WARSAW -- Giddy up! Summer is galloping along faster than a hungry cowpoke to a plate of beans. Time to rustle up the youngin's for a horseback ride at Wolcott Farms and a stop at the Charcoal Corral.
The places are nothing fancy. There are no electronic distractions. No crowds. It's a nice relaxed day that lets you enjoy one another's company. The kids may not know who Roy Rogers and Trigger were, but by the end of the day, they'll be singing "Happy Trails to You."
Situated in beautiful farm country, Wolcott Farms bills itself as "Four Seasons of Fun."
We arrived on a spectacular summer afternoon. Owner Tina Wolcott had her trusty steeds all saddled up. And, while Wolcott loves exposing everyone to horseback riding, her dream is to open a therapeutic riding complex. She has seen firsthand the positive effect a horse can have on the life of a person affected by illness or disability.
The farm stables about 40 horses, mostly Tennessee Walkers, plus a couple giant Percherons.
The darling black-and-white Ellie was my escort for the day. She stood patiently while I mounted (thanks to help from a platform). We had help adjusting the stirrups (and a "heels down" tip), some brief "steering" instructions and then we were off. Along for support were Wolcott's teen daughter, Bryttany, and another expert horsewoman, family friend Lexee, age 9, who (as only a youngster could do) rode bareback.
Heading on the trail into the woods, it didn't take long to love the movement of being on horseback. Here was this giant animal just bringing me along for the ride. For as scary as it may sound, it was also exhilarating (despite the fact we never get moving past a leisurely walk).
And what a ride it was -- a trek through some of the most beautiful woods you have ever seen.
Tons of white flowering blackberry bushes lined the edges of the woodland trail. Deep in the cool green woods, hundreds of ferns covered the forest floor.
The sound (or lack of it, besides the horses) was one of the most soothing parts of the ride. Apart from a pesky blue jay screeching and a woodpecker pounding away, the chirpings of the woods' other feathered creatures were the only sounds we heard.
Told to lean forward going uphill and lean back going down to help the horse, I secretly hoped I didn't make things too tough on Ellie.
Clop, clop, clop, my Ellie followed the lead horse. And this is when the funniest thing happened. Because of recent rain, we encountered some pretty mucky terrain. My sweet Ellie took one look at the first mud pit and immediately tiptoed around the driest part. Just when I thought I had nothing in common with a horse, here was another gal worried about her shoes -- a true "sole" mate!
Our ride lasted an hour, but I wished it could go on forever (although my butt might disagree). Wolcott Farms offers 30 minute ($35 per person), 60 minute ($60) and 1 1/2 to 2 hour rides ($120). The maximum number of riders is between 10 and 15 people. The minimum age is 6. Five-minute pony rides are available for the little ones. Reservations are required for all rides. If anyone doesn't want to ride, there are tables where guests sit and wait. There are riding helmets available, or you can bring your own bike helmet. Take bug spray and wear suitable footwear (meaning no flip-flops).
Wolcott can also arrange for a cowboy cookout (barbecued chicken, ribs), carriage and wagon rides, or a winter sleigh ride. For anyone interested in learning how to drive a team of horses, Wolcott Farms is planning a weekend clinic. Call for information and prices.
Wolcott Farms (585-786-3504; www.wolcottfarms.com) is located at 4085 Quakertown Road in Warsaw. We took Route 20A to Orangeville Center Road (right turn) then left onto Quakertown Road. The farm is on the left.
>The feed bag
After the ride, take your doggies for, well, a hot doggie at the Charcoal Corral in Perry. It's even worth a visit all on its own.
We loved this old-fashioned, Western-themed place that sits in what was once a cow pasture. The Corral serves grill favorites and lots of other items. There's even a pizza and ice cream parlor. How about the Corral Dumpster plate? Two hot dogs or a cheeseburger with Texas sauce, beans, macaroni salad and a roll for $6.79. Family chicken dinners are also available. Kiddie meals are $4.79.
Also at the Corral are miniature golf and a mini arcade. We cracked up at the fabulous murals of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood (in what looks like his "Fistful of Dollars" getup) welcoming mini-golfers. The kids can enter the "Horse with No Name" contest at the horse statue, pose for silly pictures at the stagecoach (get on board by putting your face through a hole), or just rip around on the large lawn. Golf is $4, $3 for children under 10 and seniors.
If you have the stamina, next door to the Corral is the Silver Lake Drive-In, which features family movies all summer long. Gates open at 6 p.m. Cost is $7, kids 10 and under are $3; those 3 and under are free. Other entertainment includes concerts on Tuesdays, karaoke on Wednesdays, Cruise Night on Thursdays and a chicken barbecue on Saturday.
The Charcoal Corral (http://charcoalcorral.com) is about a 15 miles farther east than Wolcott Farms but worth the ride. It sits on the east side of Silver Lake. Continue on 20A east. Go right on Route 246 and follow to Route 39 to Chapman Avenue and the Corral.
>More to see