Splash! A cascade of water shoots up, and peals of laughter resound. Scott, our Triangle C wrangler is leading us through deep pools in the Wind River. This is no ordinary "dude string" ride. We're a small group being led by a creative wrangler who loves his job. It's an exciting ride, and wet boots are just a part of it.
Calendar-like photography surrounds Triangle C Ranch (800/661-4928; www.tri anglec.com). Within view are the Pinnacle Mountains and Absaroka Range; the pristine Wind River flows through the ranch. The comfortable log lodge is welcoming in both its décor and majestic mountain views.
The ranch is located off Highway 26 at the base of Togwotee Pass, 20 miles west of Dubois, Wyoming. Nearby is the North Gate of Grand Teton National Park and the South Gate to Yellowstone National Park. For riders wishing to view wildlife and wilderness, this is an ideal location.
Triangle C Ranch is owned and operated by Cameron Garnick and his wife, Vicki. Located on the site of the historical Tie Hack Camp, the ranch dates back to 1906. It was here that lumberjacks (hacks) cut logs, then floated them downriver to Dubois. A small graveyard and some cabins remain as a reminder of this era.
Talk about experience! For more than 30 years, the Garnick family has been in the guest-ranching business. Triangle C guests are given a working-ranch experience with extra attention given to details.
Bill Garnick, Cameron's father, now 95, took the first guest-ranch course that was offered in 1931 by the University of Wyoming. The present-day family is the fourth generation of guest-ranch operators.
Cameron, Vicki, and five of their eight children live on the ranch. They manage and operate the ranch, and hire help as needed. Their riding program was designed by them and tailored with guests in mind.
Horses are the Heart
Horses are the heart of a working ranch. Triangle C runs about 150 horses and mules. Wranglers have a broad selection of breeds and types to choose from when matching guests to their equine partners. The Garnicks raise their horses and train them on the ranch. They know each animal's strengths and temperament.
When pondering guest ranches, consider the horse-to-guest ratio. Many ranches have a 1:1 ratio, which runs the risk of exhausting horses long before the season ends. However, Triangle C always has a 2:1 ratio, sometimes running as high as 3:1.
By having more than one trained horse to choose from, you have more of a say in which horse you'd like to ride. Also, there's the safety factor. Exhausted, overworked horses may not be safe to ride on steep mountain trails. Unsound or green-broke horses may be pressed into service when stressed wranglers are faced with an overload of guests and a lack of ready mounts.
According to Cameron, proud father of eight children, "family is our forte." This ranch caters to families. And because not all family members share common interests, it has a broad program of diverse activities. There's something for everyone.
During the summer, Triangle C operates a fulltime guest-ranch program. The focus is on horses and family fun.
For horse lovers, there's a plethora of activities. New riders, as well as those wishing to improve their horsemanship skills, may sign up for equitation classes. There are morning rides, afternoon rides, all-day rides, easy rides, challenging rides, Sunrise Rides, Sunset Rides, and more.
Sounds and smells are different at the end of a day than they are at the beginning. By doing a Sunrise Ride and a Sunset Ride, you can experience an entire spectrum of nature, instead of a narrow slice.
For those folks who'd prefer to be passengers on their equine adventure, there are carriage and wagon excursions. The first day we arrived, we enjoyed a hay-wagon ride, during which our driver gave an informational tour and explained a bit of ranch history.
A ranch rodeo is held every week. Wranglers exhibit their skills, while guests are invited to ride the bucking machine and participate in horse games. For many guests, this is the highlight of the week.
Families can participate in boot branding, tomahawk throwing, archery, square dancing, single action shooting, horseshoe tossing, and roasting perfect marshmallows for s'mores. Guests can also fish and take a whitewater rafting trip down the Yellowstone River.
In the words of one guest, "This is the place where parents, particularly fathers, can get to know their kids." Families are encouraged to play.
One mom expressed tremendous relief at having no responsibilities. Schedules, food, transportation, cleaning - everything is provided. She and her family were happily going from one activity to another.
Included in Triangle C's weekly program is a night out in Jackson Hole for a theatrical performance at the Jackson Hole Theater. Plays are produced and directed by Vicky Garnick. The Garnick children and ranch employees are stars. These are polished performances done by talented people.
Performing is in this family's blood and background. Son Creed and two wranglers attend the Julliard School of Acting in New York. In the past, the four daughters have sung and danced as the Saddle Rock Sisters. Daughter Vanessa has worked on the television channel Animal Planet.
And Cameron? He still receives residual checks from an acting role in Clint Eastwood's movie Every Which Way But Loose.
Wilderness Pack Trips
For an authentic Western adventure, minus the discomfort of roughing it, a trip into the backcountry with seasoned wranglers is just the ticket. Depending on your time and/or pocketbook, you may choose a three-day, five-day, or six-day pack trip into the unspoiled wilderness where John Colter hiked 200 years ago. Colter was an early explorer recruited by Lewis and Clark.
There are many advantages to hiring experienced outfitters to guide you to places found only in dreams. These professionals have the equipment and knowledge to give you a comfortable, safe wilderness experience.
Pine-scented air gently ruffles native grasses while you gaze at a Charlie Russell calendar sunset. Meanwhile, hardworking outfitters set up tents, build a fire, set up a camp kitchen, and are responsible for the mouth-watering fragrance of pork chops sizzling on the grill.
