Jane Porter: Cowgirl at a Dude Ranch

image12  Just a week after the big RWA conf in San Diego, I flew with my two older sons to Denver while my husband flew in from Hawaii with our little guy to meet up for a huge family reunion at a dude ranch near Grant, Colorado.   Grant—originally called Grantville after President Ulysses S. Grant—was founded in 1870 and within twenty years had a population of 200. It’s a lot smaller than that today.

I write ranch stories.

I love cowboys.

But I confess:  I got on that plane nervous about playing cowgirl for a week…especially with four different generations, and not because I don’t love everyone, but I’m a hard core introvert and the very idea of scheduled activities, much less 8 hours of scheduled activities for seven days filled me with a fair amount of trepidation.

Happily, reaching the ranch, I breathe in the clear clean mountain air and began to relax. Tumbling River is located at a 9,000 foot elevation so the scenery is spectacular, and the ranch itself has a fascinating history.  Our hosts shared that some of the buildings date back a hundred plus years, and is always favorite with ranch guests.  We didn’t have one of the old cabins, or the original homestead cabin, which had been built in the late 1800s, but our cabin was very comfortable and pretty and perfect.

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My boys had as many activities as I did…and each of the boys had activities for his ‘age group’. Mac was thrilled with all of his, especially because he could be with Luke, his cousin who is just 20 days older and full of fun. Mac and Luke’s mornings started with a horse back ride and then either a hike or fun games, followed by lunch with everyone and then family fun that we could all do together: fishing, swimming, rodeo practice, hay rides.

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While Mac did ‘kid stuff’, my two older boys were able to go rock climbing, fly-fishing, white-water rafting, and do longer trail rides, including a visit to a ghost town in the mountains.

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Midweek when I was craving some alone time with my guy, Ty and I packed up Mac and headed to Georgetown, forty-five minutes away. Georgetown is a historic mining town, and today a historic landmark, preserving the town’s past when its silver boom turned it into the third largest city in Colorado. Only a thousand people live in Georgetown today but it has lots of interesting buildings and fun places to shop, eat, and explore.

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image21But the dude ranch wasn’t just blue skies and fresh air, sparkling rivers and massive mountains, it was really good food.  The kind of food you’d want on a dude ranch after a long trail ride:  ribs and chicken, tri-tip and smoked pork tenderloin.  And for those who went on the overnight ride and visited the ghost town, they had coffee and flapjacks and bacon in the morning, eating outside next to the campfire.  I didn’t do the overnight as I stayed at the ranch with Mac, and I was envious of those who had their overnight adventure but I do think I slept better in the big luxurious bed!

Back home, I’m still doing laundry and now trying to get my middle son ready for his senior year of high school (which starts Monday!!) but I’ve a lot of new ideas for future western stories so I owe my family a huge thanks for dragging me out of my comfort zone and into a dude ranch vacation!

Have you ever or would you one day like to visit a dude ranch?  If you’ve already been, what did you love most about your experience?  And if you haven’t, what’s the one thing you’d really want to do there?  Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a fun prize!  Contest ends August 10th. 🙂

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Jane Porter
Jane Porter, the NYT and USA Today bestselling author of 50 romances and fiction novels, holds an MA in Writing from the University of San Francisco and has been a finalist for the prestigious RITA award in the US five times, with her novella, Take Me, Cowboy, winning the Novella Category July 2014. In 2008 Jane's wildly popular novel, Flirting with Forty, was made into a Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear, and just recently Jane has had two more stories optioned for cable movies. For more info, visit www.janeporter.com.
Updated: July 29, 2016 — 5:11 pm

38 Comments

  1. I have never been to a dude ranch, I think if I was younger I would have enjoyed it, but not so sure my body would be able to do a lot of the activities. But I am sure it would be nice just to stay at one. Experiencing something we don’t normal do is good for the soul once in awhile.
    So glad you all had a good time.

  2. I think going to a dude ranch would be extremely fun! From what it sounds like. It would be cool to check into.

  3. I’ve never been but it sounds like fun. I love the outdoors but haven’t had a big chance to explore it. I think this would be a great way. It seems to have a lot of variety and everyone is sort of in it together lol.

  4. What a wonderful experience, Jane. Vacationing at a dude ranch is definitely on my bucket list. And how great that you were surrounded by family instead of strangers the whole time. That’s wonderful! Looks like a fabulous trip. 🙂

  5. I would love to visit and experience a dude ranch. The activities and the beauty is very special.

  6. A dude ranch sounds wonderful. I enjoyed the photos and the setting is beautiful.

  7. I have never visited a dude ranch. I know you all must have had a great time. Your pictures say it all. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Never been to one, but have always wanted to. I grew up on a dairy farm, so I love that cowboy ranch type life. Love the pictures!!

  9. Hi Jane,
    Unbelievably, I’ve never visited a dude ranch. I would probably love it. Looks like you and the boys were having a lot of fun!! Great pics!! Thanks for sharing this experience!

  10. Sounds like fun was had by all.
    Have never visited a dude ranch—-a little old to be thinking about it now.

  11. That looks like such a fun trip. The location looks incredible and the pictures just perfect. It sounds like they had something for everyone at this dude ranch. I have never been to a dude ranch, but I thought they were just riding horses and campfires. This looks like a so much fun and I would love to go there one day.

