A Bar A Ranch meets Virginia Beach

November 22nd, 2013

Clarkie Woods has been an A Bar A staff member for the past two summers. After her family’s visit last summer, her sister Katy wrote this fun article for Northender Magazine:


Jimmy Fallon and Harrison Ford Discuss the A Bar A

November 7th, 2013

This is a great clip from Jimmy Fallon’s show. In it, he and Harrison Ford talk about the West and Jimmy talks about his time at the A Bar A. It is very funny–take a look. You will laugh too.

October 29th, 2013

Fox News has again listed the A Bar A in the top 10 dude ranches. Check out their article at:

Spotlight: Tim Pope

September 15th, 2013

At nine years old, Tim Pope already had big dreams. He explained, “I won $3 in a Buckin’ Ponies contest. I knew then that I wanted to do rodeo for the rest of my life because I loved it so much.”

As a high school student in his hometown of New Albany, Indiana, Tim stuck to this dream. He joined the Rodeo Association and qualified for the national finals all four years of school. After high school, Tim became a professional rodeo clown for 20 years. He traveled across the country fighting bulls and clowning.

However, when his daughter Mattie was born, Tim knew he had to settle down. “I couldn’t keep moving all over the country,” he said. “I had worked part time for a guest ranch in Colorado and really liked it.” His work reminded him of summers in high school, when he traveled to Wyoming to work on a ranch.

One day, his wife, Lynn, called him. Tim recalled, “She said, ‘Tim, your dream job just posted on the internet.’ I did an interview on the phone then in person, and that’s how I ended up at the A Bar A.”

As one of the maintenance directors at the ranch, Tim maintains the buildings, grounds, and vehicles, fixes anything that breaks, feeds the horse herd during the winter, and keeps the road open. The latter is especially important during the winters, when temperatures can drop to -40. However, Tim isn’t phased by the harsh conditions. “It’s not all that bad in the winter,” he explained. “We get 45 days of sunshine and no humidity.” However, the snow can get pretty tough to navigate. “One time we were snowed in for four days straight, and couldn’t actually leave at all,” he said. “We go to Walmart once a month to stock up on food, and the winters are normally pretty easy.”

Though Tim has left his professional rodeo days behind, he volunteers at the Saratoga Rodeo, which is about 45 minutes from A Bar A. His role as a clown involves entertaining the crowd, keeping the rodeo moving, and backing up bullfighters. While rodeoing has always been his passion, Tim also enjoys skiing and playing golf. His favorite part about working at A Bar A, he said, “is being in Wyoming. Just seeing this landscape everyday.” From rodeoing to working on a guest ranch, Tim has continued to chase his dreams.


By Cassidy Duckett

From World Traveling to Wyoming

August 18th, 2013


For Laurie Lauer, becoming the Office Manager at A Bar A was not a straight path. Instead, her journey from her South Dakota hometown to the ranch has included traveling around the world, numerous job titles, and building her home with her own hands.

“When I was 20, I worked in mental health in Oregon at the place where they filmed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Laurie explained. “I was fresh out of South Dakota–I didn’t even know anyone whose parents were divorced. Now I was working with the 20 most dangerous kids in the state.” The teens with whom Laurie worked had committed crimes like murder and prostitution. “It really broadened my world. I was able to find something in the kids that I could connect to. That experience allowed me to learn that I could find the good in anybody.”

After four years of emotionally draining work, Laurie decided to go a different direction. “I’d never been on the ocean before, but I did a six-month kayaking trip with a friend,” she said. The 1600 mile trip brought them all the way through the Inside Passage, the distance from Seattle, Washington to Glacier Bay, Alaska. “It was beautiful country and I saw a ton of wildlife like whales, orcas, and sea lions,” Laurie recalled. “One day, we hit currents and winds that were pulling us into the cliffs. They were 17-foot kayaks and stable, but you’re still in a little boat on a huge ocean.”

With the time at sea behind her, Laurie headed to Mount Hood to work for the winters. During the summer, she worked with logistics for Outward Bound. One winter, Laurie bought a Round the World ticket through Pan-Am and packed her bags. “I hadn’t been out of the country before and at that time, communicating was only through letters and scratchy phone calls,” she explained. “I spent time in Europe and it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. When I crossed into Yugoslavia, I thought, ‘This is why I’m traveling.’ It was totally different.”

Laurie then spent nine weeks in Turkey, where she grew to love the culture and history. Next stop: Africa. “I was in Kenya for three weeks doing a safari on a shoestring budget. Then to India for three weeks, then to Nepal and Thailand. By that time I was running short on time and money,” she said. “I headed to Hong Kong and connected back to San Francisco, then home to see my family.”

