Sampson and I joined the riders today starting down by the Gibson reservoir. It was sad to see that the water level in this huge water source was about fifty yards lower than usual. We walked our horses over rocks and on a trail that next to a rushing stream. Way down below I saw a few people navigating the rapids in a yellow raft. Then the canyon opened up to steep cliffs on either side, and down below a dark azure deep and fast moving flow of river water in a shute.
We rode for about 45 minutes and then dismounted and let the horses have a drink. I cupped a few sips of the clear water and it felt cool and tasted wonderful. Paul, a mason who works on high temperature glass-making ovens, rode with a harmonica and played some tunes from the saddle. It was a nice accompaniment to the gorgeous vistas, that for once were not marred by the smoke from the forest fires in “The Bob” as the 1.5 million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness is known.
Loretta, a diminutive wrangler who rode ahead of us, told a story about how she had come across a bear the other day on this trail. The bear was a small one, and it appeared all of a sudden as she rounded a curve. She didn’t panic, so her horse remained calm, and he scampered off into the brush. At first she feared it was a cub and looked around for Mama bear, but she didn’t appear.
This dude ranch is a little like summer camp. All guests arrive on the same day, Sunday, and we take every meal and do many of the activities together. It feels like a way to form strong bonds, since we have a chance to discuss our rides, our steeds and our lives in the real world over the home cooked suppers served at the Triple J.
The owners Ernie and Kim Barker, are real horse people, and as gentle and as attentive to their guests as any hotelier I’ve ever met. Because they live here with their two daughters we get a chance to live in their world. They hire wranglers who go to Montana State and other local schools and one young woman I talked to said this was a dream job: “I get to ride all day, I take care of kids, and I get to do it in the beautiful mountains here. Plus the other kids are great!”