Monday, September 18, 2017


The entertainment Friday night at the ranch was karaoke, and the less said about that the better but here's the short version: Robert did a rendition of "Just a Gigolo" which I described as "deeply unpleasant," Emily and I (despite my intense aversion to karaoke) sang "Wind Beneath My Wings" ("I can fly higher than a... beagle..."), Emily, Kim, and I sang "I Will Survive," Kim and I sang "Brandy" (you're a fine girl...") and I tried to sing "Call Me Maybe" -- Robert would have been well within his rights to describe that as "deeply unpleasant," but he was too nice.

Emily and I left the ranch on Saturday morning, saying goodbye to our new friend Kim, and getting dropped off at the General Palmer Hotel in downtown (such as it is) Durango. We did a bit of shopping, had a stiff drink at the distillery, and went to a movie. On Sunday, we got up early and boarded a train on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for the 3.5-hour ride to the historic mining town of Silverton, Colorado. We were in a train car with a guide who played the part of Marshall Robert Dwyer, a real historical figure (1847-1920) who was the first Marshall of Durango, and who gave a running commentary on the construction of the rail line and the history of both towns. It was a pleasant if long journey (we took the bus back: ninety minutes) and the aspen trees were beginning to glow.

All in all, Colorado, a state I'd never explored past the Denver airport, was a lot of fun and really beautiful.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Team Penning and Not Riding Like the Wind

Mason, the obnoxious alpaca.
The animals on this property include about sixty horses, several dogs, a small herd of goats, one obnoxious alpaca, two mini-horses, and a few cows. This morning Emily went on a long hike with Robert, and the rest of us including two new guests, Dale and Josh (who replaced Donna and Megan who left yesterday) got into the arena with wranglers Nancy and Lee for "team penning" in which mediocre riders (with the exception of Kim and Bonnie who are experienced horse-women) try and corner a few cows into a pen... just to see if they can. The teams were Kim, Bonnie, and me, against Nancy, Dale, and Josh. The other team went first and the cows pretty much scattered and ran rings around them, although they did finally manage to coerce a few into the pen. When it was our turn, due mostly I'm sure to Kim and Bonnie's confident riding and me being on a horse that knew what it was doing to a far greater extent than I did, we managed to pen the cows pretty easily. Fortunately for the other team, this was more of an exhibition, not a competition, and there was no wagering.

After lunch, I took another riding lesson with Nancy and while the idea of riding like the wind is a great idea, I think I've determined that it's probably going to remain just that and no more. 
This photo, taken by Nancy during my lesson, makes me look far more proficient on horseback
than the reality of the situation.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mesa Verde National Park

After fly fishing and lunch, Kim, Emily, and I hopped in the truck with Robert and drove to Mesa Verde National Park for a hike to see the Anasazi petroglyphs which date back to the thirteenth century. The park acts as a preserve for 600 cliff dwellings which were inhabited by native tribes in the 12th and 13 centuries.
cliff dwellings

Famous Last Words about Fly Fishing

Robert tying a fly.
As I said, I had no desire to go fishing but when Emily, Kim, and Lee were getting ready to leave with Robert for the river, I decided to tag along. It was a such a pretty day so I figured just hanging out by the river would be nice; and then when we stopped at the convenience store to get fishing licenses, I decided, what the heck - and I got one too. From what I can tell, fly fishing is all about patience, luck, perseverance, and a slight amount of addiction. Before we got to the river, I really didn't care at all about catching a fish, and as I told Robert, "I have no desire to annoy fish for sport." But then we got out there and started casting and... well, the idea that I might hook a fish was kind of exciting. And even as my arm got sore (ten and two, ten and two...) I kept throwing the line in over and over really rather hoping that I'd fling a fish out of the water. This was strictly a catch-and-release situation and we were using barbless hooks, so while the fish would certainly be irritated, it wouldn't technically be hurt. But alas, while we could see a trout our two jumping out of the water (taunting us), no one caught a fish and eventually, Emily and I put our poles down and just enjoyed the stream-side ambiance while the others continued casting with high hopes but empty lines.
Me not catching a fish.
Emily not catching a fish.
Lee not catching a fish.
Kim not catching a fish.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

