GDMBR #5: Ladder Ranch to Romantic Rawlins, WY!

With deep snow in the Colorado mountains, we leaped from the northern border of New Mexico to the southern border of Wyoming, where we had our most fascinating overnight stay yet–at Ladder Ranch, WY, a massive working sheep and cattle ranch since 1881, for six generations. We stayed in a comfy room in the cookhouse, a hub of activity for three generations of the family–matriarch Sharon O’Toole, who that day drove a truck of livestock to Fort Collins, CO, then back; daughter Meghan Lally, who spent the day on horseback moving cows; son Eamon O’Toole, who orchestrated the complex operations of the ranch; children ranging from 14 years to nine months; spouses and interns, and several dogs. Riley, the fabulous 23-year-old cook, served a hearty dinner of baked chicken, rice, and vegetables for eighteen people, including family and ranch workers. Ladder Ranch is an award-winning leader in environmental and agricultural conservation, and patriarch Pat O’Toole was in Washington, DC that week furthering issues of their land ethic.


Riley served breakfast the next morning at 5:30 a.m., again for eighteen–fried eggs, bacon, and the tallest stacks of pancakes we’ve ever seen. Breakfast is for planning the day’s operations, that day docking sheep–shortening the tails of some of the ranch’s 6,000 sheep for their health and welfare, as well as marking their ears to distinguish males from females. We very much enjoyed all the family and worker give-and-take about sheep and the location of wandering cows. Below is my photo-op with several of the highly skilled Peruvian and Mexican ranch workers.


Porter biked and I drove all day from Ladder Ranch to Rawlins on bumpy washboard dirt, ferocious wind roaring across the wide open prairie and the Sierra Madre. Leap-frogging ahead and behind him, I met two, Conor and Paddy from Ireland, of the four other bicyclists we’ve seen attempting the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route south to north so far since the Mexico border. 


I carry a big saw in case I have to cut a blown-down tree blocking my way on a wilderness road, as well as a cable in case it’s better to tie the blow-down to the car and drag it. But where a huge aspen blocked my way down “Aspen Alley,” Amber hopped out. “I got this!” she said and rolled it out of the way.


In romantic Rawlins (!),  Porter and I celebrated over dinner, where I was introduced to the divine pleasures of a strawberry margarita. 

28 comments on “GDMBR #5: Ladder Ranch to Romantic Rawlins, WY!

  1. wonderful! i’ve always had a fondness for lander. spent a night there walking a restless baby around and around. and there’s nothing like the wyoming wind. the big open. i wonder if they knew the werners who used to run cattle from casper to the ferris mountains. such huge amazing ranches. rock on!!!

    • Thanks, Dean! Very likely the O’Toole family knew the Werners–everyone seems to know everyone else out here, especially when they go back so many generations. Hope your own hiking plans are going splendidly!

  2. What a magnificent and challenging adventure! You both look wonderful! Keep treasuring every new experience. So grateful you are sharing it with all of us. Really enjoyable to follow your adventures. Sending a big hug And love to you both., Maryann

  3. This was very interesting. Enjoyed the pictures. We are in Wellfleet. Cool-upper60s,low70s-compared to TN upper80s.

  4. I am well acquainted with those never-ceasing Wyoming winds from my motorcycling days so I can imagine the extra energy Porter needed to keep peddling at an angle on washboard roads. He remains an athletic hero in my eyes! At the end of a day like that he must be one whipped puppy. You amaze me–I can just see you sawing and chain-dragging your way through the wilderness–what a team you three make! xo

  5. Neither snow, nor downed trees, nor sheep shuffling will keep the fearless duo from their destination.
    I relish the adventure through your tales.
    Thumb’s up for fair weather and clear roads.
    Love from Lois

  6. I hope Pat O’Toole was successful in convincing Washington to not interfere with their work ethic! What a wonderful journey. Continue to travel safely!

  7. And the adventures continue! Never thought about the need for a saw. Clearly preparation is everything, along with Amber to supply additional girl power. Keep the news reports coming. Love to you both.

    • Ellen, actually I have saws in two different sizes, the big one and a smaller one in easy reach! The Forest Service often gets blow-downs off the road, but on these remote wilderness roads with lots of wind, I could easily be the first one there to be blocked. Hope all is going beautifully with your new book. Love to you and David from Porter and me.

  8. Such a wide variety of experiences you are sharing with us. Ken and I stayed at a sheep ranch (called a Station) in NZ on a two-week house exchange. I gained a huge amount of respect for the extremely hard work of everyone involved, including the herding dogs.

    • Marian, so glad you and Ken had the remarkable experience of staying at a sheep ranch in NZ! Yes, even the herding dogs work so hard. Porter and I had a glass of wine on the porch before dinner (we were the only people drinking alcohol, and in our plastic camping wine glasses, LOL!), and one of the herding dogs huddled close to us eyeing our wine as if he could use a drink.

  9. Wow! I can’t believe there was still snow to deal with. Glad you had a good trip despite the fallen tree. Good thing Amber was there to rescue you! Thanks for sharing your adventure. 🙂
    Thanks for swinging by the party. Lots of new bloggers today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.