82.1 F
Charlotte Amalie
Friday, May 20, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesGRAND EXPERIENCE: A WEEK OF HORSING AROUND

GRAND EXPERIENCE: A WEEK OF HORSING AROUND

Oct. 7, 2001- Last year I took my grandson to England, where the major event was feeding the Queen’s swans. This year, I decided to take him to a horse ranch, where we could enjoy the great outdoors doing something we both thought ultra cool.
The Southern Cross Ranch is just outside of Madison, Ga., about 70 miles southeast of Atlanta. Madison is known as "the town Sherman didn’t burn," leaving one reminder of plantation opulence within a swath of destruction.
Nearby the ranch is Hard Labor Creek State Park, with an 18-hole golf course, swimming and riding trails on 5,800 acres; and Lake Oconee, the second-largest lake in Georgia, covering some 19,000 acres. Plenty of opportunities for other activity if we tired of riding.
The Southern Cross offers day trips to Hard Labor Creek State Park twice a week at $40 for horse cartage and park permits, with a day’s ride through the forest and lunch beside the lake. The terrain is challenging, yet fun and quite safe for almost any class of rider. Also available is a free trip to Stone Mountain State Park for the laser light show. Most important, the ranch it is a little over four hours by car from Stephen’s home.
The two of us loaded up my son’s SUV on a Friday morning, packing clothes for a week, fishing gear, books, snacks, extra pairs of shoes, and way too much other stuff. It's amazing what you can pack into a personal vehicle. On the other hand, when you get back home, you have to unload it all.
We decided to forgo the Interstate when possible and travel through the countryside via state roads. We basically drove the hypotenuse rather than the two legs and make up in distance what we lost in speed. Furthermore, it was much less boring for me, which was good, as I tend to become somnolent cruising at 80 mph.
When Stephen spotted a Krispy Kreme, we stopped for drinks and fresh doughnuts. On our way into the store, we had a pleasant conversation with a retired Navy destroyer crewman who as out sightseeing with his missus. I spent a very short time on a "tin can" and do not care to repeat. On the other hand, I have a great respect for those men and the job they have done and continue to do. Also, I find them great sports to trade barbs, lies, and other genialities with.
Big beds and big lunches
We arrived at the ranch just in time for lunch. We had booked our space far in advance, which was fortunate, as the ranch had filled up with some 30 guests. While I had paid for a king-size bed with a futon couch, we ended up with two king-size beds — which I am sure Stephen appreciated.
We unpacked and headed to the chow hall. Lunch is the main meal, and what a meal it was. Steak, several types of fresh vegetables, potatoes, a rich gravy, salad, fresh fruit and all the drink you could pour. The ranch has a Pepsi machine with Dr. Pepper and other flavors I don’t bother with, but there also are gallons of iced tea (it is the South) and lemonade. As we began to slow down, the cooks brought out fresh dessert and ice cream.
After a brief respite, it was off to the barn and an afternoon of riding. Well, first of all you must catch your horse, bring it to the yard, pick its hooves, brush its coat, bridle it, saddle it and walk it to the pasture entrance. Then, you are ready to ride.
There are two riding areas at the ranch. One consists of two ponds and the glen in between, the pasture which surrounds the main house and barns, and a segment of forest with a creek. The other is a forest behind a fence (to keep out the ponies, colts, yearlings, pregnant mares, cows and calves). The fenced forest is a maze of trails allowing for many small groups of riders to weave in and out without disturbing others to any great extent.
Experienced riders can venture off on their own, while those who wish can form groups of up to six with a guide. The rules are basic: No running in the pasture (because of holes and the risk of broken legs). Ride with at least one companion. Be back in time to put up your horse before it's time for the wranglers to go eat. Optimal independence with reasonable control.
