It’s during those long winter months and darker days when people like me start to think about spring and summer and vacations and trips and sunshine.
It’s true, I like the planning nearly as much as I like the traveling. Well. I don’t know if that is entirely true. The point is, I love planning trips. I like looking at maps and measuring distances and thinking of ways to make the road trip fun. I like looking up funky road side attractions and making lists of where we could stop for the best BBQ in Nashville or the most delicious dessert in Kansas City.
And thinking about summer makes me think about the ranch that my family fell in love with last summer. (This picture looks all postcard and unreal – but – you guys, it is SO for real. Just my little iPhone’s camera and it was THIS beautiful.)
I’m not actually sure I ever did its beauty and charm full justice through my blog posts, but I wanted to try again to share our ranch experience. And to tell you, if you’re thinking about visiting this summer, you should be making your reservation already.
From the minute we arrived at Lost Valley Ranch, we felt welcomed and celebrated, like royalty or something. (And that is how they treat everyone who crosses the cattle guard.)
It’s all the little things:
Your name and a personal message on your door’s chalkboard.
The Keurig stoked with hot cocoa, tea and coffee in our cabin.
The logs stacked carefully to build a cozy fire with a fire starter and matches and a log with the LVL emblem burned into it.
Nightlights scattered around the cabin.
Turn down service every single night. Seriously! While we enjoyed a delicious dinner, fairy elves were in our cabin, setting the extra pillows to the side, turning down the covers and leaving a little chocolate treat on the pillows.
Beds made every single morning. Yes! While we enjoyed a fantastic breakfast with many options, those same fairy elves were in our cabin, making our beds, tidying our space and doing all the hard work for us.
Flashlights in the cabin – just in case.
Quality soaps and a sewing kit and lotion you actually want to use.
Homemade fresh cookies available every minute of every day in the lobby area with the giant leather seats and the comfy couches.
Their hospitality is a gigantic part of the beautiful service of the week at the ranch.
The first night the ranch owner is welcoming us all and the kids and I are grinning non-stop, happy to have arrived at the end of this dusty road and happy to be free from distractions and chores and responsibilities. Tony says in his welcome, like I wrote before, “Beyond these cattle guards, we know you’ve got issues and problems and struggles – but this week, let us handle them all. Let us feed you and let your cell phones not work and let us take care of you.” Words like that can make a mama like me cry genuine tears of relief and hope.
Lost Valley Ranch is sort of like a family summer camp. Kind of. It’s all inclusive, which aids the relaxation and no pressure attitude of the ranch. Once you’ve paid your price you are good to go. (I mean, obviously if you want to buy souvenirs at the Trading Post, you’ll need to spend more money, but you know what I mean. You’re not paying extra for horse rides or meals or whatnot.) Each evening a cute newspaper is waiting in your cabin with the next day’s activities and weather forecast and anything else you might need to know.
After breakfast with your family, where you can sit with other ranch guests, you can plan your day. Kids are divided by age and head out to the corral to go on a ride. You – the grown up – can go on a ride in the morning. Or, you cannot. You can learn to fly fish or skeet shot or you can hike a mountain, soak in one of the several hot tubs or hang out in your cabin all quiet and cozy like. Also, if your kids don’t want to ride horses that day, no problem. They don’t have to. At lunch you meet back up with the kids and have lunch with all the other guests.
There was a touch of the element of a get-to-know-you mixer at first, but since everyone is pretty much on their A Game – kids happy, no cooking required, no distractions – it was fun to meet and chat with the other guests. Lots and lots of them were long time fans of the ranch and many had been visiting with their families for years and years, summer after summer. (I did struggle the first few days remembering who was who – especially when people look so very different when they switch from baseball caps to cowboy hats.)
At every meal, when the waitrii (that’s the name they call themselves) ask you about the next meal’s options (it’s always food, food, food there – SO many delicious meals), you should always choose half and half. That is – half of each option. “Would you like to try the salmon or the fiesta salad or half of each?” It never mattered what they offered, I always answered, “Half of each, please.”
In the afternoon the schedule looked much the same. Kids can ride with their wranglers and kids their age. Adults can do the same. Or not. As for our gang, we all rode every day. Otto awoke each morning, “Mom, I get to ride today – right?”
The flexibility was phenomenal. All the good choices all day long. Ride or not ride. Hike or hot tub. Southwestern salad or pulled pork. Fly fishing or target shooting.
The evenings have a lovely rhythm and routine too. One night there’s a square dance. One night a melodrama that was equal parts quirky and goofy and the kids found it hilarious and it was loads of fun. One night there’s a cookout down at the “jail” and we all ride hay covered wagons and watch the most amusing night of sing alongs and talent show style entertainment. One evening the teens get their own campfire and late night experience. There’s a guest rodeo the last day and a wrangler rodeo the first day. Sand volleyball is available and swimming and lounging poolside and chatting with your horse – the one you get assigned the first day and make buddies with through the week.
It’s such a great week that the crash when you leave Sunday morning is actually physically painful. I mean, if you are my family, anyway.
It sounds like a cliche, but we actually made friends at the ranch that we’ve stayed in contact with throughout the year, friends that we’ve actually visited with since that summer trip. Like a magical summer camp for grown ups and kids too, it’s a ranch paradise in all the best ways.
Oh you guys, just writing about Lost Valley makes me itch to break out my cowboy boots and hop in the car and start that long journey all over again.