Dudettes Discover Paradise
Wyoming Dude Ranch Adventure
This was a new adventure for us. We had packed the western boots, the cowboy hat, plenty of jeans, even a bandana. What if we didn't like a week of horseback riding? What if Hailey didn't take to a 1000-pound-galloping-behometh of a horse?
The drive from the Casper airport was quiet. I gazed out at fields of green, dotted with a few small farms. As we rounded a bend, Hailey whispered, "I never thought I would see anything like this in person - only in the movies!"
The fields opened up to a band of the Big Horn Mountains. Lush Aspens collided with overflowing Lupins. Snow dotted the caps of the peaks, and we were dropped right onto the live set of all those old Western movies. Welcome to Paradise!
Paradise Ranch that is. Focused on family fun, Paradise Ranch promises a week of FUN for kids of all ages. You can find FUN branded around the resort, literally. It's the ranch brand! You'll find it on the entrance gate, on the backsides of horses, and emanating from the friendly staff.
Entering the gates of the ranch, I knew we would have fun. Leaving the gates after a week, it was much more than that. It was a week of discovery: new friends, new activities, a bit of horse bonding, plus something indescribable, a rebirth of sorts - man and his horse, God's country, living on borrowed time. For the most part this area of Wyoming is untouched by man's progressive hands. Meadows of wildflowers, grass green, a vast section of land untouched by power lines, radio towers or the gray mask of civilization. A wide swatch of land, borrowed by man, shared by animals, lush, fertile, wet and new; long, wide, rolling, rocky, wooded, expansive, overflowing, and fecund.
Living on borrowed time, Paradise Ranch opens the door, just a little, to take it in. Kids stop thinking about the Game Boy, more about the Chestnut, John Boy. Is he sluggish this morning? What's with the flicker of his ear? It was a weeklong process of bonding ... mother-daughter, girl-horse, woman-horse, and friend-to-friend.
The dude ranch experience is all about letting the kids run wild. As the week progressed I slowly let out more rein. I stopped worrying every second where they were and let them ride, run, play, fish, swing or just hang.
Being a "dude" ranch, the week was primarily about riding. Hailey was ready, pink cowboy hat in hand. "I came to ride!" was the mantra. Ride we did. Up through the Aspens, over the mountain, and through the woods. My horse Strawberry took it in stride, gentle and sturdy. Hailey's horse, Chili Bean, couldn't help grabbing at the fresh grass along the trail. Slowly her confidence level increased and before you could say, Chili Bean, she was loping, playing cowboys & Indians, and sneaking an apple treat to her noble steed.
The days at the ranch ran into one another. The kids quickly bonded, sharing horse stories at the pool or over dinner. Scheduled activities were the only calendar. From a sing-a-long around the campfire, to a talent show; from the kids' overnight to the group picnic, to the final kids' rodeo, the week was action packed, yet incredibly relaxing.
Favorite images secure a place in my mind. Hailey's first time feeding a calf, her first loping ride, discovering the giant moose that frequents the pond, triumphant team penning and the evening the horses were let out to graze. The moon was rising over the mountain, the grass - lush and deep, and the horses silent, knowing. Just like those Western movies.
My "moment" came on the last trail ride. We headed up to the mesa, abloom with wildflowers. An adult ride, the quickened pace presented possibilities. Morgan, wrangler du jour, looked over her shoulder, "Do you guys want to run?" With a nod, our posse took off. In the Big Horn, loping through Lupine, in a split second it all came together. "Be the cowboy" ..... the rhythm of the horse, the flair of his nostrils, sitting high on the saddle, and the world at peace. This was my moment to take back home.
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...... Tammie Thompson lives to travel. It's all about the adventure, whether it's hiking a local mountain, snorkeling a Caribbean reef, or tasting fresh powder snow. Tammie lives in Truckee, CA with her husband, two adventurous children, and Lola, the Bernese Mountain Dog.
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