More Riding, Aspens, and Mud

This morning, Emily, Donna, Megan, and I took a riding lesson in the horse arena. We trotted around and around while Nancy gave us instruction, and finally moved on to a canter, a gait much more comfortable on the rump than trotting. I considered the lesson a success and got off my horse after cantering while Emily, Megan, and Donna did a little barrel racing - which Megan did like a champ, even though she said she hadn't done any real riding in years.

After the lesson, lunch, and a brief rest, an ATV tour through the aspen groves was next on the agenda. We put on full-face helmet and motored off the ranch, into the San Juan National Forest. Robert then proceeded to roll us over rocks, around corners, and through puddles the size of small ponds. Covered in mud and soaking wet, we made it back to the ranch and stopped near a small stream where the wine and cheese was set up - you know, typical post-ATV-ride fare. The wine warmed me up and we did a little fly-casting practice by the stream in preparation for an early morning fly fishing trip tomorrow. This is activity being optional (as are all the activities), coupled with how sore and tired I am right now, plus the fact that I have no interest in catching a fish despite the fact that Robert said my casting (10 and 2) was very good, I will be opting OUT tomorrow morning.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ridin' and Shootin'

Today after breakfast, we saddled up and went for a ride. This was just a trail ride (like I've done before) through the woods and around a pretty reservoir, but it didn't really involve any true riding, more just sitting on a horse while it took a walk. Still it was a nice way to see the area and it was a beautiful day.

After the ride, we came back to camp and did a little skeet shooting. I tried skeet shooting a very long time ago and all I remember was that I did hit the edge of a disc one time, and the incredible pain in my shoulder from the kick of the shotgun. This time, Robert, the ranch owner and our guide for a lot of our activities, introduced us to a Benelli, Italian-made shotgun, and then let the clay pigeons fly. We each got three turns before switching off and of the first three sets, I hit two out of three each time, except on my last and final set when I missed all three, but by then my shoulder ached so much I was glad just put the gun down and let the skeet live.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Channeling My Inner Cowgirl

I've been on a horse many time, but I don't really know how to RIDE. I have visions of myself flying across the plains, mane (both mine and the horse's) flying behind me as I gallop through fields in total control of a ton of equine muscle. In an attempt to make that vision a reality, I find myself in Mancos, Colorado at the Majestic Dude Ranch, where riding is one of the many activities available in this summer-camp-like environment. This place actually used to be a summer camp decades ago but now it operates as an all-inclusive dude ranch, catering mostly to families looking for a camp-like experience. In addition to riding, there is archery, skeet shooting, hiking, fly fishing, ATV-riding... the usual camp fare. But after Labor Day, no kids are allowed at the ranch and that's when I decided to come. My friend Emily was game to come too, so we met in Phoenix, took another flight to Durango, were met by Nancy, who picked us up and drove us, and Kim, who had flown in from Annapolis, about 30 miles to the ranch. Emily and I had both caught 5am flights out of Portland and Seattle, so the main thing we were looking forward to when we got to the ranch was a nap. We had lunch when we got in then took a bit of rest before trying a little roping and practicing some archery skills with Lee and Chris, two resident cowboys.  By that time, Bonny and Lee, two guests from Texas had arrived (this was Bonnie's sixth time at the ranch), and by dinner time, Donna and Megan had joined us. Those two are college friends who met in Rochester, where Donna still lives, while Megan is practically a neighbor living in Monroe, WA.
Emily roping like a rodeo star.

I can assure you that I did not hit the bull's eye.
Probably didn't even hit the target.

Emily's awesome cowgirl boots
Lil Sebastian??
After dinner there was wine tasting and line dancing (Robert, the owner refers to this as "wine dancing"), but I was so pooped that I retired early to my very nice room to get ready for bed. Tomorrow, we ride.