The Wild West has always called my name. I grew up riding horses on my grandma’s farm in North Dakota, and this passion turned into a full-time hobby when I started barrel racing in my teen years. I was obsessed with anything involving horses, including movies like The Man from Snowy River and Dances with Wolves. Even today, the modern Western television show Yellowstone has me hooked. And I can confidently say I’m not alone in dreaming of a vacation driving cattle while dressed head-to-toe in Ralph Lauren.
The Western frontier has a luring effect, with its earthy rustic American spirit that seems to float through the air. It’s rugged, remote and at times harsh, yet it’s filled with beauty and awe. Recently, the coronavirus outbreak has pushed many of us to venture out into the wild on outdoor adventures. When I was invited to a remote Wyoming camp at 10,000 feet in the Shoshone National Forest for a few days of horseback riding and fly-fishing last summer, I couldn’t pack fast enough.
Situated in Cody, Shoshone Lodge Outfitters is an elk hunting outfitter owned by husband-and-wife team Josh and Laci Martoglio. During the summer months, the duo extends their business into fly-fishing and horseback-riding excursions aboard their team of 35 horses and mules. Camp is set up deep within the mountains, so your trip begins with a four-hour ride through the forest, crossing many rivers and streams. At the very end, it’s a straight uphill climb to get to home base.
Camp consists of a handful of white canvas tents, all delivered via pack horses. The unfiltered drinking water comes straight from a nearby stream. And the camp chef is a culinary genius, using a tiny propane-fueled kitchen to prepare delicious farm-to-table delights that rival dishes from your favorite restaurant. Life here is completely off the grid, yet it’s refined with rugged luxury.
Our days consisted of epic horseback riding, wildlife watching, shed hunting and fly-fishing for cutthroat trout on the Greybull River. The waters of the Greybull are barely pressured by humans, so you have a trout on the end of your line with nearly every cast. Thankfully, the grizzly bears were miles away, yet close enough that we could admire them through a scope. We watched them eat fatty moths from under rocks as they prepared for winter.
Of course, it was the horses and mules that had me most in awe. The riding terrain here is very extreme. The ability of these equines to climb rocky mountain trails then safely navigate their way down steep ravines and through rock-filled gorges reminded me of a valuable life lesson: pray, trust and let go. You and your horse are a team, and you have to trust that your horse knows the trail much better than you do.
Mountain horses seem to have a sixth sense about them. Every evening, they were let go to run free and graze along the hillside with no boundaries for miles. And each morning, they would return to camp on their own like clockwork — a testament to how much they love their job.
The wild west of Wyoming was exactly as I dreamt it would be: beautiful yet dusty, serene yet severe. And I loved every minute of it. There were no showers and no spa during this glamping excursion. I’ll admit that at first, the idea of being detached from the real world took some getting used to. But by the end of the trip, I wasn’t sure I wanted my cell service, Internet or television back (althougha hot shower was at the top of my list). Going off the grid is glorious. Consider making your next adventure a remote one, as the wilderness will always be there to welcome you.