Getaways – Fabulous Fort Worth

Hub of the hottest performance horse shows in the world, and charmed with old time western culture, there just isn’t a bad time to visit this great Texas city, but if you’re hankering for the hottest rodeo action, now might just be the best time.

World’s Original Indoor Rodeo

The pinnacle event this time of year has to be the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo held January 17th through February 8th at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. This Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeo is unlike any other from it’s grand entry serpentine ride kick off each performance, 21-member live orchestra, Best of the West Ranch Rodeo (where some of the most famous ranch brands are represented), Best of Mexico Celebration, Bulls Night Out PRCA Extreme Bullriding and the Cowboys of Colour Rodeo, all hosted within the three week rodeo extravaganza.

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Cowboy Trappings

If you’re into western, the shopping in Fort Worth is second to none. The downtown area of Sundance Square will delight your senses with shops, restaurants and galleries. Offering the best in handmade boots, saddles, clothes, belts and buckles, walk away with once-in-a-lifetime treasures at stores such as Sean Ryon, or Maverick Fine Western Wear at the Stockyards National Historic District, where you can have a drink at the step-up bar while your partner browses through racks of unique western brands. Visit the Downtown Fort Worth Rail Market, a European-style market that bills itself as “Texas’s First True Public Market,” located in the historic Santa Fe Warehouse. For the musically inclined, Ernest Tubbs Record Shop is the ideal stop, or order yourself a pair of Ponder Boots in their custom boot shop, or visit Bum Steer, a mecca of vintage clothing, furnishings, antique tack or eclectic game mounts.

Stockyards Spectacular

A trip to Fort Worth is absolutely not complete without stopping at the world-renowned Stockyards National Historic District. A former livestock market that began operation in 1866, you can still imagine the rumble of train tracks and thousands of hooves that filled the pens so many years ago, as you take in one of the daily scheduled cattle drives of Longhorn cattle down the cobblestone streets. Since its glory days as a hub of livestock trading, it has transformed itself into the entertainment hub of today. Spend your Texas night at the Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show, the Stockyards Championship Rodeo or one of the many western bars and restaurants. Don’t forget to stroll through the Fort Worth Livestock Exchange, where you will get a true taste of a city built on agriculture.

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Cowboy Culture

Fort Worth boasts some of the greatest western museums in the country. Consider visiting the Amon Carter Museum. Founded by Carter himself in 1961, the building is a beautiful renaissance structure that houses an extensive collection of the works of famed western artists Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington. Or, make your way to the National Cowgirl Museum, where you will be immersed in a fascinating tribute to the courageous, resilient and independent women who shaped our West. Catch a special exhibit of Plains Indian art by artist Cathy A. Smith in the months of January and February. For a bit of whimsical, head over to the Adobe Western Art Gallery for a good taste of original works, limited editions and vintage artwork from a wide variety of artists.

EAT

Named for the ranch in the movie, Giant, enjoy the rooftop bar and dining area at Reata in historic Sundance Square. Southwestern fare such as chicken-fried steak, tenderloin tamales and blackened buffalo rib-eye is served by wait staff in jeans and cowboy vests. A definite must while in the historic Stockyards, and just reopened in the fall of 2013 after a kitchen fire destroyed a good part of the restaurant, the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro is a four-star culinary delight owned by celebrity chef, Tim Love. Indulge your wine taste buds with the award winning collection of vintages from around the world, and savor such house specialties as white truffle mac and cheese, elk sliders and wild boar ribs. It’s not unusual to run into fellow boots and spurs aficionados at Uncle Julio’s, where fresh and authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex food and a busy vibe bring out-of-towners back again and again. If you hanker for one last bite of Texas food on your way out of town, pop by one of the Cousin’s Bar-B-Q joints at Dallas/Fort Worth International, rated one of only two of Texas’s top barbecue joints by Texas Monthly magazine, the other being Longorias BBQ, about 20 minutes north of the Will Rogers Stadium, in Everman. House specialties here include smoked brisket sausages and burgers. For the purist of authentic Mexican, check into Benito’s with its colorful decor and classics that include sopes and guisado, or the laid-back Esperanza’s, with it’s decadent tres leches cake, carnitas (braised pork) or melt in your mouth barbacoa beef cheeks. Finally, it’s not your usual Mexican restaurant but the hamachi ceviche, Michoacan-style masa or mole poblano (even if you can’t pronounce them, order them!) are not to be missed at the quaint Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana.

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NIGHTLIFE

Who hasn’t heard of the legendary Billy Bob’s nightclub? It is, after all, the World’s largest honky tonk, and a must see at least once, whether you want to brush up your dance moves, take a mechanical bull ride, or hit one of the many fantastic concerts they host. Catch the grunge country sounds of Ryan Bingham on January 25th, or the phenomenal Josh Weathers Band on the 31st.

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DAY TRIP

Journey to a town filled with frontier history and folklore legends at Granbury. Start off at the picturesque town square – filled with antiques shops, unique boutiques and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, and especially pretty in it’s festive garlands pre-Christmas. Take the kids to the hanging gallows at Hood County Jail and Historical Museum, and on weekends, you can hop on the free trolley for a spin around town or take the Ghosts and Legends tour. Every second Saturday of the month the Historic Granbury Gunslingers duke it out on the square.

