Monday, July 23, 2012

Double D Ranch - Part 1

A couple of days ago I was reading a two day old local paper with little interest, and came across a very short article indicating that on Saturday Meeteetse (a tiny cowboy town with roots to Butch Cassidy and other western outlaws, located about 30 minutes from Cody) was celebrating Cowboy Day, complete with dances, picnics and bands.
Which was fine. 
Only I was reading the article on Saturday evening and soon realized that we had missed the celebrations.
Reading further though, I unexpectedly found something of interest.
The town of Meeteetse was hosting a tour of the Double D Ranch.  Meet at the museum in town at 8am Sunday morning, take your own vehicle or car pool, make sure you drive a four wheel drive vehicle, wear sturdy shoes or boots, bring your own lunch.  There was no fee involved.
There was no information about the ranch provided at all in the article.
It all sounded like a great way to spend a Sunday and when I told my Mountain Boy about it he quickly agreed.
We decided that we would go.
I jokingly and smart-assedly once told someone a lifetime ago that "research is your friend".
I should have taken my own advice and done some research before we headed to Meeteetse because what we both envisioned the tour would be like and what it was actually like were two completely different things.
LC and I had both made the same (albeit mistaken) assumptions.
That we would be touring a working ranch.  That it would be located close to the main highway.  That it would include such things as livestock, ranch hands, bunk houses, large barns to house huge numbers of animals.
Nope.  Not even close.
We arrived at the museum at 8am, filled out a short waiver, wandered around the museum only partially interested in our surroundings, both of us eager to begin the tour.
Annoyingly we did not leave the museum until a little after 9am, and by the time we headed down the highway found ourselves part of a convoy of vehicles surprisingly 20 cars long.
After a 15 minute drive by highway we turned left and immediately found ourselves on dirt and gravel road, surrounded by hills on one side of us and large swatches of bright green pastureland on the other.
Continuing further we saw deer, antelope, and then a large herd of male buffalo.  And further down the dirt road, a large herd of female buffalo with their young.
There is no way to take pictures while you are on the move and part of a convoy, but I know me and I knew LC well enough to know that we would either leave earlier than the convoy or later than the convoy on the way home and at that point we would be able to stop wherever and whenever we wanted to............................
Over the course of 30 minutes we moved from first flat road to road that slowly but consistently climbed in elevation.
Pastureland eventually disappeared, only to be replaced by increasingly high mountains, pine trees, canyons and the river.
LC and I were both puzzled by this time, and although we still did not know where we were headed were enjoying the drive and the increasingly rugged scenery.
We were moving deeper and deeper into the Absaroka Mountains and it was very beautiful.
And on a warm and sunny Sunday morning, being in the mountains was more than fine with both of us.
Eventually the entire convoy pulled over to the side of the road beside a campground so that people could stretch their legs and take a bathroom break at the campground if needed.
I climbed out of the truck confused and befuddled by what we had unexpectedly gotten ourselves into.
We had envisioned working ranch - lots of buildings, lots of staff, lots of equipment, lots of animals.
And now we were standing beside the truck beside a campground in the middle of mountain country.
The questions only increased when I talked to someone in a truck parked behind us who told us that from this point on we would need four wheel drive because the roads were narrow, very steep, and badly rutted out in places.
The mystery only deepened....................
Beyond the campground the dirt road began in good shape but quickly moved to steep inclines and tight switchbacks.
Soon it transitioned to narrow, up and down, rutted out road and it was now obvious why 4x4 capacity was recommended.
Four miles from the campground, and after a slow, careful trip on wild and woolly roads we finally arrived.
No.  Definitely not what we expected at all.
But it was beautiful and we were not disappointed in the least.
We were at 8200 feet, surrounded by pine tree filled mountains that stretched another 1500 feet or so into the sky.
LC and I looked at each other in amazement at this unexpected place and we were pleased.................
Most of the vehicles had pulled further up the dirt driveway, parking close to the main building.
LC had parked the truck down closer to the entrance to the ranch, knowing that we wanted to either leave sooner or later than the rest of our convoy on the way back down the mountain.
Almost intuitively, we both instantly knew that we did not want to be with the group.
They were all congregating in a semi circle in front of the main building, and an elderly man was standing on the front porch. 
Neither of us wanted to or needed to hear what he was going to say.  I was certain that it was all online, and truthfully I cared more about where we were in that moment that what I expected would be a lecture on the history of the place and then a guided tour.
Everyone stood waiting for the older man to begin speaking, and LC and I walked across the grass from where we were parked and headed for the first buildings we saw that were nestled deeply in the woods................
Evidence of a not-too-distant land slide..............
I stood for a few moments taking in the scene around me, and taking in this sweet little cabin sitting alone and surrounded by quiet.
And beauty.
And silence.
It was beautiful....................
As we slowly wandered in around these first three cabins it was obvious that they were very old, historic, in the midst of restoration.
I was enjoying this place very much and I may not have done research before we came here but I would certainly do so when I got home...............
The road we had traveled in on, barely visible through the trees...................
After leaving the first two cabins, and while the others in the group we had now abandoned were still standing at the lodge, LC and I wandered leisurely down a dirt path towards more cabins.
There were not a whole lot of cabins, and it did not really matter because we were high in the mountains and it was beautiful..............
The Double D brand found randomly on the inside door panel of one of the buildings...............
Each stone, each bend cries welcome to him. He identifies with the mountains and the streams, he sees something of his own soul in the plants and the animals and the birds of the field..................Paulo Coelho
Some information about the Double D Ranch:

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