Until Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch invited us up. They are an easy 2.5 hour drive from Denver (halfway between Vail and Steamboat Springs, Colorado), so we knew this was one adventure we couldn't pass up.
We arrived and fell right into cowboy land.
Black Mountain Ranch is family-run, and they made us feel like family right away. Many of the staff already knew our names, and I could tell it wasn't just because our friend Andrew Hyde was there working with them... they treated all the guests that way.
We were lucky that several friends from Denver were visiting at the same time, especially Julie's family - which brought built-in playmates since our kids have know each other for years.
I highly suggest trying the multiple family approach at BMR - the kids were able to run off and play together in a safe environment - but still exploring things they have never done before... like feeding goats at dinnertime!
And making friends with horses.
And singing YMCA in the saloon.
Oh wait. That was me.
In the morning, we were all ready to ride horses, and the ranch has a "Boot Library" that you can borrow from in case you don't have your own. Boots. Not horses. (Trust me, I don't have either.)
And then we were UP UP UP on horses for the first time in our lives! WAY HIGH UP. This photo was taken of Declan about 30 seconds before I broke my finger in 2 places.
Yeah, no joke. My ridiculous health mishaps followed me to the ranch. So yup, I broke my finger. Getting on a horse. But I was just doing what they show in the movies! Jumping up there, all enthusiastic! Swinging my leg over! Being rowdy! And almost falling off the other side.
Thank heaven Ryan from BMR was there to catch me - or I would have pulled some crazy Wile E. Coyote move right on my head. Instead I grabbed the saddle and jammed my pinky, which yes, broke it in two places. I am cursed, I tell you.
But I am proud that I toughed it out. WE WENT ON OUR DAMN RIDE, DAMMIT.
Through the woods.
Straight up the side of the mountain.
Out along a ridge.
Marveling the horsemanship of our wrangler, Molly.
For probably the most spectacular view of my life.
Colorado is awesome, y'all.
After a long day out in the sun (WEAR SUNSCREEN)... all the guests were invited up to Nowell's house for a cocktail party. And they aren't kidding with this cocktail party business. We went from dusty to fancy in about 15 minutes flat. Gorgeous house, gorgeous views, gorgeous food.
It gave Bryan time to rekindle his relationship with CJ, Julie's second child. The two of them have long had their own special thing.
We made it back to the ranch in time to watch the horses being released to the pasture.
Now I know why Ree takes so many photos on her ranch.
I also turned around, didn't change any settings on the camera, and caught what maybe is my favorite photo ever.
That's our friend Michael Cummings, an amazing photographer who was also at the ranch this summer. I used that picture in my photography session at Evo this year because it says so many things to me. First, magic happens when you just shoot. And also that photography is social - Michael and I were having a blast out there in the mud taking photos of the horses and each other. As evidenced by...
Plus, other friends were out in the field with us...
Yeah. That was fun.
But there's more.
The ranch has this special dog named Riley. I actually think Riley needs to be on their web site. Listed as "entertainment." See, Riley likes fire. A LOT. Like, in a crazy crazy crazy obsessive way. He waits, watches the fire outside the saloon ALL NIGHT LONG. Sometimes he will snap at the ash that spits out, but honestly - I could have taken this same photo at any time over a 4 hour period.
It would have looked like this.
Meanwhile - I got to see everyone dance! Fancy-like!
And in lines!
This is where I talk about how I am more of a dark-concert or indie-club kind of dancer girl. And how I hide behind the camera to avoid organized dancing. Unless we're recreating Grease or Thriller or something. Then I might be convinced. After a few beers.
Guess what we did the next morning???
My booty (and finger) didn't agree with me, but I was totally ready to get back on Newt, my assigned horse for our time at Black Mountain.
Bryan was pretty partial to his horse, Dice, too. Julie was just trying to get reception.
Guess what ELSE we did that day?
I am surprised I have any clear photos. Because watching city folk learning to rope cattle is HILARIOUS. Trust me on this one.
But, Black Mountain Ranch does this every Saturday, to allow guests to round up the baby calves and give them electrolytes. So, win-win. Cowboy roping fun for the visitors and healthy stuff for the babies.
Bryan roped two, but this was the only pic I have of any of it. He is disappointed I can't make an animated gif for him of his heroics.
I almost have enough to show you the whole process for Howard, another guest that week.
Including when the calf shook Howard off and he landed face-down in the dirt.
And there I was, in the middle of it all, with my camera, and broken pinky.
WHAT WAS I THINKING???
I'll tell you what I am thinking.
Black Mountain Colorado Dude Ranch was an amazing, extraordinary, memorable, INCREDIBLY FUN weekend for all of us.
All my Flickr photos from our dude ranch experience are here.
Thanks again to Black Mountain Ranch for having us visit! Please visit their brand new (awesome) web site or like them on Facebook. Really, really great people.