Disney’s Lone Ranger movie is bound to pull on the heartstrings of any wannabe cowboy (or girl), and the North American west is the ideal place to get into character. With timeless landscapes, historic homesteads, endless herds of cattle, and a helpful bunch of hardy cowpokes, this is where real life westerns are made.
If you really you want to earn your spurs, the Rocky Mountain states are a good place to start – Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Idaho (four out of eight) bursting to the brim with the romanticism of a bygone era. Gun slinging might be a thing of the past, and the region’s abandoned ghost towns might only be frequented by tourists, but the real working cattle ranch is still alive and well. Add to that an equal helping of Native America, pow-wows and reenactments, plus the chance to bed down in a teepee, and the experience is akin to time travel.
In Big Sky country you can take a bus or self-guided tour of the battlefield (near Billings), where Custer made his last stand. But why try to imagine the scene when you can see the Battle of Little Big Horn for real – well almost. A reenactment it might be, but there is something truly magical about any open air theatrical performance, especially when its roots are based in the very same location. An added twist this story is told from the Native American perspective, the Crow Tribe presenting you with unique insight into this bloody conflict.
Idaho is known as the Gem state, hordes of early prospectors leaving a never ending trail of ghost towns in their wake. It may have bigger cousins, but it has been said that if you were to flatten all of Idaho’s mountains it would be the size of Texas – its forests, canyons and rivers bigger than many of the state’s neighbours. And, what better way to appreciate the stunning backdrops than on a horse drive. Camp out like those pioneering cattle drovers and trail through 60 miles of Idaho’s backcountry – the emotionally charged experience ending with a colt-starting clinic.
There’s nothing more thrilling than herding the cattle, but on a working ranch stay you’ll be able to do more than simply round ’em up. Doctoring, vaccinating, checking fences, roping and branding are often featured on the list of activities, many of the varied pursuits dictated by the seasons. All of the Rocky Mountain states will allow you to appreciate what it means to be a cowboy in the very literal sense, as there are plenty of opportunities to saddle up and become one of the team. Western movie goers are welcome as greenhorns can book at the majority of ranches, and that’s the beauty of ranch holidays – they cater to our cowboy dreams, as they are the real McCoy.
Of course, if you want to experience life as the Lone Ranger, many ranches offer target practice too. So take your gun, aim and fire!
For further information:
Ranch Rider – 01509 618811; [email protected].(Written by Tony Daly)