Travel

Photos: Why I fell in love with Wyoming

As summer approaches, I have to resist the urge to shake the dust off my cowboy hat, pull on my cowboy boots and jet off to the American West.

I’m often asked about my experience working as a horse wrangler in the US state of Wyoming, so I decided to indulge in some visual reminiscing and share some of my favourite images from the place that captured my heart.

My love of horses is something that has stayed with me since I was a child, and has taken me to some incredibly beautiful, rugged and remote parts of the world. In the summer of 2006, I had the opportunity to travel to the USA to fulfil my childhood fantasy of working as a cowgirl. I’d always dreamt of working on some kind of horse ranch but never believed it was a possibility. I’d never heard of a ‘dude’ ranch or horse wrangling until I met a wonderful Scottish girl in London who told me about her experience working as a horse wrangler at the Lazy L&B guest ranch near the town of Dubois, Wyoming. As soon as I found out I was eligible for J-1 working visas during the summers while I was studying at university, I was quickly on the phone to the ranch applying for a job as a wrangler.

The Lazy L&B Ranch became like a second home to me and is a place that holds many of my fondest and most treasured memories.

This extensive collection is a random combination of snapshots from the ranch, the many people and animals who made my time there so special, and some of my favourite images from the surrounding countryside, including the spellbinding national parks of Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

To see more photos from Wyoming, or to purchase digital images, visit my photo shelter gallery: https://clairethomas.photoshelter.com/gallery/Wonderful-Wyoming

At the ranch I worked as part of a team of 6 or 7 wranglers. Each of us were assigned 1 or 2 horses to work with for the summer leading trail rides with guests from around the world. I quickly became extremely fond of my horses, especially one. Scout and I had a perfect partnership, and although no one else particularly enjoys his energetic ways and unstoppable sideways jog, he and I were a perfect match.

The entrance to the Lazy L&B Ranch. The ranch is located in the lush East Fork valley 22 miles from the town of Dubois and 2 hours by car from Jackson Hole.

On hot summer afternoons, storms often roll in over the Absaroka mountains creating beautifully dramatic light and powerful colour contrasts, great for taking pictures.

Rusty and his horse take a break after climbing to the summit of Whiskey Mountain near the town of Dubois.

Me riding Seabiscuit on Mount Didier.

Mountain Meadows – one of the full day rides that’s very popular with teenagers who enjoy the many loping (cantering) opportunities this ride offers.

The Wind River mountain range that surrounds the Lazy L&B ranch.

Like dogs at a dinner table, ranch horses Miles, Two Bit, Scout and Junior wait expectantly for some tasty treats.

Lauren and I at the corrals. Photo credit: Lindsay Wiener

Every Wednesday we took guests on an all-day ride starting at 9.30am and arriving back at a the ranch around 7pm after a BBQ cookout on the trail. The views on this ride are truly breathtaking.

One of my favourite places in Wyoming, this iconic old barn is located on the outskirts of Jackson Hole in Grand Teton National Park. It’s an incredibly beautiful spot where herds of bison (and photographers) often roam.

Mount Moran, Grand Teton National Park

Bear tracks…

Black bear in Grand Teton National Park

Tony practising his bear-escaping technique..

Tony, Mike and I at the beginning of a 22 mile hike to Paintbrush Divide at 10,700ft in Grand Teton National Park.

Spellbinding from start to finish on this hike.

A particularly hairy part of the hike

Breakfast with a ‘Grand’ view

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park

Camping with Adam at Antelope Flats with a view of the Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons and Heron Lake

Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA

Mormon row barn, Grand Teton National Park

Mandolin and some of the ranch horses

Riding with fearless teenagers was always great fun.

During the winters the ranch horses have time off to relax and get fat and furry.

Barrel racing at the Dubois rodeo

Staff rafting trip on the Snake River in Jackson Hole

Wranglers Lauren, Shannan, Logan, Ross and I

One of the things I miss the most is spending evenings around a campfire drinking beer with fellow ranch folk.

There’s always time for cuddles – the ranch animals certainly know they’re loved!

The ranch is surrounded by incredibly diverse terrain. From pine forests, cottonwood valleys, red rock and sand canyons to colourful badlands and glacier-laced mountain ranges. Every ride offers something completely different.

A view of the Wind River Mountain range

A view of the Wind River Mountain range

The Absaroka mountain range

Cowboy lunch

Cowgirl nap

Photo credit: Lindsay Wiener

Photo credit: Lindsay Wiener

My mum riding a horse named Wander during her visit to the ranch.

The ranch is nestled amongst the cottonwood trees in the East Fork Valley.

Sometimes being a cowgirl meant being a clown…

Friday afternoon kids’ corral games

Playing around with Splash and Scout, two of my favourite creatures.

4th of July parade in Dubois

The great town of Dubois. Population: 971

Bull moose on Togwotee pass

A mama moose on the ranch

Stumbling across wildlife was a frequent highlight of the rides.

Mustangs! Running with wild horse was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. You can read more about it in an earlier blog entry: Mustang Mesa.

Jeannie, Becca and I at the ranch

Ross, Lucy and at The Rustic Pine Tavern in Dubois

No ranch is complete without a pack of dogs.

Finnegan taking a nap in my bed

Some of the ranch horses were a little out of control

Sierra the lamb and her surrogate mum Toni

One of my favourite hikes from Dubois leads here to Lake Louise.

Butch and his sheep at the EA ranch in Dubois

Lauren and Anna fixing fence at the ranch

Jeannie, Becca and I

Scout

Wyoming has an abundance of beautiful wildflowers