July 2011

Swimming at a Dude Ranch

Adding a pool to our list of amenities was not an easy decision here at Vista Verde.  We resisted it for years for many reasons.  We didn’t want our dude ranch, although a luxury ranch, to feel too much like a resort.  We didn’t want a pool to detract from the amazing activities for kids and teens, which is part of what makes this such an amazing family vacation.  And, we were cognisant of the fact that a pool in this climate will go unused for more of the year than it is actually utilized.

So, after much planning and debate, the pool was added last fall and finished up this spring.  There was much speculation about how it would play out to have a pool.  Would we regret adding it?  Would it be worthwhile?  After more than 7 weeks of our summer dude ranch season I can confidently say, “Yes, it was the right choice”.  The pool has been a great addition.  It has helped get folks here who wouldn’t have considered us if we didn’t have a pool.  Although, most of them have found out that it really doesn’t matter if we have a pool or not as they are too busy having fun with our large selection of activities.  But, it has been a real bonus on warm afternoons before dinnertime when it feels good to just cool off a bit after an adventure out on the trail.

For those of you who have been wondering about it, here are some pictures finally.  We hope you get a chance to enjoy it this summer!  If not this year, come visit us next year for a wonderful dude ranch vacation!

Colorado.com – July 2011

Get a Sitter: Colorado’s Dude and Guest Ranches without the kids

Colorado’s dude and guest ranches are known for amazing family vacations, but they also make for incredible couples getaways. Most of the state’s ranches offer adult-only weeks, usually in the fall, when the pace slows a bit, the menus are a little more gourmet and guests can be found canoodling in front of glowing fires set amid spectacular mountain backdrops.

These all-inclusive retreats welcome you to take part in as many — or as few — ranch activities as you’d like, including hikes, trail rides, cattle drives, fishing excursions and boating, all of which can be tailored to all abilities.

Many ranches also throw in unexpected luxuries like spa treatments, yoga sessions and cooking classes. All of them have incredible home-cooked meals, serene settings and hospitality you can’t stop talking about (we’re serious about this one — read any online review of these ranches to see people expound on this subject).

Although a week is the standard ranch stay, ensuring guests are really able to unplug and savor ranch life, these adults-only periods are a bit more flexible. Some even open their lodges and cabins to overnight travelers when they’re not booked up, featuring B&B services and a la carte activities.

Below is a sampling of the amenities that will appeal to couples looking for romance and relaxation. Visit the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association for more comprehensive listings.

Smith Fork Ranch, Crawford

This Gunnison National Forest ranch ranks among the best in the delicious meal category (though couples massages and guided adventures for two amp up the three-night Romantic Mountain Getaway package). Shade-tree picnics, a world-class wine cellar and private candle-light dinners focus on farm-to-table cuisine, with many of the ingredients harvested from the ranch’s own garden.

C Lazy U Ranch, Granby

For couples who aren’t on the same page when it comes to communing with nature, C Lazy U has the perfect solution: For one night of your trip, they’ll arrange a “luxury campout.” A ranch hand will guide you to a campsite with large cozy tent (with a king-size bed inside!), s’mores kit, firepit and other delights. Back at the ranch, deluxe rooms have a stocked mini-bar, plush robes, fresh-fruit baskets and options like jetted tubs and fireplaces.

Home Ranch, Steamboat Springs

A prestigious Relais & Châteaux property, Home Ranch offers two-night stays for adults each October. Live music, roaring campfires, fall-color hikes or horseback rides, and Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing on a private section of the Elk River keep guests busy — even as the in-ranch chef’s haute mountain cuisine tempts them to loiter around the dining room.

4UR Ranch, Creede

4UR sets itself apart from the outset with one major amenity: Its very own natural hot  springs. Those who can find their way out of the mineral water and into the elegant accommodations will also enjoy a cozy little bar and an Adirondack-style porch perfect for stargazing. Seven miles of Rio Grande fishing, long trail rides and food and wine from a Cordon Bleu-trained chef aren’t so bad either. Two adults-only weeks are offered each summer.

Vista Verde Ranch, Clark

Toward the end of September, Vista Verde hosts an adults-only cattle gather, which is a remarkable experience on its own, but becomes even more so amid changing leaves and crisp fall air. You’ll definitely feel you’ve earned the hot-tub soak and three-course dinners that follow. Cooking classes and wine tasting are just a few of the off-horse activities to choose from.

Laramie River Dude Ranch, Glendevey

This ranch also has a perfect-for-couples fall cattle drive; this one ambles through a secluded river valley. Additionally, Laramie River has a naturalist program to help visitors explore the area through wildflower hikes, birdwatchng, stargazing, orienteering and more. Three-, four- or seven-night adults-only stays are available in September.

Lost Valley Dude and Guest Ranch, Sedalia

Lost Valley refers to its accommodations as “Levi luxurious with cattle baron comforts.” The cabins, complete with stone fireplaces and porches with lounge swings, are nestled in the pines overlooking the valley. Adults-only weeks in September and October feature cattle drives and rides through golden aspen stands and a long list of activities that can be totally ignored by those who prefer to just laze around this peaceful ranch.

Grilled Romaine Salad

It’s summertime and we’ve been loving this salad!  Bring back a little bit of your Colorado ranch vacation with this salad and a nice glass of wine on a warm evening.

