April 2013

Talented Guests

By Steph

There are so many talented people who come through the gates of Vista Verde for a summer or winter vacation.  We are reminded of this all the time, when we get to spend time with folks out on the trail or over a cup of coffee.  My closet entrepreneurial side is always enamored by the stories of guests who have started their own businesses, maybe even sold them and moved on to another project.  Then, I tend to feel in awe of those who dedicate their professional lives to the world of medicine or education.  There are philanthropists doing great things for the human experience.  And, there are amazing people supporting others in their professional lives as well as their personal passions.  But, one of the more tangible talents that we see in our guests is the arts.  Whether it’s the talented 10 year old Samantha blowing us away with her ukulele playing last summer, or John from England taking photos that should be sold in a gallery, or the photography of Debby Thomas, which is actually sold in galleries, there are so many guests who surprise us at the ranch.  Most recently, Alphonso Foster sent me a photo of a painting he did of wrangler Dan after his family vacation a few years back.

Lucky us that we get to know the people who come here on vacation well enough to learn about some of their amazing talents.  I’m sure there are so many that we don’t get to learn about, and wish we did!  So, during this upcoming summer dude ranch season, please share your talents with us!


Cowboy Quotes

Cowboy Quotes, Sayings, and Wisdom

  • Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.
  • Don’t squat with your spurs on.
  • Don’t judge people by their relatives.
  • Behind every successful rancher is a wife who works in town.
  • When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  • Talk slowly, think quickly.
  • Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  • Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
  • Don’t interfere with something that ain’t botherin’ you none.
  • Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
  • It’s better to be a has-been that a never-was.
  • The easiest way to eat crow is while it’s still warm.
    The colder it gets, the harder it is to swaller.
  • If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
  • If it don’t seem like it’s worth the effort, it probably ain’t.
  • It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.
  • Sometimes you get and sometimes you get got.
  • The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with watches you shave his face in the mirror every morning.
  • Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.
  • If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
  • Don’t worry about bitin’ off more’n you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger’n you think.
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • Generally, you ain’t learnin’ nothing when your mouth’s a-jawin’.
  • Tellin’ a man to git lost and makin’ himdo it are two entirely different propositions.
  • If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there with ya.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
  • When you give a personal lesson in meanness to a critter or to a person, don’t be surprised if they learn their lesson.
  • When you’re throwin’ your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.
  • Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back.
  • Always take a good look at what you’re about to eat. It’s not so important to know what it is, but it’s sure crucial to know what it was.
  • The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back into your pocket.
  • You can’t tell how good a man or a watermelon is ’til they get thumped.(Character shows up best when tested.)
  • Never miss a good chance to shut up.
  • If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen are defrocked, shouldn’t it follow that cowboys would be deranged?
  • There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode;
    Never was a cowboy who couldn’t be throwed.

Foal Watch

‘Tis the season for late nights and early mornings if you’re a wrangler here at Vista Verde.  Terry, Nicky, John and Reid have been taking turns checking on the broodmares and keeping watch on new foals.  With the snowy weather we’ve had recently, it is even more important to make sure the mares are carefully watched for signs of impending deliveries.  Typically, the mares are brought in at night to their warm and cozy stalls.  Then, someone checks on them late at night.  Inevitably, the mares hold off until everyone leaves them alone, and whoever checks in early in the morning finds a new foal happily nursing away.  It’s amazing how animals just do this stuff naturally and without affair.

So far, we can introduce you to Bella, a filly out of Houston.  Next up is Stormy, another filly by MJ.  Those of you who remember sweet Bailey from last year will believe me when I tell you that Stormy about crawled into my lap when I went down to meet her and take her photo.  Then Flicka delivered another cute filly, who we are calling Whimsey.  We are still waiting on Rachel, Lucky, Sassy and Patti.  It will be exciting to meet these new foals as they arrive.  We’ll continue to post photos of each of them on our Facebook page as they arrive.

For those of you coming this summer for a dude ranch vacation, don’t forget that you get a chance to help us train these youngsters in our weekly Foal Handling Clinic.  It’s always an amazing time, bonding and loving on these sweet little equines.  Everyone can use some baby love!

Planning a unique family vacation

As I sit here and watch the snow fall outside, I’m dreaming of my very own family vacation coming up soon.  It’s true, even those of us who live in paradise do need to leave the valley to see other scenery from time to time.  What has struck me in the process of trying to find a great place for my family to vacation is how much work it is to find a unique family vacation destination.  I’ve always heard it on the phone, when a desparate mom calls up, completely overwhelmed by the process of sorting through the myriad options.  For someone who has narrowed down the choice to knowing they want a dude ranch, it’s still not easy as there are dozens and dozens of great options.  But, for those who haven’t even narrowed down their search to a specific kind of vacation, it’s enough to send one back into their shell and stay home and watch movies.

