If the movie “City Slickers” made you dream of wide-open spaces and real cowboy trail adventures, climb into the saddle and join a cattle drive.
There are several such Wild West adventures each summer around the Inland Northwest. Participants learn as they go. It is fun for the whole family, and the horses are trained to be tolerant of inexperienced riders.
Typically, the evenings are filled with sing-alongs and storytelling around a campfire. Participants generally sleep in a tent. You’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag and personal items. Keep your gear simple, lightweight and easy to pack.
The traditional hearty western meals served throughout your visit will give you the energy you’ll need for cowboy work. You’ll burn more calories than you’d expect.
Naturally, beef is on the menu. Cowboys didn’t eat tofu, so don’t expect nuts-and-berries fare. But if you have dietary restrictions, let your host know when making your reservation.
Ranch folk have a lifestyle that most people know very little about, but many would like to experience. They live close to the land and move their cattle according to the seasons. Guests are invited to share the life, and at trail’s end a resounding “We did it!” can be heard all the way home to the city.
Montanans are proud of their heritage. It would be difficult to get more authentic than driving a herd of cattle across Big Sky Country, just as early cowboys did.
Montana’s cattle drive/wagon train season begins as early as May and runs through mid-September. Over a dozen outfits provide cattle drives. Here is a brief sampling of what Montana has to offer.
Foss Cattle Drive and Wagon Train Trail Ride operates out of Culbertson in northeastern Montana. It offers two drives, July 3-8 and August 7-12. The cattle drives are available for all ages and all riding abilities. Showers and port-a-potties are carried with the drive. All meals and tents are included in the price.
The company has a satisfaction guaranteed or your money back offer. Marcia Foss says, “We work to offer our guests a week they’ll never forget, and we stand by our guarantee.” Rates are $1,150 a person. (406) 787-5559.
For more information on attractions, points of interest, recreation and accommodations in the Culbertson area: Culbertson Museum and Visitor Information Center, (406) 787-6320.
For a listing of Montana Cattle Drives: Montana Tourism, (800) VISIT MT.
The Outback Ranch offers three major cattle drives each year. It is a working cattle ranch located near Enterprise in northeast Oregon, and the drives are used to move the herd from pasture to pasture. Guests sleep in rustic cabins or floored tents, depending on the location of the herd. Prices start at $150 a person a day. (503) 426-4037 or (503) 432-9101.
For more information on attractions, points of interest, recreation and accommodations in the Enterprise area: Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce, (503) 426-4622.
Canadian cowboy Wayne Crimmon runs Maverick Cattle Drives on 4,000 acres of ranchland and 60,000 acres of government rangelands, located south of Kamloops in south-central British Columbia. It is a real working cattle ranch with a drive occurring almost every week from May 1 through October 15.
Guests join in on the ranching operations, which include branding, riding fence lines and keeping an eye out for rustlers. Crimmon says he loses some cows every year to rustlers. Several ranching packages are available, ranging from one to 10 days. Prices start at about $75 (U.S. equivalent) per person a day. Children must be 10 or older. Guests can combine the cattle drive adventure with other recreational opportunities. (604) 295-3753 or 295-3893.
Cattle Drive ‘95
Kamloops, British Columbia
Cattle Drive ‘95 is a five-day event scheduled for July 16- 22. The annual drive occurs every third week in July. It is a charity fund drive for the 4-H Youth Foundation Scholarship Fund.
The drive will start at the historic Hat Creek Ranch, located about seven miles north of Cache Creek. Riders and wagons will cross open range and Native territories, follow the Tranquille Valley and shores of Kamloops Lake and finally arrive at Kamloops.
Participants will be required to pitch their own tents, plus care for and saddle their own horse. Camping equipment and horses are available for rent. All the meals are catered and are exceptional table fare. Package variations include riders with their own horse for $406, wagon riders for $630 and riders with rental horses for $735 (approximate U.S. dollars). (604) 372-7075.
For more information on attractions, points of interest, recreation and accommodations in the Kamloops area: High Country Tourism Association, (604) 372-7770 or (800) 567-2275.