When I first told friends I was headed to Wyoming when school got out everyone assumed I was Jackson bound and seemed disappointed to learn that in fact I was headed just north of the Colorado border to a ranch near Laramie. All those folks can keep feeling sorry for me and that way I can keep this under-the-radar-heaven-on-earth to myself. I have never had a more relaxed vacation nor such a back-to-nature beautiful one.
I’m not much for horses and therefore dude ranches aren’t much on my mind, but when my close friends begged me to join them on this trip, I was so overwhelmed with their love of the place that I couldn’t say no. They had visited the A Bar A the summer before and were besotted with its 100,000 acres, its charming staff, limitless trail rides, hikes and tubing, and the way the ranch welcomed the town for a BBQ and fireworks on the Fourth of July. America exalted. Truth is I had convinced myself this would be a wonderful experience for my seven year old daughter and I was happily surprised when I loved it every bit as much as she.
Mornings began with the breakfast bell at 7:30 where we would join our friends at a table assigned for us during our stay. Huevos Rancheros and fresh berries were how I started most days. Then it was off to the Gopher Hole for my daughter where she would while the day away riding the horse assigned to her for the week, making bracelets and paracord key chains, hunting treasures, snacking on s’mores in the teepee, cooling off in the pool, fishing, or racing her homemade cork boat. After a single ride on sweet Bubba across two rivers and up a mountain side, I informed my wrangler that I would not be riding down (which he already knew, of course). That meant fishing mornings and afternoons and with that I found my bliss. It was warm enough to wet wade, which I happily did wearing a borrowed pair of tube socks and my Teva sandals. I loved the open spaces and the quiet run of the river underfoot. Nothing beat the thrill of getting a fish on my line.
I also got some hiking in and one day I made my way up the cross (my iPhone clocked the height as the equivalent of 68 flights of stairs), where I sat in contemplative solitude watching the storm clouds rolling in to meet me and taking time to meditate and just be. I cried spontaneously half a dozen times on the trip, moved by the kindness of the staff, the purity of the cowboy life, and the majesty of nature. An hour long lazy tube ride down the river with two American bald eagles circling overhead and green as far as the eyes could see and that was it, I never wanted to go home. My daughter felt the same, tears streaming down her face on our last evening. But go on and feel sorry for us if you want, we are happy to keep this as our little secret.