A Wild West Adventure at the Greenhorn Ranch
By Jordan Venema
Story by Jordan Venema
Photos courtesy of Greenhorn Ranch
FOR THREE WONDERFUL YEARS between 1989 and ’91, American children had first-hand experience of life on a dude ranch. Well, actually, they had a front-row seat to a television show about life on a dude ranch. Nickelodeon’s “Hey Dude” ironically introduced city slickers to activities like fishing and horseback riding, which probably would have come more naturally to them if they weren’t already glued to the television.
In part, the dude ranch transformed traditional cattle ranches into rustic vacation destinations, luring Americans to the outdoors they had given up before Internet, television and air conditioning. Or as Lacey Dibble of Greenhorn Ranch puts it, “We’re trying to bring into modern day culture the ideas of the Old West.”
Dibble is general manager (as well part of the ownership group) at Greenhorn Ranch in Quincy, a dude ranch dating back more than half a century. With 660 acres of land in Plumas National Forest, the ranch offers guests unique access to forests, hills and scenic views, and mostly from the back of a horse.
“The property is unique in that it’s located on an old wagon and horse trail,” says Dibble. “We have this really interesting history that we can make come alive on horseback, and our wranglers have been in this area for a very long time. I would call them more like docents, because they put you in the vibe of what it would be like to step back in time. They’re real authentic cowboys.”
While Greenhorn introduces guests to a bit of the Old West, they don’t need to be cowboys or even have ever seen a horse. Says Dibble, “It’s for anyone looking for adventure.” Though she does recommend guests bring boots and jeans.
Like any reputable dude ranch, Greenhorn focuses primarily on riding, with lessons adjusted to the riders’ skill. And while the morning and afternoon rides can be taken at a trot or a walk, for adults or for kids, “we are one of the only dude ranches that still does loping rides,” says Dibble, meaning guests can opt for a quicker ride.
Though new to the ranch herself, Dibble brings lifelong experience riding horseback to Greenhorn Ranch.
“My parents had horses while I was growing up, and I did all equestrian disciplines. My claim to fame was being a horse vaulter,” says Dibble, who competed with the U.S. national vaulting team.
While Dibble and staff bring professional wrangling experience, the ranch’s activities extend well beyond horseback.
Dibble calls them “pretty traditional activities,” which make the ranch an operation somewhere between a resort, ranch and camp. Besides horseback riding, guests enjoy archery, mountain biking, billiards, fishing and swimming (in one of its three fully stocked ponds) and karaoke.
Monday nights include scavenger hunts for children and candlelit dinners for adults, and Tuesday nights offer guests the opportunity to hunt for bullfrogs, then race them on Wednesday. Thursdays offer the weekly karaoke party, and Friday the ranch opens to the public for a large barbecue with bonfires and roasting marshmallows. Saturday is game and movie night on the spacious lawn, and Sunday is the big steak cookout, to which guests can ride by horseback or atop the ranch’s chuck wagon pulled by four draft horses.
Activities and meals come with all-inclusive packages, or day visitors or lodge-only visitors can purchase two-hour sessions on horseback or mountain bike tours for $75.
“Mostly people look at the activities and decide what days they want to come,” says Dibble.
Whenever and however long guests stay, perhaps the biggest benefit is free.
“It’s a technology detox,” explains Dibble. With limited Wi-Fi on the ranch, “most cell phones don’t work, so come prepared to spend time with your family.”
Also, says Dibble, the ranch just provides a safe place for families, with activities for all ages, and a healthy means (for parents anyway) to wear out their kids.
‘I was with a family last night, with four young kids, between 8 years old and 18 months, and this is their first time to a dude ranch. They’re going to talk about these activities for the next 10 years,” continues Dibble, “but the thing that the mother was excited about was that they could run around on our lawn for hours and hours.”
And for the older guests, they’re always welcome to enjoy a cool beer at the saloon after a long day of not quite riding into the sunset. •
2116 Greenhorn Ranch Road, Quincy
• (530) 283-093