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Jo Van Kampen’s Stay at Kara Creek Ranch, Featured in Aqha UK Journal Magazine

Jo Van Kampen’s Stay at Kara Creek Ranch, Featured in Aqha UK Journal Magazine

Some of our guests (friends) love to write about their time with us at Kara Creek Ranch. Thank you to Jo Van Kampen for writing such an awesome article about her stay with us in 2022. We hope to see you again soon, Jo!

Article- My Week at Kara Creek, By: Jo Van Kampen

My friend and I booked a week at Kara Creek Ranch on a whim, a recommendation from a friend, we had no idea of how life changing it would be. Snook Ranches run cattle on 70,000 wild acres of prairie and mountains the height of Ben Nevis where the air goes thin, in Wyoming and Montana, and yes, it’s just like in ‘Yellowstone’. The destination on the flights was the first giveaway.. ‘Sundance, Wyoming’. Magical. It took 10 hours to fly there from grey old Newcastle, as we flew into another world. It was a further 2 hours to drive to the ranch, with Wilbur, who was entertaining company and we had the first glimpse out of the windows of the old truck into rural mid west America on interstate 90, indian country. Buffalo country. I was intoxicated on the country.

Before I even got there I felt I’d arrived in a place I should have been to a long time ago. We arrived, and our log cabin was wonderful, covered in authentic western roundup posters and cowboy gear,  well equipped kitchen, a/c and two en suite bedrooms.

We got allotted our horses, suited to our riding aspirations for the week, I was given a palomino gelding who was the best horse I have ever ridden. Honest, safe, fast, cowy when needed, with a switch off button. He made my week for sure.

The riding.. Well it isn’t for the faint hearted or novice! The group leaves after breakfast, you tack up your own horse,  there’s a job to do this isn’t a trail ride. This is cowboying, and the horses are tough. The cowboys have their instructions and the guests are there to do it with them. The riders who want an easier time stay at the back, they’re looked after, but for the real riding you keep up front, keep a close eye on the cowboys, and when they set off.. You go. Fast! They can spot cattle in the trees like radar, and the job in the fall roundup is to ride up into the forested mountains, at the ranch lands, or trailer horses behind the big RAM dually trucks to Moskee, Montana, or Devils Tower, into wild untamed country, and find pairs (cows and calves) and drive them down into the flat valley grassland.

When I say up, and down, I mean extremely steep slopes, no tracks this is extreme off road riding, over a thousand fallen trees, slopes you think are impossible to ride. The quarter horses are as sure footed as mountain goats, raw, tough animals, who never put a foot wrong. You have to go off alone sometimes, you spot a cow you go drive it, and they don’t like going down! They constantly try to break away so it’s on you to hone your cow skills and do a good job!

It’s the best thing I have ever done, me and my boy were at the sharp end all week, I wasn’t missing a thing! It’s 6+ hours a day in the saddle plus travelling in the duallys towing the big iconic 11 horse trailers, country music on the radio, gas station for snacks, but it’s invigorating, not tiring.

Food is home cooked and served in the ranch house, evenings are spent collectively in the Kara Creek Saloon where the drink is free and the pool table is never empty, it’s where you realise wild west Americans are like every cartoon character you grew up with, by now the fabulous accents are normal to you and Britain seems a previous lifetime ago. Hawkeye is a legend! Famous old Texan bronc rider who was very successful and lived to tell the tale! Amazing characters, bull riders, bronc riders, just all in a day’s work.. By now you don’t even think of flying home!

It doesn’t feel like a holiday, it gets right into your bones, and you find a big bit of yourself you realise has been missing your whole life. A peace. At night, when all’s quiet, go outside your cabin, look up at the infinite galaxies of stars in the unpolluted sky, and listen to the distant packs of coyotes in the mountains howling to eachother in the inky blue darkness, it’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before.

My friend, who had absolutely no idea this was going to happen, came back and within weeks she bought herself her first quarter horse. She ain’t ever ever gonna let this feeling go.

Kara Creek Ranch, Sundance, Wyoming 82729