[su_heading]A Family Stay At A Colorado Dude Ranch[/su_heading]
When I was a little ten year old rag-a-muffin of a girl my parents took my two sisters and I on a trip to Colorado. Part of the trip included a stay at The C Lazy U Guest Ranch & Resort, and this is where I fell in love with Colorado and little cowboys, swearing that one day I would grow up, move to Colorado and get me my own cowboy. And that’s exactly what I did, or almost exactly. When our youngest boy was ten I returned to the ranch to experience the ranch all over again through his eyes.
“Giddyonup yourselves to bed,” Baddy said to the boys, a dart from a toy gun whizzing by his head. We were hoping to have some alone time before I took off in the morning for a week long trip around Colorado, just me and four boys under the age of twelve.
The boys with visions of Western films flashing through their heads were too excited to go to bed. “I hate horses,” Brevitt our oldest son exclaimed, running by me to escape his brother Axel who was in hot pursuit for retribution. Brevitt often worried about new things he had never experienced before. When I took him aside later to talk about his anxiety a litany of questions ensued; “Are the wranglers going to line us up and pace back and forth with their cowboy hats on, spitting chew and telling us the rules, like in the army? Do they hold your horse by the reigns the entire time you are on it? Do we have to actually ride the horse?”
I also had anxieties. What was I doing taking four boys on a trip throughout Colorado? Weren’t our best memories best left as memories? If I gave it to much thought I would surely have changed my mind, but I stayed the course and we took off the next morning.
[su_heading size=”18″]Returning to C Lazy U Ranch[/su_heading]
Driving to the ranch nothing looked familiar, but as we gained elevation and turned down the long dirt road to the ninety-year-old dude ranch the flood gates flew open and the memories came rushing back and I grew anxious to fetch me a horse and venture out into the high alpine meadows laced with Sage and lavender Lupine.
Approaching three men, their cowboy hats touching as they laughed together in some western secret, I opened the window to “Vini-Man” seeking directions to our cabin. They nodded friendly hellos and showed us the way.
As I unloaded the car the boys raced down to check out the scene. It was my first quiet moment after the long drive and I sat down in a wooden chair outside the cabin to breathe in the crisp, cool air and take in the scene. It was difficult at first for me to shake that my memory was so different from what I was viewing now. The picture I had painted in my mind all of these years had taken on a life of its own and although everything remained just where I had left it, a quiet oasis of time untouched, my memories were of a different vessel. Back then, my sisters and I also raced around, roaming from cabin to corral to grand lodge, but this all seemed so different, so much more spread out. I needed to get in it, to feel it again.
So accustomed to having the kids attached to me I was amazed to find them happily integrated into the kid program, without my having to do a thing. The counselors now wore the Velcro and so I strolled over to the guest ranch for orientation.
The scene was energetic with guests mingling and chatting as if they were all long time friends. The orientation began and we were introduced to the head wrangler who had been at the ranch since my last visit in the 70’s. Known for his ability to successfully match the guests to the 165+ well-trained and groomed horses on site, the wrangler compared riding horses to riding a bicycle, “You need to put life into it before you can guide it,” he said. Mountain biking was something I could definitely relate to.
The Wrangler approached each guest to personally assess our riding skills and determine which horse to assign us. I mentioned that I was at least thirty years dusty, but nevertheless asked if I could have the full experience and join the fast group. I was chomping at the bit to gallop through the fields as I had as a child. In the end, I was glad that he kept me within my skill level.
At dinner I walked into the handsome log dining room with trepidation, I wasn’t used to being all on my own. Who would I sit with? Standing there in the doorway looking for an open seat a nice looking man stood next to me, also alone. We made our way together to a table with two open spots. His name was Jake and he was there with his four children on their annual trip to the ranch together. I discovered that he was a member of the fast group I so badly wanted to ride with but he suggested I start off slowly. Sitting on my other side was a woman who had traveled solo from Miami, a true adventurer. As I spoke with her I grew more curious. She had a slight twitch when she spoke and the questions she asked had me thinking she was breaking away from a sheltered, possibly difficult past, but I could tell that the answers may never come.
The next morning we fueled up and said hello to all of our new friends, already it felt like one big family. Venturing down to the coral in the crisp cool mountain air wafts of memories surfaced only to disappear again with the wind. The counselors wrangled the children and the adults all gathered together to meet our horses.
So caught up in the adventure of the story, I was not prepared to get on top of a large beast with a mind of its own. Mounting up I said howdy to my speckled white horse, Lady. Her ears twitched back and I puffed up my chest to let her know who was boss.