1 oz.- balsamice vinegar
1 oz.- sherry vinegar
1 oz.- champagne vinegar
1 oz.- red wine vinegar
1 tbsp.- honey
1 tsp.- Dijon mustard
1 shallot- finely minced
3- cloves garlic minced
¼ – cup divina brand roasted tomatoes preserved in oil
2- tbsp- fresh basil
1- tbsp- fresh oregano
1 tsp.- Italian seasoning mix
8 oz. extra vigin olive oil
4 oz. – oil from preserved tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
1. Mix together all of the ingredients and let set for at least 2 hours for flavors to combine. Pulsing a few times in a blender works as well.
2. Toss the romaine lettuce with the dressing and a little salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain off excess dressing in a perforated pan, grill on a broiler cut side down, flip then remove from the grill after another 20 seconds.

I serve this salad with roman style grilled artichokes, Pecorino cheese with truffles or tallegio and some sort of toasted nut. Candied pumpkin seeds have been my personal; favorite and the tallegio would be my cheese of choice as well.

Rafting and kayaking adventures at a Colorado resort

By Krista Coy- Front Desk Extraordinaire
Coming from the core of the corn belt in Indiana, it seems Colorado has it all from the golden-lit snow-capped mountains to the calm cool lakes. In particular, Steamboat aka Ski Town USA, is best known for its winter ski resort, but The Boat’s motto “Come for the winter and stay for the summer.”, suggests there is more to see in the “off” season.

Although I haven’t spent a winter here yet, I would have to agree this area is worth seeing in the summer. After all, the champagne powder snow has to melt which makes water sports an unavoidable part of Steamboat’s culture. Whether its avoiding a drifter that washed out part of the road or choosing your own adventure in a kayak or raft, Colorado’s waters bring an experience all their own.

This year the quick snow melt caused the waters to be raging, which makes for a great excuse to take advantage of. I’m not brave (or niave) enough to take on the river waters on my own, so I jumped in on trips with the guests here at Vista Verde dude ranch on my days off.

With the unpredicitablity of mother nature, the rushing waters at over 3,500 cfs, gave us a unique experience on both the kayaking and rafting trips. For kayaking we headed off with the great men at Mountain Sports Kayaking School. The class for beginners was a great way to get acquainted with the water and learning how to handle a kayak. We paddled and got instructions in a small pond before heading down the river to bear the high raging waters of the Yampa. We zipped through the waters in Steamboat in nearly half of the time a regular trip would take, but stopped in a few eddies to practice maneuvers and to chat about the area. Since we had the time, we played around a bit and tried paddling up stream. With every stroke it was a struggle to even keep up the pace to stay in the same spot which was enough to work up an appetite. Although there were a few close calls, luckily, we all stayed upright and got back just in time for lunch.

After my kayaking experience I wanted more and decided to head out the next week with the rafting group. Even two hours away on the Colorado River, the waters were still so high that our trip started a few miles down from its original departure. Our relaxing ride turned out to be a true ladies day out with all the rafters being women. Dana our guide couldn’t have been more entertaining as she pointed out an old covered wagon trail and took us off the beaten path to scope out dinosaur footprints.

With the high waters, some of the rapids were covered, but sitting in the front of the raft still proved to be a “swimmingly” good time. Not that any of us fell in, but it felt that way as the water crashed on our faces. Note to future rafters, never try to turn and have a conversation from the front of the boat or the tricksters in the raft may succeed in “drowning” out your conversation.

Thanks Krista for your story!  We look forward to hearing more about your adventures at our Colorado dude ranch.

Rain, rain, go away!

2011 may officially be the craziest year of weather, and I’m saying that only half way through the year. You all probably heard enough of my talk about the winter with immense amounts of snow we had at our Colorado dude ranch. And then there was the spring …… with immense amounts of snow. As we moved into June, in a panic that the snow wasn’t going away, the sun finally came out and things started to dry up. June was sunny, warm and pleasant. The start of a nice summer.

But, July has thrown us a curve ball, with a wet weather pattern like I’ve never seen here before. Cloudy days, rainy afternoons, and just a little sunshine here and there. The upside? No dust, no pollen, cool temps, and crystal clear skies when the sun does appear. But, even my children have decided that they have done enough stomping in puddles. My 3 year old told me yesterday she wants the sun to come out. I’m with her. So, there are times we do snow dances, and right now we are doing sun dances! Start dancing friends, we could use all the help we can get!

July 4th – Colorado Guest Ranch style

Yesterday was a fun day at the ranch. Ok, most days are pretty fun, but it’s always a bit more special to celebrate a holiday at a ranch.

The morning started out with our regular orientation ride. The guests got a chance to get to know their horses, learn a little more about where we’re going this week with their horsemanship skills, and get some basic tools for understanding how to communicate better with their horse.

Lunch was a festive affair with the whole Lodge decorated in red, white and blue. Compliments to the tireless Sarah and her crew for all their efforts to make it look so good!

After lunch out on the deck, we held the first ever Vista Verde Ranch egg toss competition. It was a fierce and messy battle, but one by one each team was eliminated. Some were a bit more messy on their exit than others. After finishing, the guys had to take it one step further, so both Dace and Ben had to take turns trying to lob an egg over the pond to Clay, who was part of the winning team. Hey, when else is it socially acceptable to throw raw eggs around?

Everyone headed out for a variety of activities- riding, biking, fishing, hiking…and even some just relaxing by the pool. We gathered up again at the corral later in the afternoon to paint the white horses with red and blue paint. The festivities capped off just before dinner with the star spangled stampede. Hard to describe the fun of this annual 4th of July event at our Colorado guest ranch, but everyone should have the chance to witness it at some point.

It’s great to be able to celebrate being an American while vacationing at a dude ranch. We wish you all a wonderful Independence Day, and continue to appreciate those who serve our country as they allow us to live here and share this place with others.