Tanya Hanson: Rockin’ Round the Tetons

                                                                          

Two weeks ago I and my hubby T.L., brother-in-law Timmy and sis Roberta (l-r in the pic above) had the experience of a lifetime, taking a wagon train around the Tetons with an amazing group, Teton Wagon Train and Horse Adventures headed by wagonmaster Jeff Warburton out of Jackson, Wyoming. He’s a true cowboy and a gentleman and will be a guest here in Wildflower Junction in the near future.

                                 

We’re still in 7th Heaven about our adventure. To celebrate, I’ll send a pdf. copy of my fictional wagon train adventure Hearts Crossing Ranch to one commenter today after a name-draw. So come on down, ya hear?

                                

Yep. We spent four days circling the Tetons through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest bordering Yellowstone bear country. We didn’t see any bear despite everybody’s secret longing.   Likely the thundering horses and our noisy group skeered ’em away.

                                 

 We got our start in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with a bus-load full of cityslickers from Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, Illinois, us Californians..as well as Bermuda, Japan, and Brighton, England!  There were about forty of us ranging in age from five to—eighty one! 

First stop on the bus taking us to the wagons were photo-ops of the Grand lady herself..followed by her neighbor Mount Moran reflected perfectly in a oxbow lake.

                                                           

These scenes were practically perfection in itself..but all breath stopped when we reached The Wagons.

 After a delicious lunch—there’s nothing quite like chuck wagon cooking in the open mountain air—Jeff called, “let the wagons roll” and we were off to our camp for the night.

                                              

Pulling them were magnificent draft horses, Percherons and Belgians. They are named in teams, such as Lady and Tramp, Gun and Smoke, Sandy and Sage, Jack and Jill. The first name is always the horse on the left. These glorious beasts are capable of pulling up to 4,000 pounds as a team, and they love to work. In winter, they lead sleighs to the elk refuge outside Jackson.                                                              

While the wagons do have rubber tires and padded benches, the gravel roads are nothing like a modern freeway. As driver  Marisa told us the first day, I get paid extra to hit as many rocks and potholes as I can. Most times our route was called the “cowboy rollercoaster.” 

                    

I’ll always hear Kathy (below on the right) saying, as she drove the wagons,  “Lady, Tramp, step up.” Jeff’s daughter Jessica is on the left. Jessica leads trail rides.

                                                                                                               

Jeff’s family owns and runs the business and the ranch, and his son Michael, with me below, is an important member of the crew.

           

Most of the other wranglers are college students who work the ten adventures run each summer.  Foreman Nathan and Camille got married last spring in a Western-themed wedding…Chuck cooks Celeste and Carrie kept us fed. Each adventure starts on a Monday and ends on Thursday, each new trip reversing the course. The crew members take turns two-by-two remaining with the horses for the weekend until the next adventure starts.

This week, sadly, is the last week for 2010. These young people are amazing, multi-talented, multi-taskers who knew each and everybody’s name within ten minutes.  The crew members typically work two or three summers before leaving for internships, graduation, or marriage.  Jeff himself was a a crew wrangler himself as a youngster, met wife Cindy here, and was able to purchase the ranch and the wagon train adventure business a few years later.                                                               

 

I think everybody’s favorite “crew member” was Buddy, probably the cutest dog ever. He accompanied every trail ride after following the draft horses from camp to camp…he romped in every stream and lake, caught mice, and totally stole everybody’s heart. BTW, he’s probably the first dog ever not to snarf down bacon. He loves the wagon adventures sooooo much that, Jeff says, Buddy’s pretty disgusted to become a backyard dog after the summertime.

              

Our tents were comfy—all sleeping essentials are provided–, and there was nothing so fine as a cup of Arbuckle’s to warm us up on a chilly evening.  After supper—cowboy potatoes, Indian frybread, and raspberry butter are among our favorites—we gathered around the campfire for Jeff’s tall tales, historical accounts of the Old West, guitar strumming, cowboy poetry and songs, S’mores,  and terrific skits the natures of which I can’t reveal. I don’t wanna spoil the surprise for those of you who might find yourself traveling along with Jeff and the crew in future.  Suffice it to say legends, history, drama, mountain men, melodrama and gunfire played enormous parts in the entertainment. Delish Dutch oven desserts such as peach cobbler and cherry chocolate cake were dished up each night and served to the ladies first.

