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Whirlwind weekend: Solvang's Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, part 3

Most good things come to an end, and sadly, this sublime stay at Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort was to be no exception. On Day Three, it was time to ride off into the sunset—literally! Before departure, our group was slated to take part in one of Alisal's signature experiences: the early morning "Breakfast Ride." Part horseback jaunt, part down-home brunch, no Alisal trip is complete without this one-of-a-kind treat.

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Upon the 6:45 am wake-up call, I downed a Diet Coke, threw on a flannel and some cowboy boots, and met up with my fellow early birds at the Alisal stables. The ranch accommodates all riders—from beginner to advanced—and I was to be part of the novice camp. After signing a waiver and checking in, I was introduced to my trusty gentle steed for the day: Cherokee. A brown beauty, Cherokee and I would be spending the next several hours exploring Alisal's lush hillsides, babbling brooks, and well-trodden trails.

It took our group about an hour on horseback to reach the Adobe Camp, where the breakfast would be held. During the ride, I marveled at how expansive Alisal's grounds were (10,000 acres, as I later found out). We passed Alisal's shimmery lake, where fly fishing lessons, boat rentals, and guided fishing trips are available to ranch guests. We traipsed past deer, cattle, and all the other usual four-legged suspects one might find on a ginormous ranch. Captive atop my Cherokee, I found it a welcome opportunity to breathe in the tranquil Santa Ynez scenery and enjoy the green gorgeousness of it all. (Note to self: must visit more often! It's not even two hours from LA.)

At the top of the ride, wranglers were on hand to help us situate our horses for the sit-down meal. After giving Cherokee a "good job" nuzzle, I joined the hungry throngs clamoring around the breakfast buffet. Rumor had it the flapjacks were legendary, so I was excited to pancake it up. Also of note were the Smores-friendly campfire and the lone cowboy singing acoustic country tunes (with a bit of James Taylor and Neil Diamond thrown in for good measure). Shana and I resisted the urge to join in, instead simply sitting back to enjoy a great meal in the fresh morning air. While we nibbled, an Alisal representative shared some fun tidbits about the ranch's history—most notably that early Alisal owner Raimundo Carrillo was the great-great grandfather of "The Cisco Kid" star and California legend Leo Carrillo.

Too soon, it was time to head back, but luckily, we had another hour of horseback riding to enjoy. Upon our return to the ranch, I said a rueful goodbye to Cherokee and reflected on what had been a truly enjoyable conclusion to the Alisal adventure. Offered year-round, the Breakfast Ride costs Alisal guests an extra $75/head, but is worth every penny in my opinion! Just one of the many truly unique experiences on hand at Alisal, where this getaway girl got in touch with her inner cowgirl. If this is life off the grid, I'll have to unplug more often....


For more information:
Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, 1054 Alisal Road, Solvang, CA 93463; 1-800-4ALISAL

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