This past Tuesday I had the pleasure of going to Sylvan Dale Ranch and Vee Bar Ranch. At the Dude Ranchers’ Association there are a number of reasons to visit a ranch, including an inspection that is done every five years and to return a display from the Dude Ranchers’ Museum. This was also an opportunity to get to know the ranches on a personal level.
I arrived at Sylvan Dale in the early afternoon and was pleasantly surprised at how well the ranch is situated off the road in it’s own valley. The more of the ranch I observed the more I realized it was a side door to the mountains, to 3,600 owned acres of ranch lands and many times that in public lands.
Susan Jessup, the owner of Sylvan Dale, greeted me personally at the ranch and shared some of her fondest memories growing up at the ranch. I met Susan at the DRA Convention and in the above picture she is presenting at the Dude Ranch 101 presentation, where the “Old Timers” of the industry form a panel for questions about how to operate a successful dude ranch.
To get to know the ranch she showed me around the cabins.
I met my new favorite donkey named Clint. He is a big hit among the kids and would be one of my go-to friends at the ranch, for sure. Speaking of kids, Susan told me all about the kids program at Sylvan Dale. There is always plenty of things to do with a planed kids program in the morning and family time in the afternoon. At age 7 the kids can go on the trail rides with the whole family.
As we went past the fields Susan talked about the horse program at the ranch. The horses are bred and raised at the ranch, with a couple born each year. There is only one trainer used, and as Susan put it, “He trains the horses and the wranglers and the wranglers teach the guests.” A big emphasis on horse handling and education is in place at the ranch with educational clinics during the week. The riding style reflects this as the control of the horse is placed in the responsible hands of the guest. Everyone gets to ride in a group as opposed to riding in a straight line where the trail permits, and if the terrain permits the guest might have the opportunity to lead the trail ride for a bit. My visit at Sylvan Dale was filled with great conversation and exploration. I am thankful for the hospitality shown to me there.
The drive up to the Vee Bar Ranch was one of unique beauty seen in Wyoming. This is where country songs about ‘wide open spaces’ are made. The view was expansive and filled with open fields and tall grass, in other words, distinct from the ‘sage grass expanse’ seen in most of the state. I was greeted by the wonderful Kilmer family. Kari and Brent are a very active part of the ranch, participating in the events and actives. Their children are not far behind. They are all active participants in promoting the dude ranch industry. Brent is the previous president of the Wyoming Dude Ranchers’ Association and Kari is the current president. They also make the DRA convention a yearly family trip.
The cabins are very clean and well maintained. They were built by Kari’s grandfather Lefty 20 or so years ago.
He picked a great place to put the cabins – right along the creek pictured above.
At Vee Bar the riding is pretty incredible. There are plenty of open meadows to lope. At this ranch fast riders and slow riders all ride together – and are happy about it. How? There are two wranglers on each ride and they separate at the edge of a loping spot, with a group going loping and a slower group walking up to meet them around the next bend. Oh, and there’s no straight line riding here, unless, A: you want to or B: the terrain demands it.
The ranch has its very own John Wayne Saloon and Jukebox (pictured above), but the bartender position is vacant. Guests are welcome to fix their own drinks when they please, and are charged on the honor system by way of a tally sheet on the bar. You may arrive as a stranger but you will leave as a friend. If you would like more information on the Vee Bar Ranch or the Sylvan Dale Ranch give us a call at 307.587.2339