Horsing around in Loveland – a Colorado winter

Horsing around in Loveland – a Colorado winter

Wednesday, 27 Mar, 2023 0

By Graham McKenzie

Winter in Colorado is just like a box of iced chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.

The route from Estes Park to Loveland along the Big Thompson River drive (I-34) is a case in point. During the summer I am sure it is the prettiest of roads with lots of vantage points, stopping places, parks and charming coffee shops. In the depths of winter, it takes on a completely different character. With the steep valley escarpments covered in weeks of snowfall and frost you feel is if you are driving down an enormous bobsleigh run.

Whilst the journey should only take about half an hour be prepared to extend your time of arrival as the temptation to stop every five minutes to take pictures is too difficult to resist. The enchanting nature of winter draws you in.

I was, however, off to the warm welcome in Loveland, the epicentre of global romance which comes to a crescendo every February 14th. The weeks leading up to this celebration are full of local festivals and happenings. One of the most popular is the Loveland Winter Wonder lights, which features thousands of twinkling lights, a giant Christmas tree, and festive events throughout an extended season from mid-November till the end of the year. The town however is not short of pretty lights, art, music, ice sculptures and food in a celebration of Love as Valentines Day arrives.

For my first activity I did what most people do and went axe throwing.  Channelling my inner Grizzly Adams I took to it like a duck to the chopping board. My normal pinpoint accuracy on throwing things deserted me and I am afraid I took a few chunks out of the target surrounds but its fantastic fun and has the added benefit of an arm and shoulder work out.

It was now time to chill, and I was about to become a true cowboy at the Sylvan Dale Ranch. Located a few minutes away from downtown, the working ranch offers accommodation in small self-contained cabins. These are no ordinary cabins though as they are exactly what you would imagine a little house on the prairie to look like. Separate bedroom, bathroom, front room with real fire (set for immediate use), sepia photographs adorn the walls along with other objet d’art of a bygone age.

I was staying in the Annie Oakley suite, and I loved it. It was a bit chilly to enjoy the deck, but one could easily imagine sitting on it, cowboy booted feet up on the rail, enjoying a cup of coffee, tipping my hat, watching the sun go down and dreaming of a day of riding.

Early next morning I was sitting astride my trusty steed Leo as a small group of us set off on a two-hour trek through the snow along narrow tracks and up to the ridge near Alexander Mountain.  This is only the second time I have ever been on a horse and the journey seemed to pass very quickly.

The tranquillity, the nature, the conversation and the feeling, misdirected, that I had some control over where Leo went was quite frankly marvellous. It got even better when we reached the summit of the ridge, lit a fire and enjoyed cooking burgers in the open air. Does food taste better when cooked al fresco? You bet it does. A couple of hours after lunch we were back in the stables, and I was patting my horse farewell.  I was taking to the life of a cowboy like Leo took to his oats.

Next up on a cowboy’s agenda was skeet shooting or, in English, clay pigeons. My renowned sharpshooter accuracy was restored after the axe shenanigans as one by one my competitors fell by the wayside. Shooting a moving clay from fifty yards while your fingers are like ice is an interesting challenge but one that I was up for as after the sixth round, victory was mine. Not quite a shootout at the OK Corral but a Skeet at Sylvan maintained my John Wayne persona for just a few more hours.

The sun was dropping along with the temperature and it was time for John and Annie Oakley to be reunited with a roaring log fire, a fantastic meal provided by the chuckwagon (the very talented ranch chefs) and more dreams of the wild west.

Loveland has a lot offer a cowboy or cowgirl whatever the season but in Winter it becomes that extra bit special. The sparkly lights stand out more and the warmth of a log fire is extra welcome. The outdoors is constantly surprising, the food is especially tasty and of course you have the knowledge that you are in the land of love.


Learn more about :   Colorado Tourism ( United Kingdom )  



TravelMole Editorial Team

Editor for TravelMole North America and Asia pacific regions. Ray is a highly experienced (15+ years) skilled journalist and editor predominantly in travel, hospitality and lifestyle working with a huge number of major market-leading brands. He has also cover in-depth news, interviews and features in general business, finance, tech and geopolitical issues for a select few major news outlets and publishers.

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