SOLVANG, Ca., March 12, 2012—It’s Saturday morning, and there’s no time to sleep in. At the Alisal Guest Ranch, in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, Saturday mornings are all about the Breakfast Ride.
Coffee and hot chocolate are in ample supply at the barn, where horse and rider are matched for the hour-long ride to the ranch’s historic Adobe Camp. Roosters crow, horses kick at the earth and acorn woodpeckers flit overhead in the sycamore trees.
“Are you OK with Mouse?” the wrangler asks me when I check in. Mouse doesn’t seem like the name of a bucking bronco, so I figure I’m safe.
“Sure,” I say, looking over the white board on the barn wall. I notice other horse names like Billy, El Hombre, Calvin and Marmaduke. Mouse, it turns out, is a sweet little horse that likes to walk fast. Just like me.
We ride out in a pack, strung along the trail that runs through the rolling green hills studded with oak trees. Along the way, we get riding tips from the wrangler, as well as pointers on our horses’ distinct personalities.
At the Adobe Camp, a huge Western-style breakfast awaits: pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy, fruit, cinnamon rolls, coffee and hot chocolate. Near the picnic tables is a singing cowboy playing guitar, and a campfire where biscuits are being baked in a Dutch oven. It’s easy to forget that the ranch is a short drive from Solvang, the closest town. It feels a world away from stoplights and shoppers.
About 35 minutes from Santa Barbara, the 10,000-acre Alisal Guest Ranch has 50 miles of riding trails (scenic trail rides, evening rides and lessons are available aside from the Breakfast Ride), a spring-fed lake for anglers, two 18-hole championship golf courses and tennis courts. Of course, if your idea of adventure is getting an amazing massage or lounging by the swimming pool, that’s easy to arrange as well.
It may be hard to return to the big city after a weekend away on the ranch.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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