Hope the new year finds all of you well and ready for another dude ranch vacation adventure this summer! There is some exciting news for the ranch this new year as the Robert's family has grown!
On December 6, Vanessa gave birth to a very healthy and beautiful baby girl Zea Malén Roberts. She is a mellow and sweet baby, and Vanessa, Lance and big brother Aksel are over the moon for her.
So ya'll need to come back to the ranch to meet the new baby Roberts! She will be making her ranch debut this summer- I'm pretty sure that she has some sparkling pink boots to cowgirl up in....
Have you ever had a sore back? Not fun right? You can probably imagine that ranch horses get them too, since their back is our seat. You've heard the phrase: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Well, Wilderness Trails teaches riders that when they mount up they need to try to put themselves on a level with the horse's back. Whether it is using a log, a rock, or a fence- we try to elevate ourselves to make it easier on the horse's back when we mount up. Still, there are horses that can get sore from time to time. When we have a horse that seems tender we call in a horse chiropractor. It was amazing to watch Chiropractor Clay work! In the picture below he was working on our horse Ember. Some of the things he did may appear to be painful- but as we watched Ember he started licking and chewing after the chiropractor was done- which is a horse's way of saying: "That feels gooooood!" Ember's attitude even changed! He was less cranky and was moving better. It was a really neat thing to see, and not something you get to see everyday!
There is a concern – a sincerity and attention – involved in the way Adrienne DeLiso and Flash Corbisier speak, listen, and take photographs. They are the team behind 1881 Western Photography CO.
Both Adrienne and Flash have unique backgrounds. Adrienne’s father was a professional photographer who specialized in ballet, so photography has been a part of her life from the beginning. She herself has twenty years of experience as a professional, and if you ask her about photographing whales or other wildlife, her eyes will light up. Flash has experience as a painter, graphic designer, animator, art director, and has been shooting professional shots for almost a decade. Both of them are passionate about capturing equine culture. They appreciate the range of expression - from the roughest of cowboys to the most carefully groomed and trained horses. For the past eight years, 1881 has been specializing in equine photography. Adrienne and Flash study different riders and horses in earnest. “Horses are some of the most beautiful animals in the world,” says Adrienne with a glow. Really – these images say more than I can hope to about the quality of their work. These eight photos represent the more artistic side of what they do, but it’s just the tip of an iceberg. If you come to The Ranch, you will also get to enjoy the personalized images that they capture of you and your horse. They will get you in different moments so that you can create the perfect scrapbook of your time here riding with us. If you are as awed by their artistic images as I am, you can purchase them when you visit The Ranch or at their website: www.1881wpc.com.
Rico is a mellow Paint who gets spunky when he works cows.
Copper is a smooth ride, and he doesn’t eat much along the trails. He is responsive to leg pressure and thrives with cattle and arena work.
Pistol is sassy but responsive and easy to control.
Big Splash – named for a “splash” of white across his belly – is like a giant puppy, sweet and playful.
Hot Shot needs an experienced rider. He is a good lead horse. Everyone who rides him loves him.
Besides having the coolest haircut, Sonic is responsive, strong, and gentle.
Ali Fischer will liven up any ride with her burbling laugh. She got her first horse – a chestnut Gelding with a white blaze – when she was ten. His name was Comanche. When she says that riding is “just a hobby” for her, I remember the deep shimmer in her eyes when she described Comanche and think there may be other words in her. Regardless of the language used, Ali has an interest in being out at the barn as a wrangler. Her favorite thing about riding is the rush of galloping; “no surprise there,” I tease her when she tells me this. She enjoys the trails out here and the opportunity to help other people learn.
Randy Wagner is charismatic and relaxed – combine these qualities with the fact that he has knowledge of these waters that stretches back to his childhood, and you will realize that this man is the ideal fishing buddy. Randy is a fishing guide because he likes to show people a good time, and he enjoys being in the “wet outdoors.” He is skilled at creating a stress-free, lighthearted environment – so even if you don’t catch a fish that day, you’ll still have an enjoyable time reeling in beautiful Rocky Mountain sights. He would be delighted to take you fishing out on the lake in his boat, or you can wade at the lake. If streams and creeks are more your thing, you can go fly-fishing in a multitude of great waters. Regardless of the kind of trip you desire, both half and full days are available. Randy is always out fishing, so he knows whose biting and where. I grew up around fishermen, so I’ve heard my share of tall tales. But Randy is honest; his fishing stories lean toward modesty. Another thing to appreciate about him is that he catches and releases the fish that he himself catches – out of respect for the resource – out of love for the passion of fishing. However, he will honor your request to keep a fish if the area allows. Spending a day out with Randy will deepen your admiration for this place. He’ll take great care of you, and you'll go home with stories to last a lifetime to share with your friends and family.