Laurie returned to Outward Bound to lead trips into the mountains or desert with youth-at-risk, corporate, and women’s groups. Her job included instructing sea kayaking trips in Baja. In the fall of 1994, her daughter Kyla was born. “The next ten years were spent homesteading in Colorado. We had 35 acres and a straw bale house with a mud floor and mud plaster walls,” she said. “We lived off the grid, had animals, and grew our own food. It was a fun experience.”

However, both Laurie’s and Kyla’s social groups were in a co-housing community near Durango. “The basis for the community is to create opportunities for spontaneous interaction and to engage with each other. There are no attached garages, there are chances to share meals, and all mail comes to a common house.” Laurie’s home is built with trees she helped cut down. It is a timber frame straw bale house with adobe block walls and almost no hardware in the frame.

Though Laurie had been all around the world, it was her new home that connected her with A Bar A. Lissa’s sister was a neighbor. “I was a massage therapist at the time and doing extra jobs on the side when I heard that Lissa was looking for an Office Manager. Kyla had just decided to go to school in Durango, where the A Bar A winter office is. It was all about timing falling into place.”

Through her time at A Bar A, Laurie has learned the joys of working in such a powerful landscape. “I love supporting people in connecting with the land,” she explained. On a personal level, the ranch has opened her eyes to new experiences. “I’m much more comfortable around horses now and try to ride at least once a week,” she said. “I love getting out to hike and am learning how to fly fish. The huge part for me is being able to be here with Kyla [who is a wrangler at the ranch]. It’s been a really good match and it’s been so rewarding to be able to have connections with guests who return year after year.”

However, Laurie’s itch to travel hasn’t disappeared. She is currently investigating completing the sacred treks of ancient cultures. “It’s a way to see the world at a different place and have a purpose in traveling,” she said. “I have a strong draw to that.”

Wherever Laurie’s next step takes her, it’s bound to be interesting. “It never ends,” she laughed.


By Cassidy Duckett


Spotlight: Expeditions with Benjy Duke

August 6th, 2013

Expeditions Director Benjy Duke is all about options. “We give guests
a chance to cater a trip to their interests,” he explained. “They can
be on their own schedule and choose to do things like fish until dark
without worrying about having to be back before dinner.”

The Elizabeth, Colorado native’s first season at the A Bar A was in
2007. Now he leads the Expeditions Program. As a guide, he accompanies
guests to Radiana, a ranch home on Big Creek Ranch, or Burta’s, a
cabin along Big Creek. The cabins can accommodate two to six people
and are well-stocked for breakfast and lunch. Dinners are prepared by
the guides for expedition guests. Guests can choose to move from A Bar
A to each location by horse or vehicle over a week or stay at one of
the cabins as an addition to their week at the A Bar A. Once on an
expedition, Benjy explained, it’s up to the guests to decide what to
do. “There’s no other hustle and bustle,” he said, “so there’s a
strong connection between where you’re staying and the land around you.”

Benjy’s connection to the land runs deeper than most. He’s been
coming to A Bar A since he was two years old and his family’s history
is richly entwined with the ranch. “My grandfather worked with Charlie
Gates at the Gates Rubber Company and oversaw a large portion of the
Gates Family Ranches. They were good friends and fishing buddies.”
Though Benjy’s father and his brothers spent time at the ranch as
children, they were under strict orders to separate themselves from
the guests. Benjy explained, “They would fish and hike, but my
grandfather didn’t want them to ‘spoil anything’ for the guests.”

As a child, coming to A Bar A was the highlight of the summer for
Benjy. Each year, more than 20 of his family members would gather at
the ranch. He explained, “Having the whole family together at once was
really special. We truly enjoyed each other’s company and I was able
to spend quality time with cousins, aunts, and uncles I rarely saw
during the year.” Benjy’s family stayed in Hubbell House, where he has
fond memories of learning how to cast a fly. “My grandfather taught me
how to fly fish on the Hubbell House lawn when I was five or six years
old,” he said. “When I was ten, he and my father would get me the
right flies, talk to me about the water, then leave the rest up to me
to figure out. They never stood near me in the water, so it was left
up to me to learn how to untangle my line and learn how to have fun
with it. I remember going out with a guide once, but it was strange
because I had already fished so much.”

Fly-fishing remains Benjy’s favorite activity at the ranch. However,
when he applied for a position during his freshman year at Washington
College in Maryland, he didn’t think he was qualified enough for a
guide position. “I applied for and was given the gardener position,
which was really fun for me. Because I knew I wanted to work here
since I was a young guest, I was just happy to be out here. My second,
third, and fourth summers I became a fishing guide.”

