by DJ Wilson
We long for memories that will last a lifetime, so why take a dull vacation? Most of us recall a vacation which left us feeling somewhat disappointed. We pack our bags and leave with high expectations, only to find hotels that don’t resemble the pretty photos in the brochure. In our case, the brochure failed to mention the room’s small size, the creaky floors, and leaky sink. We dropped our bags in the teeny-tiny room and headed off to the fairgrounds. Both the weather and the fair were dreary. We drove through town and everything was closed but McDonalds. We ordered takeout and watched television in our cramped quarters, with the annoying reverberation of the dripping faucet in the background. The rest of our holiday in the ghost-like town was a blur. Why spend your time and money doing something boring? Instead, throw caution to the wind and take an exciting vacation. A trip to a dude ranch may be just the thing.
Dude ranches offer excitement and fun for all ages. Harkening back to the Old West, they provide the opportunity to mentally and physically associate with nature. At some ranches guests can live like cowboys, but don’t be fooled into thinking that all dude ranches are the same. In fact, many ranches offer comfort and luxuries galore, a far cry from rising at the crack of dawn to rope cattle. Some ranches are rustic while others offer resort like experiences, so it’s important to decide what type of atmosphere is right for you. With amenities such as swimming pools, spas, and fine dining, dude ranches are rising in popularity all across North America. Many are located in beautiful mountain settings and provide outdoor entertainment such as golf, swimming, fishing, and horseback riding. Evening activities can include rustic cook-outs and campfires to elegant dining with evening musical entertainment. Several offer guests a tranquil environment and boast of rooms with no modern day distractions like televisions or telephones. Not only do ranches vary in accommodations and amenities, they vary in price with some being all inclusive. In many states, dude ranches join associations designed to establish high standards in the industry and to ensure vacationers are met with proper western hospitality.
The word “dude” referred to travelers, tourists, and visitors from the east. Dude ranching evolved in the mid 1800’s originating in the Rocky Mountain region for hunting and the southern plains for cattle ranching. In the Rocky Mountains, local settlers acted as guides and men began to travel for pleasure to hunt in the great outdoors. Many slept under the stars and enjoyed experiencing the rustic lifestyle of the west. In contrast, Buffalo Bill Cody once led a group of hunters from New York who brought French chefs and waiters along. They dined in formal wear and used fine linens, china, and silver. Travelers increased as the railroad expanded and camps became permanent bases for expeditions. The formation of Yellowstone National Park spiked further interest in the western experience. In the Southern Plains, the cattle industry spread due to the post civil war cattle boom and industrialization. Life on the plains was difficult. Lonely ranchers welcomed visitors to the isolating plains and abundant wildlife attracted sportsmen. Ranchers provided hospitality, a horse, and hunting grounds, in exchange for the company and prized game offered by the sportsmen. In the mid 1800’s, cattle ranches increased in number due to population growth on the east coast. Coupled by the rising demand for beef and expansion of the railroad, cattle ranches gained further appeal to sportsmen. Harsh winters caused ranchers to begin to charge for their hospitality. Government and railroad advertising of National Park expansion and the western experience increased the popularity of dude ranches. The development of the automobile caused Americans to explore travel within the United States, thus dude ranches became an accessible, affordable vacation.
Now a popular tourist industry, dude ranches offer guests a unique, unforgettable vacation in a scenic setting. Most are open year round and take pride in outstanding services and accommodations. In many cases, guest ranches are operated at the homes of the owners where visitors are treated like friends of the family. Generally located in remote areas, dude ranches offer a great escape from typical urban and suburban living. Whether you choose to sleep under the stars or slumber in a beautifully appointed guest room, it can be a vacation tailored to meet personal specifications. There are opportunities to sight-see, relax, explore nature, and partake in stimulating outdoor activities. Delight in a formal or informal atmosphere, up-to-date or rustic setting, relaxed or active ambiance, guaranteed to be a one of a kind experience you’ll never forget. Don’t waste your time and hard earned money on a lackluster vacation. Take an American adventure. Let the beautiful land and sky create a majestic backdrop for your memories. Capture the spirit of the old frontier, rich in history, legends and lore. Saddle up and let your Wild West experience begin today!