“What makes a great mountain bike trail?” It’s the question at the forefront of my thoughts as I watch a team of volunteers sculpting the hillside with axes, picks, and strange-looking rakes. Levi is refining the slope of a curve with timber and soil when he responds, “That’s like asking what love is.”
Love. It is an appropriate metaphor for a day like today because there is certainly passion involved in trail building, biking, and teamwork. Two groups have come out to The Ranch to help develop what is already a considerable network of biking trails: Trails 2000 and DEVO. Trails 2000 has been serving Southwest Colorado for over twenty years. Daryl Crites and Trey Duvall are here leading the effort, and their competency is inspiring. They quickly organize DEVO’s coaches and student riders.
Working at a safe distance from each other, the high-school students chat and laugh as they chip away at the terrain. I move among them taking pictures and asking them how they feel about being here to build trail. There is enthusiasm and a sense of pride: “We ride the trails; it’s our turn to help,” Derrik says. Madeigh echoes similar sentiments, “It’s good to give back because we ride so much.” DEVO’s mission is to create lifelong cyclists, and an attitude of responsibility is a part of that. DEVO has around three-hundred children and adults in their program ranging in age from two to twenty-five. Sarah Tescher, one of DEVO’s founders and the current Director, is working to loosen a tree root when I approach her. Wiping the sweat from her brow, she speaks warmly about the expansion of DEVO from its conception in 2005 to its current size with seventeen programs and forty coaches. She is gratified to offer so many young people the opportunity to join what she sees as “a continuum of biking.” The other coaches share Sarah’s passion for community, health, alternative transportation, exploration, and the simple enjoyment of a great ride. (More at: Durangodevo.com.)
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Lance Roberts handing rocks to students working to support the trail higher up the slope. It’s a thrilling day for him; he usually maintains the biking trails alone or with just a few others. When Roberts talks about the trail system his entire being animates. With incredible attention to detail, he is dedicated to creating a network of trails that all levels of riders find rewarding. Crites shares his vision and passion. When I ask him what he thinks makes a great mountain bike trail, he says, “Each trail is different, and different to everyone. So, a great trail is one that is enjoyable to as wide of a range of skill levels as possible.” It’s all about inclusion with this man; it radiates from him. His joy in being out here is palpable. I ask what motivates his work. He smiles, “We all love trails – more and more opportunity, and it’s fun to see young generations really into it.” His peer from Trails 2000, Duvall, is also inspired by the community aspect – both in terms of contribution and connection. Duvall also adds that protecting ecosystems from damage while still allowing exploration of wild places is at the heart of Trails 2000 designs. (More at: Trails2000.org.)
So – what makes a great mountain bike trail? Kaydee and Emily hesitate, “smooth, packed flow” they agree. Flow – it’s the word that keeps coming up. “It’s like catching a wave,” adds DEVO coach Brianne Marshall. Levi’s response keeps ringing in my ears, “That’s like asking what love is.” I take a breath and look out through the trees to seams of blue sky. Around me, this stretch of mountain is becoming a clear trail and as laughter weaves it way among the activity, I add my own answer to the mix: a great mountain biking trail is made with care, vision, and pleasure.
Smokey, a Gelding, has smooth gaits, especially his trots. He can be a bit of a trickster with the wranglers; he enjoys pulling the radios off their belts and knocking off their hats. He is playful, but sweet and reliable with a compassionate temperament.
The sisters Belle and Button are said to be part unicorn, and Belle’s mane certainly suggests magic. Both are super sweet and gentle.
Sideburns is an excellent cow horse. He is mellow and athletic – meaning he is still responsive even at a fast pace, and he has good endurance. He is a favorite among the wranglers because his long back makes him a velvety ride.
Austin is strong and requires an experienced Western rider (no tight English reigns for this guy). Those that can match him find him to be a super, fun ride; he's surefooted.
Drifter is known for his creamy-smooth gaits. He even has a nice running-walk. Those that ride him compare the experience to gliding on water.
Jenni Darlow exudes strength and grace as she stands in a meadow that sweeps into distant peaks. It is a prime spot to enjoy “the view down the valley” – one of the things that keeps her coming back. This is her tenth season as an employee here at The Ranch, but she has actually been coming here since she was a nine-year-old girl – proud of her white, fringed boots. In fact, it was The Ranch that got her riding and keeps her riding. The “feel of the place,” her relationship with the Roberts’ family and other wranglers, and the connection she has with the horses keep her coming back to this valley. She teaches dance lessons, works with kids, and, of course, wrangles. The rest of the year she teaches math in Durango, so she knows this area. Standing in the meadow in her cowboy hat and pink-checkered shirt, Jenni is at ease; she is clearly home.
