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Rediscovering oneself in the West

Alex Miller
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McCOY – Randy Simmonds bumps along a dirt road on the border of Eagle and Routt counties talking about the problem with men these days.”Most men I talk to and ask who they’d call when a crisis hits, they don’t know,” said Simmonds, an ordained minister who is also a therapist with a Ph.D and 25 years of experience. “Ninety-five percent of the guys I know don’t have someone with that level of deep trust that allows men to share on a deeper level.”Up ahead, a golden eagle reluctantly makes way for Simmonds” Horizonquest truck, lifting off to show its 8-foot wingspan as two bald eagles soar on updrafts nearby. In this sleepy northwest corner of Eagle County, men in groups of five or six are starting to make their way to the newly renovated Yarmonny Creek Ranch, home of the Horizonquest program run by Simmonds.The mission is fairly straightforward: Men will spend a week at the ranch away from their daily lives. They’ll get to know one another, spend time relaxing and recreating and also working on their personal and spiritual identities. When the week is up, they’re asked to stay in touch with one another for at least a year, providing mutual support that will hopefully extend for a lifetime.With activities from skeet shooting, horseback riding and even calf-branding, the program may sound a little bit “City Slickers” but with a more serious edge. And although Horizonquest is most definitely a Christian organization, affiliated with the Edwards-based Samaritan Center of the Rockies, it’s not in any way evangelical, Simmonds said.”We heard these rumors, that we were some kind of Christian militia up here,” he said with a laugh. “That’s not what it’s about at all; it’s about sharing the faith.”

Rural chicLocated on 135 acres, the Yarmony Creek Ranch is owned by Pat McConathy, a Vail businessman with interests in the oil and gas industry who also owns a home near McCoy. Simmonds credits McConathy – an old friend – with bringing him to Eagle County in the first place. The two men arrived at the idea for the ranch retreat program and, with Simmonds’ therapy experience and McConathy’s money, the Horizonquest program was born.First, though, the run-down property had to be restored – a project that cost over $3 million, Simmonds said. It shows. With the help of McConathy’s wife Tricia, who handled much of the interior design, the ranch has been redone into the kind of getaway that would delight Ralph Lauren himself. Several of the original buildings, some over 100 years old, still stand. But they’ve been re-imagined, plumped and fluffed into beautiful rooms both comfortable and rustic. Think what it’d look like if the Cartwrights decided to put up a bed & breakfast on the Ponderosa.”We wanted to get it right and have an atmosphere of hospitality and respite care,” Simmonds said. “It’ll give guys a chance to take a breath.”Nice though the facilities are, the real point is in re-energizing men about their lives, he said. Simmonds said he talks to plenty of men who are, by society’s standards, very successful.

“They’ve made their million, the Mercedes is in the driveway, but they’re miserable,” he said. “What we want to do is create small bands of brothers to create the kinds of friendships and deep relationships, where men can talk about things, who they are, build relationships ….”A unique opportunityRetreats at fancy ranches are nothing new, nor are getaways for men. What’s truly unique about Horizonquest, Simmonds said, is the cost: It’s free. Men need only put down a refundable $250 deposit, and the organization with McConathy’s backing takes care of the rest.”We believe that if a man is willing to spend a week away from your life and your family and work on these things, then we’re willing to create the setting to make it happen,” he said.There isn’t a waiting list yet, but Simmonds expects that, once word gets out, there will be. So far as he’s concerned, the opportunity to have men work on their problems, get the support they need and find new friends to help them through it is far more preferable than dealing with the crises that might come later.



Walker, who runs Horizonquest from the operations end, said the goal is to re-create for the men the simpler times when friendships had time to grow.”When we think of who our best friends are, it’s the people from college or sports or the military, where you spend long periods of time with people with no agenda,” Walker said. “It’s about simulating that, those times when you formed the strongest friendships.”Far from their computers, Blackberries, cell phones and other distractions, men at Horizonquest will spend their days in conversation, lingering over meals, engaging in outdoor activities and, sometimes, simply spending time alone.”A week is a drop in the bucket after 30 years of being told to keep busy,” Simmonds said. “And it takes guys a few days to settle down, forget about checking their e-mail and feeling they trust everyone.”After that, he said he hopes men will open up and eventually return to their lives with a greater sense of purpose and integrity – not to mention a revitalized identity as a Christian.Ultimately, he said, Horizonquest will offer programs for women and couples. They’re starting with men to see how it all works out.”It’s really about keeping people out of the river instead of just pulling them out once they’ve fallen in,” he said.

==========================================To Learn MoreFor information about Horizonquest, go to horizonquest.org or call Randy Simmonds at 926-8558.==========================================Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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