Friday, June 22, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 16

Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on June 12th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 14

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My horse, Dude, and I amble along the dusty trail, the large oak trees shading us from the late-afternoon sun. It’s a quiet, temperate day, and there’s a light breeze blowing in from the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Back to nature
Rancho Oso in the Los Padres National Forest is a menagerie of such domestic animals as horses, cattle, dogs, and cats. The surrounding forest is also home to wild animals, like hawks, bears, and mountain lions.

Ahead of us on the trail, standing in a sun-dappled clearing, are four canvas-covered wagons looped around a stone fire pit. The white-capped wagons are so authentic looking, I almost expect to see two little girls in gingham dresses and sunbonnets playing nearby. But the appearance of a green garden hose and four small electrical boxes in the camp quickly brings me out of my pioneer daydream and back to the present day.

The covered wagon campsite is just one of the unique features of Rancho Oso Guest Ranch and Stables. Located on Paradise Road in the Los Padres National Forest, the 310-acre ranch is the perfect place for a vacation with family or friends. Rancho Oso has something for everyone: horseback riding, camping, hiking, cycling, swimming, miniature golf, and more.

The ranch and its 20 or so employees had a close call last month when strong winds pushed the White Fire right up to the edge of the Santa Ynez River (the dark, ashy burn marks on the mountains are visible from the stable). Luckily, the river acted as a natural barrier for the ranch, which is open for business 365 days a year.

“It’ll all grow back,” ranch general manager Bill Krzyston told me as we surveyed the blaze’s damage from horseback. “Fire isn’t always a bad thing.”

Bill took me on an hour-long ride around the property so I could take a look at all it has to offer. We started our adventure with a herding demonstration; with just a few spoken commands, Bill sent his dog, Cutter, an Australian Kelpie, out into the pasture to round up the cows and their calves.

Stay a while
According General Manager Bill Kristen (pictured here with his Australian Kelpie, Cutter), the lodgings are Rancho Oso all have a unique theme, and include covered wagons, tepees, cabins, and tent and RV campsites.

We continued along the trail to another pasture. The cattle in this one were smaller than their American cousins, like miniature Texas longhorns. Bill explained that these petite, horned cows are Corriente cattle, a breed Spanish conquistadors brought over to the Americas as early as 1493. He said the ranch will often do herding and roping demonstrations on the weekends for campers.

The ranch also serves group meals Fridays through Sundays at the Stone Lodge. Built in 1906, the lodge once served as accommodations for silent film stars—most notably Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. The rustic structure now holds a kitchen, outdoor and indoor seating areas, and a ping pong table.

If visitors are looking for something to do that’s a little less outdoorsy, there are two swimming pools, along with a miniature golf course and grassy park. The ranch also offers movie rentals, candy bar bingo, and ice cream socials. (For adults, there are wine socials, free Wi-Fi, and a pool table.)

The day I visited the ranch, Girl Scout Troop 505680 had just caravanned in from Santa Barbara. I soon learned they were staying in the covered wagons.

“This is their first campout together,” troop leader Lori Crestfield said. “And they just got out of school today, so it’s their first day of summer!”

Down at the ranch
For more information about staying at Rancho Oso, call 683-5686. Rates for campsites, cabins, trail rides, and more are available at

When asked why she decided to bring her Brownies to Rancho Oso, Crestfield said, “Well, they had a choice between the zoo and Rancho Oso, and when I mentioned there was horseback riding, they were so excited that there really wasn’t a decision to be made.”

Managing Editor Amy Asman is still seeing flashes of gingham. Contact her at

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