Venture: Cowboy Weekend

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The West has been won. It's been trekked, mapped and made small. Nearly all the cowboys, buffalo and wild stallions have been tamed and corralled.

Still, you can lasso a bit of the Wild West spirit a short drive down U.S. Rte. 33 - enough adventure for a city slicker yearning for the ol' cowboy way.

Your dusty day starts at The Spotted Horse Ranch, a working Laurelville stead with 25 miles of trails through a good cross-section of Hocking Hills countryside. Owner Mike Solt will pair you with one of his sturdy Appaloosas for a ride lasting two hours ($40) or four hours ($95).

Centuries ago, Appaloosas were bred to have pigeon toes for balance on rocky terrain and sparse manes for stealth in underbrush. They're also personable -horses for people who don't often ride horses.

A guide at the front of the line leads you gently along the path, and even those who normally experience trails on two legs instead of four will find the going easy and rhythmic.

Once you learn to trust the horse on a few narrow hill climbs, you can relax and enjoy the broad, wide view that comes from being eight feet tall. It's a lot like hiking, minus the exercise.

After leaving the saddle, your well-earned lunch comes at Millstone BBQ in Logan. The charming local smokehouse prepares all meats on site and serves up some of the region's best pulled pork and beef brisket. Grab both in the Millstone Combo ($13).

Nothing scatters a food coma better than the sound of shotgun fire, the specialty of Hidden Haven Shooting Preserve in nearby Sugar Grove. Head marksman Jeff Milligan and his family have set up numerous stations to send out sporting clays. Fifty targets cost $20, with additional fees for rounds and gun rental.

Milligan's operation is designed for seasoned shooters and the extremely gun-shy.

"I love to introduce new shooters," he said. "If you have some apprehension, this can take away some of it away. Flat out, it's entertainment."

For other trips through the Hocking Hills, click to the Ohio Adventure Map at

Ride a horse:

The Spotted Horse Ranch

17325 Deffenbaugh Rd., Laurelville


Eat barbecue:

Millstone BBQ

12790 Grey St., Logan


Shoot stuff:

Hidden Haven Shooting Preserve

9291 Buckeye Troxel Rd., Sugar Grove