  12. I’ve never been to a dude Ranch but think it could be lots of fun. Your post did make me feel nostalgic for Georgetown. My grandmother worked there many years ago and we’d always visit when we went to see her. I also spent a month with her one summer and had a lot of time to explore Georgetown!

  13. I wanna go!!! It sounds like a fabulous family getaway. Thanks for sharing, Jane. And thanks for including my book in the contest!!!

  14. I have never been to one but have always wanted to go. It is definitely a bucket list item! It looks like so much fun!!

  15. Having a vacation at a dude ranch would be like a dream come true. The outdoors, the vistas and the surroundings would be unforgettable.

  16. I’ve always thought it would be fun. I love being out with nature like that! Closest I get to it is the mountains of Tennessee.

  17. What fun, Jane! I love ranches and old mining towns. I’ve never been to a dude ranch, but one of my horses now works on one. Thanks for a fun post!

  18. I think it would be a fun experience to go to a dude ranch… love horses.

  19. I’ve never been to one. My mom & dad took us kids camping out west and near Yellowstone National Park, we went on a dinner trail ride.. Oh boy! was that an adventure for a 11 year old girl!!! I would imagine your boys had an amazing time that they will remember forever!!!

  20. Your description and pictures makes this so appealing and I would love to have that opportunity.

  21. As a family, we always tried to vacation somewhere fun and different every summer. My kids are in college now, so the trips are few and far between. We never made it to a ranch. We went on a chuckwagon thing in Angel Fire once. Lots of fun. I enjoyed hearing about your trip, Jane. You are a gem.

    1. What a beautiful location! My only visits to Dude Ranches were not as a guest. As a little kid I got to ride in our small truck with my dad to deliver some hay to Painted Pony Dude Ranch in Lake Luzerne, N.Y. in the Adirondacks. Year’s later I helped supervise a 4-H horse show in their rodeo arena. I always thought it would have been fun to ride on their mountain trails but never did. I did go skiing at Hidden Valley Ranch just up the road from Painted Pony and they had a beautiful log restaurant and lounge. And, again I never hiked or rode their beautiful mountain trails–my loss!

  22. Great way to spend a vacation.

  23. i have never visited a dude ranch, but it looks like so much fun. i would love to ride the horses and visit/shop at local towns.

  24. I have never been to a dude ranch. I would like to ride horses, eat good food and visit the surrounding area.

  25. It sounds like you had a wonderful time, and I’m happy for you. I’ve never been but the first thing I think I would enjoy is the mountain air and scenic views. After that I’d like to have nighttime chat with everyone around a fire telling tales, followed by sleeping in sleeping bags outside.

  26. I would love to ride a horse again. Not sure I could even get up on one anymore….I have great memories from my younger years riding horses with family/relative members. I have not been to a dude ranch but it sounds wonderful…as long as I do not have to muck out the stalls. Enjoy.

  27. I always thought a dude ranch sounded like fun. The closest I have been was The Flying W ranch in Colorado Springs. When I lived there, we went to a couple of their Chuck Wagon meals and entertainment. I loved learning the history of the ranch and was so upset when they lost several of the original buildings a couple of years ago in a fire.

  28. Wow it looks like so much fun! I have always wanted to visit a dude ranch! I grew up on a farm but I always have longed to be on a real growing and thriving ranch! I would love to do just about anything, but anything on top of a horse is fine by me!

  29. I have been to two different ones and I love the whole experience.

  30. I’ve never been but would love too. I want to ride horses.

  31. I have not been to a dude ranch, but would love to go. We lived in Colorado Springs for 3 years and got a wonderful taste of the West. The Flying W Ranch was a great place for a tour of their “town” and a chuck wagon dinner and show by the Flying W Wranglers. Sadly the venue was destroyed by the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012. They now have a foundation to work on restoring the Waldo Canyon area. We went on wagon ride, chuck wagon dinner a few of years ago while at Yellowstone. Just being outside in the quiet of nature makes the food taste better and the time more special.

  32. Avatar

    I’ve never been to a dude ranch and at my age not sure I would want to go. However, I would like to see the original cabins and houses, and maybe, if I was younger I would love to go white water rafting. Thought about it back then, but it just didn’t happen.

  33. I’ve never been on one, since we don’t have dude ranches here in Finland, but it sounds interesting.

  34. I just returned from Covered Wagon Ranch in Gallatin Gateway, Montana. I’d recommend it. Family owned. Small. Beautiful country. I’d never been to a dude ranch, but worth the trip!

  35. Jane, sorry to be so late to the cookout. I am definitely putting this ranch on the bucket list for a Hanson herd vacation. Wow. But yes…I cowgirl’d up at a publishers retreat at The Silver Spur outside Bandera, TX. Every second was perfect! Also painfully introverted-I was proud to have made the trek all by myself!

    Hubs and I also took a wagon train trip around the Tetons. Wow. That jaunt inspired a whole book series.

    Awesome post and pictures, my friend!

  36. I have never been,always wanted to but never did.Like to see what life is like on one.

  37. So glad you all enjoyed the post and thank you so much for the fun responses too!

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