Having made it to the ranch at last, I thought I would share just one day of my two weeks in paradise at Rainbow Trout Ranch.
On this particular day, I woke to hear the welcome sound of footsteps on my balcony, heralding the arrival of hot coffee! As I crept out of my cosy bed I peeked through the curtains to see yet another cloudless sky. Being careful not to wake my sleeping husband who was on a later schedule, I got ready and went down to the lodge for breakfast.
The lodge is a superb meeting place. All the meals are family style and you can sit wherever you like. This particular morning I grabbed a place near the roaring log fire alonside several friends, old and new. The great thing about a ranch holiday is that you meet such lovely people. We had arranged to share our week with nine old friends that we had met on previous stays, but there were another twenty guests we had never met before who had already become our friends too. Breakfast was served by one of the ranch’s ever-smiling wait-staff ( Linda spends the winter recruiting and she always seems to find the most amazing young people). To my delight, it was my favourite breakfast – pancakes and maple syrup- yum yum! Jane came round the tables as usual, to make sure we all knew what we were doing that day and to see if we had any questions or requests. I knew I was going on an all-day ride to Beaver Lakes, and so Jane was on standby to take my lunch order. If there are a lot of people going out all day then there is an amazing spread laid out for you to pack whatever you like, but today there were just two of us, so we filled in our request form. I was feeling virtuous (and full of pancakes!) so I didn’t tick the dessert option………………
>Over breakfast I chatted to other people about their plans for the day, which included various half-day rides (at varying speeds!), fishing and trap shooting. I was more than happy with my choice of Beaver Lakes, which is the shortest of the all day rides and very pretty. I was also happy to be going with my good friend Deborah. We have been lucky to have shared some great rides over the years, including the best day I have ever spent on a horse (and therefore one of the best days of my whole life!), when we rode to the back-country (another all day ride) on a glorious autumn day (that’s fall to you in the US!) in 2008.
We set off for the barn to meet our mounts for the day. We were both on new horses as our old faithfuls were resting. Holliday (aka The Wonder Horse) and Dolly (Deborah’s mount for the past 12 years) would be missed, but with so many horses to choose from and Jane’s expertise in matching horses to people, we knew we would be in for a good day.
As we set off with We., our wrangler, I once again marvelled at the blue of the Colorado sky. We never see sky that blue in the UK. The aspens were turning, and as we headed across the pasture and through the youngsters and older horses, the scenery was stunning. We. gave us a chance to try out a trot on our new horses and I was delighted to discover that just as Bex (another of the ranch’s excellent wranglers) had promised, Harley was smotth and responsive ( She had also described him as ‘athletic and agile’, I would find out what that meant later in the day……………..). Deborah and Shadow were getting on well too, and a canter (sorry, a lope to you!) only served to show how well suited our new mounts were and when Jane came over the radio to see how we were getting on, We. was able to report that we had very large grins on our faces. (The only fly in the ointment was that I didn’t have my camera, but I was able to get out to Beaver Lakes the following weeks to get some photos to go with this blog).
As we climbed slowly upwards we began to see more and more evidence of beaver activity. It is incredible to see the size of some of the trees that these animals manage to cut down with their teeth.
We took our morning break beside Emerald Lake. This is a beautiful spot, so peaceful and calm. I don’t know why the lake is such a lovely colour (that’s color to you!), but it is like that year round, as I have seen a picture of it in the snow and it’s even more startling against the white.
We had lunch by Duck Lake, which is the most perfect spot to have lunch – tranquil and gorgeous and equipped with one or two strategically placed rocks on which to balance your bottom whilst you eat. Dedorah and I discussed the location of our new cabin and that the Blue Spruce trees in our garden would only need the addition of fairy lights at Christmas!
When I opened my lunch bag I was delighted to discover that the kitchen staff had ignored my ‘no dessert’ request and supplied me with delicious home-made cookies! Thank goodness they know more about appetites in the open air than I do as I was STARVING!! The amazing staff had also supplied us all with trivia questions, so we had an enjoyable time discussing our favourite places in the world ( Rainbow Trout Ranch aside of course!) and trying to remember the name of Jane’s roping horse (somewhat ironic that we struggled to rememeber as the answer is ‘Souvenir’!).
After lunch I had a walk by the lake and marvelled anew at the beaver’s abilities to make their lodges and dams and I resolved to find out some more about these fascinating animals on my return home. I do remember reading that they were being re-introduced in Scotland, so I must see how they are getting along. Meanwhile I collected a small ”beaver log’ with teeth marks to show my granchildren back home.
After lunch we returned via the waterfall and more stunning fall color (see I am learning American!).
We continued our ride after the waterfall, and came back to the ranch via First Meadows. This is another stunning spot, which was made even more special as we spotted a marmot! I wish I’d had my camera as we got very close. He was sitting on a rock and was very cross and abused us at the top of his voice, like a very large angry squirrel! I did get a picture of First Meadows the next week to show you, but the marmot wasn’t in evidence that time.
Now the route back above Elk Creek can be a little scary at times if you aren’t too fond of heights, but I am a complete woos and I always make it home, so don’t let that put you off the ride! Those horses are very sure footed and they don’t want to leave the trail any more than you do. Coming down the hills I did discover waht Becky meant about ‘agile and athletic’ though, she meant Harley prefers the ‘straight down the hill as fast as you can go’ route, rather than ‘the gentle meander’ which Holliday prefers!
We arrived back at he barn at about 3.30, and as we were talking about our perfect day I realised the radio was playing our family’s Western song – ‘Country boys and girls getting down on the farm’!
(http://everon.info/tim%20mcgraw%20-%20down%20on%20the%20farm.mp3 if you are interested!!)
As the song says, ‘You can have a lot of fun in a New York minute, but some things don’t happen in the city limits’! A trip to Rainbow Trout Ranch is one of those things.
The joy of the Beaver Lakes all day is its early arrival back at the barn, so after jumping around singing ‘my song’ and having bid goodbye to our newly beloved steeds, Deborah and I retreated to the pool and the hot tub, for some gentle stretches and a long soak. That hot tub does feel good after a long day in the saddle, although the combination of walking down to and up from the barn and a saddle especially chosen to fit my rear end by David, meant my aches and pains were non-existant( Incidentally, how many men in the world start their working week by looking at women’s behinds?!!!)
My perfect day also happened to be ‘Fancy Dinner Night’ which is when you get to bring out your fancy western gear and dress up for a candlelit dinner ‘sans enfants'(not that we had any children on our adults only September week, but I can imagine how much parents enjoy it in the season!). The food was even more delicious that normal and the wait staff all dress up in white starched aprons to add to the occasion.
We sat with some wonderful people, old friends and new, and discussed politics and horses – not at the same time! It was great fun, and at one time I laughed so much that my cheeks ached.
After more wine and laughter we retired to our beautiful log cabin and a roaring log fire. What a day. What a wonderful place. And I got to wake up the next day and do it all again.