April 2011

Mud Season

When it’s not quite still winter, and not quite yet summer here in Steamboat Springs, we don’t refer to it as Spring but call it by another name. Mud Season.

Most years, it’s just an affectionate term that we all use as we slop through the melting snow and ensuing mud underneath, trying to be diligent about wiping off our boots before coming inside. Because most years the sun is shining, the birds are singing and you can almost feel the grass pushing with all it’s might to explode up out of it’s dormancy. You just know summer, and our dude ranch season, is about to begin.

However, this year, it doesn’t seem to be such a laughing matter. The birds are still singing, those little optimists. But the sun has hardly been shining. Rain, snow, sleet and various other forms of precipitation keep lingering. And it’s becoming all that anyone talks about these days.

Yesterday, I had to drive over for my final board meeting (we take the summer off as everyone is too busy to meet) of the Colorado Dude Ranch Association. What is normally a picturesque drive, with majestic mountains peaks still covered in snow, but green meadows busting with young grass and baby calves was replaces by a slow slog through a blizzard in four wheel drive.

Those poor little calves out there don’t know any different. But, as soon as spring finally decides to join us, and stay, the valleys are going to explode with vegetation and those little birds are going to have something to sing about for sure. Heck, you might just hear me singing at that point!

Springtime means babies!

With the sun shining more and more, and the snow falling less and less, we’re starting to think that spring is actually here! That means we can start getting ready for our summer dude ranch season. It also means that we can start anticipating the arrival of our 2011 foals.

The mares are due anytime between mid-May and early-June, so those of you coming early in the season are guaranteed some snuggle time with brand new babies. And those of you coming later in the dude ranch season will be able to take part in getting these little ones halter broke and ready to be members of our herd.

Just for fun, do any of you want to put in a guess for what order the mares foal? Heck, let’s take it a step further and you can even try to guess the gender of the foal!

Here is what Terry is predicting as far as the order of when the mares foal, and what they’ll produce:
Emmy- colt
Tele Tubby- filly
Rachael- he’s not sure
Chex- colt

What’s your best guess?

Travelsavvymom.com – April 2011

Dude Ranch Vacations
Five things to know before you go – by Jamie Pearson www.travelsavvymom.com

I brought a lot of things with me to my Colorado dude ranch vacation last summer, such as jeans, boots, a brand new cowboy hat, and really, really high expectations. With all that beautiful scenery and horsey fun, I just knew it was going to be the trip of a lifetime. Luckily, I was right.

If you’re considering heading out west with your family this summer (and you totally should), here are a few things to know before you go.

1. Find the right ranch

I know you wish the ranch fairy would fly down and just tell you which ranch is perfect for your family. I wished that too, but it didn’t happen. So I made a list of all the things we wanted (not too many guests at a time, a high staff to guest ratio, riding clinics at no extra cost, luxury accommodations, and river rafting), and then researched until I was cross eyed.

After talking to some horsey friends and Googling myself silly, I chose Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. If you don’t know a working ranch from a guest ranch and have no idea what you’re looking for in terms of amenities, I highly recommend you start with The Dude Rancher’s Association website.

Knowing your family helps. If you have shy kids, don’t choose a ranch with mandatory separate kid and adult activities every day. If you don’t care about anything but riding, don’t pay extra for activities you won’t try.

2. Book the right week

Once you’ve decided on a ranch, the next step is choosing a week to book. Weather is obviously a consideration and holiday weeks (such as July 4th) may cost more. We went the third week in July and were lucky to be able to participate in a cattle drive. Had we gone in June, it would have been too wet and boggy.

Also, call the ranch and ask who has already booked the week you’re considering. Ideally you want there to be kids your kids’ ages. I’d also recommend avoiding weeks with big family reunions—these groups tend to be very self contained, which limits socializing opportunities.

3. Bring a sports bra

I won’t go into too much detail on this one, but suffice it to say there’s a lot of trotting and galloping at dude ranches. Hours and hours of trotting and galloping, in fact. And running around with your kids. And mountain biking. And rock climbing. You get the point.

4. Pack more clothes than you think you’ll need

I travel extensively, often, and all over the place with my kids and I flatter myself that I know how to pack. I could have done a lot better on our dude ranch vacation, however. Every time we stepped outside the door of our cabin, we got really, really dirty. My husband and I could have used another two or three outfits each. The kids were so perpetually filthy (and happy) that I’m not sure that would have helped.

Dinners were casual, but I wished I had cuter clothes. Not to mention clothes that weren’t covered in dust and horse slobber. Laundry service was convenient and inexpensive, but I wasn’t willing to part with my favorite jeans to have them washed.

If you choose a ranch in Colorado, throw in a rain jacket for everyone too. It rained briefly (or threatened to) nearly every afternoon of our trip.

5. Don’t expect to relax too much

There are so many exciting things to do at dude ranches that it can be hard to relax. I wasn’t able to just sit down with a book and read because I felt like I’d be missing something fun. Worse, I felt like I’d be paying to miss something fun.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to lounge around a pool or on a beach doing nothing for seven consecutive days, this might not be the right vacation for you. There are evening activities too, like campfires, rodeos, and barn dances, so you won’t go to bed early very often. Even the kids got a little worn out by the end of the week.