Since we were the new kids on the block, the wranglers took us out on a trial run for an hour. We proved we could get our horses to walk, trot, canter and gallop; so, we were cleared for independent riding. When we finished our ride, it was back to the stables to unsaddle, wash down and pick the hooves before releasing our horses back to their paddock.
Returning to our room, we jumped into our swimsuits, then headed for the pool. Well, to be honest, I headed for the hot tub, to relax a few tight muscles. Stephen hit the pool and found several simpatico kids to play "Marco Polo" and other games with.
Wild West appeal with a German accent
Dinner is a supper at Southern Cross Ranch, and it emphasizes the German influence: hot potato salad; fried bread with cinnamon; a yummy plateful of mixed German sausages, newly pickled cucumbers with onion; and, on request, a top-notch German mustard.
Presented with this wonderful selection of my father’s favorite foods, I reflected on the fact that all but one of the female wranglers was German, the lead cook was German, and several of the guests spoke a language I didn’t understand. Although my great-grandfather and great-grandmother came from Berlin, it seems they were fluent in English by the time my grandfather was born, and the family has all spoken only "American" ever since.
I learned that the young man who manages the ranch owns it with his mother, who came to the United States from Germany. Since they speak German, and since Germans in general have a great love of the American West complete with cowboys and Indians, the ranch has been able to parlay its offerings and its proximity to Atlanta's international airport into a very profitable business with German tourists. Most of the rest of the guests are short timers, staying one to three days, who live in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
The ranch has a nice game room attached to the chow hall. I was able to teach my grandson to shoot 8 Ball, and he was able to teach me the finer points of Foosball. There's an electronic dartboard, but you need an advanced degree in gamesmanship to understand all the buttons. Of course, Stephen mastered them within a couple of minutes of my leaving the room.
Stephen’s evenings were spent in the pool or the game room. We old-timers usually took a soak in the hot tub, then retired to our rooms to watch videos. The ranch had a library of 60 or 70 movies, including a good mix of family-oriented flics, children’s flics and adventure flics.
About halfway through the movie, I would do a "Stop" and mosey over to the chow hall for a drink and a snack. The cooks had a habit of fixing something special almost every evening after dinner — cookies, doughnuts, brownies etc. Fresh fruit, peanuts, pretzels and candies also were available.
Hard Labor Creek ride is painful
On Thursday, we took the Hard Labor Creek ride. It took us 14 miles up and down the hills, through the water and along the lake, with plenty of opportunity to trot and gallop. My lunch was a delicious sandwich stuffed with German sausage and cheese, and, for once, Stephen bypassed his traditional peanut butter and jelly for one of the same.
If I had it to do over again, I would take the ride on Monday instead of Thursday. When one is young, one becomes better conditioned to overcoming pain. When one has aged, pain accumulates. Stephen had a wonderful time. I had a good ride and a great day with my grandson — at a painful price.
After a week of riding, relaxing and eating, I was ready to go home or buy a new wardrobe. We ate our last breakfast, rode our last ride and saddled up the old SUV.
Again we bypassed the Interstate for the state routes. Shortly after noon, we were outside Aiken, South Carolina, and the home of Dukes BBQ. Unless you have spent time in South Carolina or died and gone to heaven, you are
not familiar with true ambrosia of the pig persuasion.
Suffice it to say, grandson Stephen, who is a known picky eater, put away three full plates of BBQ washed down with a couple glasses of water. I put down two full plates of everything including BBQ, limiting my intake only after realizing that almost everyone else in the restaurant was over twice my size. At $6.50 per person for all you can eat of BBQ and 20 side dishes — plus serious hush puppies, lemonade and sweetened ice tea — those boys, girls, men and women do excel.
Bottom line: It was a great week. I would highly recommend the Southern Cross Ranch to any parents (or grandparents) with children who want to ride. To read more about it, visit the Southern Cross web site.
