Home (Away From) Home on the Range
A beach-and-theme-park vacation is much too tame for resident family travel expert Norie Quintos. This year, for part of her summer vacation with her two sons, she headed out to Wyoming:
What parent hasn’t read the Dangerous Book for Boys? Okay, I haven’t, but I’ve read all about it. Here’s the gist: What our overprotected, over-teched, overscheduled suburban sons really need to blossom is the freedom to climb trees and get muddy and learn Morse code. Well, I’ve believed and lived it all along, and the kids and I recently returned from a vacation that hits the spirit if not the actual suggestions on the book’s list.
We squished our toes in the mud of a creek.
We fed leftovers to a black lab named Twister.
We threw tomahawks.
We played cards.
We heard cowboy poetry.
We canoed in a lake with loons.
We fell asleep to the howls of a coyote.
We threw lassos.
We read by the light of a lantern.
We searched for signs of bear.
We absorbed U.S. history by listening to a cowboy tell tales of Butch Cassidy, Wyatt Earp, and the Donner Party around a campfire at night.
We traveled by covered wagon.
Several Western outfitters offer a version of this multi-day covered wagon tour. Our chosen outfitter was Teton Wagon Train Adventure, based out of Jackson, Wyoming, a popular gateway for visits to Yellowstone
and/or Grand Teton National Parks.
For a couple of hours each day you’re riding in Conestoga-style wagons to your next camp, six to nine miles away (guests can also choose to ride horses or walk). There’s plenty of time in the afternoon for canoeing, horseback rides, and relaxing. The next day, the entire operation, along with 40 participants, 10 crew, and 33 horses (8 draft and 25 riding horses), moves along a dusty, little-used logging road to another camp. Food is plain but plentiful, cooked outdoors in Dutch ovens by the crew.
Two things the grown-ups ought to know:
1. You’re sleeping in tents for three nights. There are no showers, just basic facilities such as a washbasin, limited water, and pit toilets. There is no cell phone access.
2. The minor discomforts open up major opportunities for organic, serendipitous, and memorable family moments, the depth of which you may never know until technology’s electronic beeps, whistles, and whirrs are silenced.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
There are a couple of surprises which I won’t ruin for you, but one involves a mock Indian raid. (Okay, the political correctness may be a tad suspect here, but co-owner Jeff Warburton explains the history and gives due credit to the Native Americans’ plight and accomplishments.)
The 3-night, 4-day package is offered weekly from mid-June to the end of August each year. Rates are $875 for adults ($745-$795 for children)
and include all meals, camping equipment, activities, and airport transfers. Book six months ahead.