One of the nicest parts of the meals was Jeff leading us in a blessing first. Nobody had to join in…but seems like everybody did.

Paper is burned in the campfire and only one Styrofoam cup is allotted per day, as everything brought in  the wilderness must be taken out.  We wrote our names on the cups and hung them between meals on a cup line.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

                                                                                            I totally loved this paper napkin holder.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Everywhere surrounding us, the Wyoming landscape was full of lakes, greenery and blooming wildflowers.  Nights after the camp quieted down were almost beyond description: the stars are endless, multi-layered, sparkling on forever and ever amen. What a sight.                                                   

But the most fun of all was riding horses!  Folks either rode, hiked, or wagonned it to the next camp each day.   My favorite mount was Copper.

                                       

In camp, I threw hatchets, never once hitting my target, and roped Corndog., the pretend cow.  Now, even though the proof is on a video camera, I can’t show you today as we haven’t mastered lifting a “still” off of the video. Jeff taught me all about the “honda” and the “spoke” of a lariat, and I nailed Corndog on my third try. Honest.                              

                                                                         

(My kids were not as impressed when they realized I was afoot and not riding a bucking bronco while roping Corndog, but myself, I am mighty awed.)

Our last day, the Pony Express rode through camp and brought us all mail. 

                                                                                                                                                                                          

Me and mine, well, we had the time of our life.  

                                                                               

As Jeff said when we left, “There’s always be a campfire burnin’ for ya here in Wyomin.”

                                                                         

                                                                                                       

Yep. I’m feeling the warmth right now.

Sigh.

                                                                          

Tanya Hanson
A California beach girl, I love cowboys and happy-ever-afters. My firefighter hubby and I enjoy travel, our two little grandsons, country music, McDonald's iced coffee, and volunteering at the local horse rescue. I was thrilled last year to receive the CTRR Award at Coffeetime Romance for Sanctuary, my tribute to my cancer-survin' hubby!
Updated: August 17, 2010 — 8:41 pm

40 Comments

  1. Wow, I would still be basking in the memories too! So much to love about this post from the pictures to the fact the owner started out as an employee. But most of all, the Tetons. My husband and I loved our time basking in their glory.

    My son and daughter’s best friends (another brother and sister) keep going to Colorado to a ranch each summer to work…one of the greatest experiences ever. So it made me smile to read about all those young folks.

    It is a shame that everyone doesn’t get to experience this wonderful bit of our history.

    Good luck on trying to find the next adventure to top it 🙂

    Peace, Julie

  2. oh tanya i’m green with envy!!!
    that sounds like the most FABULOUS trip!!
    warm memories are just oozing from your post…thank you so much for sharing!!
    i was just looking online and dreaming of montana working ranch “vacations” yesterday –so this was well timed–i’ll have to check it out 🙂

  3. Tanya, this sounds like HEAVEN!!!! I was in Jackson last fall, and it’s one of the most beautiful spots on earth. To see it the way you did… I am three shades of green with envy. Too bad we can’t all just pack up and do a Filly wagon trip.

  4. Wow, Tanya! You’ve been to western-writer heaven! Loved the pictures and the stories and Buddy the dog. Forget the Carribean or beaches. I want to go on a wagon train ride through Wyoming. Thank you for sharing the wonderful details!

  5. I loved every word of this post. Such a cool experience. I want to know more. Were you on it for four days? Or four days, then two days off, then four more days to get back home.

    It is so charming I just love it, the food, the horses, the wagons, the dog, the stars. You rpictures are fantastic. The one of the mountain reflected in the water is stunning.
    But was it uncomfortable? Which, that’s the point in a way isn’t it? Seeing what pioneers went through. Was it boring? How long did you ride without a break? Or did you ride a horse or walk?

    More info, Tanya. I’m vicariously living through this with you.

