Gene Kilgore’s Ranch Vacations

Ranch Vacations
The Leading Guide to Guest and Resort, Fly-Fishing, and Cross-Country Skiing Ranches in the United States and Canada, 6th Edition.

On our horizon

You may have noticed a new feature in our right column (scroll down). On the Horizon is our way of giving you a sneak preview of the story titles we are working on. If you see a story title that you feel you (and your ranch) should be a part of, contact us via email (hit Contact Us in the Navigation Bar up top). We want your input. It’s our way of staying connected.

We also have a blogroll (right column, scroll down); it posts links to blogs we like and want our readers to have access to. We want to link to your ranch’s blog and we want you to link to us. We’ll all grow stronger as a result. How does it work? Just send us your link; contact us via email (hit Contact Us in the Navigation Bar, up top) and we’ll help make it happen.

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Cruise vs. dude ranch: vacation faceoff

With vacation dollars tight this year, it’s more important than ever to choose the right vacation style for you and your family. For some, the choice can come down to a sort of ‘cruising versus dude ranching’ faceoff. Each is a fun way to vacation (and frankly, we love cruising). So how do you decide on the best choice for you this year? 19590029

How green: for some folks, a green or eco-friendly choice is important. When it comes to the energy-use of a mega-sized cruise ship as opposed to even one of the larger dude ranch resorts, it’s no comparison. Horse power (and the natural, earth-friendly practices that are a time-honored way of life at so many ranches) will always trump the energy use of a giant floating hotel.

Family friendly fun: both cruise ship and dude ranch offer plenty. And if Broadway-style shows and dazzling nightlife are your thing, then maybe a cruise is your best bet. But if you’re looking for family togetherness, and a getaway that, frankly, excludes the more adult side of some cruise ships (especially those with casino gambling and grownups-only entertainment), then maybe the ranch is the place for you.

Shopping: if this is your main goal, choose a cruise ship. Big ships have lots of shopping right onboard in their own malls; and on shore, they’ll steer you to their favored shops. You just don’t find shops at a dude ranch (but hey, isn’t that what you’re trying to get away from?)

Crowds and costs: of course, the mega-ships are built for crowds (that’s how they can bring down their ticket prices). But beware; once in port, those crowds can hold you up when you’re trying to get off the ship. At a dude ranch, finding peace and quiet and your own patch of sky are part of the package. And those low cruise ticket prices? Often, it means you pay extra for everything from soft drinks to on-board fun and shore excursions. At a dude ranch, all-inclusive really means just that. You won’t have to reach into your wallet ten times a day–it’s all covered.

So, if you want to know exactly what your vacation will cost, choose a dude ranch. And all those other things that are included at the ranch? Getting away from crowds and shopping malls, finding peace and quiet and real family time: priceless.

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Dude ranch Easter

Instead of waiting to see what treats the Easter bunny left for you out in the garden, why not treat yourself with a quick hop down to a Southwest dude ranch for a well-deserved break?100_3082

At Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, you’ll find both sunshine and serene solitude. Take a walk through their tall Ponderosa pines, in the cool higher elevations of the Black Range Mountains of southwest New Mexico, and “the quiet is such that you can hear the approach of an eagle from the beat of the air beneath his wings” say the folks at Geronimo Trail.

Says the ranch’s Diana Esterly, “Spring (and fall) are our best seasons here – warm, sunny days, cloudless blue skies. Perfect!” The ranch is full Easter week (Ap. 12 – 18) but they have availability for the last two weeks of April (Ap. 19 – 24 and 26 – May 1 and later in May also).

It’s an intimate, family-run ranch west of the Continental Divide, and here, the countryside is plenty wild. Herds of elk roam the ranchlands and there are gorgeous meadows, streams, and forests. Sit on the porch, relax in your cabin, take a ride through rocky gorges (pictured above) or take the natural geothermal waters at a nearby spa (partnered with the ranch and offering discounts to ranch guests).

What do folks love best about the ranch? “Absolutely breathtaking scenery.” says Diana, “and amazing history (the area is Geronimo’s birthplace, and home of the ancient Mimbres people).” The ranch is on the Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway in New Mexico; it’s a four hour drive (on good roads) from either Albuquerque or El Paso airports.

And right now, they’re having a ranch special: 10% off for the month of April (subject to availability).

