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Along for the Ride

Throwing tomahawks on dude ranch family vacation

Throwing tomahawks on dude ranch family vacation

December 2007:  The Denver Post
Kyle Wagner, Travel Editor

Along for the Ride
“It’s also about people”

Spend enough time at dude ranches, and you come to realize that as much as the food and the horses are a big part of the experience it is the people who set the tone. Which is why Sundance Trail Guest Ranch near Red Feather Lakes has a rather laid-back, nurturing feel to it – owners Ellen and Dan Morin are former nurses in hospice care who took over this 140-acre spread in 1999, and they have a light-hearted approach that makes a stay here all the better for it.

For instance, chatty Dan Morin, who leans toward bright plaid shirts and sports a handlebar mustache, may pop over to the nearby Shambhala Mountain Center to get in some meditation practice between chores. Ellen, meanwhile, with her quiet, gentle demeanor, can go only a day or two without climbing onto a horse before she just starts to feel “not good”. The couple had been riding and visiting ranches for years and always knew they wanted to own one, and finally it was a matter of “right place”, right time, right things happening,” Dan said. In the summer, the ranch offers one of the most popular Frisbee golf courses around, as well as white-water rafting on the nearby Cache La Poudre River, trap shooting, rock climbing and hiking and in the winter, because the area gets so little snow, can feature some snowshoeing, but mostly is still about horses and the hiking.

At Sundance Trail, three squares are included in the rate, meals are down-home and comforting, filling and guaranteed to prompt at least one guest to beg for the recipe, which is provided on the spot. Meals are served with home-brewed iced tea or lemonade (you can purchase wine or beer), and in case it wasn’t enough, a sideboard holds tempting jars of molasses cookies, gingersnaps and peanut butter blossoms.

After breakfast on the first day, first-time guests must watch Dan’s half hour training video, a part humorous look at horse behavior – filmed in the corral, it features one animal spending most of Dan’s discussion trying to prove the point about a horse’s tendencies to try to see who’s boss – and part serious safety talk. Then it’s out to the barn to get hitched to the horse love of your life. A dude ranch is no place to be shy and you get to know fellow guests and perhaps make lifelong new friends.

Kyle Wagner, Travel Editor, The Denver Post, December 2007

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