Sleigh Bells ring, are you listenin’?

In a little tiny town in Northwestern Montana, thirty minutes outside of any resemblance of even a weak cell phone signal, there lies a horse ranch deep in the woods. This ranch is the only place I’ve ever been to that I could describe in one simple word: Magical.

Truly, this place is made of tiny sparkling snowflakes, dark evergreen trees, and the jingling of sleigh bells echoing in the air. It’s the definition of a Winter Wonderland.

We arrived in the afternoon, the first sunny one we’ve had in days. Spirits were already high, as the gloomy clouds had finally granted our wishes for them to leave. We were greeted by the man of the house, Ora, and his dog, a mixed breed named Gunner. He had two different colored eyes that were so beautiful. Gunner was extremely friendly, ready to play with any and all of us. Ora was on an equal level. He was cordial and friendly, a mix of familial and professional. We exchanged greetings and loaded up onto the sleigh.

Ora pulled the reigns and said “Giddy up”, literally like something out of a movie, and we started moving. His two horses that pulled us were Star and Margy, who were mother and daughter, a purebred and a mixed Friesian, respectively. We started trotting through the winter wilderness, and I swear I felt like this couldn’t be real. I just didn’t think places like this truly existed. And if only I had known what was still in store…

We arrived at “Grandma’s house,”(called that because we have to go over the river and through the woods to get there) tied up the horses, and unloaded off the sleigh. We warmed up by a fire pit outside, and were then invited into the tent by Irene, Ora’s wife. She was as warm and inviting as the inside of the tent. There was a heater (more like the stove was on) and we were seated for our lunch. Ora brought us our first course, salads, while Irene offered warm cider or hot chocolate to anyone who was interested. Once we were all warmed up, had our water glasses filled, and our salad bowls cleared, lunch was served. We had yummy plates filled with BBQ ribs, a mix of five different baked beans, a vegetable breadcrumb medley, and a roll. Everyone was extremely impressed, and even more satisfied. Lunch was incredible, and it wasn’t even over yet! After our plates had been cleared, Irene brought out plates with apple pie. It was absolutely delicious! We enjoyed a little bit more of lovely conversation, and then left to get back on the sleigh.

Irene and Ora give four sleigh-ride-dinners per day, and their 2pm group was going to arrive soon. So we took a few photos outside the tent, my uncle rode a sled down a nearby hill, and then we piled back on with our blankets galore. We galloped past a few more acres of wintery bliss, and then we arrived back at the barn. Irene and Ora helped us off the sleigh, said very gracious goodbyes and we got back in our car. We drove and drove until all of our cell phones started dinging with incoming text messages and voicemails, and we were hit hard with being back in reality. Montana is always beautiful, but I’ve never seen it so peaceful, charming and tranquil as it was today. I will always cherish this memory and I hope someday to return to this magical winter wonderland.

Thank you, Cripple Creek Horse Ranch!! Hopefully I see you again.

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