Upon arriving in the West it immediately felt like we were in a completely different world. Unlike Pittsburgh International Airport, the airport in Billings, Montana had a maximum of maybe two gates and one quaint area for baggage claims. Men and women dressed in flannel and cowboy hats leaned up against their pickups outside waiting for their friends and loved ones. We took a two and a half hour van ride to an area known as Sunlight Basin where our ranch was located. As we drove throughout the scarcely populated wilderness of Wyoming, I began to have a better idea of just how vast this region is. The light blue sky and fields of sage brush went on forever; only limited by the outline of mountains in the distance. Gas stations and grocery stores were virtually non-existent. There was no such thing as cell service or 4G out where we were. I began to seriously wonder how people survived out here.
Our ranch, known as K Bar Z, had a beautiful lake to go boating on, thirty horses, miles of hiking trails, and more. Multiple cabins were spaced out throughout the ranch and housed up to five people. I stayed in cabin “Goat” with two other girls from the University of Pittsburgh. Every night we had dinner in the main lodge which housed a dining room, kitchen, and family room to hangout in. The lodge did have wifi but it was extremely slow. Simply sending an iMessage wasa struggle.
Despite not having access to Netflix, I was excited to be off the grid for a while. Having the opportunity to be disconnected from social media and simply enjoy the present was a blessing. All the stressors associated with day to day life back home could be put on hold for an entire month. I was thrilled to not only be able to enjoy the pretty landscapes but to be able to study issues the region faces and how to better protect it.