In an effort to be honest, I feel like I should tell you from the start that I am writing this post in a recliner with a heating pad on my back and enough Aleve in my system to survive the apocalypse. Our weekend at the Flying R Ranch in West Plains, MO was exhausting.
Every fall I pull my kids out of school for a few days and we join my dad’s family and a few close friends for a long weekend. My dad is a horse trainer, as is his brother, so every year we go someplace with trails to ride and spot to keep the animals. This year, we traveled to West Plains, MO to the Flying R Ranch.
The ranch itself is beautiful. There are several cabins along with plenty of campsites for those that want to rough it and stalls for all the horses. The North Fork White River divides the trails from the campground and the ranch touches Mark Twain National Forrest. This place is a sight to behold. The trees, river and hills made a perfect backdrop for some much needed rest and family time.
Friday morning, we spent four hours on the trails. We planned about an hour but wound up pretty lost. In case you’re wondering, four hours is way too long of a ride when you get on a horse one time per year. On the way back I tried to go over a tree that had fallen in the path and my horse swerved into another jagged log. My leg is still a beautiful mix of black and blue from that incident.
Back at the cabin, I iced my leg for a while and then took the kids down to the river. The entire family ended up spontaneously joining in on the fun. We spent hours laughing and playing in the water. It was perfectly clear and not too fast so young and old had a blast.
Even my 87-year-old grandmother sat in a lawn chair in the water. Seeing her face light up when she sat in the river surrounded by her laughing family was a highlight of the trip.
Saturday I went on a canoe ride for the first time since summer camp when I was eight years old. My dad took the boys and I rode with my mom and daughter. We barely made it around the first bend before crashing into a tree and capsizing the boat. I was pretty rattled, and a bit bloody, but our friends took Alyssa into their boat while my dad turned ours right-side up and dumped the water out. Once we were back on the water, we sang The Boat on the River (to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus) to calm Alyssa’s nerves and my mom explained how to steer. In hindsight, that lesson probably should have come before we set sail. We managed to make it back without any additional incidents and enjoyed our time on the water.
That evening we took the kids on a ride across the river to explore a cave. Unfortunately, we were not able to find any bears or gold. If I would have given them just another five minutes we probably would have struck it rich. As the sun set, the family congregated in my aunts’ cabin and stayed up talking late into the night. We had dinner, then dessert, then smores on a campfire after dessert.
Sunday morning was bittersweet as we all packed up to head to our separate corners of the country. We feasted on scrambled eggs and leftovers then checked out pictures by the camp photographer before heading home. As we returned the land of cell service and obligations, I thought about the moments that make our annual trip so important to us. Riding and canoeing were great but watching my grandmother sit in a river with a beaming smile was priceless. Spending hours around a table and talking to the people who love you just feeds your soul. I went back to my clients and my students this week with a bit of a limp but a spring in my step, looking forward to next fall already.
Flying R Ranch Review
Each cabin had an amazing view of the river and a huge wrap-a-round porch.
The cabins were clean and were a great setup for a small group or family.
The river was crystal clear and beautiful.
The trails we rode were fun and interesting without being too scary for the more novice riders in our group.
The camp filled up during the weekend because of a trailriding competition but it was never loud near the cabins.
Wifi and cell signal are practically non-existent.
The trails were not very well marked and we spent a chunk of time lost on the mountain.
The cabins at the Flying R Ranch were missing some of the basic supplies, like salt or trash bags, that are often provided in the places we have stayed before.
My brothers enjoyed fishing but were pretty disappointed with their haul and said some locals told them people rarely catch much in the area.
The roads around the camp are fairly treacherous, especially if you are used to Texas driving.
I really prefer to have at least one bigger cabin that serves as a base for our large group even though we spread across several spaces. We had to eat in shifts because all 28 of us couldn’t fit in any of the living areas.
Wifi and cell signal are practically non-existent.
Make sure everyone brings swimwear and water shoes. The water is irresistible and the rocks are slippery.
All of our fishers said they were glad they bought licenses but wished that they would not have all spent extra on the tags to let you keep your catch. In two days of fishing only one trout was big enough to eat. We heard from the locals that there is a hatchery not far upstream which explained both the abundance of the fish and their small size.
Ask someone to explain how to drive a canoe BEFORE you take set off down the river.
Bring everything you may need. Only a few basics are provided in the cabins and you won’t want to spend your time heading back to town for supplies. There is a cute little store on site with a few supplies but mostly snack or souvenirs. I scored an awesome yellow cap that my stole before we were even off the property.