Summer vacation, Dude Ranch!

Summer vacation, Dude Ranch!

Wyoming is addictive. Where we were, a 360-degree view of infinite space, breathtaking and nearly indescribable, filled my heart with joy. When driving from Denver (6 hours!),the dramatic rock formations come one after another. As we got closer to our destination, the land became more and more spectacular. Unfortunately, this was not visible at the time.

HF Bar Ranch Wyoming

For one thing, it was nighttime. Visibility was near zero due to a storm of fierce wind, heavy rain, and jagged lightning followed by loud thunder. I was staying at a “Dude Ranch” with some of my family. Two of my children, one daughter-in-law and two grandchildren made up our pod. It was lovely to have three generations of our family participating at varying levels in the activities. The guests were well housed in individual cabins, rustic but charming and comfortable. The food was served in a communal fashion on a dining porch. Lovely young people with summer jobs there serve three hardy meals a day. The porch was open to the air and surrounded by bird feeders and hanging baskets of geraniums. They were there for what seemed like hundreds of hummingbirds that buzzed as they fed all day long and into the evening.

A creek runs through the area where the ranch buildings are scattered about. There is a “helter-skelter” randomness about the placement of the cabins. Some are small, and some are roomy, but they all had porches where the inhabitants could hang out and enjoy the evenings listening to the babbling creek. That creek was noisy! Those whose cabins were almost on top of the creek had to shout at each other when sitting outside to be heard above the din. The place was neat but not manicured. It has plenty of rough grasses and underbrush to keep it from looking too civilized.
Riding is a big part of the ranch. There are several hundred horses. Each day the wranglers get enough ready for guests. I knew that I was committed to riding at least some of the time. When one is over 80, it is a big commitment to get on a horse (whom you do NOT know) in a strange place. We rode out into country that was not familiar to me over terrain I did not understand. But in a strange way, it looked as if I had always known it. It felt like being in a movie, a Western movie. And many movies I have watched in the past were probably filmed in Wyoming. What a magnificent state. So few people live there it is remarkably empty.

HF Bar Ranch Wyoming

Wearing blue jeans for the first time in years, I mounted a Palomino horse named Willow. He looked so much like my childhood pony Peanut Butter it made me feel comfortable. He was a good steady horse who took care of me. He did not seem nervous about water crossings but went willingly forward at a steady pace. He was surefooted, climbing up and down the narrow paths on the sides of hills with sheer drops on one side. It is so beautiful riding in this country. It takes one’s mind off of worry about the unfamiliar footing. We had pretty uneventful rides with no drama. This, in spite of my granddaughter telling harrowing stories. We learned about people who fell off, or horses who ran away with their riders. It was a little nerve-wracking for me to be out there on a horse. But I loved it.

HF Bar Ranch Wyoming

Spending time with my family in a relaxed place where none of us were expected to cook or do the cleaning up was marvelous. We had time to chat and enjoy each other with no pressure to do anything. The food was good and plentiful, and the atmosphere was lazy and enjoyable. One night there was a barn dance. The band was called the “Road Kill Band.” They played a tune for a “line dance,” which most guests seemed familiar with. The steps looked intricate but lots of fun. The party barn was full of party-goers. All of a sudden, a woman screamed, and people ducked their heads and moved away from an open window. I was in a position to see that a bat was flying over their heads, and it attached itself to a ceiling beam in a corner and folded itself up for sleep. The band kept playing, and the dancers kept dancing. Only a few city dwellers stayed clear of that corner.

HF Bar Ranch Wyoming

There was a bar called the Broken Spear which opened every day. Another was only open a couple of days a week; every evening, there was plenty of wine or whiskey for those who wished to drink it. There were ice cream cones for the children and a marvelous play area. They could go on pony rides. For older kids and adults, there was plenty to do. Dart games, cards, and a library with books as well as DVDs for watching on a rainy day; they had thought of everything.

During our stay, the weather changed from the upper 80s and sunny to 55 degrees, with rain all day the last two days. It did not matter. I had clothes for all weather. Someone told us years before to always travel with a “full kit.” You never know what the weather may do. The heavy poncho I bought on sale at Banana Republic was very welcome on the day we went to Sheridan shopping in the rain. When I first arrived at the ranch with a temperature of 88 degrees, I felt chagrined. Unpacking such a warm poncho seemed crazy, as I put it in a bottom drawer. I thought I would never wear it. But, my goodness! I was grateful to have it on that cold, rainy day.

Airport Denver

Our travel days were awful. Truly awful. There is no point in recounting them here. Anyone who has traveled lately knows that it is very tricky getting where you wish to go on time. Planes were canceled, planes were delayed, missed flights took bags to a different city. However, we are all home safe. So it was a success. Thanks to my youngest son, Murdoch, for suggesting I go out there with them. It was an experience to cherish and remember.
I hope everyone has a wonderful summer vacation in some exotic spot.

Copyright©. 2023 Bonnie B. Matheson

7 thoughts on “Summer vacation, Dude Ranch!

  1. Agree about airport issues, those summer storm cancellations just seem to get worse. We’re experiencing the effects of climate change in real time.

    1. Haha!!! Climate change is natural and not abnormal. The airports are a mess because of people. Too many people and way too much security and red tape, so that it is almost impossible to enjoy it. All the stupid TSA stuff is useless and intrusive. We should NOT put up with it. Summer storms are there all the time, perhaps airlines should schedule flights for hours that are less likely to be interrupted by weather. If you check it out, you will find that there was a period of very calm weather for about 75 years during the 20th century, now we are back to normal more dramatic weather which is normal over all of the earth for most of the time. I hope you are not buying into that fear of cow farts which seems to have taken hold of some “greenies”.

  2. Dear Bonnie,

    Your wonderful post brought back sweet memories of my trips to Jackson Hole. For years, I went every August, on fundraising trips for UVA. I also rode while there. One horse, Whiskey, was fantastic and quiet and safe. However, on another ride, I was at a ranch owned by some UVA donors and I rode their horse with a group of riders across a big, open space with small creeks and sage bushes. The group started trotting and then cantering and jumping the tumbleweeds and creekbeds (in western saddles!!). I was nervous and tried to collect my horse a bit when approaching a sagebrush to jump…and he did not like that AT ALL. He started bucking like a rodeo horse and I was off and on the ground…in front of all my friends. Ugh. The only thing injured was my pride, but I can totally relate to the difference in the terrain and the western tack and even the horses. My horse had a western curb bit, so he did not like or understand being “collected” like a field hunter prior to a jump. What an experience! I also loved fly fishing there. Did you fish while there?
    I am sooo proud of you for getting back in the saddle, particularly in Wyoming! In your photo with Murdoch, you look like an excited and happy little girl with your cute pigtails!
    Can’t tell you how very much I enjoy reading each and every one of your posts!
    Sending love,

  3. Sounds like you had a great time. Great idea to write up your adventure while you remember it so vividly. I might suggest to my son and family to do something similar.
    Thanks, Bunny

  4. Bonnie,
    My husband, Keahi, and I spent a week at Nine Quarter Circle ranch last summer for our 30 wedding anniversary in Montana. It was similar to your experience and we loved every second of it! Dude Ranches aren’t for socialites and nothing beats all that fresh air and livestock and mountain meadow flowers. It sleeted on us while out riding one day and we had to take refuge with our horses under some trees…nothing beats that rawness. Not one thing. I’m glad you got to enjoy it!

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