Power E*TRADE: Low Trade Pricing. Get 100 Free Trades--Apply Now!
Monday, November 26, 2007


Reporter's Notebook; Night Under the Stars for the Clintons

Published: August 29, 1995

With rubber mats for padding and sleeping bags for beds, Eagle and Evergreen slept under the stars in the land of evergreens and eagles on Sunday night, and if Secret Service radios crackled with Bill and Hillary Clinton's code names, only the mountains had ears.

"It was a tad nippy," the President said this morning of his family's overnight stay in 50-year-old tents on the grounds of Laurance Rockefeller's JY Ranch in the wilds of the Grand Teton National Park here. "We sang some old songs together. It was just wonderful."

Mrs. Clinton was a bit franker about the temperature. "It was really cold," she said today.

Mr. Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, (whose code name, appropriately enough, is Energy) rode horseback eight or nine miles from the Rockefeller stables to the campsite. Mrs. Clinton, who is not a horsewoman, hiked in on a more direct, hourlong route on Sunday afternoon. Aides said they made a campfire, downed a chuckwagon dinner of steak and potatoes and were entertained by two singing, strumming cowboys with the songs of James Taylor, Willie Nelson and John Prine, among others.

Bedtime was 11:30 or so, and Mr. Clinton was up before 6 today for a breakfast of biscuits, eggs and coffee, before setting off on a hike with his family into the Cascade Canyon, a spectacular trail on the shoulder of the Grand Teton itself.

Reporters were kept well outside the ranch's trim log fences, and details released by the traveling White House were extremely sparse, so most of what may be the First Family's most private outing on a trip full of them must be left to the imagination. But aides report the Rockfeller ranch itself is loaded with rustic charm and irreplaceable artifacts -- small log cabins with lineoleum floors containing collections of Indian pottery and Frederic Remington artworks.

"The best part was the horseback ride," Mr. Clinton said on his return to the stables this morning. "It was the best horseback ride I've ever had." Mixed Reaction

Other Presidential activities have been more public, like a visit to the mud-soaked local rodeo last Wednesday and a breakfast stop on Saturday at Nora's restaurant. That's not the Washington hot-spot of the same name, whose organic cuisine and cozy atmosphere make it a Clinton Administration favorite, but a little local joint in the nearby hamlet of Wilson, Wyo., where the breakfast grease is said -- admiringly -- to pulsate.

Mr. Clinton's companion there was the state's former Democratic Governor, Mike Sullivan, who, White House aides acknowledge, lost his bid for re-election last fall in this Republican state in part because of anger over Mr. Clinton's support for gun control. The President had a plate of huevos rancheros and a cup of decaf coffee, and posed with one young Democrat, Derrick Krater, who turned 6 that day.

Derrick's mother, Gayle, could not contain herself, jumping into the air and squealing, "It's great to be an American and a Democrat and live in Wyoming!"

A passing truck driver was less cheery. "All right, let's get a Republican!" he shouted as the President went in to eat. Inspired Hype

When Mr. Clinton gets out into America, away from Washington and gets excited by the breadth of the country he leads, he sometimes gets carried away. At a farm conference in Iowa this spring, for example, he allowed that he probably knew more about agriculture upon taking office than any other President -- an assertion that ignored agrarian politicians from George Washington to Harry S. Truman.

It happened again the other day as the President toured the majestic Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in the nation's flagship national park.

"I'm probably the only President who grew up in a national park," Mr. Clinton enthused.

No, the President wasn't raised by wolves or bison. But he did grow up within a 5- or 10-minute walk of Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, which he described in his weekly radio address on Saturday as one of the smaller ones.

Nevertheless, as he tramped around the park, the President was clearly awestruck. "There ought to be more organized efforts for young people who don't get away from home to come to places like this," he said. "That's something I need to look into: a way to bring more of them here." No Outdoorsman

Inside NYTimes.com

Fashion & Style »

Opinion »

Travel »

Opinion »

Books »

Music »

Weddings & Celebrations
36 Hours in Oaxaca, Mexico
Op-Ed: Reconsidering Human Hibernation
In a Western Downturn, Performers Look to China