Krista Burleigh, leading my ride, dreamed of owning a ranch and spending her life sharing her love of the outdoors and horses with her guests. She and husband Bill, roamed the West to find the perfect spot.
They picked the Laramie River Ranchfor its isolation and endless miles of trails that fan from the ranch and offer a variety of terrain and great footing for the horses. I have sampled many dude ranches and the LLRoffers an unrivaled, rustic, authentic western experience on the back of well-trained, fit horses.
From a distance the sage-covered hills look barren, but on closer inspection you find they are peppered with a profusion of wildflowers; giant white angelica, lavender lupine, pink vetch, yellow cinquefoil, and orange Indian paintbrush brighten the scene.
This is a land of extreme beauty and extreme moods to match. Our ride started out with a blustery wind that kept the bugs at bay. Then an intense sun shone through a mountain of mushrooming clouds forcing us to shed layers of clothing. When we returned to the barn, a cloudburst sent us running to the shelter of the lodge.
All of the guests congregate for happy hour at the end of a riding day.
Jalapeno poppers and Buffalo wings were my favorite appetizers. Dinner begins with fresh greens, followed by a healthy entre choice, and ending with divine desserts.
The day’s activities are shared in the dining hall. Non-riders may hike with a naturalist, do a little fly fishing in the Laramie River, go birding, or just read a good book.
A spate in the hot tub under velvet heavens scattered with stars soothes muscles that have not seen action for a while.
Lulled by the gentle voice of the river, sleep comes easy. Waking to the sounds of bird twitter and the clatter of hooves as the wranglers bring the horses in from pasture made me eager for another day in the thumping heart of the Old West.
There is no internet service at the ranch and nary a flat screen to jog you back into the troubles of the modern world.
One man who had come here when he was five was returning 60 years later to share the ranch experience with his daughter. He was delighted to find nothing had changed in the valley. It was just as he had remembered and it thrilled him to be able to give his daughter who had never ridden before more than video games.
The wranglers said she was a natural who “stuck to a horse like a spider monkey sniffing glue.” Tears welled as the family bid their farewells to Krista and Bill promising to return next year.
As we sat overlooking the verdant pasture nestling the ranch beside the Laramie River in the middle of the pine-framed, untouched rolling hills, I asked Krista if she still loved her life.
Without hesitation, she replied, “How could you not!”
Rides range from 2 hour wild flower walks to all-day rides with a private guide. Clinics are available for novices and those who want to perfect their riding skills. Activities for non-riders include fly-fishing, naturalist guided walks, tubing on the Laramie River, square dancing and sitting on the porch enjoying a good book.
Laramie River Ranch is less than an hour’s drive from Laramie, Wyoming and 3 hours north of Denver. I took the scenic route through the Poudre River Valley on Hwy 14. It is worth the extra effort, but that last 25 miles are on unpaved county road 103. Be prepared for moose crossings.
All photos in this post are courtesy of Diane Lather Belfour and the Laramie River Ranch.
Linda Ballou says her mission is to experience as many beautiful places on our planet as she can, before they are no more. “Travel tales relating my experiences while kayaking, horseback riding, sailing, birding and hiking about the globe have appeared in numerous national magazines.”
For a complete bio as well as published on-line clips with photos go to my website LindaBallouAuthor.com. Your reward, aside from learning about me and my work, will be to discover the secret to youth! Follow my blog or friend me on Facebook to keep up with my latest adventures.”
This article first appeared in my column on the National Association of Baby Boomer Women. www.nabbw.com