I am not walking today.
It is snowing. Snow! in May!! in Arizona!!!
Fortunately my wonderful host, Charlie at the Whispering Hope Ranch, said I was welcome to stay another day. The ranch is for children with disabilities. They get to work with the animals and learn how to ride. The ranch also takes in injured, abused or disabled animals, and rehabilitates them. It is a beautiful concept in a gorgeous location, and the kids learn as much about dignity and self-reliance as they do about animals and riding.
Charlie is a real cowboy: hat, boots, spurs and chaps. He’s been in books, movies, photos and ads. He’s got a genuine Texas twang and a million great stories. Horses plumetting off cliffs and lone journeys, driving horses hundreds of miles through the red rock mountains to the ranch.
I wish the internet worked here. Yesterday, I think I captured a few of his stories as he gave me a ride back from Forest Lakes. I had walked 12 miles and reached 7800 feet elevation. It was cloudy, cold and windy, but I was cozy in my hoodie and wool gloves. With the wind to my back and my eyes on the horizon, the day flew by and soon I was sipping hot chocolate at the Country Corner Store in Forest Lakes.
I ended the day exchanging stories with Charlie. As I drifted off to sleep, my dreams were primed with images of mountain trails, ponderosa pine, wildcats and injured horses.
This is the Arizona of storybooks.