Riding the Open Country: A Moment of Bliss

Jael Kampfe
Jael Kampfe, of the Lazy E-L Ranch, Roscoe MT.

Sometimes I experience a moment that I know is transcendent. It’s a combination of where I am, what I am doing, and what it all means when put together. About 3 o’clock this afternoon, I was riding a docile horse named Domingo on the wide open countryside outside the Lazy E-L Ranch in Roscoe.

When I looked around at those dun-colored hills, at the sun glinting off the stand of gently waving aspen trees, and in the distance, the striking peaks of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wildnerness Area, I knew it was a moment worth cherishing.  I watched two mule deer scurry up a hill in the distance, and watched the two dogs chase a hare, following his upright white tail; then saw a blue heron stalking his prey in a marsh.

The moment was perfect. It was glorious in its beauty, and feeling the horse beneath me and the comraderie of riding with a group, it got me feeling tremendous gratitude, and happiness for realizing it for what it was.

The Lazy E-L Ranch lies at the foot of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area.
The Lazy E-L Ranch lies at the foot of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area.

We were riding with Jael Kampfe, a 40-ish woman who runs the Montana ranch with a brood of relatives and a staff of wranglers.  Jael is warm and friendly, the perfect personality to be in the business of taking her guests on these rides in this glorious country. She’s still as blown away by the beauty as newcomers; she gushed about how much she loved it and she’s grown up in this place since her family settled in the early 1900s.

She’s figured out a smart niche in the cattle business. She brings up to 2200 head of yearling cattle to her 12,000 acre ranch and fattens them up on the rich grass there between May and October, then sends them back and collects a fee. She also hosts families and couples seeking a real working ranch vacation, and takes them out on cattle drives and fixing fences in her huge back 40.

All of the land in the vast distance we could see is about a third of the land; her holdings also include five miles of the pristine trout-filled West Rosebud river, where no road comes anywhere close.