Southwestern Colorado mountain town showcases natural and painted beauty
Press Release by Anne Barney, Durango Area Tourism Office
is one of hundreds of attractive towns and neighborhoods that will compete this summer in a national contest to find the “Prettiest Painted Places in America”.
The competition, which is sponsored by the Paint Quality Institute, a leading source of information on paints and coatings, was last conducted in 2000 when towns such as Cape May, New Jersey, Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Telluride, Colorado won top honors.
“The purpose of Prettiest Painted Places is to identify and recognize those towns and neighborhoods that best demonstrate how exterior paint can enhance the appearance of an entire community,” according to Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute in Spring House, Pa.
“By honoring the most aesthetically-pleasing places, we believe our competition will give everyone an appreciation for the role that exterior paint can play in protecting and enhancing the appearance of any home or building,” she says.
Throughout the summer, cities, towns, historical districts, and neighborhoods will be permitted to enter the competition. In September, a panel of judges will choose 60 places as finalists, 10 each from six geographic regions of the U.S.
After further research, a panel of judges from major media outlets will select one small place and one large town or city from each region as the 12 Prettiest Painted Places in America. The winners will be extensively promoted in a national publicity campaign conducted by the Paint Quality Institute.
To learn more about the competition, the public is invited to visit the Paint Quality Institute website at http://blog.paintquality.com/
. Information and photo galleries on the 60 finalists will be posted in September.
With a deep breath, cloud bits sweep into my lungs. In the distance, I hear the silky mumble of wind rumbling down the valley; in a few moments, it tickles my skin and licks my hair. The pine needles and soil beneath me are supportive and soft. I am thinking what it true: I am intimately connected to the environment.
With over a thousand hours of formal training and going on seven years of experience as a body worker, I have spent a considerable amount of time considering healing. To me, one of the most profound ways to heal is to connect to the larger part of who we are – the space around us.
The private and adjoining public land near The Ranch provide countless opportunities for engagement with your body and place – hiking, riding, biking, yoga in a meadow, meditation to the twittering of birds, etc. As you engage with such a welcoming, rich environment you are bound to expand – release – relax.
If you want to dive more directly into this type of exploration, there are numerous tools that can support your quest, among some of the best: books. One such book is Andrea Olsen’s Body and Earth: An Experiential Guide.
Whether you want to consciously benefit from the layered beauty of this place, or simply just be here – which is really enough – this place is restorative.
Let’s say you do want to consciously benefit from a deepened exploration of your body’s relationship to place; I do. Below I share with you an experience I had in conversation with Olsen’s guide – may it inspire you on your own journey, and, if it is right for you, may it lead you to the magic of this landscape.
Merging with the Landscape Activity:
Body and Earth: An Experiential Guide is loaded with all sorts of information, stories, and activities to deepen your understanding of your body and the space that surrounds and fills it. Your exploration can be physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, or, ideally, a combination of all four.
For the activity I am choosing to share, “Merging with the Landscape,” the directions are simple. Olsen encourages her reader to walk and find a place that invites participation. Then she suggests that the reader blend into the space. After the unification, Olsen recommends reflection and asks: does “release of identity expand awareness of self and other”?
My journal entry:
The breeze purrs through aspen leaves creating a gentle rattle. A woodpecker clacks distantly among the sweeter chorus of other birds. Grasshoppers click in the grass, occasionally flapping into the sky for a moment; like weighted butterflies their yellow wings begin to wane before their ascension is true flight. Shades of sun and shadow – color! – auburn, tan, rich brown, baby blue, white, gray highlights – and countless shades of green. Fallen trees, rocks, pine needles, dirt, loam, moisture, clay…rock…lava. The base of my spine hums.
The longer I sit here the more full my eyes, ears, nose, mind, and heart become with the essence of this place, its welcoming wide. Whatever I become, the landscape will hold. I could scream. I could sigh. I could dance. I could sink deeper into the supple orchestration.
The more I identify with its tempo, the less my mind spins until I feel like the breeze – free and soft.
Paden is tough and he pays attention with quiet concentration – so I don’t recommend messing with him. He has been coming out to The Ranch since he was a baby, and this summer, at the ripe age of ten, he is helping to take care of the horses out at the barn. “What do you like about being here?” I ask. Paden takes a moment to consider the question before he answers, “I like how the ranch is so fun. I like meeting new people. I like all the fun stuff I get to do.” In terms of riding, his favorite thing is “enjoying the ride and the pretty country.” Paden has ridden calves and steers in rodeos too, but it isn’t the main thing that makes him a cowboy. No, the main thing that makes him a cowboy is his heart; he’s got that grounded gentleness about him that only the truest and best cowboys have.