Reciprocal invitation and exchanges ideas between Rocking Tree Ranch in Big Timber, Montana, USA and L'Etoile Guesthouse in La Bastide-Puylaurent, Cevennes, France. Pictures, information, report.
Guest-Ranch in the neighborhood of Yellowstone National Park
One man working full-time is necessary only to maintain all the fences; 2 others prepare and look after the horses for the cowboys coming from the city to spend a week at the ranch. Then there is the kitchen with full board service, evening parties around the fireplace with live country music, shopping in Big Timber, etc...
Mary and her 12 employees are very busy during the season; she says: "I am at the point of hiring one person who would be in charge of my staff. But now everything's calm; yesterday we broke the teepee and made the last check of all fences to be sure that the winter will be OK."
It was the high time because the snow surprised us this morning and we could not even go to Bozeman - the local big city, as we had planned. We rather stayed in our "Bunk-House" to do not risk accidents on slippery roads as I've already known it in Rocky Mountains in Canada. My rented car has nothing to do with big trucks; watch out !
Mary was running a software providing firm few years ago and she was lucky to sell her business in 1998 just before stock exchange crash of e-business shares. She anticipated it right in time to reorganize her life. Without asking herself too much she put all the money to this ranch in the south of Montana and right away put her hand to the plough.
Friends and neighbors, everyone backs up and invites each other; as for Mary's birthday party. We could share the atmosphere together with the other guests and I was once more surprised by the quality of the meal; everything was delicious ! It was a great party, we were surrounded by charming and very thoughtful people. The warmth of the fire, the aperitif, a piano play and bottles of a good wine made us quickly forget about the freezing cold wind sweeping the prays outside the house.
Since two years, Mary has been working with her heart and soul for her ranch. In spite of all her efforts she was about to loose everything last year during a huge forest fire that finally stopped only 1 mile from here. The danger was warded off thanks to the wind which had turned. The traces are still visible all around and make one tremble...
Mary lives on her own with her son Lee in the middle of these endless spaces facing the mountains of the Yellowstone National Park; she lives her adventure in the Far West. Horse- riding since her childhood she has always been thrilled by horses.
With her look of a pioneer Mary never complains; her son Lee is strong as well and in spite of his age of only 10 years we can notice that he is already assuming his role of the future leader. He listens, speaks little but he has this calm force we can find only here.
The ranch is really very comfortable and there is enough space to put whole village in it. Isolated, the Rocking Tree Ranch is composed of a magnificent wooden barn, a big corral with a few horses sharing a huge bale of hay, 3 country style bunk-houses for staying guests, Mary's house and the guesthouse with a huge and modern kitchen all the vogue, everything in stainless steel and ready to serve about fifty people.
There are also some sheds where the farm machines are being parked together with old trucks serving now only to make a round of the property to check the fences or to find a strayed calf. Down the pray close to the river a teepee is standing next to a big barbecue where people are used to broiling huge steaks with big potatoes wrapped in tinfoil.
Yesterday evening we went to have a dinner to the "Grand Hotel" in Big Timber. The architecture of 30s, a dozen of rooms, a bar and a huge dining room where you can savor the best Californian wines: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
In the hotel and its bar, there is a kind of unchanged atmosphere reminding the times of the rush towards the American west. In the bar, we drink the beer, make jokes and laugh; in the dining room we drink wine and chat... I miss a bit the spirit of the bar, there's more atmosphere.
Mary's parents were with us. They live on the East coast in Pennsylvania State not far from Pittsburgh and they come to see her daughter and their grandson twice a year (driving some 3000 miles in 4 days and 3 nights at their age of about 70).
Downtown, Main Street; everything happens there; sideways parked cars, the chamber of commerce, library, Chinese restaurant, an old gas station and a hardware store where you can find everything to keep the ranch. The general store "Little Timber Quilts" has still the old times look; high ceiling, big long counter and a wheeled ladder moving along the wooden shelves with piled clothes of all sizes and colors. It is a kingdom of the patchwork here. The ladies meet several times a week to exchange their know-how. They are inviting us to take a coffee and a piece of cake... it is the second anniversary of re-opening.
There's also the Motel "Lazy J" where Robert Redford was shooting one of the acts of "The Horse Whisperer". Aneta is beside herself with excitement, she loves Robert Redford, his blue eyes and fair hair.
And finally the tiny hairdressing parlor oddly situated in a small cabin in the middle of an empty square quite away from all the other shops.
Undoubtedly, it is the place where the cowboys have their hair cut before going back to the endless prairies where they feel so at ease.
We can see them enter to the stores with the grit, a spontaneous and direct physical force. The real men reminding me the gold seekers who I used to work with in the north of California in Red Wood Forest.
L'Etoile Guest House
Old romantic Hotel, L'Etoile Guest-House is a mountain retreat in the South of France. With a beautiful park along the Allier River, L'Etoile Guesthouse is located in La Bastide-Puylaurent between Lozere, Ardeche and Cevennes. Many hiking trails like GR7, GR70 Stevenson trail, GR72, GR700 Regordane way, Cevenol, Allier river, Margeride, Gevaudan. Many hiking loops around L'Etoile Guesthouse. The right place to relax.