By Jane Van Berkum on July 3rd, 2015
Many folks ask “What if I don’t ride but my family wants to go to a dude ranch?”
Here at our dude ranch in southern Colorado we often have guests who don’t choose to ride. Sometimes they can’t for physical reasons, sometimes they just prefer not to, but either way they still have a wonderful week with us. When they ask about it on the phone, it doesn’t sound like there will be much to fill a week here without riding; however, when they check out we always hear that the “the week just flew by!”
Much of their enjoyment is found in watching their family participate in the riding activities. We often have grandparents or non-riders watching their grandchildren or loved ones practice for the rodeo. Or cheering family members on in a heated competition of team-penning. Or whiling away the time at the barn, chatting to the wranglers, waiting for rides to come in and having a cowboy cookie and some lemonade while enjoying the spectacular view. They are often there when rides go out too, watching as everyone gets up and taking photos as they go out. The lodge porch is another excellent vantage point to watch rides go out or come in–a true bird’s eye view from higher up the canyon.
But there are other things to do–you don’t have to just watch. There is of course the spectacular fishing; over a mile and a half of it, and most of it easily accessible. There is trapshooting and archery. There is hiking, strenuous or gentle, as you wish. We have a pool and a hot tub, and endless porch space, both at your cabin and at the lodge–and at the lodge it comes complete with antiques and hummingbirds.
Then there is the cozy lodge library, which is the best place to connect to wi-fi by the way and where generations come together over the puzzle table… Woven through all this, there are wonderful people to talk to and enjoy. Guests from fascinating places who do interesting things and dynamic, fun staff who enjoy sharing their stories and hearing yours. It is a kind of family in itself that happens within a few hours and days.
And there are day trip options too, such as the whitewater rafting trip on the Rio Grande River out of Taos, NM. Not only is the trip fascinating in landscape terms, but Taos is historically and culturally rich and well worth a visit. On the way , the Rio Grande Gorge is a surprise to say the least, an 800 foot one, and the raft trip is great fun and very geologically interesting. We are a spectacular half-hour drive and exactly halfway between either starting point of the famed Cumbres and Toltec Narrow Gauge Railroad, America’s highest and longest narrow gauge. Pagosa Springs, named for the geothermic hot springs, is a quaint cowboy town with some fun shops about an hour and a half away; the amazing Sand Dunes are just under two hours’ drive tucked into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains across the San Luis Valley.
And remember, although dude ranching is very much centered around riding, it is not all about riding. There is plenty of time not spent in the saddle. Time spent around the table, time spent on the dance floor, or at the ranch rodeo, or stargazing or on a hayride, or around the fire or on the lawn with the kids playing with the cats or the dogs, or playing horseshoes or basketball. Time spent outdoors. Or indoors for that matter, playing cards or just talking and enjoying each other by the fire. Time spent together.