Trading Bikes for Horses in Fort Bragg
Carla and I trade one ride for another by getting off the bike and onto the horses at Ricochet Ridge Ranch, two miles north of Fort Bragg on the Mendocino Coast.
"I got bucked off in Botswana," Lari Shea, the owner of the ranch, says when ask her if she really wants to take Carla and me out today. "I haven't ridden in a month as my back was killing me but today I'm okay. I really want to ride again!"
Lari, at about 5"2' is good-to-go in a studded red suede fringed bolero jacket and black Levis, accessorized with a flame red cowgirl hat, and cherry red boots. She trains all her horses and has led horseback tours here and around the world to exotic places like Botswana in Africa, for 25 years.
We set off on a ride that was to become quite invigorating in more ways than one. A brisk and persistent wind and very frisky horses perked our adrenaline levels right up. My steed, Zvesda, was a chiseled (I'm attracted to chiseled) blend of Arabian and Turkistanian who has completed two 50 mile endurance races. The high-stepping Zvesda decided to enjoy a playful splash session in the waves at Ten Mile Beach, almost rolling me in the waves, while Carla's milder-mannered steed stayed on dry land.
As we trotted down the beach, platinum-sleek harbor seals were pupping on the sand. We skirted their resting area but could see them playing and bobbing in the frothy surf with round eyes peering at us. A sea otter also skimmed the wavetops, even keeping up with us as we broke into a cantor. Zvesda pawed and snorted to let up on the reins for a good race down the seaweed-strewn beach but Lari held us at a safe controlled pace. This was fine because I wanted to get more comfortable before I galloped across the sands, possibly landing on my butt in a tangle of seaweed.
Osprey circled wide-winged above punctuating the rolling ocean roar with whistles and cries. The ride was along a stunning stretch of coast and lasted about two hours. It was such an invigorating experience that Carla and I opted to stay another day and go for another ride but this time through the redwoods on the ridge top that climbed upward to the east of the coastline.
Where to Eat
For a sustaining breakfast in Fort Bragg before your ride, try Egghead's Restaurant on Main Street. They dish out plentiful omelettes and powerhouse coffee. Telephone: 707-964-5005.
For a unique lunch stop, try Living Light Café, the raw food restaurant across the street. Their salads and entrees are nutritious and delicious. Telephone: 707-964-2420.
Where to Stay
This area is full of campgrounds, motels, hotels, and B&Bs to accommodate every taste and budget. Check the tourist office's lodging directory for something to suit you.
Ricochet Ridge Ranch is located across from MacKerricher State Park just a few miles north of Fort Bragg on Highway One. They offer the 90-minute Ten Mile Beach Trail Ride for $45 several times a day. Children six years of age and older are welcome. Helmets are provided and they have riding gear for both English and Western. Riders are also welcome to bring their own saddles. Telephone: 888-873-5777 or 707-964-7669.