  6. What a perfect vacation! I immediately sent the link to my husband as a not-so-subtle hint. We just did Disney World this year with the kids, so we might have to save up for a couple years, but it looks like so much fun! And we could probably write it off as a research trip. Ha!

  7. Hi Julie, yes, it was so fantastic, every minute a memory. We were homesick for it at once, still are, actually. Sigh. I found about it from an article in Country Living magazine a while back and was soooo glad my herd wanted to go.

    You’re so right…catching sight of the mountains absolutely stole our breath. Seeing Moran reflected like that depended on almost perfect weather conditions (e.g. no wind, much less no other gawking tourists LOL)–we consider ourselves very blessed.

    We reckon we’re in pretty rare company–the Adventures can host only about 300 people a summer. We certainly consider ourselves lucky. Thanks for posting today!

  8. Hi Tabitha, thanks so much for being green LOL. Not my intention but maybe now you’ll go and have your own working vacation and dream come true! I highly recommend it.

    The hospitality, professionalism and knowledge of Jeff and his crew, along with their downhome charm make Teton Adventures something I can and will heartily recommend to y’all out there!

  9. Hi Vicki, you’re so right. There was something so elemental about a trip like this, not just as a
    learning experience but also as a kind of soul-sharing with all the brave people who went before us. As teeth-clanking as “cowboy roller coaster” could be, it was practically luxury when we tried to imagine a wagon train lasting six months with wooden wheels on hand-carved paths. How I appreciate the pioneers! oxox

  10. Eliabeth, rugged as it all was, it ws indeed a slice of heaven. Jackson truly is one of those must-see places, and a trip like this should be on a lot of Bucket Lists out there. Nothing like it anywhere else in the world!

    But wow, how Jackson has changed since my first visit during my college days! Love the antler arches…and no animals were harmed in making it LOL! oxoxo

  11. Hi Mary, thanks for the opening LOL. I could have written a blog five times this long. And inerted about a hundred more pictures.

    First off, the trip is four days, three nights…and for city slickers, believe me, the length is perfect. We did get tired LOL. A bus picked us up at our camp at the end of four days on Thursday afternoon, then took us back to the hotel in Jackson. The next Monday, it picked up another group in Jackson at the hotel and took them to our “destination” where the horses had relaxed all weekend…then that group went on a reverse trail, ending four days later where we had started.

    We had pads to sleep on, but I still ended up one night with a weed under my tent floor LOL that felt like Jack’s beanstalk. The tents were designed for Jeff and have standing room. We took the tents down each morning and put them up ourselves when we made camp later that day.

    Although the wranglers help anybody, any time, most folks were able to erect their own tents, lay out their own gear. The sleeping bags were cozy and warm; we each had our own “liner” to put inside it for sanitary reasons.

    One night we had rain while we slept; it settled the dust and we didn’t have to break out the slickers. Jeff said they had a ton of rain and mud on the first trips early in the summer.

    Two people shared a tent, and kids made friends and shared a tent with somebody their own age. It was amazing how great everybody got along from the start.

    Okay, I know you’re all wanting to ask LOL: when we had our lunch stops, there were “boy meadows” on one side, and “girl meadows over there. In camp, there was a dedicated, ahem, facility…make that an out house LOL. Because all water is hauled in by the horses, it’s never wasted. Hand washings are okay, but you’re on your own for major clean-ups. We took tons of wet wipes and foam soapy stuff and were totally okay. There are streams and lakes along the way and the adventure supplies biodegradable soaps and knows of bathing areas if you so want. We brought our own towwl and washcloth in our duffle bag.

    Everybody was too excited to ever even think the word uncomfortable. Sure it’s not the Ritz Carlton. It’s a camping trip wrapped up in history and for that reason, totally delectable. Jeff knows and shares so much about the Old West in such a conversational tone you hardly realize he’s teaching you something!

    Boredom isn’t possible. There is something to do every second. There were trail rides every afternoon when we’d settled in; they lasted about 1 1/2 hours. Roberta and I rode horses four miles to our next camp after lunch while our hubbies hiked.

