Home James met us at the Denver Airport heading 65 miles west of Denver and in less than two hours we had climbed nearly 3000 feet in elevation to our snuggly condo in Granby Ranch. Although we are in the heart of ski country, this area may get more tourists in the summer. We are a few miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, There are numerous dude ranches and several golf courses in the area and we are close to the banks of the Colorado River. There is also plenty of wildlife roaming the neighborhood including elk, black bear, antelope, coyote and mountain lions.
Dude Ranches in Colorado
This is my first visit to a Dude Ranch and I can’t help but think about the movie “City Slickers.” Maybe I’ll meet Curley, but I am more hoping to meet Norman, the cow that Billy Crystal helped birth and effectively adopted.
“There is something about the outside of a horse: that is good for the inside of a cowboy” – anon
If you have dreamed of trying out the cowboy life, and a week away from cell phones, TV and your Blackberry sounds enticing, then Dude ranches may be the place for you.
Drowsy Water Ranch is a dude ranch located near Granby, CO about 90 miles west of Denver and 3000 feet higher in elevation. This area may get over 200 inches of snow every winter, but when summer hits its goodbye snow, hello dude ranch.
This has been a working ranch for many years and was bought by the Fosha Family in 1977. This ranch is a family affair in many ways. One couple who is here this week from Indiana has been coming for 28 years. They have brought the kids and now bring the grandkids as well. He said, “I was here the year the Foshas had their first kid and I have seen their entire family grow up. They are like family to me”.
Guests are not the only family members; there are the 120 horses with their varying temperaments and personalities who seem to be separate but equal family members. Ken told us the story of two of the horses, Gus and Navajo who hang out together all the time in the pasture and seem to be inseparable. Then there are the friendships that get built here as people bond during their weeks and arrange to come back the following year or years at the same time.
It’s also a family affair in that 75% of the visitors here are families. They have 3 adult weeks after Labor Day and that’s it. This week is “art week” where people interested in painting come to paint in the morning and ride in the afternoon.
So what do you do at a Dude Ranch? Well, of course there is horseback riding, but there is also mountain biking, trout fishing, guided hikes, river rafting, yoga, horseshoes, steak frys, songfests and campfires, country dancing, hay rides and more. I forgot to mention the family style meals in the dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
This morning started with a full breakfast from the menu and our introduction to trail riding. We walked down to the stable to meet our horse (mine is Gus, the lovebird I mentioned earlier). We got about 1/2 hour of training (how to ride, trot, command them etc)–this was followed by a 1 hour trail ride. The instruction was thorough and outstanding.
The staff here is as friendly and helpful as can be. After a delicious spaghetti dinner it was off to the Teepee for an evening of line dancing and square dancing (with plenty of instruction to help us novices) It was more fun than I would have at first imagined.
Come for a week and you will soon be familiar with words like “Howdy!!”, “Come and Get it!” and the sound of the dinner bell.
I can see why people come back here year after year.
Drowsy Water Ranch www.drowsywater.com 800-845-2292. rates are $1820 to $1890 per week
Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch is the oldest continuous dude ranch in Colorado, and in 2012 they will celebrate their 100th anniversary. They are located 105 miles west of Denver on the bank of the Colorado River (the river source is 20 miles upriver) at an altitude of 7500 feet. We are just a few miles down the road from Drowsy Water Ranch. Drowsy Water Ranch and Bar Lazy J seem similar at first (especially when you review their daily activities list) but the similarities stop there. The capacity here is approx 45.
My cabin is called Gingerquill and the Colorado River is right out my front door. It’s raining today, but that does not really seem to matter. It’s so tranquil to just look out the window at the running river. Or just curl up with a book in the living room of the ranch house in front of the fireplace and pretty soon its lunchtime.
There is plenty to do, even if you don’t like riding horses, such as: fishing, white water rafting, high country rides, hiking, steak, shrimp and, BBQ rib cookouts and even a cattle drive (Billy Crystal, watch out). These are for everyone.
Then especially for the kids, there are programs for swimming, arts and crafts, treasure hunts, feeding baby animals and nature walks and more. They have a kids Pow Wow and on Friday nights they have staff skits followed by a kids skit–which the kids get totally immersed in.
There are specific multigenerational family activities as well, like the Wed morning breakfast ride and “GymKahna,” relay races on horses that involve family teams.
The guest books in the rooms are a perfect way to wile away a couple hours on a rainy morning. The stories and appreciation are awe inspiring. Here are three examples:
“To the guest who come after us, If this is your first visit, get ready for the single most magical experience of your life. This is our third visit”… “Our family came half way round the world from France for this fantastic week. We plan to return”… “I know I am one of many, but I so feel like family… This place is like nowhere else, a place to forget reality for a while and simply enjoy life”.
But the most telling story I heard this week was about a very successful lawyer from New York City who was here with his family. His firm had managed to reach him by phone at the ranch and told him to return to New York for a very important deposition. The senior partner of the firm had asked “can we land a helicopter on the ranch to pick you up and take you to a private jet?” He thought it over for about a minute and said, “Let someone else handle that deposition, I am stayin here with my family”.
After he hung up the phone he recounted the conversation to the Ranch owners. “This is the first time I ever said NO to my work colleages.”
One more story is about a family from Arkansas. The kids had never been out of Arkansas before and came to Bar Lazy J. For weeks after the visit the kids begged, “Lets move to Colorado, buy 40 acres and three horses”. Several months later the family pulled up stakes and made the move.
75-80 percent of their guests are repeat guests. Personally I am surprised that there is ever room for new guests.
There is one small 8×8 room remotely located on the ranch property called “Internet Jailhouse” in case you just have to get online.
Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch: www.barlazyj.com 800-369-6279 Weekly Rates: $1825 (adults) $1295 (7-12 yr old) $1095 (3-6 yr old) They are sold out for 2012 except for 2 weeks in Sept.