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....
“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.
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.
Christina Smith has returned to The Ranch to oversee and engage the little ones of Pony Express and on-ranch/resident artist. She is charming and calming with a depth of spirit that entices everyone, especially children. Christina nurtures creativity by encouraging children to engage with natural art projects, express movement, and write poems and stories. She has been an artist in various capacities for many years, including her work as an elementary teacher. She likes to remind her students that “there are no mistakes in art” and that true art is “a living force that can be expressed in a multitude of ways.” This kind of open appreciation and curiosity is central to Christina’s being and anyone in her presence gets to enjoy the benefits of it. On a more personal level, as an artist, contrast is the thing that Christina enjoys most about this place. Depending on the season, the time of day, and the weather, the architecture and colors of the landscape express themselves differently. And the contrast of the landscape itself is incredibly versatile; the Durango area is a special place because, here, the great mountains meet the desert, so one moment you can be in a dry mesa, and the next moment you can be in a “fairy-filled, lush forest.” Christina continues to create art, describing herself as an “abstract expressionist.” She just finished a series of small paintings; “little poems,” she calls them. Christina believes there is a profound connection between art and nature and, with a shimmer in her eyes, says, “The natural world here is so very grand.”
At Wilderness Trails Ranch we not only offer a youth program but make kids so happy that they come back generation after generation.
It is not uncommon to have a family that the parents first visited when they were just a minute tall.
Do you have a Pony Express Kid? What is a Pony Express Kid? Our renowned Pony Express Youth program is specifically designed for children ages 3-5. Yes, that is correct. We cater to even to littlest of folks!
What does the Pony Express Group do every day from 9am to 4pm? What don't they do is more appropriate. Every day Monday through Friday is filled with lots of fresh air, fishing at the rainbow trout stocked ponds, hiking, bicycle races, picnics, nature awareness of land, livestock and wildlife, crafts, adventures in "The Enchanted Forest" and at the "The Fort" and of course a pony ride twice a day - so "they have their own horse too". These little people will be showing off their new horsemanship skills alongside the big kids at the Friday afternoon WTR Rodeo, a real family treat complete with rodeo clowns.
Don't wait if you have a 3-5 year old. Call now to book your week at the ranch and save big if you are booking the weeks of June 10th, June 24th or July 8th. Call the office for more details and stay tuned for upcoming information on our Saddle Tramps, Bandits and Posse youth programs. This is a limited time offer!