One thing that truly sets Rainbow Trout Ranch apart is the personal involvement of the Van Berkum family. There are certainly other family ranches that are closely involved with their guests, but they are few and far between and it is rare to find any on the same level as RTR. If you run through a typical summer week at the ranch, you’ll find Doug, Linda, David and Jane woven through each day and night.
There is riding and fishing and multiple activities each day and evening, but following are some of the ways in which the Van Berkums are part of each day and night at the ranch, and how each and every week becomes its own family.
When you arrive later Sunday afternoon, Doug and some of the family and staff will be there to welcome you and show you to your cabin. And on Sunday evenings the Van Berkums are there to greet new guests and catch up with all the return guests. After Doug or David does the general welcome, the traditional Sunday dessert is ice-cream sundaes and as Doug always says “Be creative and make yourself a good lookin’ sundae!” Later on, Doug starts of the Orientation with a fireside welcome and chat, and guests meet some of the family and staff, as well as introducing themselves.
It is fun to hear how new guests found the ranch, and to see connections and friendships already being made or renewed between families. Next we talk about the riding program, the fishing, the whitewater rafting and other activities, mealtimes, and a few generalities such as the town list (we can pick up necessities, alcohol and anything else you may need) and how to find help after hours if needed. Kids and teens and parents meet with their counselors, sign-ups are available, questions are answered and everyone is excited for the week. Sunday is just the start of many fun nights at the ranch.
~ Will Rogers
Monday mornings start bright and cheery, with Jane’s Horse Orientation on the Front Lawn, after which families make their way down to the barn where David and Jane and the wranglers personally introduce each guest to their horse before groups go out for a short orientation ride. David and Jane lead rides throughout the week as needed. David teaches Horsemanship Clinics by request and Jane often takes all-day rides to the backcountry, a guest highlight and favorite, as well as Friday morning specialty rides. This personal touch is something often remarked upon by guests.
Doug grills on Monday nights at the cookout down by the river and is able to greet each guest by their first name. Indeed all the Van Berkums are able to call the guests by name very early in the week—true, many of them are return which facilitates the process, but they make a special effort with new and return, young and old alike and it does make a difference.
Tuesday mornings are about the children, and the teens. The “Cowpokes” are the 6-11 year olds and the “Buckaroos” are the 3-5 year olds. Each group has their own Counselor, just one of the many handpicked staff that Linda spends the whole winter carefully selecting as she sorts through hundreds of applications to make sure they are absolutely the right person for the job. We take our staff very seriously at the ranch because after all they are representing us, and they are absolutely crucial to each guest’s experience. We tell our staff that we can have the best horses, the best scenery, the best lodge and so on, but without a great staff, we absolutely do not have a great dude ranch. They are the most important asset we have.
Doug sits on the glorious, gracious front porch of the grand old lodge and tells the children about Doug’s Cowboy Code and from there he teaches them some songs and also the “Hey Howdy Hey” song which soon echoes round the ranch and becomes a mantra of RTR goodwill. Prior to this, Doug has a quick gathering with the teens and discusses that same Cowboy Code with them, but touching upon things such as how we don’t use profanity, how we treat each other with respect out here in the west, how we listen to our elders and value nature. It’s clearly something many of these teens haven’t heard before and it is rather wonderful to see these values flourish as the week progresses—seeing a teen in tears as they hug their horse goodbye after the rodeo is really a beautiful thing.
Tuesday nights are for dancing under the stars. Everyone loves it – even those twelve year old boys – and it is a great way to get to know the other guests and staff.
