And just like that...Cowgirl Camp 2022 is a wrap! Right after everyone left I took a minute to sit with myself and felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Getting the opportunity to share the joys of this life with not one, but TWO amazing groups of women this year (and a dream of a team to help me pull it off) from all walks of life and from all over the country has felt like a gift I've gotten to give myself; together we celebrated ranching, the land, and each other and had a total blast. I couldn't ask for anything more.
We kicked things off by picking everyone up at the airport and loading up into the newest member of the team, the "ewe"-ber, AKA our little travel bus that Justin and I fixed up earlier this year to use at our retreats. (Side note, the ewe-ber turned out to be one of the unexpected highlights for me; I'll never forget all the spontaneous and silly singalongs it inspired). As we pulled up to Battle Creek, I took it all in. This 15,000 acre cattle ranch is where I cut my teeth as a ranch hand all those years ago and I still get all the warm and fuzzies when I get to show our guests for the first time and see their reactions. Once we arrived, there were appetizers and cocktails waiting for us and everyone took some time to get settled and explore the ranch.
After that, it was time for everyone to get acquainted with their horse for the weekend, cover basic saddling and safety, and get their sea legs on a long ride through the cow pastures!
This being our second year of Cowgirl Camp, some things were a bit different. Instead of bringing the sheep to Battle Creek, we kept them back at Little Creek HQ and brought everyone over to work them. And this year, just like we had done with Shepherd Camp, I brought in some special guests to host workshops throughout the weekend.
At the sheep pasture, Lacey (a shepherdess from Oregon who helped lead Shepherd Camp and ran hide tanning workshops) and I lead a sheep workshop and we all came together to herd, shear, trim hoofs, do health checks, and give medications when needed with lots of opportunities for everyone to get their hands dirty. It was so fun getting to see everyone jump in and try it all out, even though for most it was something completely new! That's what I love about these retreats- the continued grit, passion, and vulnerability of our guests to take a leap of faith and learn new skills with an open mind.
We also learned to rope with my friend and certified cowgirl, Kayla. It's definitely not as easy as it looks but so much fun to practice!
There was also a wild tea workshop, lead by Mariah from Indigikitchen, which was a definite highlight. It was so cool to learn new-to-me uses for native plants that many of us haven't given a second thought and the tea we made at the end was delicious!
Candace Weeda, a local yoga instructor, lead us through some mindful moments with a yoga session outside in view of the Battle Creek lodge. Having that designated time to slow down was something I knew would be important to build into the schedule and it was a great way to feel centered and connect with each other in a different way.
Lacey also lead her natural hide tanning workshops, using materials found around the ranch. Getting to learn and try out the techniques both at Shepherd Camp and now also at Cowgirl Camp, I can confirm that it truly never gets any less cool or fun. And the results are absolutely beautiful!
Something I knew without a doubt that I wanted to bring back from last year was the big trail ride through the ranch's breathtaking canyon! In some ways it feels like the "signature" activity, and once again, leading everyone on the trail ride proved to be one of the most magical moments of Cowgirl Camp. I'll let this video and these photos speak for themselves:
As much as I loved the planned parts of Cowgirl Camp, some of my favorite moments were completely unexpected. I'm thinking back to the second weekend, where we made time to go to the local rodeo and fair. Needless to say, it didn't go quite as planned. Halfway through, clouds started to appear and before we knew it we were caught in a massive downpour! But we all laughed and danced in the rain and stayed the whole way through, completely drenched and happy as can be, complete with a rainbow above us.
Beyond the daily activities, I of course have to mention the delicious FOOD! We all felt completely spoiled both weekends by our chefs and friends Teresa and Christina. What I wouldn't give for some of that homemade focaccia and caprese salad right about now...
It's tradition that on the last night of Cowgirl Camp, we gather together and sing Crowded Table by The Highwomen, and these lyrics always hit home for me:
“everyone’s a little broken
but everyone belongs
yeah everyone belongs”
Cowgirl Camp is all about building community and it's so inspiring to see the unique and meaningful ways it's taken shape for the second time. It's easy to get bogged down in the little details and think about ways to improve, but for now I'm letting this year's experiences soak in, nice and slow. I can't wait to do it all over again for as many years as I can.