I'm hoping my son will take his whole family and enjoy the facilities as much I did, if not more. Next year, I think I am going to try for an Elderhostel outing with grandchildren, or maybe a train ride up to Canada and around the continent.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

STAY CONNECTED

20,771FansLike
4,717FollowersFollow

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more
Oct. 7, 2001- Last year I took my grandson to England, where the major event was feeding the Queen’s swans. This year, I decided to take him to a horse ranch, where we could enjoy the great outdoors doing something we both thought ultra cool.
The Southern Cross Ranch is just outside of Madison, Ga., about 70 miles southeast of Atlanta. Madison is known as "the town Sherman didn’t burn," leaving one reminder of plantation opulence within a swath of destruction.
Nearby the ranch is Hard Labor Creek State Park, with an 18-hole golf course, swimming and riding trails on 5,800 acres; and Lake Oconee, the second-largest lake in Georgia, covering some 19,000 acres. Plenty of opportunities for other activity if we tired of riding.
The Southern Cross offers day trips to Hard Labor Creek State Park twice a week at $40 for horse cartage and park permits, with a day’s ride through the forest and lunch beside the lake. The terrain is challenging, yet fun and quite safe for almost any class of rider. Also available is a free trip to Stone Mountain State Park for the laser light show. Most important, the ranch it is a little over four hours by car from Stephen’s home.
The two of us loaded up my son’s SUV on a Friday morning, packing clothes for a week, fishing gear, books, snacks, extra pairs of shoes, and way too much other stuff. It's amazing what you can pack into a personal vehicle. On the other hand, when you get back home, you have to unload it all.
We decided to forgo the Interstate when possible and travel through the countryside via state roads. We basically drove the hypotenuse rather than the two legs and make up in distance what we lost in speed. Furthermore, it was much less boring for me, which was good, as I tend to become somnolent cruising at 80 mph.
When Stephen spotted a Krispy Kreme, we stopped for drinks and fresh doughnuts. On our way into the store, we had a pleasant conversation with a retired Navy destroyer crewman who as out sightseeing with his missus. I spent a very short time on a "tin can" and do not care to repeat. On the other hand, I have a great respect for those men and the job they have done and continue to do. Also, I find them great sports to trade barbs, lies, and other genialities with.
Big beds and big lunches
We arrived at the ranch just in time for lunch. We had booked our space far in advance, which was fortunate, as the ranch had filled up with some 30 guests. While I had paid for a king-size bed with a futon couch, we ended up with two king-size beds -- which I am sure Stephen appreciated.
We unpacked and headed to the chow hall. Lunch is the main meal, and what a meal it was. Steak, several types of fresh vegetables, potatoes, a rich gravy, salad, fresh fruit and all the drink you could pour. The ranch has a Pepsi machine with Dr. Pepper and other flavors I don’t bother with, but there also are gallons of iced tea (it is the South) and lemonade. As we began to slow down, the cooks brought out fresh dessert and ice cream.
After a brief respite, it was off to the barn and an afternoon of riding. Well, first of all you must catch your horse, bring it to the yard, pick its hooves, brush its coat, bridle it, saddle it and walk it to the pasture entrance. Then, you are ready to ride.
There are two riding areas at the ranch. One consists of two ponds and the glen in between, the pasture which surrounds the main house and barns, and a segment of forest with a creek. The other is a forest behind a fence (to keep out the ponies, colts, yearlings, pregnant mares, cows and calves). The fenced forest is a maze of trails allowing for many small groups of riders to weave in and out without disturbing others to any great extent.
Experienced riders can venture off on their own, while those who wish can form groups of up to six with a guide. The rules are basic: No running in the pasture (because of holes and the risk of broken legs). Ride with at least one companion. Be back in time to put up your horse before it's time for the wranglers to go eat. Optimal independence with reasonable control.
Since we were the new kids on the block, the wranglers took us out on a trial run for an hour. We proved we could get our horses to walk, trot, canter and gallop; so, we were cleared for independent riding. When we finished our ride, it was back to the stables to unsaddle, wash down and pick the hooves before releasing our horses back to their paddock.