~ Larry & Pattie Goodhue
Manchester, New Hampshire
Wednesday morning often finds hardy guests joining in the Sunrise Hike up to Charity, which is one of the huge rock formations high above the ranch. It is about a 2 ½ mile round trip, with a vertical climb of more than a thousand feet, but kids and teens often join in and we take breaks along the way. Staff or Van Berkum family members lead the hike and at the top they have a backpack of coffee, juice and cake-bread to share with everyone while they enjoy the magnificent view that drops down to the lodge and valley below. The sun comes up over Monkey Face to the east and often the wranglers are bringing in the horses far below, or saddling at the barn. Sitting up there, it is a great time to get to know each other and staff more, and when everyone gets back down to the ranch, bursting with vitality and accomplishments, they are ready for a giant ranch breakfast. What a way to start the day!
Wednesdays are for rafting, or all-day rides, or more hiking. Or fishing or half-day rides - whatever your heart desires. And often we have a western entertainer come in after dinner, or there are always games to play, porches to sit on, or stars to gaze at in wonder.
Thursdays are for team sorting and trap shooting, but of course we always have rides and fishing and other fun stuff going on too.
Thursday night, Doug takes the Cowpokes and Buckaroos and assorted staff on a long hayride to learn and practice songs for the sing-along on Friday night—they’ve had hotdog and s’mores first down at the picnic grounds. The teens and their fun counselor have pizza, then s’mores and then an often thrillingly dangerous game of Capture the Flag on the grounds (sometimes the simplest things seem to be the most fun), whilst the adults, firm friends by now, enjoy Candlelight Dinner in the lodge, fueled by wine and truly delicious food, Chef’s Choice, tastefully served by the dressed up staff. The wine is poured by Linda, beautifully turned out and gracious as always, and it is a lovely night, brought to a not so gentle close by the later arrival of the cheerful children from their hayride, full of news and song.
~ Jane & Jeremy Knowles
Friday is a fun day—they all are of course, but Friday is particularly so because it is “Doug’s hamburgers by the pool day.” We used to have all-day rides on Friday but now we have them on Wednesdays and Thursdays as all the return guests simply refused to miss Doug’s burgers! Anyway, it is burgers by the pool often followed by basketball challenges across the pool which result inevitably in the loser, and seemingly plenty of others, ending up in the pool fully clothed. Even Doug has ended up in the pool a time or two, cowboy hat and all. It is cheerful and fun, and everyone is truly ranch family by now. After that is team-penning and archery/trap-shooting, not to mention the usual rides, hiking and other options available.
Friday is the last full day at the ranch and it begins with family rides, although often the children prefer to ride with their newfound friends than their parents! Friday afternoon is the ranch rodeo, where buckaroos, cowpokes, teens, and parents who would like to, show their skills at the barrels and poles in the ranch arena. We stress horsemanship rather than speed, and it is wonderful to watch everyone rooting for each other, making memories and just joining in the fun. And you never know what might happen, from guests singing the National Anthem, to boot races, to driving Doug’s fabulous team of Percherons, or watching the wranglers rope, and maybe even helping work the roping chutes! And by the way, if instead of the rodeo, you would prefer to just go on a last peaceful ride in the fabulous forest and big country all around the ranch, you are welcome to do that too. Friday night is our steak dinner by the river, then the singalong and more in the grand old lodge. It is the perfect way to wrap up those memories of a lifetime!
Saturday morning is usually tears and goodbyes and email addresses although we do send out an email with all contact information, which everyone is happy to share with everyone else because that is the kind of place this is, and folks want to stay in touch. Linda does most of the checking out, and although the gratuity is optional, people usually leave a healthy tip because as they so often say, “Your staff is wonderful and they restore my faith in young people…” They often book the next year right then and there, with their deposit right along with it. That is dude ranching. And that is Rainbow Trout.
You can’t imagine how a week of shared experiences will bond a group together. When you eat together, ride together, dance together, mingle together all week, you become close friends at warp speed. It is hard to really explain, but we see it every week We see these people cry when they say goodbye to each other. We see them come back together year after year. They send us photos of their get togethers after they leave the ranch. Our kids and theirs become Facebook friends and circles. Friendships form and truly endure. It is just absolutely cool. And it happens week after week, year after year. It takes all of us, and we truly love what we do For us, dude ranching is personal.