August 29, 2009
Weather is not always cooperative on trips, but I was in luck this past Tuesday when I headed through Yellowstone National Park and, turning right just past Lake Yellowstone Hotel, aimed for the park’s east entrance. The skies were clear and crystal blue and sunlight shimmered across the surface of Yellowstone Lake. Crowds of onlookers lined Fishing Bridge, watching a gathering of bison along the side of the road. Others pulled over to observe lakeside geothermal activity or to savor the views from the winding road through Sylvan Pass.
I had kept an eye on area vacancies for days and managed to land the last available cabin that particular night at Shoshone Lodge and Guest Ranch, just three miles east of the park entrance. I found the lodge easily and followed the driveway to the main office, where I was given a key to the Cougar’s Rest cabin, located a short distance up a hill beyond the lodge. A sizeable one-room cabin, it offered two queen beds, a spacious private bath, and a host of modern amenities, including TV, refrigerator, microwave, and wireless Internet access. Hardly roughing it, there was still a rustic feeling to the cabin, thanks to the wood-paneled walls, lodgepole rocking chairs, with cabin-themed tapestry and beige, brown, and hunter green quilts.
A private front porch looked out across the property. I curled up in a twig-design chair and soaked in the sound of a nearby creek. Though there were families with children staying in other cabins, a hush seemed to have settled across the land.
I was determined to get a feel for western living during my short stay, so I wasted no time in getting signed up for a trail ride. Given a horse named Thunder – an amazing coincidence, the same name as my wonderful corgi-shepherd mix back home, I was one of seven ranch guests to follow Jeff, our guide for the evening, up a trail that bordered the creek and then wound its way up into the hills. Over a narrow and occasionally muddy trail, my horse remained sure-footed and obedient to my commands.
A hearty dinner followed, offered up in the dining room of the main lodge. The menu was filled with a wide variety of temptations, and I chose the fresh vegetables with pasta and pesto sauce, which was excellent. Though I had no intention of ordering dessert, a nearby table of locals had a birthday celebration in progress and passed around plates of cake to everyone in the dining room. It was a festive atmosphere and added to the overall experience of feeling like one happy ranch family.
Hospitality, warmth, and welcoming friendship are all outstanding at this lodge. Four generations of family have owned and operated the business, and the consistent, solid management shows in the many return customers the lodge sees.
After some peaceful porch sitting, a good night’s sleep left me ready for more exploring. I took a walk down to the stables to thank Thunder for the previous day’s trail ride—a fist of hay did the trick—and then headed west again for a full day of Yellowstone adventure.