By Shawn Parker
We are thrilled to share the season finale of The Backyard, featuring Double Rafter Cattle Drives and the Kerns family.
Some images are so deeply connected to a sense of place that it is nearly impossible to consider one without the other. So it goes for the cowboy, an icon that is stitched like a patch onto the fibers of Wyoming’s identity. And while the world changes swiftly, there are those who cling to a fading way of life in an effort to extol its values and virtues. To feel connected to the men and women who came before them through their shared experiences on the mountain.
The Kerns family offer a glimpse at the base reality of the cowboy, in all its rough, brutal, beautiful glory. Saddling up for a cattle drive is nothing short of an epic, once-in-a-lifetime experience. A test of mettle, of physical toughness, and mental strength. To sleep under a canopy of stars high atop a ridge in a remote corner of the Bighorn Mountains is to feel closer to nature than ever before. To break bread with a dozen would-be cattle rustlers after a long day in the saddle is to know hard work, and to know the bonds of brotherhood. To laugh at yourself when you realize you have no earthly idea how to handle a rope, but you’re going to try to sling it anyway, is to know what it means to see the lighter side of life.
A week on the open range has the power to awaken the fighting spirit that lay dormant inside, and will prove that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The special episode of The Backyard is an unvarnished look at all of Wyoming’s sharp edges, its uncompromising spirit, and the bonds of heritage that bind the people of this Great State to one another.
Don’t buy it? Take it from the good folks themselves:
DOUBLE RAFTER CATTLE DRIVES
An Authentic 1880’s Cattle Drive
Welcome to Double Rafter Cattle Drives! Here it’s the real deal. Compared to us, City Slickers is a pony ride!!!! We promise you the trip of a lifetime.
Out here on the range, we give you reality. We don’t schedule phony stampedes, cloudbursts, blizzards, rodeos, wagon wrecks, or brush fires….they happen all on their own! Take a look through our site and give us a holler when you’re ready to saddle-up!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Prepared by Dana and Alice Kerns for doublerafter.com
Most Difficult Question to Answer for People on the Registration Form
The hardest question for people to answer on the registration is the weight question. I honestly understand for everyone who is packing some extra weight, revealing that is very personal. However, let me explain why we need it:
We don’t care what you weigh. We keep any and all information provided on the registration form private and confidential.
In order to pick a horse for you we need some experience and weight guidelines. (Example: A man weighing 225 pounds who is inexperienced is harder on a horse than a man weighing 275 who is an experienced rider.)
Women are very reluctant to give this one out. Since a lot of women pack their extra weight on their backside, they might need a saddle with a bigger tree. It’s easier to give that information to us up front, then to get you mounted in front of everyone and then it becomes very obvious that we are going to have to change saddles right then and there. This then slows up the entire horsemanship orientation.
When Should I Arrive?
We need everyone to arrive in Sheridan, Wyoming the night before the trip starts. This allows everyone to get started the next day at the same time.
Where do I fly into?
From Billings, Montana we will pick you up and return you to the airport for $275 per person. The ranch is about 2 hours south of Billings. There are flights directly into Sheridan from Denver and can be found by visiting flysheridan.com or directly via united.com
What is the weather like?
I can answer that about as accurately as predicting any weather. We are generally in the mid to high 80s for the June trip and 90s for the July trip. The lows are generally in the 50s, but it will seem much colder when we are camped on the creeks. The September trips are a little cooler. Due to the fact that the September trip starts on the Bighorn Mountains at 9,000 feet in the third week in September, you need to come knowing that it can snow. Generally, we are in the high 60s to low 70s for a high and somewhere between 27 and 35 at night. We recommend a bag rated to 0 for this trip.
What type of sleeping bag do I need?
We recommend a bag rated to 10 for the June and July trips and one rated at 0 or below for the September trip or Clean Up Ride.
What type of horses do you have?
On the Double Rafter, 98% of our horses are Quarter Horses or Quarter Horse Cross.
How many cattle will we be taking?
The allotment allows for 648 cow calf pairs.
Can I bring my own saddle?
You can certainly bring your own saddle. You will be more comfortable in your own versus a strange one. However, it is your responsibility to make sure your saddle is in proper working condition and has all the proper equipment.
Can I bring my own horse?
