Today I spent the day in my happy place - on the back of a horse. I finally got to go on an all-day ride, exploring more of this absolutely breathtaking scenery on the best, most practical and most enjoyable form of transport there is!
I was riding my old buddy from two years ago, Flash; also in our group were two little girls, Karen and Regan, and their dads (great bonding experience), with the ride led by wrangler Brandon.
(Me on Flash)
The great thing about Paradise is that there are a heap of different trails, and rides suitable for every standard of rider. The two little girls on my ride were mad keen for cantering (or ‘loping’, as they call it in the West), so they got plenty of opportunities to get some speed up (without allowing the horses to race or overtake, of course). But if riders just want to mosey along at a walk, enjoying the scenery and chilling out, that’s OK too.
The all-day rides set off around 10am, returning after 3pm.There’s a lunch break along the way, and enough variety in scenery and riding conditions not to get bored. And with a stunning vista around every corner, it’s almost impossible to put away the camera at any time.
(this view slays me every time!)
The trail we rode today was called Slab Park (no idea why) ... it goes over Hunter Mesa and those simply heart-stopping mountain views, across meadows strewn with lupin and larkspur, down to a river crossing, then up through a young pine forest, created after the Lost Fire of 1988. This fire occurred at the same time as the massive blaze in Yellowstone; apparently the smoke was so thick from that, it took fire services three days to realise there was a separate fire. It’s obviously taken a long time for the country to regenerate, with the 24 year old trees only standing about six feet tall.
(Pine regrowth after the 1998 fire)
Mind you, a tree fallen across the trail gave wrangler Brandon some heavy labour for 15 or so minutes; then we stopped for lunch at the top of the forest, looking out across that tiara of snow-capped mountains from picnic seats of fallen logs.
(lunch break for humans...)
(..and horses. What a laugh!)
The second half of the trail is called Schoolyard, going past two hunting lodges and onto the highlight of the ride - a winding uphill trail called Roller Coaster. Which we had to do in two stages, as someone’s camera flew out of their pocket into the grass and had to be retrieved. Flash was dead keen to gallop up the hill, giving little bucks of excitement and tossing his head when I held him back. But it was loads of fun; the little girls were in their elements, their dads hanging in there too, and me with the biggest grin on my face.
Riding in this country - there's really nothing quite like it!