We took the long way in getting here. Heading out west from the East Coast is always an adventure and a journey to be savored, so we took the scenic route. Flying into Billings Montana late at night and staying in a tiny bed-and-breakfast before hitting the road to cross Yellowstone National Park the next day was the perfect respite after flying commercial all day.
The geysers, bubbling sulfur pools, rolling hills, wildlife and wild tourists captured our attention along the way. As far as the eye could see this spectacular spectacle of a park offered jaw dropping views. If it weren’t a lush mountainside, there was a babbling brook that cut through a field of wildflowers that somehow peacefully coexisted with a steaming pool that appeared to have popped up out of nowhere. Old Faithful was getting old because its spurting exhibit of prowess was lacking, in my opinion. Having sat out in the blazing sun in anticipation, I found the geysers display a tad disappointing. However the surrounding terrain offered crystal clear pools and a kaleidoscope of watercolors as a backdrop, formed by sulfur springs and other tiny bubblers nearby.
No time was wasted. This was a trip, an adventure, and a journey that we wanted to immerse ourselves in. The journey through Yellowstone was a memorable one but the anticipation of where we were headed kept this road trip moving. No time to dawdle because what lay ahead was potentially more intriguing and even more entertaining than what lies behind in the park.
We were on our way to Red Reflet Guest Ranch. The name alone is intriguing as reflet is French for reflect. We couldn’t wait to discover why it was named in such an untraditionally western name. This is the wild Wild West after all and names mean a lot out in these parts. It didn’t take very long upon arrival to surmise why the name was what it was. Upon approach, the red rocks that formed the mountain range which served as the backdrop for this resort spoke volumes. The red was everywhere. When I say everywhere, I mean it. We were about to find out just how far that red dirt was willing to travel.
As we checked in at the main lodge we were escorted to our chalet and what would be our transportation for the remainder of our stay. Our chalet sat overlooking the ridge that framed the canyon that climbed upward to a table top plateaued red mountain. Our floor to ceiling windows showcased everything. It was about time that we dropped our bags and hopped on the two awaiting ATVs. It was time to explore!
As I said, we flew commercial, but quite a few of the guests who were there during our stay flew into the resort’s private airport. What a spectacular landing that must be to glide in and taxi down the runway with these glorious mountains on either side of your wingtip. From everything we heard from those guests, it was a magical experience. The guest ranch is magical for everyone though as you’re about to see through our words which truly do not do justice to this gorgeous 6,600 acre ranch.
The tagline says they are exclusively inclusive and uniquely uncommon; we can attest to that. As we hopped on our ATVs and headed out to explore some of the acres we looked at each other in awe. Stretched out beside us, behind us, beneath us, as we descended our perch atop the mountain from our chalet, were virgin green pastures on one side, red rocks on another in a dusty valley on yet another side. Within our sites, we knew we had a veritable adventure playground at our feet. We came as a couple but the resort is one of the best in Wyoming for families. It allows guests to schedule as many activities as they like. We chose to start off simply exploring on our ATVs, in an attempt to figure out what we should do first.
As we had just arrived, I was too timid to hop on and have my first time experience on a dirtbike. I was timid because who knows how that would’ve ended up. As we drove past the stables with all the dappled horses brown and even one that had to be in his stable during the daylight hours because he was easily sunburnt, that’s right a horse who basically reminded me of Mr. Ed, as he gazed out at us from his stable accommodations. He became one of our favorites, actually. Although we couldn’t ride him in the hundred degree, sunny daylight we decided to hop on other horses and off of our cycles and get out and see some really great terrain. There are ample choices that range from hiking to fishing, mountain biking, rifle shooting, handgun shooting, rock climbing and a natural water park for swimming and some swinging off ropes, as a daredevil does. Speaking of daredevils, we threw our names on the list to go and zip line across the ranch.
