Friday, August 20, 2010

My Montana Vacation

So on August 1 through the 8th, my Mum and I spent a week at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in lovely Martinsdale, Montana! Mum always wanted to do this vacation, it was on her "Bucket List", so I was happy to tag along with her and what an experience. It was so much fun!
We flew into Bozeman on Sunday at around 12pm but our ride to the ranch (2 hours away) wasn't scheduled to pick us up til 2pm. So we took a cab into the center of Bozeman with another girl and it cost $45!!!! Holy Crap! I guess in a small village like Bozeman where everyone has their own Ford F150 that cabs can charge whatever they hell they want to! So we split it 3 ways, got out and had lunch. Then the girl what we shared the cab with came into the restaurant and said that she had her mom with her, and their car, and that they were going back by the airport and would we like a ride? Well, how nice! So we put our bigger cases in her truck and walked around Bozeman while Jamie and her mom had lunch. Then while getting a 2 day fishing license this guy behind me strikes up a conversation; where we're we going? what are we fishing for ?and oh - if you're using spinners then this lure is excellent etc. And then I find out the guy doesn't even work there, just a nice guy. I have to be honest, I'm from the North East city of Boston. No one is this nice here!! Well, maybe me, but that's if you catch me on a good day!
The view from our cabin
Anyway, once we got there what a view and it is in the middle of nowhere! I was told people need to drive 40 minutes out to the nearest convenience store to get milk. But gorgeous, oh my. Sunday was a meet and greet with the other vacationers staying at the ranch. There was 12 total and each party got their own cabin.
Saddled Up

Monday morning was an "orientation" with your horse. You rode the same horse all week. Up until this time I had never sat in a Western saddle (if you don't know the difference between Western and English go here )

But over all it was pretty similar. I think my biggest obstacle was new horse, can I control him? And after a couple of runs, he was awesome!!

Nate Dogg

My horse was a black combo of Tennessee Walker and Quarter Horse. Simply put - he was a great horse for me. His name is Nate, but I called him Nate Dogg after that West Coast Hip Hop artist. And just like the real Nate Dogg, Nate was cool, chill and easy going. But instead of smoking grass, he just kept eating it. :) We spent Monday on 2 trail rides. The morning one we had an encounter with 2 coyotes and they were NO WHERE as big as New England coyotes, so I didn't feel threatened at all. Then Monday afternoon, Tanya (our guide) Mum and I went on a trail ride and I got to do a couple of nice controlled canters on Nate. Horseback riding is all about being in CONTROL.

Bison at the Lazy Daisy Ranch

Monday night was a tour of the Lazy Daisy Ranch about a half hour away from Bonanza Creek. So all vacationers packed up in the back of this old pickup truck and cruised around this ranch. They had bison, horses, cows, llamas, sheep, chicken, ducks, peacocks and God knows what else. It was taking a little critter cruise. I wish I had brought a bottle of wine, that would have made it complete :)

Pronghorn on the Horizon

See those tiny dots on top of the hill? That's pronghorn, North America's only antelope! I was so excited to see these guys ( I'm I wildlife geek, what can I say?) and had only seen them on TV up until this point. The pronghorn's defense is that they stay in large numbers and as far away from you as possible. As you can see here, they were succeeding.

View from the Main Lodge

Tuesday morning we did a trail ride into the woods to a campsite and had breakfast in the woods. Nothing like sitting among the wilds of the woods eating bacon! Then we did a trail in the woods along the actual Bonanza creek and did see a red tailed hawk pretty close up. Then the party divided in 2, those who wanted to gallop up the hill, those who didn't and took the low road home. Yes, I went with the gallopers!! It wasn't the speed that really got to me, but Nate's take off and the amount of power this animal was using to lunge himself up a hill was mind blowing. I just held on!

Cattle Penning

Tuesday we did some cattle penning. This was a TON of fun! We had about 14 or so cattle in the corral and the object of the game was to break 3 head off the herd and move them to the opposite side of the corral. Mum, myself and another vacationer, Joe, were the only ones who succeeded!

Me being silly!

Action shot!

Then all of a sudden the weather took a turn for the worse. The thunder started to roll in and then the rain started. Our guide told everyone that we're going to trot home. Well then it started to hail, and as big as marbles! So all the horses were galloping back. Thank dog I had already galloped earlier that day. I felt a little more comfortable that some of the others! A those marbles hurt!

Pushin' Bulls

Wednesday morning was another lovely trail ride. The weather was cloudy and in the 40's and it felt more like October than August. I did see 2 whitetail on this trail ride as well. We bumped into 2 cowboys that were on dirt bikes herding some bulls. They needed 2 bulls pushed into another pasture and since it was on our way, our guide got them going and we pushed them for quite some time. I learned all about breeding black Angus that morning. These boys had some serious "jewels" on them LOL

Skulls and sheds

Wednesday night was a wagon ride to the Hunting Camp. I got to steer the horses on the wagon too and it's not as easy as you might think. Saw a couple of mule deer on the ride as well. The hunting camp was very cool and the guys who organized it were awesome. They had beer, wine and a roast turkey dinner waiting for us! Then after dinner and dessert (peach cobbler and homemade ice cream) they sat around the camp fire and played guitars and sang some country tunes. I'm not a fan of country music but after a couple of beers, I was singing too.

Singing Cowboys

Thursday was an all day trail ride into the Crazies. I was told that the highest point was 8,100 feet above sea level. It was beautiful. Some controlled cantering but then there were some gallops too. And we saw a black bear on our way up! I don't know if I was tired from the week, but I was tired of galloping so at one point I tried to keep Nate from galloping and he was NOT listening to me! In fact, I think because I kept his head in, he ended up tripping, then stumbling and I thought "Oh sh*t, we're going down!" But he collected himself and kept on running until we got to our lunch spot. My hands were shaking so bad when I got off! Needless to say, we didn't gallop after that!
Lunch Spot

After being at the top we rode down to the hunting camp, the same one where we had dinner the night before. Here we gave the horses and ourselves a much needed break!

Horse Butts
(that's Nate on the far left)

The trail ride was 22 miles long and my knees were kind of killing me! I took a hot bath and drank some Mike's Hard Lemonade when I got back. What a workout!

Liz and her herd of cattle

Friday morning was herding 150+ head of cattle into another pasture. We each had to gather about a dozen or so head and then meet up at the pond with our herds. The small groups were scattered all over the property. This is a lot harder than you might think. Chasing cows through bushes and trotting over some rocky terrain. I have so much respect for cowboys now! When I got back home, I guy that I work out with, who is also vegan, asked me if I ever thought guilty about eating beef after being with these cows and um, no not at all. In fact, we ate so much beef that week and it was sooooo goooooood every time!

Friday afternoon was a small trail ride and then it was time to say goodbye to our horses.

Me and Nate Dogg

After untacking and brushing them down, we led them into the pasture (40 square miles) and let them go off and be with the other horses. Bonanza has about 60 horses and after a week of riding they're then given a week off and another bunch will be gathered to work. As you can see from the picture below, I think they knew it was Friday too.


So thanks to Bonanza Creek, my Mum and my horse, Nate for such a wonderful week. I can guarantee that I will be doing this again!
For more pictures visit my Flickr site

For more info about Bonanza Creek Country go here

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