hunting trip on September 23, 2015, it kicked off a massive search and rescue effort in the Gros Ventre Wilderness. For six days, Teton County Search and Rescue, more than a hundred community volunteers, and multiple agencies from four states combed the Granite Creek drainage southeast of Jackson looking for the lost hunter.
“The Fine Line” podcast, produced by the Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation, revisits this search with interviews with Rietmann’s son, Max, and longtime TCSAR volunteer Alex Norton. Max and Alex grew up as friends in Jackson, and were classmates together from kindergarten all the way through college.
Together, Max and Alex offer a keen perspective on the search that captivated the region, and discuss the dynamics of search theory and personality profiles of an elderly man who had extensive hunting, travel, and hiking experience.
One of the key questions at the time was this: “How far can an 84-year-old walk?” said Max during an interview with podcast host Rebecca Huntington.
Longtime Jackson residents recall Rietmann as a well-dressed German emigrant who moved to the valley in the 1960s and started the Heidelberg Inn at the base of Teton Pass. For 30 years, he ran the inn and restaurant before turning it into apartments. When search crews located his car in a Granite Creek parking area, it was the first of what would be very few clues to his whereabouts.
As Max tells Huntington of his late father, “Since he was originally German, he always liked to have a German car. He’s one of the few people I’ve ever met who’d go hunting with a Mercedes SUV. He’d just have a tarp in the back, and if he got a deer he’d just chuck it in the back and didn’t think twice about it. Not too many people go hunting in the luxury SUV. Most people go hunting in their beat-up pickup truck or something.”
The episode is simultaneously a heartwarming tribute to Rietmann, an analysis of search theory, and how one comes to terms with the realities of searching for a lost family member across rugged terrain spanning several days.