So, what tips are there for finding the perfect spot for your family vacation?  Here are some of my thoughts, but I’d love to have all of you comment to help others who are on the hunt.

1) Just book at Vista Verde Ranch- it’s one stop shopping, the experience is magical, and then you can get back to your life.  (Ok, sorry, my geeky humor popped out here)

2) Budget- this sounds obvious, but I found myself struggling because I didn’t set a budget initially, so I was all over the place.  From renting a condo on the beach to luxury all-inclusive resorts.  It wasn’t apples to apples, and that made it harder.  Just commit to what you can/want to spend and then use that as your filter.

3) Experiences- Do you want to be on your own for planning all activities and cooking meals, or do you want to be pampered a bit?  Again, it seems like a no-brainer, but sit down as a family and decide what your vision for how much you want to do on your own and how much you want taken care of for your family.

4) Setting- Do you want a remote, peaceful setting (like Vista Verde) or do you want to be in the heat of the action (in the heart of the city) or somewhere in between?

5) Advice- Once you have the above decided, start asking your friends.  Social media is an unbelievable tool for vacation planning.  If you’re a Facebook user, post a status update asking your friends if they have any recommendations on a great place for what you are looking for based on the above credentials.  I have been amazed at how many times we find out that one of our guests knows someone else who has been to the ranch before, but they didn’t realize it until after their trip.  Not everyone goes to cocktail parties ready to tell all their acquaintances about the great vacation they just had at Vista Verde.  Well, I may know a few, but most don’t and there is a hidden arsenal of great ideas and recommendations among your peers.

6) Tripadvisor- It is my go-to.  Although I’m spoiled by us having really good reviews for the ranch, not all properties have that going for them, and it’s helpful to know the pro’s and con’s of any resort or destination.  However, I do have to say that you need to keep in mind that there are always some reviews by people who just can’t be pleased.  Somehow, our guests are so incredibly wonderful that it seems like we don’t have to deal with folks like that, but they are out there.  I tend to take a 10% rule on reviews.  If there are 10% that rip apart a vacation destination with 90% raving about it, I take that in to account, but also recognize that there people out there who can’t be pleased.

7) Call- We live in such an email age, but I have to say there is something amazing about the good old fashion telephone.  Pick it up.  Call the places you are considering.  The person on the other end will tell you a lot about the property you’re considering.  For better or worse, Melissa and I have been told time and time again that we were the reason someone chose Vista Verde for their vacation.  We recognize that it’s likely that for every person who chose the ranch for that reason, there are likely others who chose not to come here because of our presentation on the phone.  But, our hope is that we get the kind of people who will really enjoy their ranch vacation at Vista Verde because of that reason.  If you feel good about the place because of the person on the other end of the line, it’s very likely that that person reflects the personality of the property so you will be happy.  Trust your gut!

7) Dream- Hopefully by now you have found a great spot.  Now it’s time to sit back and start dreaming about your wonderful upcoming family vacation….maybe it’s to Colorado this time?

Speaking of, I’m going to get my beach chair out and go sit out in the falling snow to read a good book.  I need to gear up for my escape from paradise!  Please help others by sharing your tips for planning a unique family vacation.

The Fly- the appearance of spring

By Brandon

Well, there’s no doubt that spring is here at Vista Verde; the snow is making its rapid retreat, green grass is beginning to emerge and birds’ songs are punctuating the warming air.  Yes, aside from the random spring snow squall, all signs point toward the end of winter.  For me, however, nothing marks spring’s arrival like the disappearance of ice on the Elk River and trout feeding hungrily on emerging flies.

For those of you whom I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting this past season, allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Brandon Martin and I’ve been given the wonderful opportunity to serve as manager of the fly fishing program here at Vista Verde Ranch.  Some of you coming this summer may be looking for a bit of variety during your dude ranch vacation, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming season and the opportunity to spend time on the water with you!

I jumped on the chance to take the afternoon on Monday to get a little fishing in now that the Elk River is running freely and the water level has not yet risen from the inevitable snow melt that will occur high in the Zirkel Range in the upcoming weeks.  It may be true that I still have some tackle orders to complete, some flies to tie and some projects to finish up around the ranch but the sun was shining, the water was running clear and my opportunistic spirit bet on the fish being hungry.  I justified and rationalized this as a “scouting trip” to get a jump on the springtime fishing; you know, part of the job that somebody has to do.

