Pros: Backcountry adventure the easy way.
Cons: You feel guilty when you look at your horse.
I don’t get it. The horse is the one who’s been sweating—why am I so tuckered out? Then I realize I’m just really, really relaxed. By the time orange-purple twilight settles over canyon country around Hell’s Backbone Ranch and Trail in southern Utah, all I desire is a slab of steak, dutch-oven taters, strawberry shortcake, and maybe a shooting star as I settle into a sleeping bag. Then I relive the journey: the view from the saddle of my quarter horse into the labyrinthine canyons of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, or up onto Dixie National Forest’s Boulder Mountain, or to the 11,000-foot Aquarius Plateau. The air, which might be the cleanest in the Lower 48. The lessons from owners Breck and Becky Crystal, who taught primitive outdoor skills for years at the prestigious Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS) and lead every pack trip. By the time I polish off something sweet from Becky’s garden and tumble into the sack, I’ve had the fullest of days under the sun for both mind and body—and I can’t wait to wake up, saddle up, and do it again. From $550 for 3 days, including meals; intermediate riders and up; bouldermountaintrails.com