Hooves, slowly picking their way down a sun dappled trail. Saddle leather squeaking in time to the gentle plodding pace. The aroma of meat cooking over an open fire hits the nose long before the slender whiffs of white smoke are visible through the trees. Within minutes, a camp appears in a small clearing. A roaring wood fire has been burned down to coals, which are now carefully arranged under the rack of sizzling steaks. Three burly cowboys are busy setting the long dining table underneath the tent………..
This is where I usually wake up and stumble down the hall for a glass of water.
Things this good are only dreamt about…….in my world. Burly cowboys are not to be found at dinner time. However, I do have one burly hunk of man who grills for me out on the back patio at home. And, it’s all because of him that we ended up on horseback, up in the mountains, in Colorado eating the finest food on the best weather day ever. He comes through like this for me ALL the time. He’s magical like that.
He used his magic powers to select the perfect brochure from the rack at the campground. He read it through completely and said, “This sounds like a great idea.” A trail ride up into the Colorado countryside for a trailside dinner served up al fresco. We were with our family, camped in a group at Priest Gulch, just north of Dolores, CO. Reservations were made for the following day, and seven of us drove the two minutes from camp to the Circle K Ranch.
Upon our arrival, we were handed over to our wrangler, Ivan who made quick work out of matching us to the perfect horse for our size and ability.
Half way up the mountain, Ivan gets an urgent call on the walkie talkie. What’s this? Trouble? No, just the dinner camp wanting to confirm the degree of doneness for our steaks; one well done, two mediums…..etc…….
Upon our arrival at camp, the horses were tethered in an Aspen grove nearby. The cowboys had driven the entire setup as far as they could in a pickup truck, and then wheelbarrowed it the rest of the way to the “chosen spot” in the woods. What a setup!! We truly had not imagined all the work that went into feeding us.
Sizzling steaks over apple wood (which as explained to us by the cook) is the only way to cook beef outside. Dutch ovens buried in the coals held scalloped potatoes and peach cobbler. Fresh tossed salad, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, soda, and the most heavenly home made dinner rolls, made from scratch back at the lodge by our wrangler’s sister. Wow……..I’ve died and gone to heaven.
After dinner we mulled around and swapped “where are you from” stories with the cowboys and let the food digest. Soon enough, they suggested politely that we haul our much heavier selfs back into the saddles and head back to the barn as night was approaching and we had a river to cross on the return. A make shift tripod with cardboard boxes and food wrappers lets us set the self timer, so we have a group shot. That’s me, fourth from the right not even looking like I ran that fast to get into the picture.
We offered to help with the dishes, but again politely refused by the cowboys…….ah, there I am dreaming again???? The horses were waiting patiently in the Aspen grove and without TOO much grunting and groaning we are all back on board. The river crossing was exciting, especially when all I kept thinking was if I fell off at that point, I would sink like a peach cobbler stone and never be seen again.
Probably, this was the most unique dinning experience of my lifetime. Have not found a better steak than what we ate that day either. And, trust me, I’ve looked…..all over the planet. The camp did not seem busy while we were there as it was a week day? In any case, the dinner was just our group and felt like a private family thing just for us.
One thing I did NOT know about the Circle K Ranch until I revisited their website to write this was: a portion of every dollar they take in goes to bring inner city kids to the ranch for an experience with the great outdoors. I like that. We have a fantastic time, ranch makes a living and some very deserving kids benefit from it all.
Makes us feel even better about having been there and sharing their story here on the blog.
All this talk of food has me starving, so I’m done for now.
Janet, Randy and Molly