Saturday, August 7, 2010

Home Away From Home

{Not Enough Time at Elkhorn Ranch}

Real home is with my family on the farm where I grew up in New Jersey, but spirit-home, the place where my soul is most at ease, is a river valley in southwestern Montana called the Elkhorn Ranch. When P. and I finally arrived we ditched the Scamp by the corrals and spent three glorious days in the saddle. Serious fodder for a Peak Life Experience, if you ask me.





A little personal history: I spent many summers and one entire year at Elkhorn, living in a one-room log cabin called the Snakepit and working as a wrangler leading trips into the backcountry. When the dude season was over I passed my days in the saddle wrangling horses in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, packing mules, logging, and fixing fence. At night I worked my way through Steinbeck's East of Eden and learned to knit by the heat of my potbelly wood stove. It was in the LBP chapter (Life Before P.) and the company of a good horse was company good enough.





Years later I was working my way up the assignment desk at ABC News in New York City, but Elkhorn was always on my mind.  So when I got the thumbs-up from my producer to shoot a story on the annual 40-mile wrangle to bring the horses to their winter pasture, I happily traded my New York heels for my Montucky shit-kickers, hopped on a plane to Bozeman and spent a weekend doing what tiggers do best: riding horses and drinking whiskey. And shooting video of other people riding horses and drinking whiskey. These are highly valued skills at Elkhorn, you see.





Somehow the short documentary piece on the wrangle found its way onto Charlie Gibson's desk and that night, people all across America watching the news got to see a glimpse of life at Elkhorn Ranch. Which pretty much put me (and the cowboy in the story, my old friend Greg Fields) over the moon.

You can watch the video and read the accompanying story here

25 comments:

  1. ALL I CAN DO IS LOOK AT THE PICTURES AND SHOUT SHUT UP!

    done shouting. going to actually *read* the post now.

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  2. lily you live the most magic life. <3

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  3. i never knew how bad i need a dude ranch vacation.

    (done now)

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  4. I lived in Wyoming for a year...where my husband is from...where he worked on a 4k acre ranch...I love this. I miss this. I love the ocean here in Maine but there is something about the parries (I am Canadian so to me it is a prairie) that caught me and kept me.

    I have such pangs of missing it sometimes even though I lived there a relatively short time.

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  5. You're just full of surprises!!! If you get any more interesting I'm gonna die. Seriously-the stories just get better and better. Please let there be a book here somewhere. I didn't care for "Eat-Pray-Love" so much and I'm thinking you may have the goods. Happy trails guys!!!

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  6. Amazing, amazing, amazing, Lily! You never cease to stun and surprise me with the depth of your life and talents. I loved the news piece, too!!!! Oh, and those photos of yours are heart-wrenchingly gorgeous.

    I'm back up in Maine now, the place of my own heart and soul, but I gotta tell you that a trip to Montana sometime sounds mighty fine to me.

    xo Gigi

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  7. you are so lucky. You're doing something I wanted to do for my whole life-a road trip with a caravan. And I love your doggies!

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  8. wow, you are a seriously lucky lady to not only have such a sweet life in Joshua Tree but to have experienced wrangling on a beautiful ranch! i'm not jealous at all, nope not me :D
    also, love the pictures, it sounds weird but i can sense how you're at ease there

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  9. Lily, my love, you know how badly I'd love to spend an evening just sitting and shooting the breeze with you, while we drink whiskey, right? Well, maybe you could whiskey while I drink rum, as I've not yet really acquired the taste for it, but still. You lead a magical life, lady.

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  10. I bet your mom and sisters especially liked this post, Lily, (except maybe the part about the whisky :) I'll bet you said a little prayer for Lad while you were there. Jim and I made two cross-country camping trips BC (before children) and we still tell stories about them. It's delightful to think of you and P. on a similar road now. Do stop in Chautauqua on your way east. You two should see the Institution; it's such an American gem. And you won't even need help parking the Scamp in our driveway, there is so much room! We are just 45 minutes east of Erie, PA. Think about it. I'd love to show you two this place.

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  11. Lily, I have been daydreaming of a dude ranch of late. Now I have the perfect images to continue the dream.

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  12. i juts fell off my chair!!!!!!!!! OMG. now you are my hero. montana is one of our favorite places- i have often looked into ekhorn but always end up rescuing with the money!!

    oh lilly how wonderful all your experiences have been so far- you are really inspirational!

    ps. what a great piece congrats! that is big!

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  13. I'm with Jamie, I just yelled SHUT UP at my screen like 8 times. How do you just get more awesomer and awesomer (totally a word) with every blog post?

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  14. i miss the west! and the mountains! sigh. someday i will have adventures in the wild again, rather than in the city. hope you are are both safe and sound, wherever you are now!!

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  15. OH my god! I hadn't even the slightest inkling that your spirit home was a place that the rest of us could actually go! I was lucky enough to have one (much shorter) dude ranch vacation as a kid and it was hands down the best thing ever.

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  16. Amazing. I am longing to explore Montana!!! Just from the photos I can imagine that the air smells fresher and cooler and I would feel an inner peace. Until the whisky hit me.

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  17. These are beautiful pictures - perfect!

    Makes me wish I had time to travel to the mountains...

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  18. Elkhorn looks gorgeous! I recently stumbled upon your blog (thanks lovely morning!) and I am loving your posts. Reading through your archived entries as I nurse my daughter & take a much needed break from my studies has been so inspiring. You're an amazing, creative, joyful writer.....thank you! Can't wait to hear about your future experiences in India, where I have spent some months exploring a few years ago. Good luck on your new venture!

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  19. Just found your blog and I forsee many wasted minutes (or hours) catching up on your travels.I am insanely jealous as would love to live on a Ranch and would also love to travel the world in a trailer (airstream would be my pick but love your scamp).

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  20. Wow! I love the Elkhorn photos and your stories about Laddy and the ranch.

    I have to admit that I am not as fearless as you! I went horse back riding outside of Mt. St. Helens in April and I was so nervous. My husband is still making fun of my trembling foot.

    Thanks for sharing your travels. I so enjoy it. And if you happen to stop in good ole Minneapolis do stop by.

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  21. I kind of forgive you for not spending more time visiting me in San Francisco due to this post. Yay for Elkhorn PLEs!!!

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  22. oh...wow...so that's the big sky country. love it. and am jealous of you!

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  23. your pictures make me ache, they are so beautiful. Looking at those makes me want to know if you would like to trade lives for a little bit and I could go off and live like a gypsy. Just stunning.

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  24. Great story Lily, this is so beautiful.
    10 hours on a horse though! wow! must be sore after that!!

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  25. Heavens! Thanks for all the thoughtful comments! Looks like I'm in good company in loving that part of the country <3

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