EXPLORE

With the 50th anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy just past, there is a resurgence of interest in the former President’s death, and conspiracy theories are anything but stilled. Draw your own conclusions by visiting The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas (known as the Texas School Book Depository, where shooter Lee Harvey Oswald was said to have drawn the fatal trigger). Examine the life, death and legacy of JFK through artifacts, photographs, documentary films, areas where evidence was found, eyewitness accounts and interactive educational programming on both the sixth and seventh floors.

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STAY

There’s scores of budget hotels and motels within easy range of the Will Rogers, but if you’re hankering for a splurge try the Stockyards Hotel, an over 100-year-old hotel with Old West charm and themed rooms, right in the middle of the historic Stockyards. Guest rooms have a casual Texas feel at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, an architecturally innovative skyscraper towering over the city skyline, and in Dallas, the historically rich and century-old Aldolphus is filled with fine art and antiques.

DRIVE

The cowboy town of Weatherford boasts not only the much-photographed cutting horse statue on the front lawn of the local Macdonalds, but a rich western heritage. Once you’ve explored the historic square, lunch at the Downtown Café and then take a drive up scenic Old Garner Road, where you’ll come across Oswood Stallion Station, where a visit might garner you photo ops with such big guns as Dual Rey, Halreycious, Like A Diamond, One Time Pepto and Walla Walla Whiz.

A High & Wild Adventure

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BY KELSEY SIMPSON

People often talk of amazing places they have seen or their own adventures to foreign places, but this experience and my own adventure to Glenn Stewart’s High & Wild is one that I will treasure forever. And it is only the first day.

Flying out of Calgary to Fort St. John’s B.C. I had no idea what to expect. The website created an epic picture in my mind of horsemanship and beautiful scenery, and so far it has definitely delivered.

We started the morning off early to drive a quick three hours to a landing strip down the Alaskan highway. We sat at the treeless clearing meeting and greeted each other.

Questions like: “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?” were obvious favorites and then the inevitable, “What kind of horses do you ride?”

Quickly our small red and white airplane landed and loaded the first couple of people and their bags. It was only about an hour until the plane came back to pick up it’s second load of baggage and people.

Sitting with my camera lens pressed to the window of the plane, the view was breathtaking. Pure green with openings of water and some random cutlines here and there. We were headed for the mountains and they were spectacular. The further and further in we flew the harder it was to believe that people actually were out here. There were no highways, no roads, and barely a trail leading us to our destination as we floated high above.

Across the river and at the base of Gary Powell Mountain lies the Big Nine Outfitters Lodge. Truly a little oasis in a mountain range, the lodge is a two story house with the most beautiful mountain ranges for a backdrop. Home of the High & Wild Adventure with Glenn Stewart, the lodge is laid out on over 640 acres of wooded area, streams, rivers, marsh land and open grass.

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The plane touched down just in time to put our bags in our rooms and come back out for lunch. With a quick bite to eat we headed out to the pen of multiple shades and sizes of horses that were really the reason why we were all here.

When you picture wild horses that have lived on their own all year, you might picture (or at least I did) scraggly, flighty, and well, wild! But these horses were quite the contrary. The plump horses obviously wintered well and there were still weanlings suckling from their mothers.

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That is not to say they aren’t wild, because they are but it is very easy to forget that tiny detail.

After a quick head count of the 87 horses the wranglers managed to bring in this year, Glenn gave us a run down of the place. This included an introductory walk around the expansive perimeter of a fence that keeps the wild horses in while they are being used. After a couple of hours we made it all the way around with tips and great stories from Glenn.

We made it back to the corrals just in time to see some elk grazing and a big mother moose wander across to our side of the river. We got an up close encounter with her before she sauntered back across the river to find her calf.

Next was picking out tack to use on our horses for the week ahead. Although we haven’t been assigned one yet, we all point out the horses that look promising and secretly hope we get.

While we had a quick inspection of our saddles and tack, some of the wranglers and Glenn’s daughters came over the hill with 20 more head of horses that had been missed in the initial roundup. Thundering hooves pounded the ground and another herd was brought in.

Their grazing range in the off season spans the whole size of the valley from the mountain peaks we can see poking the skyline on one end to the big towering range off in the distance to the other end. They wander from place to place in their own packs and herds until it is time to round up for another year.

Pushing and shoving around salt licks, the latest batch of wild horses appear to be happy to be back. They run out of the corral and over the hill into the distance just as the sun sinks behind the distance westward mountain.

After a juicy moose roast and a homemade spread for supper, the events of the day begin to sink in.

“Is it really our first day?”

“Did we honestly just all meet this morning?”

These were common comments around the supper table. And it was true. It did feel like we had at least been here for a week when we hadn’t even spent the night and our group really felt like friends even though we had just learned each others name.

Our first day left us in awe of what we accomplished, what we learned, and where we were. I write this from the front porch of the lodge facing the horses grazing around the “yard” and the mountains in the backgrounds and sounds of the river making a quite rushing sound, to truly remind myself where I am and that today wasn’t a dream and that tomorrow promises to be even better!

Here is video of our day or you can find it here.

Check out Glenn Stewart on Facebook or at his website.