If your daydreams take you to a place filled with green meadows, snow-covered mountains, wild iris growing amidst the tall grasses, dandelion wishes, butterfly kisses, the smell of summer rain, and the gentle motion of the saddle as your horse carries you off into the sunset then Hunewill Ranch is the place for you.
Our family has had more than our fair share of ups and downs these past few months. So when the school year wrapped up, and it was time to embark on our summer vacation, we were more than ready.
We set off early Saturday morning. The drive from Solana Beach to Bridgeport is close to 400 miles. Luckily traffic through LA was light. We stopped in Palmdale for lunch with my parents, which was the perfect way to break up the drive. Getting the girls back in the car took a little convincing when they discovered we were just shy of halfway. The girls busied themselves by drawing a map of our trip, highlighting all of the stops we had made using the whiteboards Grandma had thoughtfully included in the car travel bags she gifted them when we stopped for lunch.
As we approached Mammoth and the scenery changed. The girls and I started to get excited. We left behind the desert sand, the dry rockscape of the hills and mountains dotted with thousands of Joshua Trees and begun to see tall green grasses, pine trees, and snow, covered mountains.
When at last we reached our destination, Hunewill Ranch was a welcome sight. The first building the caught our eye was the old barn, constructed in 1880 by Napolean Bonaparte Hunewill
The Hunewill Family Ranch has been family owned for generations. Members of the fifth generation manage the ranch today. The sixth-generation is being groomed to take over when the time comes, and the family just welcomed the first member of its seventh generation. The ranch is rich in tradition with a modern flair.
After dinner and check-in, we found our cabin. We were delighted to discover the collection of swallows nests adhered to the roofline. Each nest seemed to house a chirpy little resident settling down for the evening. The cabins are rustic and basic with a western theme. Whitewashed on the outside, country pine on the interior, it wasn't until day three that the girls noticed there were no clocks or TVs in our rooms.
The first evening the ranch hosts an introduction event called Horse Sense and Apple Pie. The staff introduces themselves and gives a short lesson on the care and feeding of the ranch horses. It turns out there were three other families from the San Diego area. A great way to make new friends.
There are not that many places left in this world where you can let your children run free. The girls could be found in our cabin, the dining hall, on the playground, visiting the goat pen, braiding manes in the corral, or sitting in the shade under their favorite tree.
In terms of rides and activities, Hunewill does a fantastic job offering options for all ages and skill levels. When you check-in, you will find a bell schedule in your cabin, which will list the activity options for the week.
Two-hour rides are scheduled twice per day at 9 am and 2 pm. There are different riding groups to accommodate all ages and riding levels. As we found out, even the youngest riders are considered capable of managing their horse. I had imagined Eden; my pre-school grad would have a pony and a lead rope. Instead, Murphy, a full-size horse, was saddled up for her to ride. Eden was boosted into the saddle, handed the reins, instructed to hold them in one hand like an ice cream cone and then she was told to give Murphy a good kick as we left the ranch.
I've ridden here and there but am far from an expert rider the tack topic has always been confusing to me. I caused quite a stir at the end of our first day because I undid the wrong bridle buckle on the headstall despite being instructed multiple times only to unbuckle the chin strap and uncinched my horse's saddle on the right. I know I was the talk of the tack room because I was gently corrected by three different wranglers the next morning. Eva and Eloise suppressed a laugh and gave me a knowing smirk when an announcement was made on the afternoon ride reminding us the proper way to remove our horse's tack when we returned to the barn because they both knew what I had done. By the second day, I was on my way and knew how to unsaddle and turn out my horse.
During your stay at Hunewill Ranch, Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner are served in the dining hall except for one off-site BBQ dinner and one sack lunch for an all-day riding activity. If you are the person who prepared the meals in your home, it is truly a vacation when you do not have to visit the grocery store, cook or clean for the duration of your trip.
Our table partners, the Ackermans were from the bay area but originally from Munich. They brought their two daughters, who quickly bonded with my three. None of my girls are peanut butter fiends usually, but at the ranch, all five girls were on the hunt for the individual servings they loved to lick up for desert. Peanut butter treasure hunt became a game as they bargained and stole from the other tables. You will taste the most incredible oatmeal cookie you've ever had. I was trying to avoid dessert at every meal, but after Ann took a bite of hers and was speechless, I just had to try .was.
We are still getting used to our recent family downsize from a party of 5 to a party of 4, so I admit I was a bit hesitant to tackle the 430-mile drive and the three kids on my own in unfamiliar surroundings for a week. But Hunewill was just what the doctor ordered; the entire week was unforgettable and simply heavenly.