This was going to be awesome, riding in the great outdoors all day, the breathtaking views of the Continental Divide and Indian Peaks Wilderness looming in the near distance, no little bodies interrupting my train of thought, which at the moment was delivering a whole lot of monkey chatter to my brain as the horses slowly headed up the trail, “This is great….isn’t this great?” Big sigh as my eyes scanned for Jake galloping through the fields.
Climbing higher into the mountains I began to relax letting the scenery calm my soul. Watching the other riders I tested out my horsemanship. Lady was very responsive, a bit less than an expensive car. I thought about the wrangler’s words and gave her a kick and a Yawww and she took off. “This is how we do it,” I sang to myself, very quietly.
Returning back to the ranch for the afternoon siesta I scanned the crowd in search for Jake. I wanted to know how his day of galloping was. I spotted him sitting at a table with his riding group and I strolled over.
A handsome woman welcomed me in, think Linda Carter in a Western. It was obvious that she was the ringleader of the tightly knit group. Let’s just say her name was Linda to keep things simple.
I envied Linda and her confidence. I also admired her dark hair framing an intelligent face and her sexy western-wear. With tight fitting jeans and Ostrich skin cowboy boots complimenting a cream colored silk shirt with delicate gold sequins trailing down her plunging neckline, she looked born to ride. As we spoke she expressed her desire to use her horsemanship skills on the greener horses that had not been ridden very much since the previous summer. My envy grew stronger.
“Barn sour” is what they called it, which I had experienced one ride when a horse stubbornly refused to leave the road to go off on a trail. I piped up to my wrangler, “Ummm, I wouldn’t mind a bit if you traded him in for something more agreeable.” I was no Linda with a mission to break that lazy mindset.
Later that day word spread like wildfire that Linda had been thrown by her horse. When I asked her if she was okay she seemed stirred but not shaken. “You’re resilient,” I said. “No, just relentless,” she returned swaggering away to get back on her horse, her Ostrich boots kicking up dirt.
The next day when riding out on the trail I saw horses racing through the field and felt that desire again to be where the grass was greener. That was until I noticed that the horses were missing their riders. When pointing it out to the group we all had the same thought, Linda.
Pushing the envelope, Linda had been thrown again. This time she went in for stitches. “If people request a horse that has not yet been broken in for the summer, we expect them to be established riders,” said a wrangler when I asked what was going on. In true dude ranch style the pampering was there if you wanted it, as were the challenges.
Getting the big Whoa Nelly for wanting to push it before I was ready, I instead took a cattle-herding clinic. Our wrangler, Ronnie reminded us that we were doing this for the fun of it. “Howz about you go first,” he said, tipping his hat down in my direction. “Bring me two calves out of the pen.” Lady was ready and we moved in. Yeeehawww. My dyslexic directions confused her at first, but we figured it out and it was exhilarating.
Everyday I fell deeper into the luxury of enjoying “me” time, looking forward to the evenings where the adults gathered around at the ranch house drinking wine paired with delicious appetizers as the kids parallel played in the pool with their beloved counselors, drinking an un-monitored number of shakes. Mutual heaven!
I often brought my laptop to write so guests could approach me to share their multi-generational C Lazy U stories. These people had been coming here for years. One investment banker kept appearing by my side and then disappearing after asking with a mischievous smile and a wink if I wanted to hear a really great story. He never did tell me that story and I was certain that there was a lot I was missing, but I was there to experience the story, not to chase it.
On our last morning at the ranch, waking early to write I heard the sound of horses outside our cabin. It was the morning Jingle, where the horses were herded back to the stables after a night spent in the lush green pastures. Grabbing my camera I snapped pictures trying to capture the hauntingly beautiful scene of horses galloping by, leaving nothing but a trail of dust settling in the early sun’s rays.
I feel so fortunate to have been able to instill my first Colorado experience with my little Aspen boys and although they didn’t need a trip to a Dude Ranch to discover their love for Colorado, they agreed that C Lazy U Ranch indeed was, “Miles above ordinary,” as described on the C Lazy U website. I can attest this to be true, both then and now, and I am thankful for the four families who own the ranch for ensuring that this uniquely western experience that many of us fall in love with as children, stays steadfast and true to our memories and will live on for generations to come.