Kick back, and sip a cold one while the horses are being fed and watered. Bone tired from having ridden all day? Feeling sticky and covered in trail dust? Lucky you! A portable hot shower awaits your use.
Doing a pack trip is undoubtedly one of the best ways to experience wilderness, and it's also an opportunity to bond with your equine partner. Riding horseback deep into wilderness, going over and through tough terrain, will give you a profound sense of appreciation for your surefooted, hardworking horse.
A Triangle C pack-trip package provides a wrangler/guide, base-camp comforts, a cook, all meals, and pack stock. Most important, it provides the experience and know-how required for a safe and pleasurable trip.
Your biggest responsibility is to figure out 25 pounds of essentials and pack them into a waterproof duffle bag. There are some treasured memories money can buy; this is one of them.
The Big Three
We totally enjoyed our Triangle C visit! This ranch has the big three - great people, fantastic scenery, and superb, well-cared for horses. Not to mention the mouth-watering meals!
The Garnicks have a treasure in the form of a woman named Sallie. Sallie is the Kitchen Queen, and with good reason. After eating one of her incredible dinners, followed by her no-flour chocolate dessert, we felt like we were getting pretty darn close to heaven!
During our stay, we went on a number of rides, but some were especially memorable. The first ride that comes to mind was the river "no-tail-in-your nose" ride!
It was a hot, dusty day but we didn't have a hot, dusty ride. Scott, our wrangler, led us cross-country, uphill, downhill, and in and out of deep pools on the Wind River. This was the first time Scout and Buddy went swimming. It was a "kick in the pants and water in the boots" experience! An awesome way to spend a hot summer afternoon.
Another favorite was the breakfast ride. The meandering ride to breakfast was picturesque, with crisp morning air and a mama moose munching greenery by a silent pond.
The breakfast turned out to be more than bacon, biscuits, and eggs. As we rode into the breakfast area, we could smell the tantalizing aromas of bacon frying and cowboy coffee perking away on a large, portable cook stove. We were greeted with friendly smiles from wranglers who were flipping, stirring, and serving.
An unexpected joy, however, was the melodious voice of Ray Callaway, a renowned cowboy balladeer. Callaway looked as though he'd just ridden out of a Louis L'Amour novel.
Wearing a colorful neck scarf and vest, and cradling his guitar, Callaway is a throwback to the Old West. Not a country-western singer, he's a crooner of old-time cowboy songs. These generally consist of songs about ornery cows, beloved horses, cantankerous horses, lost loves, and lost lives. Not necessarily in that order.
After breakfast, we were treated to Triangle C's own reality entertainment. Two wranglers, one female and one male, jump in the freezing creek!
All guests were invited to jump in. One 10-year-old boy took the bait. Afterward, the bold swimmers were so covered in goose-bumps, they looked like walking orange peels.
The Sunset Ride, generally held on Friday night, is romantic and laid-back. As nature settles down for the night, riders head for the hills, where they're greeted by a vibrant red sky embracing the huddled mountains.
Riders are welcomed by mouth-watering whiffs of grilled steaks, cowboy music, and the flickering warmth of a campfire. Add new friends, old friends, and loved ones, and it's another Friday night at the Triangle C.
During our final night at Triangle C, Kent showed Cameron and guests a slide show of our Bob Marshall pack trip. From a veteran packer's standpoint, Cameron was interested in the streamlined efficiency we'd developed due to having one pack horse. Amazed guests tend to ask, "Don't you get lost?" The answer to that question is "only temporarily."
The next morning, before leaving, Buddy wanted to entertain the guests. He smiled and waved a flag to demonstrate his patriotism. He counted out answers to addition and subtraction problems. Aside from eating, math is his favorite subject!
Buddy nodded his head to answer yes to questions, sidepassed for mounting, and took a bow. To emphasize his good work ethic, he showed folks how he gets a newspaper out of the mailbox and fetches objects that Kent throws away.
However, Buddy's most important "work," is when Kent is on his back. Buddy will use his teeth to pick up dropped items, such as hats, gloves, and camera cases. Then, by cranking his neck around, he returns them to Kent.
It's a mutual friendship. Kent takes good care of Buddy; Buddy tries to return the favor and help out whenever he can.
End of the Trail
While at the Triangle C Ranch in late July, Cameron regaled us with stories about the reality show Girl Meets Cowboy; some of which was filmed on location at his ranch; it was scheduled to be aired on WE (Women's Entertainment) TV in early fall of 2007.
The premise: Three city girls are taken out of their urban environment and placed on a ranch with a single, good-looking wrangler. The gals then compete in ranch games to score "points" with the wrangler.
In the fall, we found the show and started watching it. When the episode filmed at Triangle C came on, we enjoyed seeing the big porch swing on the veranda, the Tie Hack Bar, and Scott the wrangler.
Our mouths hung open with disbelief when at the end of the show there was a dedication to the "late Cameron Garnick." It didn't seem possible.
The February/March '08 issue of American Cowboy magazine had a poignant, beautifully written story of Cameron's last day on earth. He had packed into a wilderness hunting camp and was on foot, scouting for game with a friend. Suddenly, he collapsed and died from a massive heart attack. He was only 53.
Today, Cameron's wife and children are running the ranch, and running it well. Cameron's spirit and legacy are in good hands.