It’s grey, it’s wet, it’s cramped, it’s the M25. It’s cold, damp Britain. The windscreen wipers can’t keep pace with the teeming rain, and even though there’s plenty of water cascading down and fogging up your view, somehow they are still managing to squeak as they scrape across your rain soaked view of red taillights backed up all the way to hell.
Fortunately there’s a cure. Take junction 15 to Heathrow, park the car in long term parking and slap down a ticket to Denver, Colorado. Soon you’re leaving the land of traffic congestion, arrested celebrity pensioners and road cones far behind for the endless vistas of the High Lonesome Dude Ranch. Here there’s nearly 300 square miles of Rocky Mountain high for you to explore, not by car, but on horseback, riding high in the saddle all day, giving your impoverished gluteus maximus the workout it never gets when it’s squashed into a Slough Business Park office chair all day.
High Lonesome Ranch
You can start to breathe the fresher air even as you say the words; mountain forests, grasslands, spring creeks, alpine mesas, the ranch is a mecca for wildlife. At an altitude ranging from around 5,000 to 9,000 feet, this is an ecosystem consisting of a large, central valley with astonishingly beautiful mountains and adjoining valleys, each lush and fertile in its own right. The Ranch is located near the small cowboy town of DeBeque, Colorado, which is a 40-minute drive to Grand Junction’s Walker Field Airport.
Here, as the website never fails to inform, you can discover your so called inner cowboy. What this really means is the free spirit locked away inside you that is repressed and subjugated by speed cameras, office memos and punitive council taxes. It doesn’t matter if you turn up in your Mark & Spencer suit, or whether you’ve never ridden a horse before in your life. They’ll find a horse to suit you, and before you know it, you’re riding the open plains, maybe rounding up cattle, roping steers or just taking in the stunning mountain scenery.
Because the ranch is the size of a National Park there is plenty of opportunity to discover lonesome trails where you and your horse can freely roam. There’s no danger of getting lost in the wilderness, desperately splashing the last drops of water from your canteen onto your cracked lips, as all the trails are clearly demarcated, and you can opt for trails that take a couple of hours or a whole day.
The valleys of the High Lonesome Dude Ranch teem with North American nature. You may see black bears, elk, mule deer, eagles, hawks, mountain lions, and the occasional moose, antelope or Big Horn Sheep. Whether it’s by horseback, mountain bike, or you opt to be an urban softie and take one of the ranch vehicles, you can experience parts of the ranch that you won’t see on a month of Sundays along the M25.
A short drive away from the ranch are wild horses roaming free, descendants of Spanish and Red Indian horses, nothing reinforces the feeling you have escaped than seeing these animals canter across the landscape.
America wouldn’t be America without some shooting going on, and there’s plenty of types to choose from, including the more English pursuits of clay pigeon shooting and a spot of pheasant shooting too. But also there’s the rifle range to get in some target practice. You can even pick up a bow and arrow if you prefer.
High mountain snowmelt and springs formed the North Dry Fork spring creek that flows for 16 miles from the uppermost reservoir at 7,200 feet down past the ranch and on to the lowest fishery at 4,300 feet. As the cold, pure water gradually cascades down through the valley, over centuries beavers have downed trees which have helped form a series of 18 spring-creek pools teeming with healthy trout. The High Lonesome supplies all the equipment you will need to wade into the cool waters and catch a trout for supper.
Where to hang your hat
There’s a variety of authentically rustic log cabins to choose from located around the lanch, accommodating anything from couples to complete families. Cocktail hour is held by the stone hearth on the living room’s leather chairs and couches. The adjoining dining room has aspen tables and chairs and yes, if you really can’t resist the call of the wild, as in your boss jumping up and down about missing job numbers, there’s a business centre complete with a computer and a hard phone line as well as WiFi in several of the guest rooms.
What to wear
The boots: Justin Ranch Boots
The High Lonesome Ranch is the perfect opportunity to pull on some cowboy boots without looking like a pretentious Sloane Ranger cowboy. But keep the boots simple and workmanlike. No python skinned, Cuban heeled cowboy boot over loads. These sensible hard wearing ranch boots from Justin are much more like it. They have cushioned insoles to protect your feet from all the extra walking, riding and steer roping you will be doing throughout the day.
The jeans: Wrangler MWZ Original Cut Jeans
These are the original Wrangler rodeo stud jeans; there’s not a cute designer hole, nor a loose thread, or a scrubbed and bleached knee in sight. You work these jeans to an even light blue denim the hard way; on the back of a galloping steed, or falling flat on your Wrangler labelled backside in the rodeo ring. These are the jeans to be seen in around the ranch.
The watch: Kobold Soaraway GMT
What else but an American watch for an American adventure. Designed especially for globetrotting travellers who appreciate a watch that tells the time in multiple places. It indicates the time in a second location via a hand that points to the 24-hour scale printed on the dial. Displaying the 24-hour scale on the dial, leaving the uni-directional rotating bezel uncluttered.
Instead, the bezel features a single marker, filled with Superluminova luminous paint, allowing the wearer to mark a desired point in time and thereby either measure elapsed hours, minutes, or seconds, or use the bezel as a count-down timer. With the date at 4 o’clock, this resilient, superbly made watch is water resistant to a depth of 500 metres, and comes on an alligator strap.
The High Lonesome Dude Ranch opens its doors again for the summer season in just a couple of weeks time. So what are you going to do? Sit on the M25 in the teeming rain or pack those pistols and whistle Dixie?
May – August / Dude Ranch Experience
6 nights – 5 days / Arrival Sunday – Departure Saturday
Youths $1,500.00 (15 and under)