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Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25

The Willow Creek Ranch, WY

Just south of Kaycee,WY
It is April 15 2006 and we are early up to make the 55 minute ride from Kaycee to the Ranch. As soon we leave I-25 we are driving through a hilly landscape where cliffs are towering and dry creeks running through. Old cabins show up along the dirt road and the narrow winding road runs deeper and deeper into this remote area. After passing a ridge, the colors in the landscape change from grey rocks to red sandstone. The road is turning rough and especially the last leg to the ranch does not permit anything else than 4WD-vehicles. Deep ruts on both sides require a high ground clearance for any vehicle.

We are on our way to the 57,000 acres Willow Creek Ranch. The ranch is a working guest ranch without most of the typical Dude Ranch facilities. But who ever wants to see a part of the real west and breathe in a good portion of history, is in the right place. 

Besides of a few cabins, it is the old bunkhouse from the old days when cowboys used it as their quarters, which offers accommodation for the guests. Guests will also learn about the rich history from the Old West, when outlaws ruled the area, hiding beneath the "Hole-in-the-Wall".

The ranch's history is unique and somewhat mysterious. Kenneth MacDonald, the founder, was kidnapped as a baby, less than a year old, with his nanny and taken on board a ship to Australia. He never knew his real name or anything about his family or native country.

Bunk House
His nanny died at sea and he was raised by an Australian family who taught him the sheep business. When he was twelve years old he sailed with a sheep-shearing crew to California to shear for the summer. At summer's end, the crew sailed home with his wages, but without him. He went to work for sheep ranchers in California and in about 20 years he owned several bands of his own sheep.

Present owners, Sammye and Gene Vieh,
invite you to share a little piece of
Heaven with them.In time, he walked his sheep from California to Rawlins, Wyoming, and began to ride circle looking for a place of his own. He found what he sought under the red wall and put together the Willow Creek Ranch in 1882. Through inheritance, it remained in the same family until its sale to the present owners, Gene and Sammye Vieh.

Fort Houck and Indian Petroglyphs
On the ranch is the foundation of old "Fort Houck", originally built as a "road ranch" to house a post office and small contingent of troops to protect a marching road and stage coach route. It was a way station for the stage between Barnum and Arminto, Wyoming.
The high walls and caves of nearby Buffalo Creek Canyon still contain the names and dates of soldiers stationed at the fort, plus numerous Indian petroglyphs. A Sioux Indian trail crosses the ranch, and was once part of the Army wagon road. There is evidence of Indian campsites with teepee rings still intact.

Will Taylor Pioneer Homestead
The dilapidated remains of several old pioneer homesteads are scattered throughout the ranch, so we have re-created a "Pioneer Homestead Experience" on the Will Taylor homestead site.
The original old log cabin still stands and a new log cabin has been built on the site and furnished much like it would have been a hundred years ago.

The new "prairie cabin" is next to the original old Will Taylor cabin.
This means no electricity and no indoor plumbing. A log outhouse and outdoor shower add to the authenticity. There is no sign of human existence for miles, just magnificent views of the south slopes of the Big Horns, and miles of prairie and canyons to view from the front porch swing.

After returning to Kaycee we start in the afternoon on a second tour towards Barnum.
This is the northern extension of the "Red Wall" and we are awed by the beauty. The red sandstone contrasts the pale green hay fields and meadows. Dark colored Angus cattle is grazing the area. As the sun sets the colors of this area turn into a frenzy, which I will never forget.

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