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.