A week ago, I took an all-day ride to the back-country high above and behind our Colorado dude ranch. It was a simply glorious day to be riding good horses in spectacular country. We came back, seventeen miles and packed-lunches later, tired, sore but on a truly natural high fostered by the sheer beauty around us. Not to mention the camaraderie that only a dude ranch setting can inspire. As my father-in-law and the ranch’s owner, Doug, has often said: when you ride together, eat together and have fun together, you truly get to know people; you arrive as strangers and leave as friends.
In the week since, we’ve said goodbye to the final guests, and a few days later to the remaining staff. We’ve worked hard but I can only echo what I heard a fellow dude rancher say at the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association Board Meeting the other day: “We had a good season but even if we hadn’t, the staff was so great that it was an awesome season.”
The other night, before the mass exodus of staff on all manner of road trips and adventures, we discussed the highlights of the summer. Each story would trigger more and it wasn’t long before a couple of hours passed in laughter and memories. Everything from Shakespearean plays, July Fourth celebrations, spectacular rides, Elvis performances, pool throwing-in sessions and so much more was brought up.
And the next afternoon everyone stood on the lawn far past their intended leaving time, talking and laughing and bidding one another and us teary goodbyes.Yesterday, the last four staff members and most of our family went for a ride in the late evening. We moseyed for a couple of hours, winding through the aspens, golden above and below us. The two dogs were with us and on the return we rode through the main herd, turned out to pasture after a wonderful summer–we will move them down to winter pasture next month. Seeing a hundred or so contented horses in the evening light with the canyon walls turning to reds and grays and the fall color exploding around us was both humbling and inspiring.
We’ve had emails and Facebook posts and calls from guests–booking for next year or just calling to say thank you. Conversations are cheerful and we can bring each person’s face and family to mind and remember fun times with them.
I love the whole tradition of dude ranching, and I love that we can live it each day here at the Rainbow Trout Ranch. Thank you, everyone for a fantastic twentieth year here in Conejos River Canyon.
It is truly magic.