The sun’s out and the weather’s warm and summer’s in full swing, so make time to head for the hills to enjoy forest adventure with folks who know all about western hospitality.
Each Sunday morning, private airplanes fly in from all over western Oregon as pilots waste little time to get to the Flying M Ranch in Yamhill County.
The ranch’s 100-yard air strip is a perfect fit for short, fast take offs and landings.
Pilot Doug Jackson said the small aircraft fly in just for the weekly gathering:
“Just look at it – you could be in remote eastern Oregon – it’s so isolated, tucked up into this mountain valley and yet we’re just minutes from town. We love this place and the people who run it – it’s a great time.”
The Flying M Ranch's owner, operator and chief cook, Barbara Mitchell, has been in the kitchen, hard at work since 5am – busy baking and cooking up a storm.
She feeds the hungry folks who travel by air or by land to her family-owned horse ranch: “I do breakfast – only on Sunday mornings – from 8 to 9 o’clock and by reservation. The fellas can land right across the way, walk over, sit down and have a complete breakfast of several eggs dishes, potatoes, sausage and bacon and plenty more – and if you go away hungry, it’s your own fault.”
The Flying M Ranch House has served up down home comfort for decades. In fact, the ranch house is an old CCC headquarters building that housed the boys who worked in the local woods back in the 1930’s.
Barbara said that today – in addition to a dining area - it’s a bed and breakfast: “We’ve just three rooms and it’s not ritzy like the B&B’s in town. We tell everyone that we live on a gravel road and it’s in the woods, but still they come for the peace and solitude.”
The Mitchell family roots reach back over a century when Barbara’s husband’s (Bryce Mitchell) parents settled in the area in 1910.
“His Mom was a school teacher and his Dad was a photographer/logger,” said Barbara. "So, five generations have lived on this property. I am very fortunate to have all my family so close.”
The Mitchell’s have been in the hospitality business since 1971 when the ranch started trail rides across their forestland.
Today, her granddaughter Jessica Reber, plus a small army of sisters and cousins hold on to the reins of the daily trail rides:
“I grew up out here, so I’ve done a lot of horseback riding in the mountains,” said the enthusiastic Reber. “I know the surrounding country like the back of my hand.”
There are more than thirty horses in the Flying M’s herd and each horse is matched with the skill level of the riders who show up to enjoy a one hour, two hour or daylong riding adventure.
Jessica said that beginners are especially welcome, “No experience is needed and we’ll show you how to do it all.”
There are countless trails to ride along the eastern flanks of the coast range hillsides that rise to the top of Trask Mountain.
During the heat of summer, riders can stay along the banks of the nearby North Fork Yamhill River that meanders through the Mitchell property.
It’s cool and refreshing for riders and horses alike.
“There are so many trails,” added Reber. “Something for everyone and I enjoy taking people on their first horseback ride ever. Oregon is so beautiful and each season offers a different look and feel as you ride through the forest. It really is special.”
The Flying M’s ‘Ranch House Breakfast’ is special too and if you visit, bring an appetite. It occurs each Sunday and reservations are required. Trail riding is open year round, seven days a week and you can join a guided tour by calling ahead.