You can’t possibly do and see everything in Yellowstone in a week or two. Actually, you can’t really do it in a summer… and if you did, you’d certainly miss some of the trifling things, however small, that add substance to the experience. But we are here for a while and it is time to do some of those things many forget (or are never made aware of).
And so it is, on July 23rd we sped off to Roosevelt Junction for a horse-drawn wagon ride to a cookout!
Roosevelt Junction is a little more than 60 miles from Grant Village. It is a nice ride with the first 20+ miles following the shore of Yellowstone Lake and the next 20+ miles through Hayden Valley following Yellowstone River. This area is populated with 100’s of bison and elk. An occasional bear or wolf may be spotted as well. Even though the road is good with good visibility, the animals have a way of getting humans to stop in the middle of the road. Locally, these are called Bison Jams (substitute Bison with Elk, Bear, or Moose). The last 20 miles climbs through the mountains, goes through Dunraven Pass and slithers down the north side with the road hugging the cliffs, passing through Tower and finally reaching our destination; Roosevelt Junction!
That last 20 miles has a large bear population, mostly Blacks. Yes, Bear Jams are common here as well. A 60 mile drive on good roads back home can usually be done in just over an hour. Here, not so much. After nearly 2 hours, we arrive at our destination.
The corral at Roosevelt
Not knowing how long it would take us, we arrived several hours early …intentionally. After checking in, we observed an earlier entourage returning, some on horseback, and some in wagons. It was fun to explore the corral, barns, and observe the guest returning from their ride up “cookout canyon” (otherwise known as Pleasant Valley).
The wagon train as we head up Pleasant Valley
Our reflection as we read about the Stagecoach era
Soon, we were seated at the staging area. An older gentleman gave us the safety talk, asked us where we were from, and told jokes. All the while, the farmhands were saddling up the horses and hitching the wagons. It wasn’t long before we were boarding our wagon, Wagon #4.
Wagon #4 turned out to be a good pick. There were 6 wagons, numbered 4 to 10. We were first in line …and the trail was dry and dusty. Out and back, the wagons behind us had to eat our dust! Going up the canyon was a bouncy but good ride. With sun and blue skies, the exquisite canyon scenery was dotted with bison and antelope. Also, lots of holes in the ground caused by ground hogs, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and “whistle pigs”. And thank goodness we weren’t choking on wagon dust!
wagon dust – Sure glad we were the lead wagon!
We sat with a couple from Pittsburgh, PA. in the “buckboard” and had a great conversation with them. They are big Penguins fans (NHL – hockey). My secretary from my last job has a nephew who is a star with them so this provided a great ice-breaker. At the dinner table, we sat with a couple from Philadelphia, PA. I had to swallow my pride and congratulate them on their SuperBowl victory over the NE Patriots. One thing I really enjoy about these large social events is meeting people from “away” and hearing their stories.
Eating with “friends” from PA
grill masters at work
Steaks on the grill, steamed veggies, Roosevelt Baked Beans, cooked potato slices, multiple types of salads, watermelon slices, and apple crisp round out the main course. We stood in line with our tin plates as probably cowboys of a bygone era did, waiting for the scrumptious meal. For a beverage, there were modern delights like soda (pop if you are from the mid-west) and ice tea. But for us hardy folk, there was “camp coffee” just like the cowboys had on the range. Soon, we were sitting with our Philadelphia friends munching down a most tasty meal.
“Cowboy with his girl”
Then came the entertainment! The old “cowpoke” who gave us the safety briefing can sing. And sing he did! First he had us all sing. Picture a 100 of us, mostly out of tune, singing the classic we learned in grade school, “Home on the Range”. Then he went to work, singing Hank Williams classics, older Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and other Western (Cowboy) songs. And he was good! While he played, some of us went up for seconds (yes, this was an all-you-can-eat affair!) A great time was had by all!
Entertainment was awesome!
Famous Roosevelt Baked Bean recipe!
As the sun was setting, it was time to “saddle up” and take the 45 minute ride back to Roosevelt Junction. A younger “cowpoke” told some jokes while the ranch-hands readied the horses and wagons for the ride back. On our wagon, Ben, who had the reigns, and Hanna, our guide, told jokes and struck up conversations with each of us. This whole experience was quite magical. If you ever get out this way, make sure you sign-up for the “Roosevelt Cookout”! You will not be disappointed!
Ben (the driver), bison, chuckwagon, and Hanna (our guide)
STAY TUNED! More “tales from the campah”!
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Coming Soon!!! YouTube channel with movies of the adventures!