July 2012

Vista Verde Has Bold Western Style

There’s nothing quite like cowboy style. The distinctive hat, the yoke-backed shirt, the big belt buckle, boots, and chaps. Add spurs and a bandana around the neck and you’ve got yourself a western hero.

Whether it’s because of his Texas roots or his handlebar moustache, no one has western style quite like our wrangler Nathan. Nathan is known for wearing incredible graphic shirts with bold western themes. Paired with his hat, boots and chaps,  he represents the real deal.

A few weeks ago, Sarah came across one of his shirts available at a discounted price. She purchased several of them and handed one to each of the servers.

They waited expectantly for Nathan to wear his shirt again, and when he finally did weeks later – they were ready. He showed up to lunch that day to find a gaggle of girls wearing the same bold shirt as he was.

There is no doubt about it: we have fun here at Vista Verde.

Check out the photo of Nathan and the girls. Kind of looks like the album cover for a country-western family band, doesn’t it?

Chef’s Corner: Tempura Battered Summer Vegetables with a Ponzu Dipping Sauce [Recipe]

Chef Cholly’s has another delightful summertime appetizer for us this month: a summer vegetable tempura paired with a light and flavorful ponzu dipping sauce. Delicious!

Although fried, the light tempura batter keeps this vegetable appetizer fresh and crisp and the zesty ponzu dipping sauce adds an Asian twist – perfect for a hot summer day.

When making it at home, you can use the summer veggies Chef Cholly has listed below, or get creative and work with what is abundant locally for you this time of year.

Looking for a wine to pair with it? Lisa, our Sous Chef and Sommelier recommends this pick:


This Chardonnay introduces itself with clean aromas of citrus, apples, butter and oak spice. The palate is dominated by pronounced flavors of tropical fruits, brown baking spices, butter and toast. (Source: souverain.com)


Recipe: Tempura Battered Summer Vegetables
with a Ponzu Dipping Sauce

serves 4 as an appetizer

Tempura Battered Summer Vegetables


  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • 16  asparagus spears
  • 20 green beans
  • 4 medium chanterelle or hen of the wood mushrooms
  • 2 cups of oil for frying
  • Tempura batter (recipe to follow)
  • Ponzu dipping sauce (recipe to follow)


  1. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wash and dry the squash and zucchini and slice ¼ inch thick, trim asparagus and green beans, and brush any debris that may be on the mushrooms.
  3. Using one variety of vegetable at a time, dredge in the tempura batter enough to make one layer of veggies in the skillet. Allow excess batter to drip off briefly. Fry on both sides until crisp and golden. Remove to a pan lined with paper towel to absorb excess oil. Keep the pan in a pre-heated oven to keep veggies hot. Continue with each vegetable variety until all are fried.
  4. Arrange the veggies evenly on 4 plates and serve with warm ponzu sauce on the side for dipping.

Tempura Batter


  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups cake or pastry flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 ¼ cups sparkling water or beer


  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. When ready to use, add the sparkling water or beer and whisk until incorporated. The batter is ready to use.

Ponzu Dipping Sauce


  • 2 oz. soy sauce
  • 2 oz. lemon Juice
  • 2 oz. chicken stock
  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger root
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • ¼ cup diced tomato


  1. Combine the soy sauce, lemon juice, chicken stock, olive oil, ginger root, and black pepper in a small pot and bring to a simmer.
  2. Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the other ingredients. Serve warm.

Nextavenue.org – July 2012

Summer Camps That Cater to Grown-Ups – By Heather Larson

A new generation of adult camps offers everything from sports to performing arts to cattle-herding

No longer must we settle for living vicariously through our kids’ or grandkids’ summer camp experiences. Now we can relive, or experience for the first time, the joys of nature and hone our skills or pursue our passions — with like-minded grown-ups.

Today’s adult camps offer everything from music to sports, from cattle ranching to performing arts, and from weight loss to spiritual study. And the timing and costs also cover a wide range: You can go to a three-day day camp for as little as $150 or a weeklong camp with upscale residential quarters for as much as $2,700.