We are not responsible for any injury to your horse or guarantee your horses safety. We allow it, but highly discourage it. Chances are very good your horse is not conditioned up enough to handle an entire week. You must remember we are at 9,000 feet and our horses conditioned for this climate and topography. One past guest asked about bringing his horses and I directed him to the web site. He chose not to after seeing the video and after the trip his comment was, “I am glad I left my poodle at home.”
How many hours will I be in the saddle each day?
This is a little bit like the weather. Since this trip is the real thing, we will go until we finish the day and reach our destination. This is reality, not Hollywood! Generally, you will be in the saddle a MINIMUM of 6 hours a day.
I’m not the most experienced rider. Is that a problem?
Absolutely not! To the best of my knowledge, we are the only cattle drive in the US that starts every trip with a horsemanship clinic run by a clinician. Our goal is to get everyone mounted on a horse that fits their skill level. You cannot have the best week of your life on the wrong horse!
What is the minimum age?
We don’t recommend any of these trips for kids under the age of 12.
I have never handled cattle. Is that a problem?
We spend the afternoon of the first day on the June and July trips running a cattle-handling seminar. This will give you help and instruction on how to move cattle.
I don’t want a Dude Ranch!
I can promise you we are not a dude ranch. This is a real working family ranch where you will move the cattle, sleep under the stars and battle the elements. This is not a trail ride.
How is your cattle drive different than the others?
We are a one-of-a-kind cattle drive. We don’t have guest cabins or other dude luxuries. We move our camp with the herd, sleep in tents, cook over the hot coals, and we do not ride nose to tail. You will be tired and dirty and it’s a go rain or shine.
Are there dangers such as wild animals?
We have many different wild animals that you may see on the trip including deer, moose, elk, black bear and rattlesnakes. As far as we know, we do not have any grizzly bears. In the 25 years we have been running the cattle drives, we have never had anyone hurt by wild animals. However, wild animals are unpredictable.
How safe are your trips?
Anytime you are dealing with animals and nature there is an inherent risk of injury. We attempt to make every trip as safe as possible. We have emergency plans and we take many precautions. On every trip, we try to have a RN, EMT, or someone first aid certified on staff. Our medical person will also be carrying a satellite cell phone. However, we cannot guarantee anyone’s safety as accidents can happen.
The trip sounds difficult. Will I be able to complete the trip?
In almost 25 years and over 2,000 people, we have had less than 8 drop out. Most of these people have dropped out for personal reasons and not because they were unable to complete the trip.
If I have to cancel my trip can I get my money back?
All trips are non-refundable. WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND YOU PURCHASE TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE. 1-800-826-1300 TRAVEL GUARD 1-800-348-9505 CSA TRAVEL.
Those that have cancelled we will honor what we have done in the past.
We are booking up so far in advance now that the only way to make it work for us, is for you to purchase trip insurance. People’s intentions are honest but they can’t predict what family wedding or some other function that they have to attend pops up. In the past we were looking at 2-5 cancellations a year when people were booking 6 months in advance. People are now booking 12-15 months in advance so we are now dealing with 10-20 cancellations per year, those turn into 10-20 spots I can’t sell, thus the change in policy.
To protect yourself you need to purchase trip insurance.
Thanks for your understanding.
How do I know I won’t get a dead head horse?
The way you answer the questions on our registration form will determine your horse. How you perform during the cattle handling seminar and the horsemanship clinic will determine if you stay on that horse or get moved to another one. We want you on a horse that fits your skill level! It is safer for you and everyone else around you.
Will I have phone service?
You may have service in certain areas in the valley but I wouldn’t count on it! There is no cell phone coverage in the mountains. Besides, I don’t recall cell phones being available in the 1880s.
What do I do for personal hygiene?
It’s called a creek. Many people jump in, wash their hair and say it is very refreshing. I call it damn cold and prefer to leave the dirt on for a week!
How do I know that I’m going to get what you say?
We are happy to provide all of the references that you would like and they probably will be from your very own state.
My son or daughter would like this as a graduation present. Will they be safe?
My crew is very professional. We are a family operation and have our own children along. Here again, I would be willing to provide all the references that you would like.
What is the purpose of the plastic ground sheet?
