Weekend Wildcard August 9 & 10 - Teton Wagon Train Adventure
post by Kay Nelson
Wagon Train Ho!
“Kick-em-up Kay,” as I was christened by the wranglers, ventured out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a great adventure in late August, 2005. I had read an article in the AAA magazine about an 80+ year old woman who had enjoyed herself on the Teton Wagon Train Horse Adventure and I said, “if she can do it, so can I.” After all this was my initial "retirement trip" and I wanted to set the bar high for the future vacations.
Adding to the excitement, Northwest Airlines went on strike the day I left for my adventure and I was not entirely sure if I would have to ride my horse home from Wyoming! However, with knee surgery on the horizon, I had to mount Heidi from an alfalfa bale and have help getting off her as well, so riding her home was not going to be an option. As if that were not enough, the tension mounted as we had to sit and wait on the tarmac while former Vice President Dick Cheney’s plane took off (he owns land in the area.)
My Adventure Begins
The night was spent at the Painted Buffalo Inn in Jackson Hole and the next morning we were picked up and delivered to the wagon train launch site. We were a diverse group consisting of mostly tender foots and a few veterans. Our ages ranged from 7 to 77 and we hailed from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, London, England, Wyoming, and of course, Minnesota. Two families had visited the previous year, and returned for this trip, making up our experienced group members. I developed a friendship with a young woman on the van ride out and we decided to be tent mates. This was lucky for me as she had lots of camping skills that I sorely lacked. No fears, staff will help!
We all rode the covered wagons to the first campsite. They sported rubber wheels and cushy seats. Draft horses pulled the wagons. One of the Percherons happened to be in heat and squealed all night. There was no relief in sight. All the tents and riding horses were awaiting our arrival. We were offered a chance to take the reins, but I just enjoyed the scenery.
As we entered the camp owners Chris and Jeff Warburton sized us up. I immediately noticed they were wearing guns and holsters. When I asked about them I was told, “Yes, ma’am those are real guns!” Considering we were going up into back country where there were bears and cougars on the prowl I thought, "yeah, I’m cool with that."
Wagon Train Life
We were environmentally conscious. Paper products were burned and plastic utensils thrown in a bag on the chuck wagon. Garbage was hung in a tall tree at night and no food was allowed in the tents. We put our name on our cups and hung them on a clothesline to reuse.
Our owner-designed tents were shaped like teepees We found the height helpful while standing to dress and getting the riding boots on and off. Everyone had a thick mattress and sleeping bags. There was an outhouse that was lit at night by a kerosene lantern. Fortunately there were only 19 guests on our wagon train in addition to the crew so we had a fighting chance of using it when needed.
Wagon Train Luxury!
So you want to wash up in the morning with hot water? No problem. Just wet your washrag in the barrel and hold it up to the campfire. Voila! We were told we could swim in the lake, but the water was too cold for me and full of lily pads. Wonder what was hiding underneath them there water plants?! Temperatures were in the upper 30’s in the a.m. and hot by noon and clothing layers were the order of the day.
Our wagon train cooks turned out some fabulous food which they cooked in amazing dutch ovens. Our grub consisted of eggs, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, french toast, taco salad, BBQ chicken, cowboy potatoes, beef and ham. What would a meal be without desert? S’mores, peach cobbler and chocolate cherry cake was on the menu. After stuffing ourselves, we gathered around the campfire listening to music and original cowboy poetry. The stars covered the sky right down to the horizon and the Milky Way was spectacular! Then it was off to bed with your flashlights showing the way.
From the back of a horse one travels at a great speed for sightseeing and photo ops. I found if you hold on to the saddle horn with one hand, the camera can be operated. We saw moose and a cougar who was crouching in a cave watching us. The clean air spiced with sagebrush, wildflowers, dramatic mountains in the distance are a calling card for me. However, by the end of the three day journey my jeans were so dirty they could have stood up by themselves. But hey, it was well worth the small discomforts and yes I would definitely return. Hmm, a family reunion would be fun.
As always, Joe Houghton and the entire Minnesota Property Group wish you an adventure filled weekend, even if you never leave your back yard!