Kid’s View: Shady Grove Dude Ranch

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You can ride horses through beautiful scenery during a short visit or stay awhile and relax and unplug in a rustic cabin.

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by ANSLEY GRIDER, AGE 14

Shady Grove Dude Ranch was established in 1972 and is perched atop Lookout Mountain close to Mentone, Ala. It includes 800 acres of gorgeous wildernesses wound with delightful trails for hiking and, of course, trail rides. Adjoining Shady Grove is DeSoto State Park and the Cloudmont Ski & Golf Resort, where you can also go golfing, swimming, fishing or skiing in the winter. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit at Shady Grove Dude Ranch, and I loved getting to see and ride the beautiful horses.

My family decided to take the one-hour trail ride, but you can also take a two-hour trail ride.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

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Before we go on the ride, we are each assigned a horse. They have 36 horses at the ranch. My horse is named Sherman, and he is an Appaloosa horse. He is also a very tall and slender horse. Sherman is the slow poke of the group. He and I stay at the back of the line the whole ride, but I don’t mind because it gives me a chance to see all the dazzling nature around us.

My dad’s horse is named Cherokee, and he thinks the trail is an all day buffet. His hair is a shiny, copper-brown color and so is his mane and tail. Cherokee is also very wide built and sturdy. My mom’s horse is Foxy, and her name goes along with her personality because she is known to bite the backside of the horse in front of her, which I find quite funny.

Foxy’s fur is a light, honey-colored brown, and she has a dark brown tail and mane. My brother’s horse is Sandy, and she is known as the boss. Our trail guide, Terry Stephens, puts Foxy behind Sandy. Since Sandy is the boss, Foxy doesn’t try to bite her, he says. Sandy is the smallest horse in the group and has sandy-colored hair, which is how she got her name.

On the trail we see famous DeSoto Falls, which is beautifully sparking in the sunlight. We see the falls from a place most people don’t – across the river from the parking lot. We tie up the horses and walk down a trail that ends all of a sudden on a cliff with a view of the waterfall. Terry tells us we are 100 feet above the water, and I believe him. You also can see Veil Falls on some of the trail rides.

If you would like more time to explore the ranch or just to enjoy the laid-back, slow-paced atmosphere and the relaxing scenery, you can stay at one of the two log cabins they offer: the Farmhouse and the Way Station. We stayed in the Way Station, which was built in the 1880s near Chickamauga, Ga. Jack Jones, the founder of the ranch and Cloudmont resort, moved it to Shady Grove in 1971 and added some rooms to it. The Farmhouse was built in 1896, also near Chickamauga. It has five bedrooms, and up to 24 people can stay there! The cabins are very rustic, with no TVs, telephones or Internet service.

Mike Wallace, manager of Shady Grove Dude Ranch, tells us Union soldiers used the Old Military Road that winds through Shady Grove during the Civil War, when they were heading to the Battle of Chickamauga. You can use the road now to drive to Cloudmont Resort from Shady Grove. The Union Army built a bridge that is part of the road. It was originally near Lincoln, Ala., and Jones also brought it to DeKalb County in the 1970s. If you look at the rocks on the Old Military Road, you might find marks in them left by musket and cannon balls.

There is also an old Indian burial ground at the ranch where nine members of the Crow family are buried. The legend goes that they were scouts during the Civil War and were killed. Beside the burial grounds is a hanging tree that fell three years ago. The hanging limb on the tree is so wide an average-sized man couldn’t reach his hands around it.

Overall, Shady Grove Dude Ranch has a lot of unique history and is a charming spot on top of Lookout Mountain. It is a great place to go to get away from screens and schedules and just relax and enjoy nature.[/s2If]