The afternoon started just across the road from the ranch where the Elk River parallels Seedhouse Road.  Access only required a short trudge through some remnant snow before stepping into the cold rushing water.  There’s always a moment of calming relief after entering 37-degree water and realizing that your waders haven’t formed any leaks since their last use.  I spent several minutes first doing a little in-stream investigation to determine what the fish might be dining on now that their metabolic rates are on the rise with the warming temps.  After examining some rocks from beneath the current it was clear to see that small stonefly nymphs were abundant and were likely on the trout’s menu.  This is great news for both the feeding trout and the angler attempting to fool them.  However, when I put myself in the stoneflies’ shoes it seems altogether like bad news.  But alas, I’m here to fish and stoneflies don’t wear shoes, anyway.  Earlier I had tied up some imitations that I hoped would be passable and made my first casts into tight pockets where I presumed trout would be holding in the slower water behind some of the large rocks that give the Elk its wild and tumbling character.  An up-close and tight line technique proved to be just the trick as my first two fish came to the net within ten minutes, or so.

The first, a small rainbow still sporting adolescent par marks and the second a healthy cutthroat that put up a surprisingly sporty fight for having just recently shaken off the winter blues.  While the rate of success didn’t quite hold up throughout the afternoon, I did manage to land a couple more – both rainbows – before getting off the river under the threat of an advancing storm.  Before making my way up the bank and back to my truck I stopped to clip off my flies – the true unsung heroes of any successful outing – and took a minute to take in my surroundings.  The low and static roar of the tumbling water, the faint smell of pine, the majestic view of white mountains heaving skyward and the way that energy courses through the air as the land awakens from its winter slumber all served to remind me of my fortune in where I call home and what I call “my job”.

So here’s to new beginnings and what I know will be a season full of good times and lasting memories made with some of the finest folks we’re honored to call “our guests”.  Until next time, take care and come see us soon, or check out our fly fishing information as you dream of your next vacation.

It’s a Dog’s Life

By Steph

During the off-season, the pace at the ranch slows down a bit.  I know, those of you who are laughing, thinking we always live at a slower pace are wondering how that can be possible?  Well, in our perspective, it does seem slower!  There are no guests to take care of or play with, which can be lonely, and definitely not as exciting and fun, but also a nice change of pace.  There are very few staff to look out for and no figurative traffic to direct.  While I cherish the quiet and the ability to crank through my mile-long to-do list that accumulated during the season, it also makes it a little harder to find “news” to share with all of you.  But, then these serendipitous events happen and I suddenly have an a-ha moment!

Last week, as I was giving Nicky’s new puppy (more later) some love, it hit me that it would be fun to update everyone on Sidney.  At the same moment, Art, the UPS driver (don’t you all know your UPS driver by name?) showed up with box after box from California.  As we opened the boxes, we realized that our great friends Lucy and Charlie Postins had sent us treats, food and goodies for the ranch dogs from their business The Honest Kitchen.  What a fun surprise, and now I had a topic!

I walked around the ranch with some of their natural dog treats, trying to get the dogs to pose for photos.  Unfortunately, as I was getting mobbed, it was a little challenging to get a decent photo.  Estatic dogs, mud, melting snow….it wasn’t pretty.  I finally recruited Kristen, who was busy ordering new ipod docks for the cabins (I told you, it’s kind of quiet around here in the off-season) to come out and help me get the dogs to pose.  Still, not much luck, as you can see.  So, instead the doggies just got to enjoy their special treats, and now think I am the coolest person on the planet.  Thanks Lucy for putting me on that platform in the dog’s eyes.

With that, I do think I owe all these wonderful, less heralded four legged ranch creatures a chance at the spotlight.  First of all, we have to introduce Sidney.  Nicky fell in love and brought Sidney home to the ranch toward the end of the season.  Cute, small and fluffy right now, she will not be that way in another year as she is a Bernese Mountain Dog.  She is sweet, smart and completely lovable.

Those of you who have been here before know Rosie, Dodger and Trouper.  Rosie (black lab) is Steve and Kelli’s guide dog.  Nope, not because of vision issues, but because she helps them guide ski trips in the winter and hiking trips in the summer.  She even attended yoga with us last summer and had the best down dog of the group.    Dodger (cattle dog mix) is Reid’s teenage pup.  He is about 1 1/2 years old, and full of energy and enthusiasm.  Trouper (yellow lab) is Terry’s buddy.  Trouper hangs around the indoor arena as much as possible, as he just loves being with his dad.  He’s a staple in the stable, so to speak.

There are a few other ranch dogs who don’t make appearances, as they stay inside with their “parents” most of the time.  But, you can always count on the ones mentioned here to have a great sense of Western hospitality.  They seem to have attended our orientations, as they know how to treat people well when they come on a dude ranch vacation!  And, if you’re a dog lover in your own life, don’t forget to check out The Honest Kitchen and their line of natural dog food.