Ride report: Kara Creek, Wyoming working ranch
When was the
last time you had any time out from work, family and the daily grind?! Well… that's
exactly what my trip to Kara creek Ranch was all about.
Discovering Kara Creek
Ranch, Wyoming working ranch
my intrepid photographer friend Oana, we arrived in Rapid City (South Dakota)
at lunchtime after a very early 4am start from Richmond, Virginia. So it was
lovely to get out and see the wide open spaces and very different landscape of
South Dakota. Cody, the wrangler in charge of us this week was ready with his
pick up to drive us to the Ranch, a short two-hour drive.As promised on arrival
at the ranch, we were immediately made welcome by Cassie, the manager and
co-owner of Kara Creek, a traditional working ranch spread over 70,000 acres.
After a quick change of clothes in our rustic but comfy cabin, fully decorated
with various witty quotes and wisdoms, we headed out on our first ride.
at random lassoed two horses for us and told us to choose one each. I got the
lovely Rabbit, a chestnut with biggish ears? Hence the name! But what a
pleasure to ride, with just the slightest indication he would turn, stop or go.
Oana chose the dun who was named Clive and he was a perfect gentleman for her
too. Off we set to go find some cows that belonged to a neighbor of Kara Creek.
With an eye roll and a groan Cody told us that this neighbor's cows are always
getting out. And who wants to feed the neighbors cows? After what seemed a long
way but was probably only a few miles we were in the general vicinity of the
escaped cows…Now all we had to do was find them and herd them back. Not that
easy as it turns out. You know that really annoying thing people always tell you about
finding needles in haystacks? Well, it felt a bit like that! How can 8 or so
black cows just disappear in a few hundred acres?
A real ranch holiday
The next few
days were spent doing more of the same. Oana and I both felt we were getting
more proficient at reading the cattle body language and just generally letting
our horses do what they had to do, as undoubtedly they were the experts here.
It's amazing how modern day ranching really does need horses (and cowgirls too
of course!) to get the job done. The terrain is such that a four-wheeler often
can't get to the cows where the horses can. And 70,000 acres is a lot of
fencing to be upkept, so the cows would definitely get to places they were not
supposed to be on a regular basis. We also had to sort cattle that had been
branded from those that had not in preparation for branding day. And one day we
had to load our three horses plus a couple of bulls into a trailer (yes all
together) and then we drove over to part of the ranch that was situated near
the iconic Devils Tower, a rock thumb seemingly sticking out of the ground for
no particular reason. We then had to offload the bulls with a group of heifers
ready to be bred.
Midweek we got
to do a little road trip to explore the area, and we managed to get all the way
to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial followed by dinner in Deadwood which
is a town much like an old western town in the movies, complete with a shoot
out every afternoon.
of the highlights of our trip was meeting Hawkeye, a retired broncbuster/movie
stuntman and now singer and entertainer at Kara Creek. What a character and he
loves chatting to all the guests and sharing all his stories from his days on
the road. He also plays guitar and sings in the bar/saloon in the evening much
to everyone's delight.
A real western riding
amazing about our week was how much freedom we were given and how we got to
help out wherever we felt comfortable. One morning we
got up early and went to see the herd of horses grazing nearby, and when we
mentioned this to Monte the owner he said "sure why not bring them in for the
wranglers"? So we just hopped on our horses bareback the following morning, and
soon found ourselves cantering in with the herd much to our delight.
highlight of the week was our final day; we got to participate in a branding
event on a neighbor’s ranch. This is a big social event. It takes many hands to
round up all the cattle that are often spread out, then to separate the calves
from their mothers. This, by the way, was a real eye opener for me, as it
involves some serious skill with a horse and a rope. Then the teenagers wrestle
the calf to the ground where it gets branded, vaccinated and if it’s a male
castrated all in the space of about a minute. The calf's bellow in absolute
outrage, it's amazingly noisy but as soon as it's all done they jump up and go
find their mothers, everything seemingly forgotten.
truly felt like we were able to participate in a real timeless western
experience. The whole week gave the feeling of being part of the ranch family
and a glimpse of being part of a modern working ranch. Totally something which
neither my friend Oana nor I had ever experienced before and definitely
something we want to do again.