Our Dude Ranch from a Guest’s Perspective: The Gros Ventre River Ranch

I hear the ringing of the bell, telling me it is time for dinner. I am excited to see what the chef has prepared to eat tonight. The aroma coming from the kitchen tells me that it will be delicious, again. I hear the clinking of the glasses, each guest happy to be together, toasting their wine glasses in celebration of their shared experience on the ranch so far. Conversation is buzzing. Some are talking about the ride they took today; some are talking about their white water trip they took down the Snake River; some are detailing their nature hike they took with the ranch guide; while others are sharing stories of how their children aren’t missing their computers, the television or their Gameboys one bit. It is a room filled of excitement, contentment, joy and camaraderie.

I hear the chirping of the squirrels and birds. The air is fresh and crisp. I can smell a hint of the campfire on my jacket and it takes me back to last night. The cowboy, his guitar and “the song of Wyoming” lingering in the night air. We all huddle around the fire, the red glow on our faces, as we watch the children toast their marshmallows for their second (or maybe their third) s’more. The ranch dogs are lying at our feet, exhausted from playing catch with all the kids. Sean pulls the hot iron out of the fire and presses it firmly on the boot in is hand – a perfect GV brand to commemorate the vacation. Some wander away from the fire to capture the sun setting over the Tetons. Red, orange, yellow and purple rays of color illuminating the majesty of the mountains. It takes my breath away. I see a couple sitting together on the swing, lost in their own experience of sharing this evening together. The stars are beginning to fill the sky and I spend a few moments locating the big dipper and the North Star. A shooting star shoots across the sky and I feel its energy. The sound of the river brings me back and I wonder if the beavers are nocturnal… something I will ask the staff in the morning. Maybe I will try my hand at fly fishing tomorrow…
I slip on my boots. They are worn, brown, leather and a perfect fit. I pull my hat down from the wall and place it on my head; it is also a perfect fit. As I approach the barn, I feel a smile cross my face and I can feel the energy from the horses. I smell the perfume of dirt, horse, hay and leather and it is familiar and comforting. My horse is tied to the hitch rack, calm and relaxed. The morning sun is just rising over the hill and there is a ray of light illuminating my horse. We are ready to go and it is time to mount. I slip my foot into the stirrup, lift myself up, swing my leg over my horse’s back and sit down gently. I feel the strength of the animal under me and he casually turns his head around to look me over. He is satisfied. With a gentle squeeze, I urge him to walk on and he steps out with gentle confidence. As we ride along the creek, I hear the sound of his hooves and the rustling of Aspen leaves on the trees that line the trail. The occasional chipmunk runs across trail and my horse is unfazed. His only concern is carrying me to wherever I want to go. Today we are going to “west ridge” because the view from up there is incomparable. As we near the top of the ridge, I see before me the Grand Teton and as we reach the top, the full scope of Teton Mountain Range is in my view. Wow. I stop and sit for a while, just taking in the sight before me and feeling the breeze on my face. The air is clean and pure. I wonder what the early trappers must have felt when they arrived in this valley. Peace and serenity, I’m sure.

I return home to the ranch and find my way to my cabin. As I open the double Dutch doors, I see that the ranch housekeepers have been there in my absence – my bed is made up, my bathroom clean, fresh towels and a little note that tells me to let them know if they can do anything else for me. What a treat. I plop my happily tired body onto the king bed and wonder if I can bring myself to get back up in time for lunch. The feather comforter envelopes me, calling me to stay awhile, but I manage to get up, kick my boots off and step outside onto my porch. I love sitting on the porch, listening to the quiet of the day and recalling the feeling I get when I am on horseback. The freshly mowed grass fills my nostrils and I can smell the pine from the trees surrounding my cabin. Today I am happy to be right where I am. I see my fellow guests heading past my cabin on their way to the main lodge for lunch. I slip on my boots again and join them. We pour ourselves some iced tea and lemonade and sit down at a table on the deck overlooking the river. We are greeted by our waitress. She has a warm smile and friendly eyes and asks us how our day has been. She is genuinely interested in how our visit has been so far on the ranch and shares just as much enthusiasm about our experience as we do. She makes us feel happy to be here.

We sit in the rocking chairs at the entrance to the main lodge, rocking back and forth, enjoying a drink and recounting the day. Just days ago we were all strangers. Now we are people sharing this experience together and feeling connected somehow. We will definitely keep in touch after we leave the ranch. There is the faint sound of someone playing the piano downstairs and kids playing ping pong. The hummingbirds are at the feeder and I see the red throated one that I’ve seen all week. Someone rushes up to the lodge and tells us that the mother Moose and her baby are at the salt lick again. We jump out of our chairs, grab our cameras and head down to the yard. Sure enough, she is there and graciously let’s us photograph her for several minutes until she decides that she has had enough. As we walk back to dinner, a fox runs in front of us and we all feel lucky to bear witness to such a beautiful evening. I don’t want this vacation to end.

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