According to the American Camp Association, more than half a million adults attend camp each year, and that doesn’t include people who go to family camp with their offspring. The association has kept records on adult attendance for only the past five years, but it notes that in that period, the numbers are up by 20 percent.

Hitting the Camp Trail

Bruce Henderson is a 60-something school psychologist in North Carolina by day. But by night but he’s an amateur saxophone player whose dream is to perform in lounges and jazz clubs when he retires. Six years ago, in an effort to improve his skills, he enrolled at a summer jazz camp on the campus of California State University, Northridge. It was there he met members of one of his favorite groups, the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band, who were serving as faculty.

Henderson was hooked. So much so that each summer he checks out a different jazz camp. Last year he discovered Tritone Jazz at Naz at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., which inspired him so much he says he’s returning this year.

“Jazz camp is an experience like no other,” Henderson says. “I keep coming back because of the bonding I have with fellow musicians through creating art and sharing a love of musical expression. And it’s not all work — we have some really great laughs.”

Whatever your fancy, there’s probably a summer (or winter) camp that specializes in it. Here’s just a sampling of what’s out there for the kid in us all.

(MORE: Life From the View of a Canoe)

Jazz Camp

A typical day at Naz, on the campus’ 150 wooded acres, includes six hours of professional instruction for saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, piano, guitar, bass, drum, voice and, starting this year, violin.

For 90 minutes each day, campers play in combos and are coached by professional player/educators. Throughout the week they learn and practice the tunes they’ll perform at the final camp concert for a local audience.

As it has for the past 14 years, this camp runs the last full week in July (July 22–27, 2012). Tuition is $775; meals and lodging in the college dorms are an additional $520. Campers can also stay in nearby hotels, motels or B&Bs. Registration ends July 15, and when this story published, there was room for two more drummers, three trumpeters and a bassist.

Circus Camp

If you’re traveling near Lake Merritt in Oakland, Calif., and happen to see a crowd of people waving brightly colored banners outside a monumental Colonial church building, you’ve found Stagebridge. And if you’ve ever fantasized about being a carney or joining the circus, this is the camp for you.

The Sixth Annual Performing Arts for Adults 50+ Camp, housed inside that Colonial church, welcomes novices as well as skilled performers. All the instructors have performing arts backgrounds. The clowning teacher, for example, worked with the Pickle Family Circus and is a faculty member at the San Francisco Circus Center.

Intensive classes are offered in acting, storytelling, clowning, mime, movement, Zumba, percussion and more. On the last day of camp, all participants perform in a videotaped “Big Show,” a copy of which is available for $10.

Every summer has a different theme; this year’s is “Under the Big Top: Run Away With the Circus,” and it runs from July 16 to 20 (9:30–4); cost, $285. Participants stay “off-campus” in hotels in downtown Oakland and can drive or take public transportation to Stagebridge. Snacks are provided throughout the day, but attendees are advised to bring a light lunch.

Fantasy Camp 

For those who believe space is the place, the Adult Space Academy at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., will be a dream come true. Surrounded by icons of American history, like the Saturn V restored to its Apollo-era condition, and the Pathfinder Shuttle, campers may actually brush shoulders with famous astronauts.

During the three-day session, participants study historic space flights, train like a real astronaut then apply what they’ve learned in a simulator (though they won’t experience weightlessness; that happens only in advanced camp, underwater). Each camper gets to build a miniature two-stage loadstar rocket (23 inches long) and launch it himself. Weather-permitting, the rockets can soar higher than 1,000 feet. While space camp is open to people of all ages, roughly half the 184 participants in 2011 were at least 50 years old. (Space Camp for kids runs all year long.)

Adult Space Camp is from Aug. 24 to Sept. 15 this year and costs $549, which includes room and board. Campers sleep onsite in dorm-style rooms that accommodate up to seven people. Meals are taken communally, and yes, they serve Tang. Currently all slots have openings.

