When the President of the United States goes camping, he lacks for nothing.
On an overnight expedition into the wilds of the Rockefeller family’s massive JY Ranch inside Grand Teton National Park, the White House saw to it that every presidential need was met.
Secret Service sharpshooters patrolled the woods around the campsite. Aides were at hand to provide instant global communications. Cooks met the President’s caloric needs at dinner and breakfast. And two guitar-strumming cowpokes provided entertainment around the campfire.
President Clinton emerged from his outdoor experience Monday morning proclaiming his night under the starry Wyoming skies to have been “a tad nippy” but otherwise “just wonderful.”
“We sang some old songs together,” Clinton said. “It was great.”
This is a President whose love of the outdoors is so deep that last week he bragged to a Yellowstone National Park ranger that he was “the only President to grow up inside a national park,” which is only a slight exaggeration, because his hometown of Hot Springs, Ark., is surrounded by federal parkland.
He also said wistfully during his visit to Yellowstone last Friday that he wished he had been around 200 years ago to help open up the West.
“I was channel-surfing the other night [while staying at West Virginia Democratic Sen. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV’s 7,000-square-foot home here] and stumbled across a movie about the Lewis and Clark expedition,” Clinton said as he gazed out over the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. I’ve always been fascinated by it. That was some trip. I wish I’d been on it.”
Clinton, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, daughter Chelsea and her school friend, Rebecca Kolsky, headed out into the wilds Sunday night.
The President and the two girls packed in on horses; Mrs. Clinton was driven to within a mile of the campsite and walked the rest of the way.
Longtime Clinton aide and friend Bruce Lindsey, as well as Mrs. Clinton’s personal aide-de-camp, Kelly Craighead, accompanied the First Family.
The President and his wife shared one tent, the girls another. The accommodations were described by an aide as 50-year-old canvas tents provided by the Rockefellers. Lindsey and Craighead spent the night in tepees.
Even in the wild, the Clintons could not restrain their workaholic tendencies. Mrs. Clinton brought some chapters of her forthcoming book about child-rearing, “It Takes a Village,” and she and the President worked together pencil-editing it in the fading light of day.
Aides then built a campfire and prepared a chuck-wagon dinner of steak, vegetables and baked potatoes.
Dinner was followed by an intimate hootenanny featuring songs by James Taylor, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Carly Simon.
An aide reported that among the titles the First Family joined in on were “Sweet Baby James,” “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Cowboy’s Lament.”
At 11:30, everyone turned in, the President and Mrs. Clinton in sleeping bags atop foam pads.
Breakfast was shortly after 6 a.m.; it was another filling repast of biscuits and eggs. The President, Lindsey and the two girls returned to the Rockefeller stables at 8:30 Monday morning.
Clinton went on a short hike, then returned to a more accustomed outdoor setting--the golf course.