As we took the rim ride, as it is called, we got to thinking that we were sort of happy it wasn’t winter because we could imagine tobogganing and sledding down the slopes of these red rock ranges. It was a harrowing enough experience for us to ride on the rim atop one of these gorgeous red plateaus. The cracked slate under the hubs of the horses let us know that we were not necessarily on terra firma the entire ride, but we never felt afraid, for these sure footed creatures carried us with gentle grace as we looked down hundreds of feet to the canyon below. The silence and serenity made it easy to be at one with nature, only the sound of the occasional neighing from the horse and the crackle of that slate broke the thick silence that was among us. Captivated by our surroundings, we were speechless for all the right reasons.
Hopping off of our horses and back onto our ATVs to head up to the chalet, we decided that the day’s ride was worth discussing while sitting on our wraparound terrace because we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to interrupt each other’s thoughts while on the ride along the rim of the mountain. Cowboy boots up against the railing gazing out at the red rocks, sipping on a glass of wine, we decided to do nothing before getting ready for dinner with the other guests and our inspiring host, Laurence.
Doing nothing here also seems like an activity outside of all those that they offer because as we sat staring off into what we thought was a still life Vista, we looked to our right and saw a family of deer making their way down to the green valley below. At every turn and every glance we were able to see nature unfolding as daylight drifted into sunset, washing the red rocks with a new subtle light.
That golden hour glow was our cue to head to dinner. We took the car down in the evenings as dust was not a welcome accessory to our evening attire. When we say inclusive, we mean it. All of our food, beverages and activities were included (besides a nominal fee for a fishing license had we chosen to partake in fly fishing). Dinner was always an enjoyable delight. We ate outside, chatting with the owner and her guests, sipping on wine and watching the red rock mountains fade to black.
Luckily for us our stay was over a few moonless nights that set the inky black sky a light with stars instead of moonlight, allowing us to see clearly the Milky Way and other constellations. The views at night rival those of the day and even from my bed looking beyond our toes, we could see the night sky dotted with stars that twinkled, as though they were sending us off to slumber and wishing us a good night.
It really is engaging. Being at the ranch at one with nature, being a part of the crew, if only for a few days and nights, the experience is authentic and as hands-on as one would like it to be. Speaking of hands on, our zip lining experience required us to use our hand to press down on the brake in order to stop. Talk about taking your life into your own hands. This was an adrenaline rush like no other. We soared above the swimming hole, saw others hiking up the side of a mountain, and dirt bikes being returned to the shed. Being up that high and taking things in from yet another vantage point gave us a sense of invincibility. On the final run of the zip line, we were so emboldened that we dusted off the red sandy bits that we picked up along our joyride high above the ranch and decided to give dirt bike riding a try! My partner rides motorcycles quite a bit so he had little trepidation taking on the loose earth, as he took off over the horizon and climbed up the side of a hill. I, on the other hand, took a minute to learn about gears and clutches and then I was off! Fairly proud of myself for staying on the bike as I sped up and down on the mostly flat, sandy parts of the valley.
What a trip! Our days here were numbered and as time drew nearer to departure, we soaked in our hot tub on the last night; contemplating the stars and chatting about taking a final horseback ride to a hidden waterfall that we had heard so much about. Seems surprising in what is now a very arid state, that for millions of years was underwater and 300 million years ago, in the Carboniferous age, Wyoming would have been an island off of the west coast of North America, if you can imagine that. So on our way to the waterfall, it should have been no surprise to us that we stopped to pick up fossilized tentacles from a squid-like cephalopod. At first these pieces of prehistoric history eluded our eyes. They are the same color as the dusty ground we were trotting upon. But once our guide, the general manager of the resort, Penny Ready “Penn” hopped out of her saddle and picked up two to show us, our eyes acclimated and we found a few more of these bullet-shaped, dart-like treasures. What a treat that was.
Driving to the guest ranch we had seen the signs along the road about the age of the rocky terrain we were driving through, but being able to dismount our horses to actually touch these extinct treasures brought home the fact that this trip indeed was a privilege not many get to experience. Awash with emotion from that encounter, we rode along over a hill to be surprised, yet again, by the sight of the waterfall which appeared out of a barren landscape. We tied our horses to a tree and sat on the banks of the river created by the cascade and took it all in for a few minutes, as the horses rested. The ride back was mostly quiet, as we reflected on our final moments at Red Reflet. Taking it all in before we hit the road once again.