*A version of this story was published in Destinations Travel Magazine
** Disclaimer: Although we received complimentary meals and a room for this review, our opinions are our own.
When I think back, he was always there in my imagination, the man I would fall in love with one day. A tall, dark and handsome cowboy version of a straight Carey Grant with a chiseled jaw and smiling eyes.
My search for the literal man of my dreams began well before my father, whose life was about to be extinguished by Melanoma Cancer, set his ideals on his daughters for what he thought we should search for (life might certainly be a whole lot easier had not rebelled and listened).
Quietly sitting in the cheerful living room in the white house on the hill with blue shutters that I had grown up in, I watched my mother and two sisters as the sun filtered through the windows illuminating the thousands of dust particles we inhaled and exhaled with every breath.
“I’m so sorry girls,” the nurse in the crisp white uniform announced, “but your father has passed on.” A cold veil of black enshrouded my vision. I went numb.
Where was my desire to drop down to my knees and weep? Thirty-four years of living with a force that directed every decision I ever made, and now he was gone, leaving the rest up to me.
I was void of emotion, a cold mass of emptiness and guilt, guilty that I had no tears and guilty that I had never mastered the art of handling his destructive temper.
From what felt like above, I observed as my sisters and I gathered closer to our mother in search of a deeper understanding of times already fading into a dark course of memories.
The nurse returned, “false alarm,” she sang, “Harold seems to have come back.” Comic relief, typical of our father. All our lives he had emotionally swung us between anxiety and humor, why should the day of his death be any different? We ran to his bed to say our final goodbyes.
An outpouring of sentiment flowed out from my sisters, but I was at a loss for words, and then the dog began to bark and we all felt the chill as an oil painting fell off of the wall above the lifeless fireplace. This time he truly had left us, never to return again.
The den had always been his favorite room when he was well, where he spent many an afternoon watching football on the soft beige leather couch as my sisters and I practiced the piano, the large old growth Maple trees standing sentry in our backyard.
In his last few months of living, I had returned home from Aspen to help my mother take care of him. As he lay in his bed in his den on morphine, I took on the role as his DJ, making sure that he had endlessly beautiful classical music playing to ease his pain. He couldn’t speak with all the morphine dripping into his system, but he would raise his arms in the air and move his beautiful hands to the music like a conductor in a symphony as the Melanoma Cancer metastacized throughout his body, extinguishing his strong life force.
What was he thinking as he lay there dying? I knew that he was angry with my mother for her inability to save him from his inevitable death, but I wondered if he was having any reflective moments in his last three months. Did he have any regrets for the demands that he had put on us, his three daughters, as we were growing up, or did he feel proud that he had done a good job of raising us?
We’ve moved a lot, this is true. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so heart-wrenching that our kids get uprooted every 4-5 years if my parents hadn’t resided in the same house forever, giving my sisters and I the comforting feeling of stability and a deep rooted sense of place and belonging.
As difficult as it was to leave our “dream home“, once we were in our new place we rarely looked back. The downside from moving from the countryside to downtown suburbia was that our neighbors homes were so close that we could no longer run around naked, or have a private conversation when outside, and Baddy and I had to keep our windows closed lest we get too noisy playing with each other on our unexpected date nights. The upside was that our transportation system (RFTA) provided the kids with more freedom, and all my peeps were just a stones’ throw away.
According to The New York Times, Basalt, Colorado began as a rough Colorado railroad town in the late 1800’s. I was quite happy living in this small western town in the “banana belt”with a history. The air was warmer than where we came from in Old Snowmass, and fruit trees, and bears to devour the fruit, were everywhere.
I also had Big John and Steve over at High Tone Autobody who were there for me when my stolen totaled car arrived in their “impounded” lot, after being jacked from our driveway (located next to the police station), and there for me when I screeched up in the Hyundai with 6 boys piled inside to get a door fixed that wouldn’t close when on our way to go summer skiing at Copper Mountain.
That was my life both in Old Snowmass and while in Basalt, driving with a carload of farting, burping boys and listening to extremely loud music that would assault the ears of anyone older than 25. A fact that Baddy in his Black Fly sunglasses and signature visor hat often taunted me with, “What on earth has happened to our little Princess?” he’d lovingly joke, patting me on the ass just to show who won in this game.
At least the most important man in my life recognizes that once upon a time, I indeed lived the life of a princess.
