October 2017 - Fresh Air & Free Riding

Laramie River Ranch gets vacationers off the grid in Colorado.

by Linda Ballou

Ever dream of loping over expanses of silver sage to mind-expanding vistas of snow-streaked spires on the back of a good horse? Would you like to pull the plug on technology and let your mind wander over seemingly endless rolling hills uninterrupted by the mark of mankind for just a little while? Breathe deeply of the pine-scented forest, listen to the rustle of aspen leaves spinning in a crisp wind, and be intoxicated by crystalline air? This step back into a quieter time awaits you at the Laramie River Ranch.

Riders at Laramie River Ranch.

Twenty-one years ago, Krista and Bill Burleigh left corporate jobs and set out to find the perfect ranch that would allow them to give this experience to you. The ranch they selected sits in the cleft of lush valley on the bank of the cooling Laramie River with the snowy peaks of the Rewah Mountains in the distance. They restored the hundred-year-old lodge to its authentic glory and built cabins with screened-in lanais for guests who want more privacy. Bill, who considers himself a caretaker of the animals, the ranch, and his guests, begins and ends his day in the dining hall overlooking his realm, talking story with guests.

Lodge and Rawah Mountains.

Krista works with the horses applying natural horsemanship techniques to ensure the animals are safe for riders. She offers clinics for novices and the chance for advanced riders to improve skills. Rides range from two-hour wildflower walks in verdant meadows to all-day rides on the thousands of acres of BLM land surrounding the ranch. Hundreds of miles of trails with good footing fan out from the ranch providing an endless variety of terrain.

Krista led me on a romp up Crazy Mountain to a knoll with a 360-degree view. Long’s Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park several hours drive away could be seen in the distance. To the north the frosty peaked Snowy Range floated on the horizon, and far below the ranch rested in green pastures beside the snaking Laramie River. We dipped down into spring-fed gullies peppered with lupine, Indian paint brush, flax, and penstemon, and then lunged up a slope where she signaled it was time for a fun lope on what is dubbed the racetrack to yet another vista unsullied by civilization.

Krista, Bill and son Christopher Burleigh.

I loved my trusty steed, Owen. He was unflappable tromping across creeks without hesitation, moving forward into a canter on a cluck then relaxing back into a country jog for as long as I wanted. We did an all-day ride with a young woman who let me set the pace. I was allowed to trail-blaze a bit on the way to our lunch stop among the aspens. This is not a nose-to-tail experience, more like riding with a good friend. I have sampled many guest ranches in the West and have never felt more freedom on a ride.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the hot tub brought relief to muscles that had been out of service. After a snooze and a clean-up, I was ready for happy hour that takes place each day at 5:30. Guests congregate and trade tales of their adventures. Some spend the day fly-fishing for mountain trout, kids loved tubing down the river, others enjoyed a little birding or a walk with the resident naturalist who shares his knowledge of plants and helps you spot wildlife. Moose, coyote, antelope, and neighboring bison are often seen on the rides.

Columbine - Colorado State Flower.

The ranch is a wonderful place for families to get to know one another again. One gentleman was smiling all over himself because he was so thrilled to be able to share the ranch experience with his daughter. He had come here when he was five years old and the closeness he felt with his departed father while they were riding and fishing here together was a fond memory. He told me the valley the ranch rests in was as he remembered it—a pristine, undisturbed, peaceful remnant of the Old West. His daughter was equally joyous. A city girl, she had never ridden before. After a couple of lessons, she was good to go. The wranglers loved her spirit and told me that “she stuck to her horse like a spider monkey sniffing glue.”

At the end of the week guests left what had become “Home Sweet Home” misty-eyed. Hugs aplenty went around between hosts and new-made friends with thanks for a wonderful time and promises to return next year.

Author Linda Ballou is an adventure travel writer and author of several books, including her latest, The Cowgirl Jumped Over The Moon. To check out her books visit www.LindaBallouAuthor.com.