The Vee Bar began as a stage stop back in the late 1800s and has been welcoming guests ever since. Today, the main lodge, built in 1891, is on the National Registry of Historic Buildings, and the ranch teems with wildlife, like antelope and a nesting pair of bald eagles.
Owner Kari Kilmer’s grandfather, Lefty Cole, bought the property in the early 1990s to preserve the open rangeland and keep it out of the hands of developers. In the West loom the mountains of Medicine Bow National, where I catch a thrilling glimpse of a moose on an early morning cattle drive. There’s good fly-fishing on the creek that runs through the ranch, but I’m here to ride. You gotta bring the cows in first.
Kari and her husband Brent took the management reins in 2006. Brent grew up on a 10,000-acre ranch outside of Lusk, Wyo., population of 1,400. (Lusk is the biggest town in the least-populated county in the nation’s least-populated state.)
“I’m just really proud of ranching and the way I grew up,” says Brent.
Wrangler Tommy George, 74, has been cowboying his entire life, too. His Wyoming roots go back to his great-great-grandfather, a trapper in the 1800s.
“He was just an outlaw out of Ireland,” laughs George. “I think they chased him as far as Wyoming and gave up, and that’s where he stayed!”
George claims to never have cussed a day of work. “Still don’t!” he says. “I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve been alive.” Maybe that’s because he gets paid to do what we’re paying to do.
During my five-day stay in July, we’re in the saddle a good five hours a day, herding, cutting, and helping with the branding and vaccination. And after branding, it was back in the saddle to drive the cows out to pasture.
The week raced by, each day peeling away layers of stress compounded by “normal” life. I went home resolved to work less, ride more, and do better.
June 9–Aug. 31. All-inclusive three-night stays from $925–$1,000; six–night stays are $1675–$1800. (Lower rates for children.) Laramie Regional Airport is 21 miles away; Denver International is 2.5 hours south. Shuttle service available.