We waited outside the Stage Stop along with 12 other people for our ride to arrive. There are two Backcountry Jeep Tour sessions per day. The morning session starts off with the Jeep Tour and ends with the Chuck Wagon Lunch. We signed up for the afternoon session. That starts with the Chuck Wagon Lunch first, followed by the Jeep Tour. We had to wait for our pick up to take us out to the Chuck Wagon Lunch location.
Soon, a red open air retro looking bus pulled up front. Yup, that's right. It's the same kind of bus used in the Yellowstone National Park tours back in the 1930s. Pretty cool, huh? Looks like our ride to the Chuck Wagon Lunch is here!
The bus took us out of town and into the plains. It was a very pleasant ride, with the cool wind blowing in our faces. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the Chuck Wagon Lunch location. The bus driver stopped in front of this small footpath and told us to follow the path, it will lead us to the Chuck Wagon.
It was a short hike and before we knew it, it opened up into a large clearing and we could see our Chuck Wagon Lunch waiting for us! Wooohoo!!
There was quite a large spread of food (I wasn't expecting much, since it was in the middle of nowhere :P) and lots of ice cold drinks. You can look at close up photos of what we ate in my previous post about the food served at the ranch here. All I can say is that I totally lovveeee the Huckleberry Soda. I wish we can get some here right now! It's so goood.
After lunch, we headed out to the Jeep for a short briefing by the guides. We were then split in groups and shown to our Jeeps. Since there were only 14 people and there were enough Jeeps for 18, some of us got our own Jeep. It was just Kevin, our guide and myself in our Jeep...Yay!
Our guide started by telling us all about the history of the Ranch and stuff like that. She also explained to us that since the Ranch spans over 18,000 acres, it is basically split into three parts - the guest ranch (the town where we were staying), the working ranch and the backcountry. The backcountry itself is pretty amazing. You can find three different types of ecosystems here in the backcountry. We started off by driving off to the Plains. The scenery was just amazing. You can see the vast flat grounds of the plains, with the rolling Crazy Mountains as the perfect backdrop. Simply breathtaking. We also kept a lookout for wild animals (there were some binoculars in the jeep for us to use), apart from the usual deer, we also managed to spot a lone antelope in the distance.
From the Plains, we drove downhill...all the way to the River Valley. You can see the vast difference between the two ecosystems. Lots of vegetation and streams. Our guide pointed out some old beaver dams and some other interesting sites.
One of the stops that we made was at this old abandoned house. Workers at the mill used to travel really far from their homes in town to get to work back in the day. They got sick of the commute, so they bought this house straight out from a Sears Roebuck catalog and made it their home. After the mill closed down, they moved on and abandoned the house. Now, a group of Muskrats made this abandoned house their home. We saw quite a few of them when we were there. Cute little things, looks somewhat like Beavers. There were also a lot of wild raspberries growing around the house, so we helped ourselves to some (after the guide told us that it's safe, of course!)
After the old house, we had loads of fun with the river crossing. It was pretty cool to drive across the rivers in our Jeeps! Thank goodness we had our seat belts on...it was so bumpy I had to hang on to the "Ohshitbar" for my dear life!! :D
From the River Valley, we drove up long, narrow and really winding roads uphill. It took us out from the River Valley and suddenly we were high up in the 3rd ecosystem. There is no actual name for this ecosystem, they just call it "below the tree line". This is where you can find coniferous trees and beautiful views.
This is also the meeting place for all the Jeeps. Since we were split into two groups, with each group heading the opposite direction, this is the place where we met up. While waiting for all the Jeeps to arrive, we had a chance to hike down the mountain a little to check out the amazing view.
After bidding goodbye to the other group, we continued on with our journey. By then, it was already about 2 and a half hours into the tour. The sun was shining brightly and boy, it was getting really hot and humid. We later found out that it was the hottest day yet this summer in Montana - a super hot 89F! We were really glad that we stopped at this lookout point for some ice cold drinks. There were Powerades and bottled water. We could also help ourselves to trail mixes, power bars, nuts and other snacks.
They also set up a powerful telescope for us to look for wildlife. Our guide told us that she managed to spot some Black Bears, Antelopes and Elk a couple of weeks back. I guess it was too hot for any wildlife to be roaming around, I bet they were all hiding in caves to cool themselves down.
Our spirits were still high, even though by then, we were really tired and really really hot. This photo was taken just before we left for the final part of the tour.
In the final part of the tour, we headed into the working cattle ranch. We managed to spot some Black Angus (in the photo) as well as some Long Horns. The guide also showed us some ranchers ('real cowboys' , not the 'fake' ones that we can find in our little town) on a cattle drive, working in the fields - basically doing day to day stuff that ranchers would do while working on the ranch). We also got a chance to see the staff quarters.
Soon, we were back on the plains and we could see our little 'cowboy' town in a distance. Yay! I can't wait to head out to the Saloon for a tall icy glass of Sweet Tea.
The last stop on Backcountry Jeep Tour was of course in front of the infamous Crazy Mountain Ranch gateway. We got to take our photos and stuff in front of that. I believe that the only chance you will get to take a picture in front of the sign is when you go on the Backcountry Jeep Tour. All the other activities doesn't bring you out this way. So, if you want a photo in front of this sign, you better sign up for the Backcountry Jeep Tour :D Our Jeep dropped us off at the Stage Stop and we headed back into town for a drink in the Saloon (we were super dehydrated due to the heat). The whole lunch and tour combo took a total of almost 4 hours. We had only about an hour to head back to our rooms to shower and change before the big Street Party!! More about the Street party in my next post! Woohoo!!
* Click here to be directed back to the Crazy Mountain Ranch Homepage. You can check out other ranch related posts as well as look at photos from the ranch during our Summer 2009 trip!