My wife and I have had inner-cowpersons forever. Despite the disdain for such things now shown by our grown children, we’ve wanted to ride something passing for range ever since it became clear to us that Dale and Roy were wearing neon cowboy shirts in those black and white TV pictures that showed up in our parents’ rustbelt homes, a dream that finally came true when we found the Broken Arrow Lodge in the Upper Ruby River Valley near tiny Alder, Montana.
The Broken Arrow is located in that part of the Wild West that was the end of the trail for the cowpokes of both “Lonesome Dove” and “Open Range,” and while there are no canned cattle drives or bottled gun fights at the Lodge, there is the vast rolling sea of wilderness of The Beaverhead National Forest, a gorgeous spot that seems reason enough to set out on horseback from Texas. Riding in the pine-covered mountains and alpine meadows that surround the Lodge, we’ve found, will satisfy even the most demanding inner cowpuncher and leave it wanting more, which means that we’ve come to see Sherry and Erwin Clark, the owners and outfitters, every year since discovering their place five years ago, a time during which we’ve seldom repeated a ride and never been less than enthralled.
The Clarks, to tell the truth, are the real reason we fly out to Alder every summer because they combine serious skill with horses and the outdoors with a talent for making guests feel considerably more than welcome. Searching for a word to describe this talent during our second visit, we came up with “adoption” and have seen no reason to change it. Sherry and Erwin have found a way to offer the rustic lifestyle they chose 15 years ago to others, and the sense that one has become family brings most clients back on a regular basis, meaning that vacations at the Broken Arrow often seem like reunions.
On top if everything else, the lodge’s weekly rates are all-inclusive, covering three wonderful meals a day, all the riding any pent-up cowboy could desire, and enough Romantic memories to last until your next visit. Because the Broken Arrow turns into a hunting and fishing lodge at other times of the year, there are lots of other things to do when our inner cowpersons tire or our city butts momentarily give out. The Ruby River is a world-class trout stream that cuts across the Clarks’ property, and there is even a stocked pond for kids to try their hands at fishing. Five miles down the road there is a vast prairie dog village on private land, and one can shoot the varmints to his heart’s content without a license and, time permitting, the possibility of a thank you from the rancher who owns the land.
Another 20 miles puts you in Nevada City and Virginia City, old mining towns that have been re-established as tourist destinations. One has been turned into a museum with a costumed interpreter in each building, and the other offers all kinds of Wild West attractions, including two theaters doing period pieces, a good deal of shopping, plenty of good places to eat, and a stage coach and a steam train to ride. Another 20 or so miles brings you to Ennis, a lovely little town that’s home to fishing opportunities on the Madison River and shops, galleries, and a chain of festivals that spans the summer. A bit farther away but still accessible as day trips are Yellowstone National Park (which is 90 miles east) and Butte (about 85 miles northwest).
Broken Arrow Lodge
Alder, Montana 59710
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