    Riding in the wagon was great fun but we rode whenever we could. Now, we’re surburban housewife sorts…if we can do it, anybody can LOL..

    Ooooh, I’m living it again right now! oxoxox

  12. Hi Karen, I hope your hubby is as excited as mine got when I told him about it. Actually, we’d planned the trip for LAST August, first week…bil Timmy took the weeks’ vacation. Then our daughter decided to get married last August 8. I told T.L., we can still go. We’ll be getting home August 7, and he just howled.

    So we had to put it off for a year, and I am so glad we did…as we still had the trip to look forward to. Go for it, Karen. You can feature your own trip on a guest blog here someday! oxoxox

    And yes my experience is sure to end up in a book some day. Actually, even though I wrote Hearts Crossing Ranch way before I took the adventure, I got it realistic enough LOL.

    Thanks for posting, Karen! Always so good to see you here.

  13. Oh, Tanya, I wanted to do that type of trip many years ago and was asked, “Why?” Because I was living that same lifestyle here in the Sierra. Only we did it with mules and pack saddles. No wagons. I was the cook and our family ran the pack station. Now my son owns his own pack station and my daughter cooks at the Mammoth Lakes pack station. So for me, it is all memories. It is a great life and I am so happy you enjoyed yourself. It isn’t for everybody.

  14. Thanks for more details. It sounds like the adventure of a lifetime.
    Your books now, they’ve got to be more real, how things felt and smelled and sounded and looked.
    I totally want to do this.

    I can barely get to town to buy groceries, though.

  15. Oh I just love your pics!!! That was some adventure you had… sounds and looks like alot of fun… thank you for sharing it with us! 😀

  16. Oh, Tanya, what a real treasure! Picture me green
    with envy! Love the photos, especially of Buddy &
    the mountains. I’ll have to share this blog with
    Honey, he will want to leave tomorrow! Thanks for
    sharing with us!

    Pat Cochran

  17. Hi Mary J, I have read of packstation and mules in the LA Times and loved everything. Maybe that was you? I am a total mule–donkey fan too.

    The wagon train and horse adventure is by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. We wake up eacy day and miss it, miss the folks, the horses, the food, the amazing scenery and fresh air. Sigh. Thanks for posting today!

  18. Hi Mary, yup, now that it’s all over I kinda wonder how I did it all, weenie that I am. But it was so, so great. oxoxox

  19. Hi Colleen, we all got an official camp name on the last day and mine was “Taking it all in Tanya” because I took so many pix. They are so much fun to relive. Glad you enjoyed the blog. Thanks for posting today.

  20. Hi Pat, bon voyage LOL. It is soooo worth it. Buddy was just too adorable. I wanted him to sleep in our tent but he likes to sleep outdoors with the crew and takes turns picking one to sleep with each night. Thanks for stopping by today!

  21. What gorgeous scenery. Sounds like the trip of a lifetime to me.

  22. Avatar

    I am showing this post to my husband and daughter. He and I were in Jackson Hole a few years ago. Beautiful country. Unfortunately, there were fires in the Teton and Yellowstone area. No clear blue skies. Everything was sort of hazy. When we drove into Yellowstone, we were driving through a smokey haze. It was still a great trip. A few sections of the park were closed since it was off season – September. There is still much in the area we would like to do. This sounds like great fun. Maybe next trip we can do it. Will have to start saving now.

    Our daughter worked the Wagon Train unit of a Boy Scout High Adventure Camp for several years. The scouts hiked to the unit, had a chuck wagon dinner, slept in the wagons, had a pancake breakfast the next morning, went on a trail ride and/or wagon ride, then hiked to the next unit they had selected. The counselors lived in a cabin near the wagon circle. I know she would love to take her boys on this wagon trip. They had better start saving now.

    Thanks for sharing your adventure with us. They should give you a commission for all the people who will be going because they heard about it here : )

  23. Wow, I so want to do this!! It looks like so much fun and I already love the area!

  24. Hi Estella, the scenery was breathtaking that’s for sure. It was so cool to still see snow on. Thanks for posting today! I’m so grateful for photography so we can relive moments later on!

