Come and set by the fire a while

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2009 by duderanchesofcolorado

Anyone who has read any of Louis L’Amour’s classic westerns will know there is a long standing, time honored custom of inviting a stranger to share your campfire, a cup of strong coffee, and a few stories.  You just never know who you might meet.  It could be that the grim, handsome man with a flat brimmed Stetson and two Colts tied down, who talks so quietly, used to ride with the deadly Mexican banditos.  And the hulking bear of a fellow with a booming laugh, who laid the old sharps rifle across his knees as he sat, is a buffalo hunter who once rode with Bridger.  One thing is certain, no matter where a person comes from, or where he’s going, there is always something to learn or to laugh about around the fire. 

This may seem a little outmoded you many of you.  After all, this is the 21st century complete with cell phones and internet.  From nearly anywhere in the world, you can contact almost anyone or retrieve just about any piece of information quick as thinking.  But I’ll tell you something the world is trying to forget.  If we all took just a little more time to sit around the fire and listen to the folks who can tell us how far ahead the next water is, or if game is more plentiful in the next valley over, we would be much better off.  And possibly even more important, if we took the time out of our busy lives to laugh along with the big buffalo hunter’s stories about the colorful Bridger, and took heed as the solemn gunfighter quoted Shakespeare, I have no doubt we would take a deeper pleasure in the simple things. 

A dude ranch is one of the few places where we still invite people to “Come and set by the fire a while”.  It’s of the few places where hospitality and the traditions of days gone by are not just a job or some kind of fanciful notion, but a passion and a way of life.

 Well, summer is starting and soon people will be coming to visit, so in this, my last post for a while, I want to thank all of you who held back your grimaces at my bad coffee and listened to my stories.  I really hope that we’ll get to sit around more than just a metaphorical fire sometime. 

Happy Trails.

The Feel of Freedom

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2009 by duderanchesofcolorado

At this time of year most dude ranches are starting up for the summer and preparing their new staff for the months ahead. This land draws people to it; its beauty, vastness, solitude, and sense of freedom brings people from every walk of life. Many who’ve come to work at dude ranches come because their parents worked at one. These ‘second generation’ staff were intrigued by the stories their moms or dads told them. My mother talks about coming out to Colorado when she was in her twenties, the same way her mom did before her.

A little bit of play before the work begins.  Wrangling in the horses.

A little bit of play before the work begins. Wrangling in the horses.

This land and this life was so intoxicating that she knew Colorado had a hold of her heart. She worked at a ranch for several summers, but in the winter when she went back to college, she told that she used to shut herself up with her guitar and play songs that reminded her of being out west. After graduation she got a job teaching in Florida, but she was drawn back to Colorado within a year. Not only did she keep in touch with many of her friends from the ranch, but she ended up marrying my dad who was the manager at her old ranch. Twenty-two years and three kids later, she never regrets that she stayed in Colorado. She has raised her family here with love, in freedom.

To describe this freedom is difficult; you feel it when your horse bunches his muscles under you while the wind combs through your hair. When you stand among the aspens as they raise their white limbs in praise to their Maker, or when you smell mountains and trees washed clean by rain, so pungent and so pure. To look across the sun speckled hills and valleys that are still wild and unchanged by time brings about awe and wonder. There is great satisfaction when you finish a job done well; it resonates through you when you work as a team… true freedom. Life lived to its fullest. This feeling is what brought the men and women who settled this land. And this freedom lingers in the air, like the perfume of the sagebrush… hundreds of years later, it still captures the hearts of those who come west.

Why now?

Posted in Uncategorized on May 8, 2009 by duderanchesofcolorado
Sometimes it's in the small, even insignificant, things that we find the most beauty.

Sometimes it's in the small, even insignificant, things that we find the most beauty.

