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.
Splash, Sport, and Gidget have been known to vanish into their sizable grazing area like giggling children – a bit to the dismay of our wranglers. But what can we do? They’re buddies. Splash is an Appaloosa. He is a fantastic kids' horse, slow and steady. Sport is also an ideal kids’ horse; he instinctively knows to be mellow with young kids especially. He is a little, white pony – small and spunky. Gidget, too, is a favorite with kids; in fact, there is a whole file in our office of valentines addressed to Gidget from some of her past riders.
Colonel is a Quarter Horse, steady and solid. His chestnut hair has been adding its hue to The Ranch for eight years. He is calm, surefooted, and easygoing. Colonel is perfect to help riders build confidence.
Our aptly named Preacher is majestic and gentle. He is a Percheron Quarter Horse mix and has a bit of a spark beneath his relaxed demeanor. He is so deeply black and big he looks like a piece of night sky. A few years ago, Preacher was the groom’s horse for a horseback wedding.
Juice, a Sorrel Gelding, is a wonderful kid and teen horse because he is well-behaved. He is a sweet boy and a pleasure to ride, especially at a trout or canter. He has polite ground manners too.
We often think of cowboys as riding off into the sunset; maybe it’s because true cowboys burn with a comparable flame. Nathan Brown certainly blazes with light from the soft amber of his eyes down to the sunshine that flashes from his spurs. But Nathan is more solid than a metaphor, and his commitment to being a cowboy is deeper than an image from a movie. If you ask him why he became a cowboy, he can’t answer you – it is, quite simply, what he is. Although he insists that being a cowboy means “a journey of learning,” and he does not claim to have arrived – nah, he’s having too much fun with the gettin’ there. He grew up riding in Eastern New Mexico and pursuing the facets of this lifestyle is his ambition. The benefits of his focus are obvious – he knows how to ride, rope, shoe horses, and brand – he is a craftsman of bits, spurs, buckles, moccasins, gun handles, medicine pouches, holsters, chaps, and more – he sketches landscapes, horses, and portraits – he is, in short, engaged with every aspect imaginable in his pursuit of excellence within this realm. Nathan is also a rodeo bronc rider, has worked on a number of big ranches throughout the West, and travels with his two superb horses – Cosby and Ben.
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.”
There is something about this place that liberates the artistic flow – partially it is the spaciousness itself, but there is an abundance of something else too, something that every type of artist can relate to on some level – texture. Sculptors and weavers animate and translate texture intimately. Poets create texture with language, tempo, and space so that images have dimension. Painters have their paint and choice of canvas, photographers their cameras and sensitivity to light – etc. Texture inspires – this is the idea that this place has brought to me – and so I share a few glimpses of its tapestry with you.