My vision of Wyoming centered on cowboys, ranches and wide-open spaces. So, I was ready to jump into a saddle at Eatons Ranch, just 18 miles from Sheridan. Eatons didn’t disappoint.
A rustic cabin, built in 1919, became home for my stay. The bathroom had, naturally, been renovated, but the rest of the space looked original with pine wood closets and doors. The bedroom offered two twin beds, plus I had a living room and, best of all, a porch with a rocking chair. I could hear the rush of water from the stream running behind the cabin.
|The Applegate Cabin at Eaton's Ranch in Wolf, Wyoming|
Eaton’s handles all ages and abilities of riders and provides everything needed except a pair of blue jeans. They fit me with a saddle and loaned me a pair of boots. Even Florida girls own cowboy hats, so I'd packed mine. Its stampede strap becomes useful when the wind picks up.
Wranglers, the barn employees, asked about my ability, or lack thereof, and chose an appropriate steed. Since I had little prior experience, I was happy to ride a well-behaved quarter horse.
|Getting fit for a saddle.|
The first group trail ride began after dinner. We started out on flat ground, surrounded by magnificent mountains. About 20 minutes into the ride, the clouds burst open and we turned around and hurried back to the barn. Everyone got soaked, but it was a memorable adventure.
|The Evening Ride started out at a slow pace.|
The following morning brought lovely sunshine and my group, led by a knowledgeable wrangler, headed to the hills. We crossed a small river on horseback, a first for me as an inexperienced rider. I felt like I was dropped into a scene of a western movie. Yippee!
|Wading across the creek.|
My horse, named Badger, behaved and worked hard carrying me up the steep hills. The views at Eatons look like those enticing Wyoming brochures: drop dead gorgeous wide-open cowboy country.
|Riding into the hills of picturesque Wyoming.|
An outdoor barbecue became lunch on Eatons' grounds, just beyond the swimming pool. Grilled burgers, hot dogs, potato salad and beans made an ideal noonday meal.
I skipped the opportunity to take an afternoon ride and instead investigated the fishing options. Staying on a dude ranch reminds me of going to Girl Scout camp. Guests choose from a variety of activities, and one hardly has a care in the world.
The day’s after dinner ride encountered no weather problems. My anxiety level disappeared, and I was getting somewhat used to the feel of a saddle.
|The beautiful horses are well loved and cared for at Eaton's Ranch .|
On my final morning, I enjoyed the best ride ever. We ascended to the top of a peak overlooking the ranch. Some of the trails were very rocky and steep, but Badger knew what to do. I was absolutely “in the moment.” Our wrangler also led us off the trail and through deep grass and wildflowers. The air smelled clean, and the sun shone brightly. I, more a city slicker, felt like a real cowgirl from the West and, for the first time, comfortable in a saddle. Perhaps I was home on the range.
|Reaching the peak.|
|Heading back down toward Eaton's Ranch.|