More New Mexico ranches: Above Taos, the Lodge at Chama is both historic and world-class; you’ll find hunting and fishing (trophy lake trout) and an elegant lodge. Just outside Raton, the Vermejo Park Ranch (owned by Ted Turner) is the country’s largest privately owned ranch; wildlife viewing (and hunting) is unparalled, from pronghorn and bison to elk. Vermejo Park opens for the season just after Easter, on April 15.

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Historic Montana dude ranches

Montana is one of the cradles of the dude ranch industry, with a number of historic dude ranches. The 63 Ranch history dates from 1863 (hence its name) and it became a dude ranch in 1930; it was the first dude ranch in Montana declared a National Historic Site (in 1982).

The 63 Ranch is still owned/ operated by members of the original 1930s owners, the Christensen family, so it’s one of the oldest family-owned and operated dude ranches around. It all began with an original homestead, but now has expanded to nearly twenty-five hundred deeded acres. Jeff Cahill and his family has owned and operated the 63 continuously since 1929.

We asked Jeff Cahill: Why do guests choose a historic ranch? “I think they’re interested in roots—their and ours,” says Cahill. “And staying at a ranch like this helps put their lives in perspective. We’ve got legitimacy—we’ve been in business for 79 summers,” Cahill notes.

And choosing a historic ranch can be comforting. “It’s a daunting task to find the right ranch,” Cahill explains, “and a long-time operation like ours carries a lot of credence, which is one way to select a ranch,” he says.

How 63 Ranch has changed— hasn’t changed—could fill a book.
“I’m third generation,” Cahill offers, “and Mom, at age 72, is still involved in the ranch.”

“In the 1940s-50s, guests would stay all summer; her folks would meet ‘em at the railroad depot in Livingston and they’d have steamer trunks!” One of the biggest changes is that now guests want to pack more into a shorter stay. Also, they’re booking later, often at the last minute, Cahill explains.

“Ranch activities have changed,” he points out, “and some want to do as many things as possible. Women (who do most of the vacation planning) don’t want their husband or sons to get bored.” Horses are the focus of this ranch, but that’s not all there is to do: there’s billiards, cards, horseshoes, nature walks, square dancing, softball, volleyball games or reading from their library on western life and natural history. Although they don’t offer a formal children’s program, children are included in ranch activities like horseback riding.

And did we mention fishing? Fat, wild trout run for 3 miles through the ranch in Mission Creek.

One thing hasn’t changed: The view of the nearby peaks of the Absaroka Range Mountains probably looks no different than it would have when they first homesteaded here. It is a truly unspoiled countryside. “I’ve been on a lifelong crusade in keeping the viewscape the way it is,” Cahill explains.

Best Deal: First 2 weeks of the season, 63 Ranch offers a 15% discount (June 14-28).

More historic Montana ranches: check out Elkhorn Ranch, Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, and Sweetgrass Ranch. Sweet Grass is a working cattle ranch high in the Crazy Mountains (40 miles from Big Timber), sitting at 6100 feet on the Sweet Grass Creek. Their family ranching tradition dates to 1880.  Elkhorn was founded some ninety years ago by legendary Montana guide Ernest Miller and his wife Grace; today, Elkhorn is managed by their granddaughter, Linda; it sits near the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park,  surrounded by the Gallatin National Forest. Nine Quarter Circle rests at 7,000 feet, surrounded by national forest lands containing a million acres of primitive wilderness.  It dates to the 1800’s, when it was first homesteaded.

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Tony Lama’s new boots for summer

tl-stars-bootThe Tony Lama Stars Collection—a new line of barrel racing boots—was inspired by the company’s work with the National Barrel Horse Association. These boots are designed to meet the needs of barrel racing competitors, but it turns out that they work great for anyone who’s looking for protection and comfort in the stirrup. Whether your’re a wrangler looking to replace those worn-outs in time for the spring season, or a dude who wants to be comfortable (and, let’s face it, look right) while riding, these boots can be a good choice.

Details: Rubber outsoles give you a superior grip in the stirrup; they’re flexible and resist oil, so you’ve got a better chance of keeping your feet when you’re not in the saddle. The rubber heel bumper is there for durability and the orthotic inserts are comfortable, removable, and washablt. Retail: $130-$160, available later this summer. Go to: the Tony Lama website.

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