A couple of weeks ago, when our guest count was low and the rest of the staff were having a sledding party. The guides decided we would take a little adventure over to Burn Ridge Trail, located a few miles east of the ranch. We got our packs ready, jumped on the snowmobiles, and headed toward the trailhead. Kyle and Cami dropped off the three guides (Cliff, Teresa, and Beka) and we began our adventure. The day could not have started out better; the weather was beautiful, the sun was shining, and the powder was fresh. We were all very excited to ski this trail for the first time as we began our 6 mile journey.
Although we were anticipating a fun all day ski, we did not expect to see as many woodland creatures as we did. On the snowmobile ride to the trail head Kyle spotted a cow elk right off the ranch. Later on in the ski Teresa pointed out a cow moose. By far the most exciting wildlife encounter of the day was the reclusive mountain lion we came across deep in the Burn Ridge valley. Teresa was breaking trail, followed by Cliff then Beka. Five minutes beforehand Cliff and Teresa were talking about how we never see those elusive cats out here, but we know they are in the area. As they say… “Speak of the devil, and he’ll come knockin’ at your door.” And come knocking it did. Teresa first saw the cat, but we couldn’t tell if it was a bobcat or lynx because it was a bit far off. As we skied forward to get a better angle on the feline (while keeping a respectable distance) we were able to see that it was indeed a mountain lion. The three of us stood there unable to truly express how magnificent this cat was. As it calmly continued on its way into the forest the best word to describe our reclusive friend was “regal.” We watched for five minutes as the mountain lion crept away. Fortunately we were able to catch a few pictures of the cat as well as its tracks after it passed by.
After the excitement of the cougar viewing we continued down the valley until noon when we stopped in a clearing surrounded by aspens. As we sat by the fire Teresa skillfully built we enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches and coffee. The sun was still out, the fire was warm, and the coffee was delicious. We all decided we could indeed happily take a nap in the middle of our winter wonderland. However, there were many miles to go before we were back at the ranch to sleep.
Upon reaching the South Fork of the Elk River we had to ski across a snow covered log, the only way to reach the opposite side without skiing up the open river. We crossed without a problem and continued across our famous beaver ponds that make up part of our “Figure 8” ski. Our hard work was rewarded with a great downhill through the aspens and then a magnificent view of the ranch sitting at the base of Mt. Farewell. The last mile of our trip was a mellow trek across a meadow back to the ranch. As we sat in the Nordic Center we rested our weary legs and expressed gratitude for living in a place as incredible and majestic as this Steamboat Springs dude ranch. As Merle Haggard sang, “…if God doesn’t live in Colorado I’ll bet that’s where he spends most of his time.”