Before we depart for the wilds of Alaska, Shawn and I are visiting with Shawn’s family in Wisconsin. Shawn’s mom and dad, Julie and Tim, invited us along to go to one of their traditional family waysides, Woodside Ranch.
I worked on a dude ranch years ago in Colorado, but I’ve never actually visited one. I can’t believe how much there is to do here. The ranch I worked on was just a place to come get day rides. This compound has everything from a hundred horses, farm animals galore, buffalo, a movie theatre, a bar with a game room, a swimming pool, and beautiful cabins you rent out. It’s pretty incredible.
I’m an animal person, and if I hadn’t gotten into dogs I probably would be doing whatever I could to learn more about horses. When I was a kid growing up in Wyoming, there was a big pasture behind our backyard. I was obsessed with the horses there, and fed them a sizeable portion of our back lawn. I was constantly planning to go steal one of the horses and ride away, bareback, into the sunset. Luckily I did not attempt this.
As guests at the ranch, we get to go on up to six rides a day, starting with a breakfast ride in the morning where you ride out to have breakfast in the woods, cooked on a woodfire grill. Rides go every hour until dinner. While I eye the wranglers with envy (I’d really like to be doing the work of it, too), this is pretty cool, and I’m trying my best to relax a little. I’ll be working day in and out soon enough.
My tenure at the ranch in Colorado was not super long, so I haven’t developed the keenest horsemanship skills yet. I hope that’s something I’ll work on down the line. My plan has always been to get a horse when I’m older, after my dog years wind down. Working with animals (getting to know them, figuring out their characters and quirks, gaining their trust) is somewhere I find true joy. With dogs, my work is always foreshortened as I head off to my next handling gig and have to say goodbye. With horses, I’ve never had the chance to even put in that much time. I hope I will someday.
I’m so grateful to get to say goodbye to the Lower 48 this way: with long, quiet walks in the woods, taking in the dappled sunlight, swaying with the gait of a good, stubborn animal. I love the northern woods in the Midwest, full of such variety and green. I am excited to see the mountains of Alaska again, but the forests here have a beauty on their own.
Thanks so much to the Goggins’ for taking me along on this adventure. It’s a huge honor to get to experience this with the family, to get to see a place that has been really special to them for a long time. I’m very grateful to be here, and I can see why the Goggins clan comes back when they can.