Returning to our room, we jumped into our swimsuits, then headed for the pool. Well, to be honest, I headed for the hot tub, to relax a few tight muscles. Stephen hit the pool and found several simpatico kids to play "Marco Polo" and other games with.
Wild West appeal with a German accent
Dinner is a supper at Southern Cross Ranch, and it emphasizes the German influence: hot potato salad; fried bread with cinnamon; a yummy plateful of mixed German sausages, newly pickled cucumbers with onion; and, on request, a top-notch German mustard.
Presented with this wonderful selection of my father’s favorite foods, I reflected on the fact that all but one of the female wranglers was German, the lead cook was German, and several of the guests spoke a language I didn’t understand. Although my great-grandfather and great-grandmother came from Berlin, it seems they were fluent in English by the time my grandfather was born, and the family has all spoken only "American" ever since.
I learned that the young man who manages the ranch owns it with his mother, who came to the United States from Germany. Since they speak German, and since Germans in general have a great love of the American West complete with cowboys and Indians, the ranch has been able to parlay its offerings and its proximity to Atlanta's international airport into a very profitable business with German tourists. Most of the rest of the guests are short timers, staying one to three days, who live in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
The ranch has a nice game room attached to the chow hall. I was able to teach my grandson to shoot 8 Ball, and he was able to teach me the finer points of Foosball. There's an electronic dartboard, but you need an advanced degree in gamesmanship to understand all the buttons. Of course, Stephen mastered them within a couple of minutes of my leaving the room.
Stephen’s evenings were spent in the pool or the game room. We old-timers usually took a soak in the hot tub, then retired to our rooms to watch videos. The ranch had a library of 60 or 70 movies, including a good mix of family-oriented flics, children’s flics and adventure flics.
About halfway through the movie, I would do a "Stop" and mosey over to the chow hall for a drink and a snack. The cooks had a habit of fixing something special almost every evening after dinner -- cookies, doughnuts, brownies etc. Fresh fruit, peanuts, pretzels and candies also were available.
Hard Labor Creek ride is painful
On Thursday, we took the Hard Labor Creek ride. It took us 14 miles up and down the hills, through the water and along the lake, with plenty of opportunity to trot and gallop. My lunch was a delicious sandwich stuffed with German sausage and cheese, and, for once, Stephen bypassed his traditional peanut butter and jelly for one of the same.
If I had it to do over again, I would take the ride on Monday instead of Thursday. When one is young, one becomes better conditioned to overcoming pain. When one has aged, pain accumulates. Stephen had a wonderful time. I had a good ride and a great day with my grandson -- at a painful price.
After a week of riding, relaxing and eating, I was ready to go home or buy a new wardrobe. We ate our last breakfast, rode our last ride and saddled up the old SUV.
Again we bypassed the Interstate for the state routes. Shortly after noon, we were outside Aiken, South Carolina, and the home of Dukes BBQ. Unless you have spent time in South Carolina or died and gone to heaven, you are not familiar with true ambrosia of the pig persuasion.
Suffice it to say, grandson Stephen, who is a known picky eater, put away three full plates of BBQ washed down with a couple glasses of water. I put down two full plates of everything including BBQ, limiting my intake only after realizing that almost everyone else in the restaurant was over twice my size. At $6.50 per person for all you can eat of BBQ and 20 side dishes -- plus serious hush puppies, lemonade and sweetened ice tea -- those boys, girls, men and women do excel.
Bottom line: It was a great week. I would highly recommend the Southern Cross Ranch to any parents (or grandparents) with children who want to ride. To read more about it, visit the Southern Cross web site.
I'm hoping my son will take his whole family and enjoy the facilities as much I did, if not more. Next year, I think I am going to try for an Elderhostel outing with grandchildren, or maybe a train ride up to Canada and around the continent.