When planning your next dream trip, what plays the biggest role in deciding where to go? Is it your budget . . . time of year . . . activities . . . accommodations? How about the number of vacation days you have left? Well it just might be that the weather ends up being the biggest factor.
To mark our 20th wedding anniversary, my wife and I booked a trip to Colorado this past September to take advantage of a shoulder season that (usually) features beautiful fall weather. It turns out that two weeks before our scheduled flight, we sadly watched unrelenting torrential rains devastated the state. I was convinced we’d be forced to change our plans.
Fortunately, the massive flooding that forced the evacuation of several towns north of Denver didn’t impact our visit to the C Lazy U Ranch 100 miles to the west. Unfortunately, we couldn’t say the same for our stay in Estes Park, where road closures made us detour over two hours to get there. Thankfully, the golden foliage was out in full force and the temperatures managed to hover in the 60s/70s during the daytime.
Like most “nature lovers”, our idea of the perfect romantic getaway includes plenty of outdoor recreation and accommodations that offer refinements that go well beyond the standard hotel room. When planning for this particular occasion, the C Lazy U Ranch easily met this criteria.
There would be plenty of activities like fly fishing, tennis, trap shooting, archery, mountain biking, ropes courses, and of course, horseback riding to choose from. Better yet, they were all available amidst an awe-inspiring, untamed landscape.
The ranch encompasses over 8,500 acres of lush meadows, Aspen lined mountain trails, and the Colorado River. It’s one of the few remaining places where you can experience the traditions of the American West from the moment you arrive. Family, horsemanship and land preservation form the foundation of their mission: Honoring and preserving the traditions of the Great American West.
Ultimately, we chose the C Lazy U Ranch for the opportunity to try some “glamping”. After all, how better to experience this special part of the country than with an overnight campout?
After a savory gourmet dinner at The Lodge, we hung around the fire pit with some guests we had just met from California and Canada. As the drinks wound down, a ranch hand escorted us in a motorized golf cart to the outpost where our tent was all set up and waiting for us. Inside, we found a king size bed and a pair of twins. Since this was one of the rare times we weren’t traveling with the kids, there’d be no need for the extra sleeping arrangements, other than to prop up our suitcases.
Besides four solid walls, indoor plumbing, and a reliable climate control system, we pretty much enjoyed the same amenities found in the cabins back at the ranch. The rustic ambience included oil lamps, all-wooden furniture, and to our great delight, our very own S’mores kit!
With temperatures dropping down into the lower 40s, starting a fire in our own fire pit was appealing for more than just the S’mores. After warming up and successfully sandwiching roasted marshmallows between two pieces of graham cracker and some Hershey’s chocolate, it was time to get cozy.
Although my wife and I love the whole camping experience, sleeping with only a thin layer of canvas between you and the great outdoors does present its challenges when it comes to getting a good night’s rest. Even though the late night silence was often broken by howling coyotes and bugling elk, I didn’t mind the interrupted slumber. Waking up to a glorious sunrise glistening through the morning mist made the restless night more than worth it.
After returning to the ranch, our daily activities revolved mainly around two central locations: The Barn, originally built in 1925 and now houses the supplies for over 180 horses, and The Patio House, where we enjoyed lunch and dinner cook-outs, lounged by the pool, and soaked in the hot tub (the kids, if they were with us, would likely have ditched us for its game room).
If the Patio House was the center for all the casual activities, The Five Spur Spa is where we got centered. In the spirit of glamping and getting more in-touch with our natural surroundings, two of the massage tents are suspended over the river and have glass floors, so you can contemplate the movement of the water during a massage.
And unlike many other dude ranches out west, the onset of freezing temperatures and snow doesn’t close things down at C Lazy U. Snowcat skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding & snowtubing, snowmobiling, and even horseback riding (both indoors and out) offer enough to keep you active.