Right about now I’d imagine that you are thinking ,“Why on earth would I want to go on a vacation now?  The DOW has us on edge, the economy is swirling furiously around us, and dozens of voices are clamoring for us to use less and conserve more.  How do I take a vacation now?”  To know the answer, you must understand what some of the goals and the purposes of dude ranches are.  Our goal is to give you a good time… something much needed when the cares of the world are so distressing.  Our purpose is to preserve the wild but faded spirit of the west.

Now, more than ever is a time to return to the roots of the rugged and untamed freedom upon which this nation was raised.  A time to find fixed places in a spinning world.   Escape to the quiet and peace of these places… set apart from the chaos of everything else.  The clear blue skies, drifting cotton clouds, and rolling green lands… ever changing, still the same, and always beautiful.

Many guest ranches offer stays of less than a week.  This seems to be popular at first glance, but I have found that people often regret doing this… wishing that they had instead decided to take the whole week.  Most people stay 6 or 7 days at the ranch of their choice to spend as much time with their families as they can manage.  The quiet and simplicity of a vacation at a Colorado guest ranch just makes the rest of the world not seem quite so bad.

The Great Question

Posted in Uncategorized on May 8, 2009 by duderanchesofcolorado
On a still morning there isn't much more relaxing or enjoyable than watching a sunrise over the Rockies

On a still morning there isn't much more relaxing or enjoyable than watching a sunrise over the Rockies

Of the myriad trials and difficulties that beset mankind, the unanswered question is perhaps one of the most egregious and yet most common.  They plague our waking mind and haunt our dreams.  Should it really be, “I think, therefore I am”, or “I am, therefore I think”?  Is it possible to travel at above the speed of light?  Troubling as these may be, as we might never find out, there is one query that has been irking man-kind since time immemorial.  It is equally ruthless in targeting children, teens, and adults; no scientist, philosopher, general, or thief is invulnerable.  What is this quandary?

“What do you wanna do?”  Simple, perhaps.  But no less deadly for it.  The annoyance is probably exacerbated by the usual, and unhelpful, answer of “I dunno, what do you wanna do?”

What could this possibly have to do with the Colorado Dude Ranch Association?  Well, aside from its value as an esoteric puzzle, it has everything to do with us because we have the answer.

With the right teacher anyone can learn to crack a whip.  A warning though, it is quite addictive.

With the right teacher anyone can learn to crack a whip. A warning though, it is quite addictive.

This is one of the most valuable things about a Dude Ranch vacation.  You will never be lacking for things to do.  Of course, there’s the exceptional riding, but that’s only one of the activities available.  Many people are set on doing the most riding possible.  That’s great, but there is the time between rides to consider.  Each ranch is unique, but some of the extra things you can do might be visit the swimming pool, spa, or even soak in a natural hot-spring, fish some of the best spots in the state, go mountain biking, or explore a few of nature’s hidden gems waiting all around us.  Not to mention, for the more adventurous, river rafting, archery golf, rifle or shotgun shooting, roping, whip cracking, and maybe even knife or tomahawk throwing.  Still, with all of these, one of the most popular things to do remains to simply sit in the sun and soak up some serenity.

If you come visit one of us, you may well get a bit sore from the riding, and your kids might be tired out from the fun, but you will almost certainly never be bored.

Colorado: A Place Where the Seasons are yet Untamed

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2009 by duderanchesofcolorado

In this post I intend to wax eloquent, and perhaps a bit sappy, regarding pure undiluted beauty of Colorado.  Every season has its own stunning virtues.  Due to the enormous size and scale of Colorado the seasons vary quite a bit from ranch to ranch.  For instance, our winter narrows Latigo’s guest season to the beginning of June to the end of September, but many others are open for longer. The terrain ranges from vast grassy plains to the high rugged peaks.

This photo was taken when the thermometer was reading about -20.  Worth it though isn't it?

This photo was taken when the thermometer was reading about -20. Worth it though isn't it?

In the winter the mountains are piled with snow and the plains turn brown.  The snowfields of the Rockies are stunning crystalline sculptures.  Sometimes the mornings bring on showers of sparkles; they rain down from trees and the sun lights them up like fireflies.  The sunrises frequently defy the photographer’s efforts, but those that don’t will take your breath away.