This family connection with and experience at the ranch allows Benjy
to see the land from a unique perspective. “I’m constantly thinking
about my grandfather and grandmother when I’m here since they treated
my family to A Bar A every year. I try not to just understand the face
value of the history of the land, but try to dive deeper into why
people moved here in the first place,” he said.

The Expeditions program gives long-time guests the opportunity to
explore the landscape in a deeper way, as well. Though they may have
been coming to A Bar A for decades, staying at Burta’s or Radiana has
allowed these guests to explore Big Creek and State Line ranches, too.
Benjy explained, “It creates a new avenue for guests who have been
coming for years to open doors to new places and experience the land
in a new light.”

In addition to riding and fishing, expeditions can include hikes to
Native American historical sites like wikiups, which were used as
temporary shelters by the Ute  Indians during hunting season, tee-pee
rings, and eagle traps. Though he’s been coming to A Bar A for so
long, these opportunities have allowed Benjy to delve deeper into the
history of the area. “Searching for [an archaeological site] was a neat trip
for me because we were all exploring at once,” Benjy said. “I removed
myself from guiding to be immersed in the group, and we were all
trying to discover something together.”

“It’s nice because the program is still young, so the doors are wide
open,” he explained. “We’re still developing it, which allows us to
create an adventure that is very flexible in accommodating whatever
the guests want to do.”

For more information about the Expeditions program or self-guided
expeditions in October, contact Benjy via email at or call (307)-327-5454.

By Cassidy Duckett



Fox News Lists A Bar A in Top Ten Guest Ranches

September 22nd, 2012

We recently had the honor of being listed as among the top ten guest ranches. It was a fun surprise to find this in our inbox!

March Fishing Check-Up

April 3rd, 2012

Hi Justin,

 As you probably know, I went fishing on the ranch last Wednesday and I wanted to give you a quick report and say thanks for the opportunity.  I fished Big Creek from about one mile above the lunch area up to the gate (never went into the meadow).  Of course, I didn’t have time to fish every pool but I stopped and fished some of my favorite spots.  I landed (and released) a total of 34 trout (26 rainbows and 8 browns).  The size ranged from 10 to 21 inches and brown trout tended to be a bit smaller.  The rainbow trout in particular showed good representation of several year classes.  In general, the fish appeared to be in good condition after the past winter. 

 Observations on aquatic insects revealed good numbers of Baetis tricaudatus (blue-winged olive), Paraleptophlebia heteronea (blue quill), Pteronarcella badia (little salmon fly), Hydropsyche cockerelli (tan caddisfly) and a variety of midges.  These and other insects should create some great hatches this summer.  The fish condition also reflected the abundance of aquatic insects.  The presence Pteronarcella badia was additionally informative because this species is known to be a good indicator of favorable water quality and riparian habitat (it has been disappearing from many streams in the west).



Fun fishing story from 2002

December 28th, 2011

While reading through his journal, Bob Howe found this fun entry about an exciting fishing trip on Big Creek.

June 14, 2002

There was a lot of excitement here yesterday. The fishing has been wonderful in the low and clear water-dry flies that normally work later and which work this early in the season is a great treat. So the guides left with a dozen very excited neophytes to explore Big Creek. They split into four groups and one of the guides, Scott Polancich, had his group of three by two likely-looking holes. He carefully gave instructions in casting, how to find the fish, and demonstrated various techniques for bringing them in.

One of the guests, ready to go so Scott gave him free rein and began working with the other two in a pool a few dozen feet upstream. For half an hour nothing happened in either pool, then from the lone fisherman a shout, and Scott, hurried upstream. Instead of a heels-up fisherman, he saw the fellow with his rod almost bent into a U and shrieking with excitement.

Through his polarized sunglasses, Scott could see a huge trout at the end of the line. Shaking with excitement himself, he counseled, “Be calm. Take it easy.” The big fish swam downstream then upstream but couldn’t shake the hook. When the fisherman’s wife heard the commotion she crossed the stream, stepped into a hole and filled her waders but retained her dignity and sloshed across anyhow.

Soon there were three or four spectators. As Scott brought the net under the fish he discovered it was WAAAY too big for the net so reached down and cradled the slippery fish to his body so it wouldn’t escape, almost as if he were tackling it. They photographed the proud fisherman with his fish then turned it free to fight again. Later that evening I talked with both the fisherman and the guide; it was impossible to tell who was more excited.”

Just found this fun picture of the 2011 staff, first day of staff training.

November 8th, 2011

We just found this picture and wanted to share it with everyone. It is fun to think that on the day this was taken (first day of staff training) few of the staff knew each other. By the end of summer, many of us had become lifelong friends. Thanks for the memories and a wonderful 2011 summer!

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