Once we turn our calendars to March, it’s not unusual for cabin fever to set in here at the ranch. The winter season has marked our time for over three months and the need to see dry ground drives us to thoughts of the open road and time away from winter’s enclosure.
Our escape from cabin fever this year was to the Flathead Valley of Montana, an expansive and beautiful area of lakes, glaciers, and stunning mountain ranges. Our friends, Ken and Nancy Jones, had invited us to come and enjoy their home in the upper reaches of the northwest between Kalispell and Whitefish, Montana just an hour away from the Canadian border.
After living in Colorado most of their adult lives--Ken previously managed the Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado and Nancy spent most of her working life in Boulder, Colorado working for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory--they feel at home here. They call their place the “Lucky 2 Ranch” for good reason: they feel fortunate not only to be together but to be settled in such a nurturing landscape right on the edge of open meadows and surrounded by protective pines.
When Ken retired from the Home Ranch and they were newly married, Ken and Nancy searched for the perfect place in which to settle and create a new life together. Ken had spent time in Montana as a child and his father eventually settled on a ranch outside Big Timber, Montana. It wasn’t surprising then that Montana drew him back, those stores of fond childhood memories sounding the call. They each found the Flathead Valley’s stunning visual landscape captivating. Ken said, “I don’t think there’s a prettier place anywhere, at least in the lower forty-eight. I love it here.” The commitment to environmental awareness and conservation by local communities also beckoned both Ken and Nancy’s sensitivities to the importance of living a conscientious life.
During the winter months Ken makes saddles and other leather products such as headstalls, stick horses, purses, and knife and cell phone cases. The saddle currently in Ken’s leather shop is made for a female rider. It is complete with custom pouches for a cell phone, sunscreen, knife, or lip gloss. Ken not only has the practical idea for the storage compartment but he integrates it visually into the saddle. The lines of the pouch mirror the lines of the saddle skirt and seat.
While Pete has made custom mohair western cinches, he’d also been interested in learning about leather work. So, he asked Ken if he would show him a few basics of leather working. So, while Nancy and I discussed our writing lives, (Nancy writes for a variety of local and regional publications in Kalispell and for the Great Falls newspaper), visited a local art community and the inspiring Glacial National Park, Ken and Pete spent time creating a custom headstall complete with our brand, the Two Quarter Circle. Ken’s attention to detail and drive for perfection led to a work of art: the entire headstall is cut by hand, hand stamped, lined with fine latigo leather, and finished with Jeremiah Watt’s hardware.
When the winter season gives way to spring, the Luck 2 Ranch transforms into a classroom for Ken and Nancy’s business, Equimersion. With Ken’s lifelong background in the world of horses, he offers an open air classroom for one on one or small group horseback riding and natural horsemanship instruction. Riders who are interested in improving their riding come to the Lucky 2 Ranch where Ken enthusiastically shares his love of horses and the relationship between horse and rider. Nancy graciously provides the riders with a place to rest and reenergize while away from home.
After visiting the Lucky 2 Ranch, we too felt fortunate to have experienced Ken and Nancy’s home, Ken’s leather workshop, and the powerful sense of place that exists in the Flathead Valley at the foot of the inspiring Livingston Range in Glacial National Park. We returned home, our cabin fever cooled by the fresh air of the open road and our spirits lifted by good friends, the lengthening of daylight and a growing awakening to the promise crocus and hyacinth will soon bring.
For more information on the Equimersion program and the Lucky 2 Ranch, go to www.lucky2ranch.com