(MORE: Pursuing Passions in New Places)

Cattle-Herding Camp

Vista Verde Ranch might bring Billy Crystal’s City Slickers to mind, but it offers a much more comfortable experience. Situated in the middle of a national forest in Northwest Colorado just 45 minutes form Steamboat Springs, the ranch offers lodging in authentic log cabins and serves haute cuisine. Think of it as an all-inclusive resort, with horses.

Originally built as a private ranch in the 1920s, Vista Verde became a full-fledged dude ranch in the 1970s. Summer season, for guests, runs from June through September; during the off-season, the owners attend to ranch projects.

This summer is Vista Verde’s Fourth Annual Cattle Round-Up, where campers actually ride over the ranch’s 16,000 acres searching for 400 head of cattle. Some days the cows are elusive, but when participants hit the mother lode, they’ll be driving a large herd — in an actual roundup.

The first day campers learn to communicate with their horse, and skills are honed in clinics throughout the week. The resident horse trainer helps riders of all levels improve their skills. All equipment is provided, but guests must bring their own jeans and hats. (Boots and helmets can be borrowed.)

On average, there are 25 guests per week, with more couples than singles, but everyone interacts so no one feels left out. The biggest payoff is the luxurious accommodations in private cabins plus gourmet meals paired with fine wines. A weeklong stay (Sunday to Sunday) costs $2,700 per person.

(MORE: Beginner’s Mind: A Joyful and Beneficial Way to Learn)

Outdoor Recreation Camps

Campers challenge their body and mind at Vermont’s Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center, flanked by Bear Mountain and two small reflective ponds at its base. Nearly 1,500 acres of conserved land have been set aside for recreational use and agricultural purposes. Big Kids Camps in Grafton offers hiking, swimming and a low ropes course plus instruction in mountain biking and canoeing. During the session campers visit the local town blacksmith and learn his craft.

But the real draw is the annual biathlon, a competitive event that combines cycling or running around a cross-country track with two to four shooting rounds of a laser gun, half of which are done standing, the other half prone.

Big Kids Camps are offered every Tuesday through Thursday (9–4) from June 25 until Aug. 3. Tuition is $150, which includes lunch. There’s no on-site housing: Campers usually stay in the nearby Grafton Inn.

Traditional Summer Camp — for Adults

YMCA Camp Chief Ouray, in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, is a good old-fashioned summer camp experience, with horseback riding, canoeing, archery, arts and crafts, nature hikes, water aerobics and wood-carving. (Yoga is the most “modern” concession.) Activities take place in Alpine meadows and stands of aspen and lodgepole pines, and campers raft down the mighty Colorado River. (In winter, the camp welcomes cross-country skiers and snow-shoers.)

Campers choose how adventurous or relaxed they want to be. Evening activities include square dancing, games, a talent show, campfires — pretty much everything except Color War.

There is an age limit here: No one under 50 is permitted. Sleeping quarters are off site, at nearby Snow Mountain Ranch, offering single and double beds or private rooms for an additional fee. The session runs from Aug. 26 to 31 and costs $280 for YMCA members and $300 for nonmembers, which includes lodging, all meals, snacks and most activities. (There are additional fees for horseback riding, rafting and ropes.)

How to Find the Right Camp for You

The obvious place to start is with personal recommendations or a Google search. Camp ParentsGrownup Camps and Shaw Guides are also good resources.

When researching a camp, the same rules apply as for kids’ camp, says Peg Smith, chief executive of the American Camp Association.

  • Ask a lot of questions.
  • Make sure the camp philosophy matches yours.
  • Find out what the expected fitness or skill level is.
  • Check to see if it is ACA-accredited (camps must meet nearly 300 standards in health safety and operations to earn this).

To maximize your camp experience, know what you want out of it before you attend, Smith says, and keep expectations realistic. “This is your opportunity to go beyond everyday life,” she says. “You’re never too old for a camp experience.”

