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LIVING THE COWBOY LIFE IN MONTANA

By Michael Hepworth

 

If life in the city is getting you down then I have the perfect place for you. Why not visit Montana for a change of pace. I went there last summer for the first time, and will be going back again this year, maybe to a different part of the state like Glacier Country in Western Montana .  They call Montana the “Big Sky Country” and it is easy to see why. As soon as you get off the plane at Bozeman , the closest airport to the ranch where I stayed is about 110 miles to the north, you can feel the freshness in the air. The weather seems to change constantly, clear skies becoming dark clouds very suddenly, and the country music playing constantly on the hired car radio, makes you fit in the mood quickly. I can imagine how brutal the winters can be in this part of the world, and even in high summer, you could still see some snow on top of the mountains in the distance. However, there are only about 800,000 residents in the whole state, and it easy to see why so many celebrities have summer homes here. The freeways seem to be virtually empty (certainly compared to Los Angeles ), and on the other roads they all seem to drive about 20 mph.

The scenic route from the airport will take you through the historic western town, Virginia City . One of the prime tourist attractions in Montana , a former ghost town that say its heyday in the gold rush days around 1865. Tourism is fast becoming the major industry in Montana , but with spectacular ranches like La Cense around, the mythical world of the cowboy could still prevail for a lot longer yet.  I spent a few days at La Cense Montana, an 88,000-acre ranch located along the western slopes of the Blacktail Mountain range in Southwest Montana , a working ranch dedicated to the education of high-quality registered Quarter Horses. The ranch extends across 122 square miles of varying foothill and mountain terrain with the main facilities being at 5,300 feet. The ranch is about 10 miles south of the tiny college town of Dillon- a historic Old-West town that is famous for the annual Labor Day weekend rodeo. The ranch is located just east of the Continental Divide, and supports a wide variety of wildlife and endangered species-including the Centennial Valley , home of the Red Rocks National Wildlife Refuge and the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Gallagher Peak at 8,477 feet, is the highest point on the ranch.

The ranch also offers high-quality Black Angus cow-calf pairs of a genetically pure line that was developed at the ranch, and all this is overseen by ranch manager Bud Griffith. This guy is a true modern cowboy, and spent an incredible 35 years managing Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch, although the famous entrepreneur only owned it for eleven of those years. Bud grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont , but as soon as first came to Montana he decided that is where he wanted to live. He admits that the life of the cowboy on the open range in Montana (especially in winter) is a calling that not everyone could handle. He also admitted that his biggest problem at the ranch is finding the right people who want to put up with the long hours and relatively low pay, that this kind of work of a modern day ranch cowboy offers.

Montana ’s Glacier Country to the West is an active place with thousands of miles of trails for hiking and hundreds of streams and rivers to raft and fish. There are mountains to climb, lakes to paddle and championship courses to golf. Glacier Country has two airports served by commercial jets-Glacier Park International between Whitefish and Kalispell, and Missoula International in Missoula . A must see is Glacier National Park with it’s 700 miles of hiking trails, scenic boat tours, guided rafting adventures, horse pack trips and the famous red buses. Glacier shares the title of first International Peace Park with Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada , and it is home to several historic lodges and backcountry chalets.

If Whitewater Rafting is your thing then how about a 4 day trip in the untamed wilderness of Montana . The Glacier Raft and Outdoor Center will set up these trips for you, providing food and log cabins for your comfort. You can also combine rafting with horseback riding, fly fishing if you prefer, all overseen by top class guides who know the terrain.  The weather changes a lot in Montana according to the elevation, so if you are going on any of these adventure trips then it is imperative you bring the right gear, especially waterproof jackets and pants. The North Face in Beverly Hills is the best outdoor clothing shop I know, but most of the outdoor places in Montana will rent out the gear if you come empty handed.

Fact Sheet

 

La Cense Ranch

4600 Carrigan Lane

Dillon , Montana 59728

Phone: 406.683.8777

Fax: 406.683.8778

www.lacensemontana.com

 

Glacier Country info-www.glacier.visitmt.com

www.glaciercountry@montana.com

www.glacierRaftCo.com

 
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