Watch Video: in the car
“They want you and Thumper for the hot tub shoot,” I said to Baddy as we sat watching Axel during football practice. “Really?” He asked nonchalantly. I nodded my head yes and we went back to watching Axel pummel and get pummeled on the field. “I wonder who they matched you with for your wife and other children,” I said.” He looked at me to see if I seemed hurt by the offense that they only wanted half the family. I was smiling. He asked me what was so funny and I mentioned how things seem so much more humorous when one doesn’t have any expectations. I explained further, “What’s funny is that you are so nonplussed by the fact that you got the job and I am so nonplussed by the fact that Axel, Hootie-Hoo and I were rejected, other than the fact that we could have made an extra well-needed $1,000 dollars.”
This new way of thinking, to let go and live in the moment, has been helping me significantly, that and the concentrated effort to work out to the point of exhaustion to calm my mind and soothe my nerves.
It’s not easy to fit in that time, but at the moment a necessity so that when I continue doing all the things that I am called upon to do to stay on top, I do it without agitation, putting mind and soul into it.
As I go through the days little things happen that fill my tool box with metaphors:
[su_box title=”Living in the Moment”]
Don’t get stuck in a rut. In fact, stay away from the rut at all costs. But if you fall in, either accelerate and give it your all to get out or get off what you are on and walk, and while walking try to notice everything around you along the way.
When going, go until you feel satiated but know when to stop. It’s not just about lowering your expectations, it’s about not having any.
If an opportunity arises to make some time for yourself, don’t make excuses, make it happen.
And most importantly, if somebody is making you feel badly about yourself. Analyze what they are saying. If there is any truth in what they say, think of this as an opportunity for growth (this comes from Stefan Grafstein). If there is no truth in what they say, put out your suitcase and fill it with their bad energy and then stow it safe and far away from your inner self. That baggage is theirs, not yours (this I derived from Lisa Smit who suggested we hold out a basket for those we love when they may say things that could hurt us).[/su_box]
Oh…and one more thing, if you are like me, a bull who charges into everything, be aware of the people around you, they may not understand you and run for fear of getting pierced by your horns, leaving you all alone wondering where everybody went.
Do you have anything to add?
[su_heading size=”18″]A High Prana Food Dream[/su_heading]
Leaving the raw dinner party at True Nature Healing Arts I analyzed how I was feeling. Usually after a dinner party I am feeling….well….how do you say….drunk! And happy, and full and slightly nauseous, but at this meal the only drinks I sucked down were probiotic, sans alcohol – probably a first in my book. Regardless, I still felt slightly buzzed and satiated.
[su_heading size=”18″]Getting pregnant and almost dying after eating a “high frequency” raw food at a media dinner.[/su_heading]
Driving home down the back country roads under the starry sky, I called my friend who lives too far away from here. It’s been a long time since we last spoke and I felt the need to check in. Lost in conversation, I took a turn into my neighborhood, only…it wasn’t the correct turn. Driving around a curve that I did not recognize, I saw to my horror that I was in the wrong lane. The other lane was across a small median and my only choice was to keep driving until the median was gone. I had no idea where I was.
This all happened in a matter of seconds but I’ve been on the wrong side of the road before and the same absolute panic set in. Once again, I was lucky and made it home unscathed. Climbing into bed exhausted I immediately fell in to a deep sleep, and then I had the dream (the driving thing was real life).
I was very pregnant and baffled, and worried. Baddy had already told me that if I ever got pregnant again I would be on my own. Since he had his vasectomy after Hootie-Hoo there would be no chance in hell that he would raise a kid that wasn’t his own. He was done. And here I was pregnant again – only, I was pregnant with three more babies, two of which I had birthed the day before. With each continuing day my stomach shrunk and I wondered what was happening with that third baby. Not having any car seats I asked Thumper and my niece, Nikki, to get into the car with me and hold the babies – I was over it, this baby thing, perhaps that was why I was so unprepared. And then I woke up.
Maybe it was all the talk of the raw food being so alive. Perhaps it was the fermented Jun. Either way, I’m absolutely fine with the three boys we have, and extremely elated that it was all just a dream. NO MORE BABIES FOR THIS MAMA!
[su_heading size=”18″]Is Being a Parent a Thankless Job, or a Rewarding One?[/su_heading]
As difficult as parenting can be, it’s all worth it in the end. Meditation certainly helps one to appreciate the beautiful moments and accept the ugly ones.
My meditation practice began recently when I was working for a hot digital marketing firm in Aspen. It was a stimulating position with incredibly creative and quick witted, intelligent people, located in a yellow refurbished Victorian on Main Street, smack dab in the heart of Aspen, Colorado. One of those wet dreams kind of job (I’ve never had one but remember, I live with all boys).