Wild Yoga in the Wild West

I had the opportunity to join Steph and Kelli last Thursday for Wild Yoga. Where “old west” meets “new west,” this experience truly offers the best of both worlds. Guests have the option of riding horseback or hiking out the the serene outdoor yoga spot.

I opted to hike with Kelli, but many of the guests chose to ride with Steph. (Chaps over yoga pants: now there’s a unique challenge – and a unique look!)

Both routes provide scenic vistas and a serene experience. The destination: a small cluster of outdoor yoga platforms, nestled neatly in a shady aspen grove.

Kelli is trained through YogaFit®, the philosophy of which takes an inclusive approach to yoga. Hers is a mixed-level class accessible to folks at any level of fitness or ability. Though a former dancer, I am not as strong and flexible as I once once. I found the class challenging but encouraging and was easily able to follow the modified poses when needed. (Over my shoulder, I watched the obviously more experienced yogis of the group maximize the movements to match their more advanced capabilities.)
The flowing sequence was a gentle challenge to both my mind and body. Though the bugs were not bad, the occasional buzzing in my ear or tickle on my ankle was as additional challenge – a reminder to stay centered and focused and not give into distractions.

At one point, we had a surprise visitor. A deer circled by our site. He stopped when he noticed us, but eventually moved on. I guess he figured he was safe, us being yogis and all.

Tree pose was my favorite – standing tall and lifted, imagining being rooted into the ground, maintaining center and balance – it really does take on new meaning when you are encircled by a family of aspens.

We finished the class gently, laying on our backs with eyes closed in the rest position. What a treat to relax like that, feeling the dappled kiss of the sun through the canopy.

Afterward, as the riders mounted their horses and we prepared to hike out, I took one last look around. I felt calm, focused and restored. What a great way to begin my day!

Why I love our staff

There are so many reasons why I love the ranch staff at Vista Verde.  Overall, they are just fun people, and who doesn’t want to work with people who are fun?  But, I had a reminder of some of the other reasons I think they are all so great this past week.

Our housekeepers are often times overlooked.  Their job isn’t all that prestigious, and they deal with some pretty awkward situations from time to time.  Here are these smart, educated, talented people doing the dirty jobs with a smile on their face.  But, day after day, they show up with a great attitude to care for our guests behind the scenes.

The other day, as the girls were busy doing a deep clean on the Lodge, Sarah came by and asked if I had a rope or a strap. I was trying to figure out why she needed one as I looked around the office.  Finally I gave her the strap to my computer bag, still not sure what was going on.  Next thing, I see her strapping on what we call and edger (small vacuum to get the edges of the room, small corners, etc..).  She looked like she was straight out of Ghostbusters.   A little creativity, a little smarts, a little sense of humor, and suddenly her job of vacuuming around the Great room became fun.

So many more reasons to love them, but Sarah deserved a shout out for putting a smile on my face that day.  I’m sure all of you who have been to the ranch have fun stories of how our staff have done the same for you.  Feel free to share them with us!

Vista Verde Staff Glow in the Dark

Once a month during the summer, we try to gather our staff together for some good old-fashioned fun. It’s a chance to kick back, relax and let off some steam together. Last night, we gathered for a late-night game of Capture the Flag out at Homestead cabin – complete with all-black ninja-wear and color-coded glow sticks.

We played two rousing rounds (red versus blue in honor of the upcoming holiday.) The red team took it both times. Even this morning, team members were still talking strategy. We may have to have a re-match later in the summer.

After the game, we settled in around a makeshift campfire to sing songs and eat treats from the kitchen. While we missed the warmth and sweet smell of a real campfire, Colorado has seen too many flames this summer. We were happy to do our part by gathering around a Coleman lamp.

All in all it was a great night. With the moon three-quarters full and the call of the sand-hill crane audible (even over the chaos of the game), it was a gorgeous night to be out, active and spending time with one another.