REDSTONE, Colorado The idea was to resurrect something my family has neglected the past few years: The family vacation, with brothers, sisters-in-law, niece, nephew, mom, significant other and even Maddie the dog. In lieu of Christmas gifts this year, we agreed to spend something in short supply time together. The challenge was finding a place that was within four hours driving distance for family as far away as Denver, could accommodate a party of 10, wouldnt drain the bank account and would offer fun for people ages three to 67. As one would guess, it was no easy task. Situated in view of towering Mount Sopris and the meandering Crystal River, Avalanche Ranch is equal parts beautiful and authentic. The 36-acre ranch is located just outside Redstone. Along with 13 1950s-era remodeled log cabins, guests can rent the three-bedroom sprawling ranch house on the property, which fit our family perfectly. A plate of homemade peanut butter cookies greeted us when we arrived and other small touches made us feel instantly at home firewood was perfectly stacked in the fireplace, ready for the marshmallow roasting that would come later. Along with extra bedding, a box filled with games was in the closet. Visitors can help themselves 24 hours a day to a collection of movies in the lodge across the way. A large cabinet outside the ranch office is stocked with fishing gear, snowshoes and poles, all free for guests.
Black Susan, a sleek tomcat, stood sentry on the sunny porch of the original 1913 homestead house most of the weekend. A patchwork collection of farm animals horses, sheep, chickens, a noisy rooster, a fat gray donkey named Tony and Alex the llama live on the ranch, alongside Molly Jacober, her husband Tai and their two children, Sophia, 7, and Fisher, 2. Jacober has managed the ranch since 2006 when her parents, former Vail residents Chuck and Meredith Ogilby, purchased it.
Our first full day at the ranch dawned clear and beautiful. After a big breakfast of vegetable quiche, sausage and hashbrowns, we bundled up and headed into Redstone, nicknamed Ruby of the Rockies, for a few supplies at the well-stocked general store. Look to your right as you turn off the highway into the town the beehive-like structures buried in the hillside are Coke Ovens, built in the late 1800s to transform raw coal into the high-grade coke used in the production of steel.Back at the ranch, we bundled up and headed out to explore. Near the barn, a few small snow-covered hills and a handful of sleds kept my 7-year-old niece, Kendall, and 3-year-old nephew, Holden, entertained, though they liked sliding down the hill much more than trudging up it. Once at the top though, theyd grin before launching down the hill, giggling wildly as they hit a natural jump at the bottom. Later, after hot chocolate and steaming bowls of tortilla soup, we pocketed handfuls of carrots, celery and radishes and headed back outside to visit the ranch animals. With wide brown eyes and long eyelashes, Alex the llama blinked at us nonchalantly, moving a step back as we reached out to pet him. He was aloof right up until Holden held out a bright orange carrot instant interest. And while he turned up his nose at the pink radish, Tony the chubby donkey was quite happy to chow down.Later in the afternoon, Molly chatted with us while her new puppy, Violet, ran circles underfoot. She pointed out a snowshoeing trail that takes visitors on a loop around the ranch and back by the pond, which she said she stocks each year with Rainbow Trout. The idea is that guests on the ranch hoping to fry up trout for dinner will keep the fish they catch in the the pond rather than the river.There are some that make it over the years and they are big, she said, smiling.Guests searching for a bit more of a challenge can fish a 1/2 mile stretch on the Crystal River, across the highway from the ranch. During our stay, my significant other spent a significant amount of time doing just that, insisting the whole time that he wasnt trying to avoid family time. He caught about a dozen fish in a few hours, including Rainbow Trout and Mountain Whitefish. Since hes a catch-and-release purist, he was empty-handed upon his return. Instead, we feasted on slow-cooked beef tacos, homemade pinto beans with bacon and coconut cupcakes for dessert. After plenty of games Jenga, Sequence and a few Wii tournaments where Holden, age 3, bowled a 170, beating most people in the room we called it a night. Good thing we did. Around 7 a.m. the first thing the kids requested was to go look for eggs in the chicken coop, something Molly had offered the previous evening. And while we didnt find any eggs hiding underneath the plump, noisy chickens, we did find what wed come looking for a renewed appreciation for family. High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avalanche Ranch is owned by former Vail residents Chuck and Meredith Ogilby. The couple are partners in Shrine Mountain Inn on Vail Pass and used to co-own Apolo Park in Vail. The Ogilbys have owned the property adjacent to Avalanche Ranch Hell Roaring Ranch since 1978. They ran a bed & breakfast there called the Crystal River Inn for a number of years. When the opportunity came up for the Ogilbys to buy Avalanche Ranch in 2006 it felt natural, said Molly Jacober, the ranch general manager and the Ogilbys daughter.
Getting there: Take Interstate 70 West to exit 116 for Glenwood Springs. Follow the signs toward Aspen. Glenwood Springs Main Street turns into Highway 82 at the edge of town. Continue on the highway 10 miles to the intersection of Highway 133 and turn right into Carbondale. Go 13 miles straight to Avalanche Ranch. There is a big sign on the right.Address: 12863 St. Hwy. 133, RedstonePhone: 877-963-9339Web site: www.avalancheranch.comRates: Range from $99/night in low season for a studio cabin to $209 a night for a two-bedroom cabin in high season. The Ranch House ranges from $295 to $425 a night depending on the season. Things to do: For adventuresome souls, boiling hot springs seep into the Crystal River just a mile downriver from Avalanche Ranch at Penny Hot Springs. While theres no sign for the natural springs, theres a large pull off and usually a car or two parked on the side of the road. The towns landmark is the Redstone Castle, a circa-1897, 42-room, Tudor-style home that has hosted guests such as John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Teddy Roosevelt. Tours of the castle are at 1:30 p.m. Friday through Monday during the winter. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students, children and seniors and free for kids under 5. Call 970-963-9656 for more information.