  25. Patricia, it was the trip of a lifetime for sure! Indeed, tell ’em to save up. They’re gonna love it!

    Connie, you so need to go! I just loved every second.

    Thanks for posting today, ladies.

  26. Looks like you had a lot of fun. I would love to do something like that. I really liked all the photos you took.

  27. Tanya,

    This is just wonderful! I’m so glad you got to go–my husband wouldn’t want to ever do something like this, so I probably will never get to, either. SIGH. I loved these pictures and the whole thing sounds just perfect.

    I’m going to the link now to read it over. I just think this looks like the perfect vacation.

    Cheryl

  28. Tanya, what a wonderful trip! Makes me nostalgic for days gone by when we used to do short three-day weekend trips, trail rides into DeLuz Canyon north of our house in Fallbrook. Can’t ride out there like that anymore. Too darn many houses!

    Aren’t you a California girl? You might one day try to visit Red Mule Ranch above Sacramento in Fiddletown. Ron and Marie Scofield own the place and during the summer they do campfires, poetry reading, and old-time singalongs. Look ’em up on the internet.

    Loved the photos! Thanks for sharing.

  29. Tanya, it’s so wonderful to finally hear about your trip. I’ve been to Jackson Hole, Mount Moran, Tetons in the summertime and the area is one of the most beautiful on earth. I’ve also roped, real cows from a horse, and let me tell you it’s not as easy as it looks in the movies. Roping Corndog on your third try is great! Thanks so much for sharing your adventure with us.

  30. Hi Amy, thanks for stopping by. It truly was one of the highlights of my life. I’m not that great of a photogrpaher LOL…it was just hard to mess up with such beauty and cool stuff around me LOL.

  31. Hi Cheryl, I kinda know what you mean. When I saw the article in Country Living Magazine and showed hubby, I was sure he’d groan and promptly refuse. But he was hooked from the start. Timmy and Roberta wanting to go was frosting on the cake. We love traveling with them. Thanks for posting today, my filly sister! oxoxo

  32. Hi Joyce, my Cactus Rose sister. We made our first sojourn to Sacramento not long ago and loved it. So next trip, we’ll definitely look up the Red Mule. Our niece moved near there upon her marriage three years ago and now with her first baby on the way, I know hubby and I will be making more and more trips that way. Thanks for posting today~ ooxox

  33. Hi Stacey, my wonderful Bandera friend. You and Paul sould so love this, I think. The trip was just everything I imagined and much more to boot. I’d written Hearts Crossing Ranch way before I went on the wagon train, but I got a lot of it pretty close.

    I can’t believe what stamina those pioneers had. It was fabulous but very tiring work LOL. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  34. I am so happy to read everybody’s comments! I’m on another vacation right now (not nearly as fun as the wagon train) so my computer time has been limited and I didn’t get my winner posted last night. It is Patricia Barraclough. Hope you enjoy your pdf. copy of Hearts Crossing Ranch.

    Thanks to everybody who participated yesterday!

  35. Tanya – sorry I’m a day late with this!! Didn’t see your Facebook reminder until just now. I totally enjoyed seeing each and everyone of your pictures. It’s great that I know all four of you!! I can imagine how much fun it was. The scenery looked amazing and to think of all the wonderful research you got from that wagon train experience!! I hope you’re planning on writing one right away!!

  36. Hi Charlene, always good to see you here! Yes, it was a blast, and yes, my mind is churning with ideas! oxoxox

  37. Awesome pictures, sounds like it really was the trip of a lifetime.

  38. Tanya that was such a wonderful explanation of the experience and fantastic trip we had. I relived the fun just reading your blog it brought back such fond memories. What a lifetime experience, I loved it and it would not have been the same without you and Tim. Like I said before Thanks for the memories….what a treasure. Love you…

  39. Oh my goodness, how cool is that!! It sounds like you had a blast. Love the pics. How wonderful to have that experience. 🙂

    Cher

  40. Half-skirt, red sweatershort-sleeved dress, revealing exquisite simplicity and charm

Comments are closed.