Spring in Colorado usually brings lots of mud.  Things grow and bud, and all of the horses are frisky after winter. The first flower to come out in the mountains is the Pasque flower. It is a lovely blossom that lasts for a long time, and as a photographer I am delighted to take pictures of things other than snowflakes after a long winter.

Pure gold.  Pure beauty

Pure gold. Pure beauty.

When I think of summer on our ranch, I think of warm afternoons and sunny rides.  Spicy stretches of sage and wild flowers that are poetry to the senses.  I think of the stunning star fields and beautiful but wild thunderstorms, and I think of the lovely and soft columbines decorating shady groves of Aspens.

In the fall I think of trees gilded with a sun-kissed radiance that puts Tolkien’s poetic description of the golden wood to shame. As the beautiful mountains cool, the willows fade to scarlet, snow begins to fall, and the cattle are brought in, everything begins to wind down for winter once more.

The Price of Value

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2009 by duderanchesofcolorado

 

This picture doesn't really have anything to do with my post, but little fawns are popular anyway.

This picture doesn't really have anything to do with my post, but little fawns are popular anyway.

Budgets, deficits, and trillions of dollars doing who knows what any more. These days the news can make you feel a bit like the riders in Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade with “cannon to the left of them, cannon to the right of them, cannon in front of them.” But regardless of your political persuasion, or your like or dislike of the news, there is no question that times are a bit lean and it looks to get worse before it gets better.

“So what?” you ask, “I already know this, and what does it have to do with a dude ranch?” Understandable queries to be certain, but, in fact, it has a great deal to do with what you pick for your summer vacation. It’s a time when, from all sides, we are getting messages telling us how to save money; how we can be a bit thriftier and “beat the recession”. But perhaps price isn’t the only thing that should be considered.

When it comes down to a simple dollar amount, it is quite probable that you could find a summer vacation that would cost less than a Colorado dude ranch. However, I would very much doubt that you could find a vacation with better value. Being basically self contained and most of them are all inclusive, with no hidden charges or sneaky little extras seeking to eviscerate your wallet. But much more importantly, when you come to visit one of us, you aren’t just another tourist taking pictures of what millions of other tourists have already photographed. No, at a guest ranch you’re a friend, you are family.

So when you’re considering a vacation this summer, remember the MasterCard commercials, and think of us. Time with your family enjoying an experience that is truly like no other: priceless.

Horses

Posted in Uncategorized on March 3, 2009 by duderanchesofcolorado

 

There is little more satisfying than when a horse and rider come to a real understanding.

There is little more satisfying than when a horse and rider come to a real understanding.

After thousands of years it is still a mystery, still a wonder. How can a human, a predator, be in such unison with his horse, a prey animal? Partners in trust. Friends. Companions.

 

I can truly say that unison between horse and rider is one of the best things I have ever felt. You stop thinking of making your horse go there or do this, and instead you start thinking we’ll go there, and then I’ll do this. As your hands and legs successfully direct your horse, you begin to feel as though you and your horse are having the same ideas at the same time. You’re no longer are moving independently, but you are a team working in tandem. My horse and I have reached the point in our friendship that I am no longer really surprised at anything he does. I just know him, and I know him well enough that I can anticipate almost anything he’ll do.

Colorado dude ranches offer their guests a chance to bond with their horses during their week stay. I have seen many people say good-bye to their horses with tears in their eyes, saying that they’ll be back next summer, and please don’t forget them. And I am always touched at this.

This relationship between horse and man has not been created by our modern, anthropomorphic culture. It has been known and acknowledged since horses were first domesticated. The partnership between man and horse has existed from the large war horses that carried their masters into battle, the horses tamed and cared for by the Bedouins, the amazing story of Alexander the Great and Busephalus, the cowboys in the Wild West, to the ranches of today. A relationship with a horse is just one of the special things you’ll experience during a guest ranch vacation, and it’s bound to stick with you.

Yours truly,
Hannah

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