By Abbie Digel Explorebigsky.com Editor

The ranch hands say they know the land better than they know themselves. They’ve laid the fencing and planted the trees, and have seen the children come of age here, teaching them the lessons of good, honest work.

Meg and Charlie have lived and
worked on Timber Creek Ranch for
six years. They had a hand in raising
the owners’ children, including the
youngest, Finn. The owners, a family
hailing from the east coast, come
to the ranch about three times a
year to escape the city and to enjoy
the long summer days and cozy
winter evenings, and, most of all, to
be together.
The stunning 557-acre property sits
on the banks of the South Fork of
the Shoshone River in the foothills
of Wyoming’s Absaroka Mountains.
Named for nearby Timber
Creek, which flows past the main
house and stables, the secluded spot
blends into the valley’s vast beauty.
The sense of place on Timber Creek
Ranch provides those who are
lucky enough to be there a setting
in which to prosper, be grounded
and be present.

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It’s a quiet life on Timber Creek
Ranch, which is a 30-minute drive
from the classic western town of
Cody, Wyoming, and about an hour
from Yellowstone National Park.
Buck, a local Cody legend, homesteaded
the ranch in the early
1900s, and the property has been
passed down through generations
of families ever since.
This was Annie, John, and their
four childrens’ last summer on Timber
Creek Ranch. When the aspen
leaves began to change to sunlityellow
and the mornings provided
an abrupt chill, Finn’s three older
siblings and father headed East.
Finn stayed one week longer with
his mother, Annie, working on the
last of his rock collection and riding
his horse, Sabre. Sometimes, as
they loped along, Finn remembered
the glory of winning blue ribbons
with Sabre at that summer’s Park
County Fair.
Finn often spoke of pack trips with
Charlie up to Carter Mountain – a
dominant peak boasting the largest
mass in the Greater Yellowstone.
He recalled mornings tracking
animals on the riverbank, fi nding
pronghorn, elk and smaller critters’
tracks, and ATV rides, splashing
through mud puddles, laughing
with his brothers and sister, and of
course, fly fishing.
Meant to be a year-round residence,
lovers of winter activity thrive at
Timber Creek. World-renowned ice
climbing is just 20 minutes up the
South Fork, and the delightful Sleeping
Giant Ski Area is an hour away.
Enjoyed by Finn’s family as a nature
preserve, the property is also a
hunter’s paradise, abundant with
wildlife. The ranch has a classic
Western landscape, with a variety
of geologic features carved into its
history.
The family spent many days in
town, exploring the Whitney
Gallery of Western Art, and visiting
the library and the town pool.
Sometimes, they’d stay for the
nightly rodeo, which draws stars
of the Western sport, especially pro
bull riders, from around the world.
Annie lingered for a moment in front
of the main house’s large bay window,
looking out toward the river.
“Seasons change with the passage of
time”, she said. “We grow and learn
along with them, but there’s always
continuity and stability at the ranch.
Our family learned to appreciate our
time together here, and especially
each other,” she reflected.
Part of the family’s daily ritual is
the seven-minute ATV ride to the
mailbox. “The kids love it,” Annie
said. It’s also a great three and a half
mile run.
The solitude, as well as the days
unencumbered from pre-planned
obligations, is why Annie, whose
father passed the land down to her,
decided to make Timber Creek Ranch
her family’s escape.
Annie and Finn had started the day
at sunrise. They slipped into rubber
boots and tromped through frozen
grass to the barn. Charlie and Meg
had arrived in the pre-dawn to begin
the day’s work.

Charlie did an early survey of
the property checking fences and
irrigation pipe while Meg had
brought the horses in from their
night grazing in the pastures. As
Annie and Finn helped with feeding,
dust glowed in the morning light.
The four met in the main house
for a breakfast of black coffee and
oatmeal, laughing as the sun rose
in the sky. It was only 8 a.m. when
they donned fishing vests, hopped
on their ATVs and rode down to
the river to spend the morning fishing.
Wading in the cool water, Finn
squealed as a fish hooked into his
line. He reeled in and claimed his
prize: a 16-inch rainbow trout.
As the crisp, fall air warmed, they
all enjoyed lunch at the ranch’s
picnic area. Annie had packed
vegetables from the garden behind
the house, as well as hot dogs and
iced tea. They sat in the shade of big
cottonwoods, and the horses grazed
in the surrounding pasture. Charlie
kept the grass here freshly mown
all summer and had recently lined
the picnic area with a new fence.
Annie played a tune on her harmonica,
and a light breeze whisked
the tree branches. While Finn
roasted a hot dog over the campfire,
they all excitedly planned the
afternoon trail ride.
After lunch, while Charlie and Meg
loaded the packs with supplies and
saddled horses, Finn practiced barrel
racing in the arena. Annie watched
with admiration. Ready to go, they all
set off up Timber Creek on horseback
for the remainder of the afternoon.
After an hour, they stopped atop
a ridge at the edge of the property.
Charlie had strategically set a picnic
table there, and they snacked on more
garden fare.
“Seeing for miles and miles makes
me feel expansive inside,” Annie
said.
Indeed, the 360-degree views looked
over rolling pastureland, classic
Wyoming prairie and mountains. The
ranch’s cattle grazed far below, framed by low brown hills and blue sky.
They meandered back down to
the banks of the Shoshone, riding
through a drainage lined with sagebrush
as high as their boots.
As they returned to the stables, the horses that had been left behind nickered and snorted, anxious to hear
about the afternoon adventures. Meg
and Charlie took the saddles off the
horses, brushed the sweat marks off, and picked the dirt from their feet.
For dinner, Annie prepared a bison
roast stew for all to share, and they
gathered around the dining room
table for their last evening meal of the
season. Animal mounts hung above
their heads—Annie’s father’s prizes
from his hunting adventures around the world.
Afterward, Finn headed to the craft
room to stamp the ranch’s brand on a
belt. The room, attached to the stable,
is a favorite among kids and guests
who love marking their belongings as
souvenirs.

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They spent the evening around the
poker table, playing seven-card stud.
The sounds of crickets, owls and coyotes
floated in through the window.
“The intentions are good here,”
Annie said as she stocked her fishing
vest for another morning on the river.
A scattering of rocks and minerals sat
behind her on a shelf—artifacts from
the many years her children spent exploring
the land. Among were heart shaped-rocks Annie picked up herself.

“It’s meaningful,” she said. “Love
abounds here. Heart shapes are everywhere
on the ranch. All you have to
do is look.”
The principals on Timber Creek
Ranch are like a human’s relationship
with a horse: Where you look
is where you’re headed.
Patience is
important, as is a respect for the land
and animals—understanding them, and being firm and confident.
“It’s a metaphor for life, the effort,
and the energy that happens here.”
But time on the ranch is also about
learning life’s lessons while having
fun. Annie and her John enjoyed raising
their children within the peace
and privacy of the ranch. With the
long driveway off the South Fork Road, the property is set apart from road noise, but close enough to take a bike to town.
You can have it all at Timber Creek
Ranch, Annie says. Her family
also owns property in Big Sky, and
they love the drive between the
two, through Yellowstone Park.
In winter, they take a longer route
through Red Lodge.
You can experience the West using
Cody as a springboard, she added.
Timber Creek Ranch is a resting
place, but also a retreat: a place to
be present in the solitude of the
moment, and to create meaningful
memories with family.
For more information, including
fly fishing and horseback riding
videos from Timber Creek Ranch,
please visit
tcr-cody.com.

This story was first published in the winter 11/12 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.