Montana Master Grillers: Chuck Wagon
(Greenough, MT) — We leave the butchering demo with the taste of delicious, raw meat in our mouths, to find the late Sunday morning has bloomed into another warm, sunny day of wide open Montana blue skies and gentle breezes filtering down from the mountain. Later, we are due to go on a 3 hour ATV adventure, but first is the Chuck Wagon lunch on the shores of the Blackfoot River. As it happens, a shuttle is waiting just outside the Bull Barn to whisk us a couple miles down the road to the lunch site...
Seems we jump the gun. Although the shuttle driver has been waiting for passengers, we are the only people to hop on. And when we arrive, we are the first guests to disembark at the picnic site. Our hosts are still setting up tables, putting wine on ice, and prepping the food. No matter; we are in no hurry to eat and the scenery is so gorgeous, I’m happy to wander around to take some photos. (If you can’t tell from the video below, I’ve fallen in love with the macro function on my Canon PowerShot.)
The river serenely flows by the shaded clearing where picnic tables have been strategically placed. I stroll from tree to tree, snapping shots of various, odd bark or moss patterns, while Juliet patiently waits, content to soak in the Great Outdoors. I’m struck by how few insects there are. No mosquitoes, no spiders, no ants, no creepy crawlers...at least none that I can see.
To one side is a kind of rock outcropping from which I assume I’ll be able to get a better view upriver. I clamber up, feeling like a kid again, then stop suddenly. Seems someone else had the same idea. Sitting on the highest rock, also soaking in the sun, is some kind of critter. It looks, from a distance of about 30 yards, like a beaver or muskrat...and it’s big. Or at least big enough where I wouldn’t want to piss it off. Slowly, I back down the rocky slope though not before taking a few glamour shots. (Later, a resident tells me it wasn’t a beaver or muskrat, just something similar to a rodent in those parts.)
About this time, more guests begin to arrive. Shuttle trucks disgorge passengers, then head off to pick up another group. River rafters pull up to the sandy beach, the instructors helping their students ashore for lunch. The smell of grilled meat begins to waft from behind the actual chuck wagon parked on the shoreline (for looks only, of course). Wines are poured; beers arrive, iced. We grab a couple drinks and wait for the feast to begin.
Soon, the go-ahead is given. I stack my plate high with glazed and grilled chicken wings; jalapeno cornbread; sliced veggie salad topped with balsamic dressing; corn pudding; cold orzo salad; grilled flank steak; and cornbread on the side. It is a true picnic lunch that perfectly hits the spot. I had big plans to go back for seconds, but I’m happy enough to grab another can of Big Sky Brewing Co IPA instead.
Dessert is offered later, and I wolf down a creme brulee pudding. Though it’s a nice, sweet ending to the meal, I’m more blissed out with the beer and the sunshine and the sound of the rambling river. A few kayakers pass by, lazily drifting along, enjoying the ride. I, too, am happy to sit and partake in this soothing respite from a desk job, a computer, and fluorescent lighting.