The plastic ground sheet will keep you dry during the night. If we are having bad weather, the plastic sheet will keep your stuff dry while we are out riding.
ENJOY NATURAL PLACES RESPONSIBILITY
Sheridan County Travel & Tourism, the Wyoming Office of Tourism, the US Forest Service, Sheridan County, The City of Sheridan, and all our local communities hope you have a wonderful experience when you explore Wyoming. We want to encourage you to WY Responsibly, and wish to share these tips. For more information, please click here.
Wyoming’s wide-open spaces make for epic camping and hiking. But before you set out, here are a few things to know.
Avoid overcrowding: Outdoor recreation is more popular than ever right now, causing overcrowding in some of Wyoming’s most beautiful areas. What do you do if you show up to a trail and the parking lot is packed? Instead of joining the crowd, know what other options are around. Be ready to seek different trails and lesser-known experiences. We have dozens of suggestions on our website.
Keep it clean: Almost half of Wyoming’s 98,000 square miles is publicly owned, including many undeveloped areas that have no bathrooms or garbage facilities. It is up to all of us to do our part in keeping these spaces clean. Take all trash with you when you leave, don’t burn glass and metal in your campfire and bury human waste at least 100 feet from water sources.
Be fire aware: Help prevent human-caused fires by following basic best practices. Respect fire bans in place, choose a campsite with a pre-existing fire ring whenever possible and never leave your fire unattended. Make sure you have plenty of water available to put out your fire; you’ll need to completely extinguish it at night and before you leave camp. And remember, there are strict guidelines on fires in the Cloud Peak Wilderness.
Stick to the trails: Ride, hike or drive only on designated trails to help reduce impacts and protect wildlife. Planning to do some off-roading? The state of Wyoming requires a permit to use trails and roads that are part of Wyoming’s State ORV program. You can find more information on trail etiquette in Wyoming here.
Respect Local History: Tread lightly and take only photographs with you when you leave. You will find ancient historic and ceremonial sites, Indian Wars Battle Sites, and many other iconic locations on your travels out here. Sites like the Medicine Wheel are still in use by native peoples; pictograph and rock art sites are extremely fragile, and should not be touched, defaced, or otherwise disturbed. We appreciate all of the wonderful folks who come to Wyoming to explore responsibly.
Note that professional filming is not allowed within the Cloud Peak Wilderness, and therefore, all the filming for The Backyard takes place outside of the wilderness boundary. Filming in the Bighorn National Forest is performed under a permit with the United States Forest Service. Please remember to practice leave no trace principles, and leave the wilderness, as well as the forest, in the same condition you found it, so that those who come next may experience it the same way you did.
Click here for more information on wilderness regulations via the US Forest Service.
WHEN TO GO:
Sheridan County is a bustling community year-round, with many events, activities and attractions operating 12 months of the year. check the schedule on doublerafter.com for information on the annual cattle drives offered by the Kerns family.
Consider gearing up at one of our local shops or outfitters to keep Sheridan County’s outdoor industry thriving. Local outposts include Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, The Sports Stop, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Shipton’s, Tractor Supply Co., and Big Horn Trading.
Note that there is a comprehensive list of required and recommended equipment and clothing on doublerafter.com – if you’re gearing up for a cattle drive, you need to be prepared!
WHERE TO STAY:
Looking to extend your adventure and plan a pre- or post-adventure? Sheridan County has accommodations of every type to suit your Wyoming adventure dreams. Check out our online directory for information on hotels, motels, guest ranches, camp sites, RV parks, and more.
For our full album of photos from this trip, visit our archive here.
For all of our short films, videos, and other film-related content, follow us on YouTube by clicking here.
STAY SAFE AND HEALTHY:
At this time there are no travel restrictions in Wyoming for U.S. travelers. Please review the considerations for U.S. travelers prior to your arrival and follow all public health orders during your visit available on the CDC website.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) people infected with COVID-19 may not have symptoms, but they can still be contagious. Many individuals may only experience mild symptoms and do not recognize they are infected and contagious, and therefore can unintentionally infect others. Wearing a face cover helps prevent the spread of droplets that might be infectious. Wearing a face covering, when combined with physical distancing of at least 6 feet, staying home when sick, and frequent hand washing, can help minimize the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Click here for up-to-date COVID-19 information and resources.