California- Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

I met up with Erin and her husband Dominic of Triple Creek Horse Outfit at their stables in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. One of my girlfriends actually rode with Erin a couple of weeks before and highly recommended her rides. She did the ride in Bothe-Napa State Park, another one of Triple Creek’s rides.

Erin grew up riding in Sonoma and riding in Sugarloaf, so the park has a special place in her heart. She has stories about riding bareback on her pony through woods. Growing up riding in the area means that she’s a great person to take you around on horseback, because she knows it so well.

I rode a 14-year-old black and white Tennessee Walking Horse named Romer, who was very smooth and well-behaved. Erin was on Deuce.

The wind was blowing slightly as Erin pointed out Sugarloaf’s peak in the distance, as we took off through a golden meadow. We would be riding up to a high look out point on the Vista Trail. Once on top, the barn would look like a matchbox, and we would see stunning views of Napa and the valley at sunset. I couldn’t wait, as I breathed in the smell of tarweed that lined the trail. Off the trail, there were rattlesnakes, so we were on the look out for those too, especially as our film crew took off into the grass. Dominic warned the crew, who were walking along beside us and our photographer got a little nervous. Rightly so!

We passed into a wooded area and the smell of tarweed was replaced by fragrant bay. We were headed to a nearby creek, where our horses could get a drink before we began the climb up a steep and rocky trail to our lookout point.

The terrain became pretty steep as we passed by these cool, vibrant madrone trees, who skin was peeling. I had never seen trees like this before. They lined our trail. This part of the ride was the most challenging.

We finally reached the top, which opened up into gorgeous views of the valley and a nearby vineyard. The colors were vibrant orange and pink as the sun began to set and we took in the scenery in silence. It was absolutely beautiful. We rode high up along the trails that wound around the mountain through more golden grass and headed back home, enjoying wonderful horses on a wonderful ride in Sugarloaf.

Darley Newman is the host of the Emmy Award-winning Public Television series Equitrekking®, which takes viewers on horseback riding vacations around the world. Equitrekking is broadcast on PBS stations and on international networks in over 30 countries.

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