July 14, 2024
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July 14, 2024
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Jake Goes West: Pike’s Peak or Bust

It was almost 20 years ago to the day that Jake Rabinowitz and his daughter, Debra, traveled out to Colorado Springs, in southern Colorado, on one of those corporate junkets still popular at the time. Belle, Jake’s wife, was too busy at work to get away for the four-day trip, so Debra, a student, went in her stead.

Jake had never previously been in Colorado, and the locus for the event was the world-famous Broadmoor Resort. This venue was nestled at the foot of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains adjacent to the renowned Pike’s Peak, a 14,000 foot monolith that had been discovered on one of General John C. Fremont’s 19th-century explorations of the West. Jake always felt a kinship to these explorations and he looked forward more to the western-style activities he might engage in during his free moments than to the lecture sessions he would be compelled to attend.

The Broadmoor was a lovely place, itself 6,000 feet above the prairie, its extensive building complex faced in pink stone that reflected brightly the western sun that shone unobstructed in late May. The main issue facing Jake and Debra was what they could eat as Orthodox Jews, since there was no kosher food available at the resort. An experienced hand at travel to such places, Jake pre-arranged a shipment of frozen kosher meals for himself and Debra from Noah’s Ark in Teaneck, which arrived promptly at the hotel on the morning of their arrival. The meals were served per schedule either on the veranda adjacent to their room or in an outdoor poolside location set aside for that purpose, all very tasty and professionally prepared and served, if you didn’t mind cutting away reams of aluminum foil and cellophane wrappings!

On most of the days during the trip, Jake spent mornings at large business conferences, with afternoons set aside for a choice of outdoor activities and shopping in nearby Colorado Springs. Debra spent much of the mornings at the state-of-the-art Broadmoor spa. What had interested Jake most upon arrival was possibly participating in that quintessential Colorado activity of mountain horseback riding. The Broadmoor presented a rare opportunity for its guests to ascend by bus or van about 2,000 feet to a ranch complex run by the hotel where horses were stabled and could be mounted for a once-in-a-lifetime trail ride past the timber line at 10,000 feet above sea level. Once at the top, the riders would be in easy view of Pike’s Peak to the north, rising to a height of 14,115 feet. The summit of Pike’s Peak is higher than any point in the United States east of its longitude. It also has the distinction of being the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in North America. As described in the hotel brochure, the trail ride seemed a direct, fascinating path into the authentic, wild western past for Jake and his daughter. They promptly signed up for the next available trail ride scheduled for Wednesday at 2:00 pm.

On Wednesday at the appointed time, Jake and Debra, along with 12 other brave souls, boarded a comfortable van for the ascent to the ranch. After about 15 minutes, the van stopped on the dusty road near the entrance to the stables. The ranch was a beehive of activity as horse handlers began to pair up mounts of various sizes, colors and dispositions with compatible riders. The riders were themselves relied upon to give the handlers accurate information as to their riding experience and expertise: mismatches were to be avoided if at all possible.

“I’ve ridden horses over my life, maybe 10 times,” offered Jake. “I wouldn’t consider myself a very experienced rider,” he cautioned, “but my daughter has no riding experience,” he added, suggesting a docile mount would be most suitable for Debra.

In a matter of 10 minutes, about 15 guest riders were adjusting themselves to their saddles and reins as their horses backed and filled the corral, awaiting the signal from the two trail guides, one at each end, to proceed single file onto the trail. Jake’s mount was a tall, white, Arabian stallion, quite responsive to Jake’s gentle tugs on the reins. Debra’s horse, a medium-sized, roan-colored mare on the other hand, seemed to prefer its stable slot to riding off in the mid-day sun; it made little effort to move. Soon, however, all the horses were lined up in order and ready to commence the adventure. As it turned out, the horses knew pretty well the order in which they were to proceed: Jake found himself third in the string of 17 riders, while Debra was near the end of the line.

The planned ascent of about 4,000 feet would take about one hour with the return trek or descent taking an hour and a half. From the beginning, Jake was impressed by the sure-footedness of his horse and its responsiveness. Despite the size of his mount, it handled almost effortlessly. Jake even turned several times in the saddle in an attempt to check out how Debra was doing behind him:

“Are you okay?” he shouted.

He could hardly see her as the curvy trail twisted around and back.

Debra could not hear her dad and so didn’t respond. Jake guessed she was unhappy, as her horse was probably ignoring her. If her horse detected Debra’s inexperience, he would not be very helpful.

The scenery they were passing was typical of the Colorado they had seen in countless western movies with pine and spruce forests of various thicknesses on both sides of the sometimes narrow trail. The dense forest contrasted with frequent clearings that were quite level and wide enough for as many as three horses to ride abreast. Jake enjoyed the variety of the scenery, but, as they continued to ascend the trail, he became more and more concerned about how Debra was doing. Jake began to converse with the lead trail guide, Jane, a 20-year-old Coloradan who was supervising the entire ride:

“I’m a little concerned about my daughter,” Jake told her. “I’m afraid she’s not doing too well in the rear. She has no riding experience.”

Jane paused and then said, unexpectedly:

“Would you like to go back and ride alongside her for awhile?”

“You think I could manage it?”

“Absolutely, but wait till we get to the clearing just ahead.”

When the line of horses reached the next clearing, Jake deftly turned his mount towards the rear and trotted past all the horses behind him until he reached Debra who sat in the next to the last position. Jake pulled his horse to a stop, turned it and rode alongside Debra for a couple of minutes.

“My horse is amazing,” Jake exclaimed. “I just pulled off a maneuver I’ve seen in a lot of John Wayne westerns when the cavalry lieutenant rides from the front of the troop formation and gallops to the rear. These Colorado horses are great,” he said, taking no credit whatsoever for the skill and speed with which he had pulled off his dash to the rear.

Debra was feeling a little better by this time, even though her horse continued his mostly sluggish ways.

“It may be better for you that he’s not too frisky,” Jake added.

After 10 minutes, as the trail began to narrow somewhat, Jake decided to reverse field and head back in the direction he had come from earlier. Jake’s horse sped quickly to the exact spot in line he had come from as if he remembered the location perfectly. Jake felt quite a sense of accomplishment from his cavalry-like movements and, as the summit of Pike’s Peak came into view, he counted himself lucky to have had this opportunity to visit and enjoy the beauty of the Rockies. At trail’s end, the troop paused in one last clearing before commencing the steep descent. A quick survey showed that, except for two cases of nosebleed, near the 10,000-foot marker, none of the participants were worse for wear. As evening began to fall over the trail, the riders reached the ranch and corral. They began their motorized descent to the hotel below, tired but filled with excitement at what they had seen and what they had achieved on that sunny, spring day in the shadow of Pike’s Peak.

Joseph Rotenberg, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Link, has resided in Teaneck for over 45 years with his wife, Barbara. His first collection of short stories and essays, entitled “Timeless Travels: Tales of Mystery, Intrigue, Humor and Enchantment,” was published in 2018 by Gefen Books and is available online at Amazon.com. He is currently working on a follow-up volume of stories and essays.

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