This may be my last post for several days, as the trip gets crazy busy from here on out. So, I thought I'd write tonight before hitting the sack.
This morning, Kate Kahn and I climbed into the PT Cruiser and headed north of Helena up Hwy 15, to Wolf Creek, where we pulled into the long drive of the Rocking Z Ranch ready for some horseback riding. There we met Anna Wirth, our 19 year-old guide, who grew up on the ranch with her brother, sisters, parents, horses, cattle, and assorted pets... including one adorable black goat. Anna led us to the corral, where we put halters on our horses (two mares: mine's name was Rue) and led them back to the stable to tack up. We loaded our lunch, water bottles, cameras and sunglasses--the day was perfectly blue and up to 70 degrees--into the saddlebags, and hit the trail.
We passed through gorgeous Rocking Z land, including a grove of aspens, across and into the river that winds its way through the property, getting used to our horses. I'd tied my long-sleeved shirt around my waist after only ten minutes, comfortable in short sleeves--a first in my month in Montana. For Kate and me, eastern girls through and through, the bulky western saddle and rough gate of the quarterhorses was a real challenge, but still fun. Anna let us loose to do quite a bit of cantering and galloping in the long valleys, which I loved (even when it hurt).
The land was incredible, infinite, breath-taking, and I won't bother to describe it, because there really aren't words. We rode for 14 miles across massive sagebrush country, alongside shining creeks, flushed several single white-tailed deer and watched a big herd race across a golden mountainside, chased by the Ranch dog. It all was certainly an adventure, one I'll not forget. And though I'm in definite pain (an old soccer injury to my knee is still throbbing), it was the ride of a lifetime.
Tomorrow, I pick up Ashley McMahan from the Bozeman airport at 12:30 p.m., and it's a good three hour round trip, so I need to get some sleep. We'll spend one night in my tiny Basin apartment before heading south to Yellowstone Friday morning. (We'll spend two nights in West Yellowstone before I take her back to the airport on Sunday, hopefully viewing tons of wildlife and geo-thermal madness.)
Enjoy the photos!