In the next few months we are likely making a westward bound trip, undoubtedly by car. For whatever reason (weddings, gatherings, etc.), most of our trips in the 5 1/2 years we've been together have been east of the Mississippi. Don't get me wrong, we both like going west of the Mississippi, but save a trip to Las Vegas, we haven't gone west young couple together.
So I've been researching cabins in Colorado (ski trip) and accommodations in SoCal (Hawk fans, I think you know where I'm going with this). And while I'm crazy excited about both opportunities, nothing can compare to my adolescent and teenage trips to Montana. I need to get out from under the idea that I will ever feel as relaxed, free, exhilarated, open and carefree as I did back then. No trip today will recapture the feeling on being nestled between the Beartooth and Absorka mountains, where a river runs through it, life smells sweeter and the stars shine brighter.
I can't recapture it because a) I can't turn back time to be that person and b) dude ranches (yes, like Hey Dude) are going by the wayside. See this article for a much more cohesive take on the matter.
The experience of going to the Boulder River Ranch belongs first and foremost to my maternal grandparents, Miles and Nancy. Back when my mother and uncle were young, their family started driving from the Twin Cities to Big Timber for summer vacations full of fly fishing, horseback riding, family style meals, happy hour with new and old friends, as well as cool nights and warm days.
For many, many years, this was their happy place.
My family was able to visit over the years, but it wasn't until I was in the 7th grade that I began spending a week there with my grandparents. It too became my happy place.
When presented with an opportunity to step outside your life (growing up in a small town in central Massachusetts) and experience something completely different (a ranch, horses, no TV, bears, a comforting sort of aloneness), you can't help but grow. Your worldview becomes automatically bigger. The possibilities of who you may become someday are increased a thousand-fold by virtue of who you meet and what you see.
Having that opportunity helped me see who I wanted to be and how to set my path to be that person. Going there helped me channel being an angsty, neurotic, always thinking about the future, stressed out adolescent/teenager (I'm sure there are other choice words my parents might have) into an introspective and aware adult (I'm sure there are some other choice words my friends may have).
Anyways, I get sad when I think about the disappearing dude ranch.
The Boulder River Ranch hasn't been operating for several years (my grandparents stopped going before it closed). I'm old enough to know that I could never recapture how I felt going there during those important formative years. But I still get sad that other people won't have the option to find their happy place at a dude ranch.
Photos from the Montana Film Office.