City Girl Meets Dude Ranch

Jeremiah, who is sporting sharp spurs, explains that he lives in a tent part of the year when it is hunting season. He also cannot fathom the thought of New York City.

Sitting on the lodge porch, chatting in total serenity, I'm not sure I can blame him. My dad is beaming. He does not really like cities either.

An avid horseback rider, my father has visited the ranch several times. Horses have been our bond, and I finally joined him this year.

On day one, Irwin tells us we are going to ride horses to the top of Slide Rock Mountain, where he has never been. Considering he has lived here for decades, I know I'm up for a challenge.

The trip is so treacherous, it is just Irwin, my dad and me. This journey will take riding experience and sheer guts. The father in the new cowboy hat might not make the cut.

I'm riding Brandy, a bay-colored mare with a pleasant demeanor. Two hours into the ride, we come to the first significant mountain ascent.

My dad looks back and says, 'This is where you trust." He means to trust Brandy, to trust a horse. What lies between my life and death is the sureness of her footing. One slip, and I may be rolling down a mountain.

We make it. Four hours into the ride, we get to 9,700 feet where we tie the horses. We have to climb the rest of the way on foot.

This mountain is called "Slide Rock" for a reason. There are sliding rocks everywhere, and walking on them is a delicate dance. My heart is pounding.

As we near the top, we are ambushed by a fast approaching storm – rain and then hail. We are at 10,000 feet on a mountain with dangerous terrain and no rain gear, which we have mistakenly left with the horses. We climb to the other side of the mountain and hide under a rock overhang.

It is freezing, as the temperature is about 30 degrees. We are soaked and shivering.

All I can think is, "Do not look down."

The views are stunning though. The lightning is exploding.

The moment is both frightening and exhilarating.

An hour later, the hail has let up. We have to make a run for it. As we climb down, we fight against 50 mile per hour winds. It is scary. I wonder if the horses will be gone.

Finally, we see them. Brandy looks calm. These dude ranch horses are trained for such situations.

We mount the horses and head back down. Because it is raining, Irwin decides to bushwack, which means not following the trail and making our own bee line down the mountain. It is a race against time.

My life is flashing before my eyes. Trust, I think.

We make it. And this is when I know for sure I have passed the test. Irwin admits that it is one of the most intense rides he has ever had.

Ten years in New York City has not stripped me of my riding blood.

But it is when my father says to me, "This is one of the happiest moments of my life -- riding with my tough-as-hell daughter" that I know he is proud.

I am now an urban cowgirl.

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