APHA
Wanderlust—Travel & Adventure

Among the Red Rocks

Dec: From storied hoodoos to some of Hollywood’s most iconic Western film locations, the Red Rock Ride is a catalyst for adventure, friendship and saddle time.
Article and photography by Mark Bedor

Time flies when you’re having fun and the Red Rock Ride—a six-day adventure in the saddle that winds along jaw-dropping trails through the towering red-rock country of Southwestern Utah—might have been the fastest week of my entire life. This part of the American West is so spectacularly beautiful, the sky even looks different—something about the contrast of the rust-hued stone rising up into crystal-clear, fresh air helps paint the expansive sky in such a deep-blue color, it’s like seeing it for the first time.

Legends rode through this country, including Butch Cassidy of Old West infamy and Hollywood Western star Clint Eastwood. The week’s ride included the Outlaw Trail and a stop for lunch at a stone shelter once used as a hideout for Butch and his gang, and on the 28-mile journey through the towering walls of the Paria River Canyon, you’ll trot by locations where Clint filmed The Outlaw Josey Wales.

The week kicked off on the trails beneath the looming peaks of Zion National Park, then moved on to the stunning red-stone spires of Bryce Canyon National Park. While riding the trail on Thunder Mountain, we passed gnarled trees twisted by frequent lightning strikes that gave the place its name and the grand finale was an epic ride on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

From beginning to end, there was never a dull moment. And when pressed to name our favorite part of the week and favorite ride, I—along with my 40 newest friends—found the question tough to answer; there were just so many memorable moments, we couldn’t isolate just one. Every day was truly amazing.

Adventure Awaits

Day 1 began bright and early in Las Vegas, where we boarded a luxury bus at the hotel we’d all met at the night before. That rumbling “iron horse” proved to be a great icebreaker: It whisks you away from whatever world you’ve come from and plugs you into an instant group of new friends from all over the world—on this trip, we had riders from Australia, Japan and Germany; a snowboarding instructor from Telluride, Colorado; California twins celebrating their 50th birthday; a British couple on their honeymoon; another couple who got married on the ride; plus, nine women from the Saddle Jacket Riding Club. Soon, the bus was buzzing with lively conversation and laughter.

“These guys make you feel like you’re part of their family,” rider Jana Lazarro said with a smile.

That might be because the ride staff is family. Robert Houston and his wife, DayLean, co-founded the ride with Pete and Keela Magnum 25 years ago, and the couples’ adult children and grandchildren have long been part of the crew as well. Pete and Keela own the horseback concession at Zion and Bryce national parks and at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Houstons own a popular restaurant in Kanab, Utah, and run a mobile catering business that’s fed thousands of first responders at major wildfires or other disasters. The shoulder seasons of spring and fall can be a bit slow for both businesses, and after the two families teamed up to outfit a group from France that wanted to ride from Monument Valley to the Las Vegas strip in 1992, the idea for the Red Rock Ride was born.

That might be because the ride staff is family. Robert Houston and his wife, DayLean, co-founded the ride with Pete and Keela Magnum 25 years ago, and the couples’ adult children and grandchildren have long been part of the crew as well. Pete and Keela own the horseback concession at Zion and Bryce national parks and at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Houstons own a popular restaurant in Kanab, Utah, and run a mobile catering business that’s fed thousands of first responders at major wildfires or other disasters. The shoulder seasons of spring and fall can be a bit slow for both businesses, and after the two families teamed up to outfit a group from France that wanted to ride from Monument Valley to the Las Vegas strip in 1992, the idea for the Red Rock Ride was born.

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This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2018 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

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