Just imagine yourself taking one of the best vacations of your life at a dude ranch. Wide open spaces, clear air and friendly cowboys and cowgirls. You won't have to worry about looking good, just have fun and get into the spirit of an old-time ranch.
There are more than 100 members in the Dude Ranchers' Association. To be a member, each ranch must pass through a rigorous two-year inspection before being accepted as a full member. You can contact this entity by calling (970) 223-8440 or visit the Web site www.duderanch.org/index5.htm.
Perhaps a cattle drive suits you. One ranch offers Doublerafter Cattle Drives, which claims to offer an authentic 1880s cattle drive. Located in Ranchester, Wyo., they promise you a trip of a lifetime. They say, compared to them, the "City Slickers" movie was a pony ride! They claim that theirs is the real thing in that they do not schedule phony stampedes, cloudbursts, blizzards, rodeos, wagon wrecks, or brush fires. They happen on their own. Phone 1-800-704-9268 for more information.
Also, check out www.wyobearmountain.com, phone (397) 834-2492. They are currently featuring the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in Sandpoint, Idaho. Another is the Brown Creek Ranch in Claresholm, Alberta, Canada. Rates for all these ranches vary, but usually fall between $125 to $200 per day, per person. Horse rental is usually extra at about $45 per hour and meals are priced at different rates, but reasonable.
Closer in is the Double E. Dude Ranch in Gila, N.M. Here you can indulge your cowboy spirit with cattle work, participate in the day-to-day roundups, feed the horses and cattle, and ride the trails. Activities include grooming and tacking horses, cattle work, colt-starting and training their horses by riding them. At the end of the day, have a seat in a rocking chair and sip a cool one. In the morning wake up to the sound of birds in the trees, and the sun coming over the mountain. Chores begin at 7 a.m.
Want to try your hand at some roping? In the morning, you'll do some ground work and after lunch, be on horseback throwing your rope at the calves in the corral. Another day is perhaps a 20-mile round trip ride to the Rastus Cabin or Cottonwood Canyon with a packed lunch. You can ride where Geronimo rode around Horseshoe Canyon and into First Valley. You just might see big horn rams or javelina.
At this ranch you stay in various homes. You choose, according to the space you require. The rates vary between $100 to $200 per person, per night. Meals are all ranch-style. If you participate in one of the Double E. Guest Ranch formal round-ups - which this year are scheduled April 13 - 19 and May 25 - 31, you'll learn that the trail boss is always in charge of the drive. Everyone takes directions from him.
You can contact the Double E. Ranch by writing to it at 67 Double E. Ranch Road, Gila, N.M. 88038. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone (505) 535-2048.
There is a fine selection of dude ranches in Arizona. Using the words, "dude ranches in Arizona" in a computer search will reward you with plenty of information on these western adventures.
If you do this, have a great time doing something different! Who knows, you just may do it a second time?