This accessible ranch lies within 360,000 acres of government land at the foot of the Mojave and Hualapai mountains, some 200 miles south-east of Las Vegas.
A guest or dude ranch sits at the more relaxing end of the cowboy experience market; you just turn up at the corral wearing long trousers and sensible shoes. Johnny and Juanita had bought some duds in Vegas.
A ramp and platform help you scramble into the comfortable Western saddle. Riding instructions were limited to how to start, aim and stop the docile Amigo and before long, behind a wrangler, we headed into the desert.
Twice each day our posse took well-trodden trails through the sand, up and down stony ridges past cactus and sagebrush. Joshua Trees grew everywhere and chest-high bushes were green from summer rains. We spied a tarantula, the odd deer and, now and again, one of the dogs put up a jack-rabbit.
At night we heard the eerie sound of coyotes and, later, you could tell they had been in the ranch.
Our rides are taken at the walk but, if you’re all up for it, the ponies are too. It’s the trotting that hurts, mate.
Three times a day the bell outside the canteen clanged and guests and staff gather for hearty Western fare, including breakfast pancakes and evening steak. After dinner JP, the ranch owner, proudly doles out slabs of home-made pie.
The guest-rooms are spacious – our group shared a two-bedroom cabin with a communal lounge – and all of them are adapted to strict ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards. That means wet-rooms or tubs with handrails, and a step-free environment throughout. The small swimming pool features a hoist and a rail into the hot-tub.
One day we rode for two hours into the foothills of the Mohave mountains, following dry washes past Saguaro cactuses, over and around the stony slopes. We stopped in a gully for a sandwich lunch and I dismounted by collapsing into friendly arms. Later I was manhandled back on board much like a set of saddlebags.
We took a 400-mile side-trip to the Grand Canyon. Nearer to the ranch is the Western Rim, where the glass-bottomed SkyWalk enables you to venture above the yawning void. However several people at the ranch recommended the Southern rim for more spectacular views. It was also considered less busy – especially at weekends.
As a disabled driver – our rented SUV was fitted with hand-controls – Johnny was allowed to drive and park along the rim, rather than scramble on and off the tour buses. To take advantage of this valuable concession, talk to the Park Ranger at the ticket booth.
At the end of our last day, the still-Rough Riders rode out as the sun eased down over the mountains. In his cowboy rig, Johnny knew that 30 hours later at Gatwick we would look ridiculous. But a man’s gotta do.