Bev Fearis and family check in to one of Colorado"s famous dude ranches.
We thought our satnav had broken. We had driven an hour and a half from Colorado Springs and there were only nine more miles to go, but according to the satnav screen we were still nearly an hour away. It didn"t make sense, until we turned off the highway onto a windy, dusty road and realised the last nine miles had breathtaking views around every corner and would demand many photo stops. 75 photos later we finally reached Lost Valley Ranch.
In 2002, a fire swept through the pine forests here destroying 144,00 acres. It was the biggest fire in Colorado"s history and was devastating, but it left behind a dramatic barren landscape of spindly black trees and coarse shrubbery.
Miraculously, the fire swept right past the ranch but somehow managed to completely avoid it. Nobody said as much, but it was almost as if divine intervention had saved it.
Bob and Marion Foster, devout Christians, took over the ranch in 1961 and today it"s run by their son, Bob Junior and his wife Karen. The couple, and the ranch staff, join guests most nights for dinner and the atmosphere is more like a big family reunion than a hotel.
Many of the guests come year after year and when we went in for dinner everyone seemed to know everybody else. In a nice touch, each guest is given a list of fellow guests" names and where they come from and all the staff wear name badges, so you soon get to know everyone.
The food was top notch and most nights there is entertainment too - a square dance, a picnic, singing, talks. Many of the waitresses (all very pretty) are musically talented so help out with the evening entertainment. They also double as childminders in the summer when the ranch is hugely popular with families. Children have to be aged six to ride here but there"s plenty for them to do with a heated pool, play area, fishing, tennis, and ping pong. Accommodation is in one, two or three-bed cabins overlooking the ranch. They all have stone fireplaces (wood is delivered daily), shaded porches with lounge swings and are decorated with a western feel.
To maintain a family atmosphere, the ranch doesn"t have a liquor licence, although guests are invited to bring their own alcohol and can drink it in their cabins.
In the summer the ranch is all about families but in the spring and autumn it runs specialty weeks more geared towards adults. This week is the annual cattle week, when guests go out with the wranglers and round up the cattle. Being beginners we decided to stick to a gentle hour"s ride so we left Freddie in the capable hands of Hannah (he was smitten) and went out with Josh. I rode Wabbit and Warren was on Spanky, both gentle and well behaved creatures who didn"t need much direction. We followed Josh through the wilderness, through shallow streams, across open plains and up and down steep rocky banks, while he told us all about life on the ranch. He"s been at Lost Valley Ranch for four years and once left to start a law degree but came straight back. After just a few hours in this laid back and stunningly beautiful place, I can totally understand why.
Friday, September 30, 2011