A Sheep Ranch & Our Weird, Weird World

If you didn’t already know, my husband is very good at planning vacations. He plans 99% of our trips, usually with Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C options throughout to insure they run smoothly even when they, you know, don’t run smoothly. In addition, when he does his research and planning he demonstrates incredible skill in his ability to create a trip that includes something fun and special for everyone. For me, this usually involves some sort of unique fiber arts experience and our trip to Yellowstone was no different.

Just about 40 miles north of our hotel in Gardiner, Montana, set back off the winding roads of Paradise Valley lies Wolf Ridge Lamb & Wool Co., which specializes in Icelandic sheep. My husband contacted the ranch before our trip about visiting the yarn room and he received a very kind note telling us to just call when we were in the area and we’d set up an appointment.

I’m always a little nervous on these fibery adventures because you really never know what you’re going to find. I had an idea of what they had to offer based on their website so I was hopeful, but nothing could have prepared me for this.

img_2190This picturesque little haven nestled in the mountains. And the yarn room?

img_1935 I can only say, “WOW!” The yarns were beautiful, the fiber was absolutely lovely, and Barb — that’s her in the photo — could not have been any nicer. To say I was a kid in a candy store would be the understatement of the century. I picked up a sweater quantity of Paradise Aran in the softest light brown color with the hopes that it’ll maybe turn into Andrea Mowry’s new White Pine sweater, but I’m flexible on what it becomes.

img_2194It’s just gorgeous and will undoubtedly make lovely sweater someday.

In addition, I grabbed an 8oz bag of roving to spin.

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It’s lamb’s wool & is incredibly soft.

img_1997-2And that very night I started spinning (that was part of my husband’s plan, too). It’s a sumptuous rich chocolate color. Barb assured me that she was just a phone call or email away if I found myself in need of anything else and you can believe I took some notes for future stash potential.

The following morning we awoke early and got into the park before the sun rose with the high hopes of seeing the main attraction for us this trip — wolves. Yes, believe it or not, the fiber & yarn was not the main event for everyone. In any case, the day after visiting Wolf Ridge Icelandics, what did we see?

Wolves. On a ridge.

The photo is quite blurry because this time they were very far away and Mr. Knitting Sarah was snapping the photo with his phone through a spotting scope, but we saw them. Once they crossed over the back side of the ridge we knew we’d be back the following day to try to catch a better look.

In the mean time, we enjoyed seeing a sleepy Bighorn Sheep in the snow…

and a river that had 3 or 4 American Dippers, dipping away.

They may not look all that special, but for those who aren’t birders, American Dippers are North America’s only aquatic songbirds. They sing and dance and bob up and down (or dip) on the rocks or ice of fast-moving mountain streams…

Sometimes they stomp their feet…

And then eventually they dive into the water…

Where they grab little bugs to eat. I managed to see 4 “life birds” — Barrow’s Goldeneye, Grey-Crowned Rosy Finches, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and Bohemian Waxwings — but watching the Dippers was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. While I’ve seen them before, I’ve never had the luxury of really watching them for a long time as I was able to here.

As we wound our way back toward Gardiner, we made a stop to walk the Mammoth Hot Springs…

Where the kids learned that it’s a really strange world out there.

Where hot springs sometimes melt the parking lot and start bubbling up through the asphalt…

img_1989And even in the most hostile environments, life finds a way.

Tomorrow, I’ll share the results of the next day’s search for wolves, my thoughts on driving through mountains with a compact front-wheel drive car in the snow, a terrifying traffic jam, a very brave hike, and some more spinning.

Stay tuned!