With a full time job, I was juggling a lot, and could not turn my mind off with all the worry that raising teenagers in a legalized marijuana resort town like; kids finding their parent’s stashes hidden in the garage, and smoking them…or while on a foreign country “family trip”, snooping through a parent’s suitcase and finding dabs smuggled in or dropping LSD at a concert that parents lovingly dropped them off at in the hopes that there would be enough intelligence to honor that the reigns of restraint were just inched back out and this was a chance to earn back trust (for all of you weed lovers, I’ll tell you right now…this is not about you…and this is not about rescinding Amendment 64. This is about helping our youth, who are under the legal age of 21) so please don’t even give me your spiel about how marijuana is not a gateway drug for underaged minors, because what we are experiencing with our youth is living proof that you know not what you speak. Go ahead, challenge me on this topic – I dare ya.
Even our wide-eyed and innocent Hootie-Hoo was showing signs of emotional behavioral problems, falling to pieces if somebody looked at him wrong, or running out the door yelling that he was going to find himself a new family during homework time.
Being no mastermind in the art of child psychology, and not having the funds to enlist experts to test for behavioral issues that we feared all three of our boys had, the wheels would not stop whirling in my head as I tried to figure out how to fix all that seemed broken.
My method of escape from it all was to plug in to Pandora and turn it up while powering up mountains, or find girlfriends to sidle up with at a downvalley cowboy bar…and buy horses and shit…It’s one or the other for me, I ain’t lyin’.
Don’t forget, we do live in a party town and although I am a work in progress when it comes to reaching some sort of enlightenment, I’m a party girl at heart and when things just get too much and I still have too much aggressive energy even after releasing endorphins or meditating, there is always something going on in our valley and a friend to go out with.
Always plugged in, always online, often escaping, and always thinking, I desperately needed to learn how to quiet the noise, lest I make myself sick.
One day, after a 1,000 vertical hike, I searched for and found the perfect meditation spot which appeared to have been used before for this very purpose. I was pretty sure that the little stone circle meticulously laid out around the spot I was to sit in, was built by the same people that are always writing messages in all the multi-colored rocks they find like: Jesus Loves You and Peace.
MEDITATE OR MEDICATE
Sitting with my legs crossed, I set my timer on my smartphone, closed my eyes and focused on my breathing giving myself 10 minutes to calm the noise. Twenty minutes later I opened my eyes to snow-capped mountains and hawks soaring over sage brush. Thus my meditation practice began, and the windows to the magic from my childhood reopened.
I spent a lot of time as a child absorbed in fairy paintings from my mother’s art collection painted by famous painters such as; John Anster Fitzgerald, Richard Doyle, Arthur Rackham, placing myself in a world where fairies enticed me to play amongst moss covered rocks and trees threatened to capture and trap me in their gnarled branches, my meditation practice awakened these memories. I began to look upon the world with a heightened alertness and fascination.
To intellectualize what is happening, I listen on Audible to books like; “Waking Up” by Sam Harris, 10 % Happier by Dan Harris and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. I also speak to the higher beings that enter my life from Rabbis to Pastors. I have had the nectar dripped on my forehead by Tibetan Monks and have been told by the minister of my in-law’s church that I am surrounded by a golden aura and angels.
It has been a fantastic journey that I am on and although all of this is helping me to wake up, the true awakening comes from deep within and spurs on the most beautiful peacefulness that I have ever had, since I was a child.
As difficult as parenting can be, we are teaching our children to become accountable for their actions and I no longer allow myself to worry about the future. Now, I am constantly getting the chills from all the beautiful moments I am having throughout the day and letting out little guffaws of laughter at the funny sense of humor nature has, uncertain as to whether I am going insane or in the beginnings of a true awakening.
When I weigh it all out; the thirteen year old who finds EVERYTHING that we do unbelievably annoying and tells us that we have to be less embarrassing and stop dancing at parties where he is also invited to; the fifteen year old who is barely ever home and who we miss incredibly until he bangs through the door as loud as a bad storm and throws himself at all of us with his 6 foot 150 pound frame; and a husband who as adorably positive as he is, lives in his own sheltered, disillusioned world where he honestly believes that his wife, (dubbed Jiggil-ian for my large breasts) is a “sex pot” (even though I wake up at 5am and NEED to be in bed by 9pm) and his sons are all as they are supposed to be, being a parent to three boys consistently comes out on the positive side of the scale and the answer is a resounding YES, I am happy (most of the time) but it definitely is the most challenging job I will ever have.