Fall made a grand entrance on the east side of the Sierra. There is something about seeing the leaves turning their brilliant reds and yellows, along with that first brisk weather to really get you in the mood. I discovered a perfect place to do this by horseback at the oldest working guest ranch in California–the Hunewill Ranch out of Bridgeport.
Where: Hunewill Ranch at Bridgeport, Humboldt-Toyiobe National Forest
Distance: Horseback about 35 miles total for 3 days, but it will vary based on the ride that you choose
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Elevation Range: 6,558 – 8,000’
Date: September 29 – October 1, 2019
Hunewill Ranch’s Fall Color Ride out of Bridgeport was an adventure that I have had my eye on for a few years and this was the year that I made it happen. This is the first of 2 blogs on my adventure there, the first blog is about life at the ranch and the second blog will be about one of the horseback rides that I took.
This ranch has been around a very long time. In fact it is one of the oldest family ranches in the American West and the oldest working guest ranch in California. This year marks their 158th year in the Bridgeport Valley and their eighty-eighth year as a Guest Ranch. The fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh generations of the Hunewill Family still raise cattle and ride with guests through the meadows of this Sierra paradise. The green meadows of Bridgeport Valley have been home to Hunewill Ranch since Napoleon Bonaparte Hunewill first supplied lumber and beef to the mining towns of Aurora, Bodie, and Lundy, in the 1800’s. He started a lumber mill in Buckeye Canyon, supplying lumber to the town of Bodie, hauling the wood across Bridgeport Valley with teams of oxen. Later he moved down into the Bridgeport Valley with his wife Esther and son Frank, raising cattle to supply beef to the miners of Bodie.
The greeting committee welcomed me when I arrived.
The accommodations were just perfect for me. I was in Cabin #2 on the left, a bedroom, bathroom with tub/shower, open walk in closet area and plenty of places to put your stuff. Sitting out on the porch in the morning and evenings sounded wonderful but it was too chilly for me.
Here is our schedule:
7:00 a.m. wake up bell
7:30 a.m. breakfast and make sack lunches
9:00 a.m. get horseback
3:00 p.m. (for those doing meadow rides/cow moves)
6:15 p.m. Dinner
When you came in for dinner, you signed you and your horse up for the next day’s ride.
And speaking of dinner. Each and every meal was delicious! Here is the third night’s offering:
The dining room was warm and inviting with hot coffee and water for tea or chocolate always ready to warm you up.
Of course there were also evening activities.
Friday evening: Horsesense & apple pie at the barn
Saturday evening: Fire in the woodstove & make smores
Sunday evening: Bingo in the dining room with prizes
Monday evening: Hay ride, then talent night at the Summer House.
3 days of riding gave me a chance to see 3 different areas by horseback.
It wasn’t a surprise when the weather changed, getting colder and depositing a bit of snow overnight, but I was surprised to see how beautiful everything looked that first morning when I got up. I bundled up, wandering around, taking some pictures.
That storm brought cold days and winds but I had brought plenty of long johns and layers to help keep me warm. Now I am not going to say that I was always toasty warm but on the third day with temperatures in the 30s and 30 mph winds, I was glad to get out of that wind for a while.
Tioga Pass closed during the storm and luck was with me because it opened up the day before I returned. I was sweating that part a bit. Next week, I will share one of the rides that we took up a beautiful canyon.