Skiing is over for the season in the East, so we made another choice. My family and I spent a glorious five days at a Dude Ranch in the Adirondacks, in Stony Creek, New York. Guess they don’t use that term any more. Officially, it was the “1000 Acres Ranch Resort” which features great Western horseback riding, a beautiful golf course (which is under water for part of each spring, when the Hudson River floods), abundant food, and terrific people. Some of the guests return each year with their families - a few have been keeping the tradition for as long as 20 years.
Full disclosure - we made the trip for my son’s wedding, which took place at a resort about 20 minutes down the mountain. But, I suggested many of the guests choose the ranch, and I am glad we did so. We also had the pre-Wedding rehearsal dinner there, so it worked out well.
The Ranch is about 480 miles from the Washington area. We drove it at about 10 hours each way, because we had a lot of equipment to transport in a truck. But, it is far better to take a fairly cheap flight to Albany, and drive an hour north.
In the winter, the Ranch offers shuttle service to nearby Gore Mountain, where visitors can ski and snowboard and then return to 1000 Acres to eat, sleep, snowmobile, cross country, or ride horses in the snow. They have about 70 sure-footed horses, who do well on the steep trails, through the forests, the Hudson River (at a shallow, rocky crossing), or the snow in the winter. We want to check out their winter program, including the slopes at Gore. But, on a beautiful summer week, we thoroughly enjoyed the Ranch!
The costs are not exorbitant, and there is value for money. Weekly rates are about $850, and daily about $150. That includes lodging, several hours of horse riding or golf, fishing, swimming, sumptuous breakfasts, and other meals (depending upon program). Always check out package rates on any trips. The breakfast omelets were incredible, as was the rest of the food. There was so much, we took it back to our refrigerator, and had it for lunch.
The cabins are comfortable, and have a wonderful view of the Hudson River and the mountains. It is like a scene from Brigadoon, to see the mists roll across the heights. The Ranch has a small beach on the river, and there are often bonfires at night, and barbecues at lunch. Most of the cabins can sleep 2 or 4. They are rustic - this is a ranch. So, there are no microwaves, televisions, or radios in the cabins, and bring your own shampoos and hand lotions - no fancy samples here. We were delighted to have WiFi service in our cabin. But there is also strong WiFi in the lounge area, and several televisions. It is more social that way in any case. The ranch also has 3 nice swimming pools and a hot tub - most welcome after several hours riding (or bouncing) in a hard Western saddle!
The horseback riding is the main attraction of the Ranch, as it should be. It is fantastic! Many of the guests ride for two hours in the morning, and two in the afternoon. We were fortunate to be able to walk after two days of riding. If it were not for the hot tub, I could not have staggered down the aisle for my son’s wedding!
The horse rides are led by two remarkable men - Billy Smith, the corral boss, and his part time “assistant” Judge Bruce Hayes. Bruce is really a sitting NY State Magistrate, but we think we probably prefers his day with the horses and “the dudes.” Cowboy Billy is a fascinating man. He calls himself a “natural horseman” and says the horses talk to him, since he knows how to listen and respect them. He lectures at Cornell University, and is active in campaigns to eliminate horse slaughter and protect race horses. We want to get him down to Washington to give some lectures. Billy demonstrated some remarkable feats with the horses he is training. At one point, he put a special needs relative of ours on a horse. Last month, the pinto was due to be slaughtered for bucking problems. Now, this young boy was riding him without a bridle or a bit. The horse was walking after Billy like an overgrown dog! By the way, Billy’s dog also sits on and rides horses on his own.
The riding trails are both tranquil and exciting, through fields, forests, and mountains. Many of the wooded trails have trees down, where the creek bed was recently flooded. Fording a narrow part of the Hudson River was exciting - we were very pleased our horses did not slip on the rocks, or decide to take a swim. My thoughts went to our nations’ ancestors, who forded such rivers with their covered wagons and live stock - what a feat!
There is so much worth noting about our adventure. Special thanks to the new overseer, bar tender, chef, and dynamo, George “Buster” Boudreau, who continues to make improvements. Jill Zimmerman is efficient and friendly at the desk, and also worked with orthopedic surgeons in another life. She looks 18, but tells us she has 4 grandchildren. Clean living!
One of the best parts of the trip was meeting the owner, Jack Arehart. His family had the foresight to buy the 1,000 acres of remarkable property over 50 years ago. It is exceptionally maintained, but it must be expensive to run and pay taxes. Jack, like all the people we met, is extremely worried about the rising cost of kerosene, diesel, and other essential fuel, which is higher in NY and New England than in many other areas. He will reduce the number of cabins opened for guests this winter, and farm out some of the horses. He promises to try to keep open all year, but it is a struggle. In the meantime, Gore Mountain continues to make more improvements and attract more visitors, so that should also help 1000 Acres and other nearby resorts.
Tough times ahead but, fortunately, the horses don’t know it. Thanks for a glorious week - “we will return.”
For more information on 1000 Acres Ranch, visit www.1000acres.com or call 800-458-7311.
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.
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