Destinations, USA

Big Sky Country from the Saddle

0 Comments 20 September 2013

Big Sky Country from the Saddle

Since I’ve had this dream of visiting Montana for so many years – I’ve had a lot of time to envision what my time there would be like. Long days, relaxed nights. Big mountains, tranquil creeks. Friendly locals, wild wranglers.

One of my flaws when it comes to travel is that I think too much into a trip and start to come up with scenarios in a destination that are like something out of a movie. I say it’s a flaw, because I’ve often been let down by places that would have been incredible – solely because I expected too much.

Due to how long I’d been thinking about Montana, I was prepared to have that happen again.

But it didn’t.

And one day in particular went above and beyond any expectations I had for my time in the “Big Sky Country”.

Montana

Erin and I on our horses Happy and Price during a back country ride.

A Full Day Back-Country Ride

The biggest activity or highlight to any trip to a dude ranch – no matter where it is – is obviously going to be the horses. Lone Mountain Ranch makes every effort to ensure that that depending on your experience with horses, you’re paired with one that’s best suited for you and that you become familiar and comfortable with your horse before the main event.

This started long before I even arrived at the ranch. They sent me and my friend a questionnaire to fill out asking whether we had ever ridden horses among other things. Based on that they pair people with the right horse for them. Since I have limited experience with horses, they put me with one that was extremely well-trained and gently on the newbies: Price.

Price is gorgeous.

Pretty much every wrangler said she was their favorite, but I think they say that about all the horses. She was definitely mine though. She followed my commands no matter how lacking in confidence they were and took care of me through a week of riding. Visitors to the ranch can pretty much take their horse out on a ride throughout the day as long as a wrangler is their to guide them. So prior to the big horsey event: a full-day back country ride, I had a few rides to get used to Price and vice versa. It was pretty special that I – as well as everyone else on my trip – got to have the same horse all week, to which I credit the wonderful wranglers at LMR.

Then came the big day.

Montana

Erin and Happy pause to take in the scenery. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

For our back-country ride, Alexia – our wrangler for the day – took myself, my friend Erin and a couple from England to Sage Creek. I was a bit worried about riding that day as it was raining in the morning, but it cleared up by the start of our ride, about 10 a.m., and Alexia said this was the ideal weather to start a back-country ride, because if it was sunny the whole day – the ride would be very hot and a bit exhausting.

Our ride started in a heavily wooded area and just as we hit that “Tall, Wide and Handsome” scenery that Montana is known for, the sun crept out revealing one of the most stunning views I’ve ever had on my travels. A skinny, trickling creek divides wide open yellow land. Purple mountains ahead layer each other. The clean air is slightly perfumed by wild sage plants scattered all around.

The complete silence of this peaceful terrain allowed our group to get to know each other. We all shared first in line behind Alexia so we could pick at her brain a bit about riding and of course Montana. About three hours into the ride we stopped for a packed lunch, turkey and bacon sandwiches on the biggest slices of bread I’ve ever seen, and a quick cowboy nap.

Montana

Bobbi taking a quick nap after lunch. Photo by Erin Jensen

After lunch we turned around to head back to where we started and though we followed the exact same route – it looked completely different. While we didn’t get to see any unusual wildlife on the ride, I did trot and gallop on my horses for the first time. Motioning with the horse as you speed in the open air, hair blowing behind, might be one of the most thrilling feelings I’ve ever had.

I get the whole horse thing now.

They’re such beautiful creatures and so powerful. Though I only had Price for a week, she left a huge impression on me. I am not a fan of hiking, so I usually just end up driving through different areas when I’m touring, say, a national park. I like it, but I always feel like I’m missing out on something by not getting out of the car and venturing into unpaved roads. For this reason – plus my absolute love of animals – I’ve come to the conclusion that horse back riding is easily my favorite way to explore. In fact, I started envisioning Ric and I out on rides on our own – especially when we passed a group of cowboys and cowgirls on horses with a few mules traveling behind with their bags and Alexia told me they were heading out somewhere to camp for the night. It just all seems to perfect to even be true.

Montana

Alexia leads behind a group of cowboys and cowgirls heading to camp for the night. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This back-country ride allowed us to see Yellowstone in a way totally different than all those suckers who follow the paved roads in the park – which is probably why the Yellowstone day trip I wrote about in my last Montana posts, was at the bottom of my list of best activities during my stay. Lone Mountain Ranch allowed me to see the park and Montana in a way that’s not possible to all visitors to the state.

This back-country ride allowed me to see the Montana of my dreams and then some.

Disclosure: I won my week at Lone Mountain Ranch through Passports with Purpose.

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- who has written 310 posts on Heels and Wheels.

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