Getting lost and playing hard in Montana has become a tradition for a group of older, high-powered women, who call themselves the Giddy-Up Girls. Migrating to Dunrovin each year for much needed R & R is just the right antidote to their lives as professionals for such prestigious institutions as Harvard and Duke. They reacquaint themselves with their favorite horses, take the mandatory refresher course in Knot Tying 101, practice regaining their saddle seat, and set out to deprive themselves of any sense of normalcy by getting well beyond the cell phone grid.
Their horsemanship skills and confidence have steadily increased over the years, opening up new possibilities. At the end of their 2014 tour, I off-handedly suggested that they try some cattle herding. That was all it took. Cows got firmly planted in their minds and I was sent to the maps to figure out a 2015 cattle-herding trip.
Unwilling to inflict these outspoken, opinionated, and fun-loving women on any but my best friends, I contacted Brandon Carpenter to see if he would be willing to put up with us. Brandon is one of the best horse trainers in the entire country; he and his family have raised cattle on a ranch south of Rygate in central Montana for generations. An exceptional teacher, Brandon has a great sense of humor and could, if anyone could, stand up to this raucous bunch and give back at least as well as he got.
Their ranch, however, is not a guest ranch. It’s a typical Montana ranch where all resources go into the ground, the equipment, and the animals. The family’s comfortable, but modest home is not equipped to sleep eight guests. Not to worry! While lacking commercial lodging of any sort, Rygate is full of people willing to solve the problem. Brandon made a few calls, vouched for our integrity, and arranged for us to stay at the Catholic Church rectory. The deal was sealed when his mom agreed to hire a couple of helpers to feed us three ranch meals a day. These arrangements became the centerpiece of what became an epic cross state Giddy-Up Montana 2015 trip.
Since we would travel all the way from Lolo in western Montana to Rygate in central Montana, we decided that we should just continue and haul the horses to Red Lodge to ride in the beautiful Beartooth Mountains. Then it’s didn’t seem right not to include the Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highways to take in that spectacular country, which then led us to include a trip into Montana’s Pryor Mountains to see the wild mustangs. Clearly, our trip planning had a lot of go and not much whoa.
August arrived and off we set. Our first destination was a trail ride to one of Montana’s most unique geological features, Ringing Rocks, which is along the Continental Divide, east of Butte. Along the way, Metzer’s Used Cow Lot sign in Drummond made us stop for our first group photo (oh, how appropriate!). The rocks did, indeed, ring as we hammered out a pathetic theme song which, with its resonant discords, was probably more fitting that we wanted to admit. Soaking in the White Sulpher Springs hot pools ended a perfect, but long day.
Arriving at the Carpenter’s, we immediately saddled up for a ranch tour. In anticipation of the trip, the group had read Judy Blunt’s account of growing up in eastern Montana, Breaking Clean. Her book includes a gripping description of the horrific winter storm of 1964 in which thousands of cattle died, and many survivors lost their ears to frost bite. And, there before us, the book sprang to life in the form of Ears — the big, charming, and healthy, cow favored by the Carpenter family, so named because she had lost her ears to winter frost bite.
Soon Brandon had everyone talking cow talk, reading bovine body language, and partnering with each their horses to sort and separate out the cattle. Pearl, the undeniable and unabashed ringleader of the Giddy-Up Girls got her comeuppance when Brandon sent her on Whiskey to sort out cow numbered 27, which, of course, didn’t exist. Meanwhile, Shari, Brandon’s mom, made sure that the only way we didn’t gain weight from her marvelous food was to keep us laughing ourselves silly over her stories and jokes. In fact, we lost weight. Big chunks of hearts remained behind when we departed.
Next we were on to Red Lodge with a stop at the Grizzly Bar in Rosco for burgers (they didn’t know what hit them). We hooked up with more of my Montana friends who showed us the local sites and reserved fabulous lodging for us — the Rocky Fort Inn — and horses — the Aspen Ridge Ranch.
Miles of mountain trails and clear tumbling streams surround the Red Lodge area, giving us a full menu of fabulous day rides. A hallmark of these expeditions is the group selfie. Several years ago, we discovered that Dunrovin horse Monty happily obliges us. He serves as the perfect quadra-pod for group photos. He unfailingly stands perfectly still with a camera exactingly positioned on his rump, while the cameraman bolts to the group in time for the shutter to snap, producing a photo which is never blurred. Thanks, Monty.
After several arduous rides to high mountain peaks and lakes, we sent the horses back to Dunrovin as we journeyed over the 10,000 plus foot high Beartooth Pass, along the deep limestone canyons of the Chief Joseph highway, through Wyoming, then back into Montana. We barely made it with all the photographic stops and “look abouts.” Steve Cerroni of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center guided us on a personalized and totally unforgettable two day camping and hiking trip among the wild horses. Wow. We were spell-bound by this magical place. What a thrill and what a way to end our trip.
No doubt, the Giddy-Up Girls will be back.
Plan your stay at Dunrovin Ranch for some terrific horseback riding, fishing, and Montana fun. Let Dunrovin put your group in the saddle for a personalized Montana adventure specifically designed to fit your interests, riding abilities, and budget.
Visit www.DunrovinRanchMontana.com or call 406-273-7745.