Sleigh Bells Ring - Are You Laughing or Crying?
The week before Christmas was so warm; there was no snow in the Rocky Mountains. You may have seen the newspaper articles about the ski resorts making snow, but the 'Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride and Hot Cocoa Experience in the Rocky Mountains' place was not making snow so we waited. Just before Christmas a snowstorm was predicted and we made reservations. Unfortunately, it was the worst kind of storm with icy roads and a wind chill that made the temperatures feel like 8 below. We canceled our 'Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride and Hot Cocoa Experience in the Rocky Mountains,' and thought we would try to go up with friends after the first of the year.
By mid-February we were getting close to the expiration of our 'Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride and Hot Cocoa Experience in the Rocky Mountains' Groupon when we learned that another couple we know had also bought the Groupon. We decided to make an overnight couple's trip to Fraser, Colorado together. By staying overnight we could also take advantage of the other outdoor experiences, such as snow shoeing and tubing, that the area had to offer.
The morning we left was cold, but clear. It looked like a good omen, but things went downhill from there. The car we had planned to take was not big enough for all our gear; snow shoes, boots, suitcases, snacks, etc. Everything was transferred to our bigger SUV and we got on the road. On the way up we talked about the weather in Fraser and how it was supposed to be very cold in the evening. (I'm not kidding Fraser, Colorado is very proud of its nickname, 'Icebox of the Country'.) Our 'Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride and Hot Cocoa Experience in the Rocky Mountains' reservation was for 7pm because that would be the most romantic time, but since we all wanted to avoid amputation of our digits, we called from the car and asked about an earlier time and changed it to 3pm.
Both couples had brought picnic lunches that we thought we would eat before or during our snowshoeing hike. It was 1:30 by the time we got to the CLOSED ROAD sign, a mile and a half from the trailhead. We found a parking lot where we sat in the car and ate our sandwiches and decided to make a go of hiking even though there was no marked trail. I know the Eskimos can do it, but snowshoes are not for hiking in really deep snow. Really deep snow may seem light and fluffy, but it feels like walking in water wearing open boots and then pulling that boot back out, full of water. We walked, or dragged our feet in and out of the deep snow for about 20 minutes when my husband's snowshoe snapped. We figured out another reason not to walk in really deep snow, too much drag on the snowshoe. By the time we made it back to the car it was time to head back to the ranch and take our 'Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride and Hot Cocoa Experience in the Rocky Mountains'.
We pulled up to a small livery building and horse corral full of shaggy trail horses and 8 big and beautiful Belgian draft horses. Our friends had a moment of panic when they discovered they had left their Groupon back at the B&B, but we were covered with my Groupon for 4. After checking in we looked around and noticed a sleigh that looked like a wagon with wooden bench seats. Our friend commented, "There won't be any romance, any time of the day, in that sleigh." My vision of a horse drawn carriage filled with blankets and furs, like the winter scenes from the Dr. Zhivago movie, died a cold and painful death. We had another couple to wait for so we admired the horses, petting them and scratching their ears and manes. I noticed a woman cutting the mane on one horse, she explained the horses get lice and they have to cut the hair to get the treatment in. I decided to burn my gloves when I got home.
Once everyone had checked in, the sleigh was pulled around for us to board. We were each given a blanket that looked and smelled like the horses had been wearing them just before we did! Forgetting that comment about the horses having lice, we all wrapped the blankets around us and began our hour and a half journey into the biting wind. The first 15 minutes of the journey involved circling the paddock with all those delightful smells and then onto a road that eventually led into the forest. We made one stop for the horses to rest. Our horses, Bill and Bilbo, weighed between 1700 and 2000 lbs and each one could pull at least 3 times their body weight. But even the heartiest horse can get 'freeze lung' from breathing cold mountain air too long. It can be cured only by taking them out of altitude for 6 months to a year.After about 30 minutes we could smell that someone had started a fire, it smelled like lighter fluid. Then we saw our cowboy host and the campfire where we would be served the hot cocoa. The fire appeared to be in the middle of the snow, but as we got closer we could see that it was in a metal barrel-you know like the fires you see burning in the homeless camps. Our cocoa was instant Swiss Miss mixed with hot water, but they had some great looking metal sticks for us to roast marshmallows over the lighter fluid drowsed flames. Half an hour later we made our return to the stable. We were happy; happy to have used our 'Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride and Hot Cocoa Experience in the Rocky Mountains' Groupon and happy to be going to a warm restaurant for dinner.