Dude Ranch

This summer my family took a long two-week vacation to the western part of the U.S.A. We ventured to Mesa Verde National Park, Durango, Ft. Collins, Grand Canyon National Park, and ended at Cherokee Park Ranch. I was able to see so many neat places that were so different from other vacation spots. When most kids (and some adults) hear the word “vacation” they think of a beach. But there is so much more on this earth to see than palm trees! This was such a diverse trip, and I loved it! Below you will find my western adventures.

To start out our Murphy family vacation, we had a wonderful 18 hour drive to Aurora, Colorado. Yay. Driving through Kansas. SO exciting. Anyway, we arrived in Aurora, spent the night there, and then drove to Durango. It’s such a cute little town! There were so many small shops and restaurants; it was just a charming, quaint place. We spent the night at the Double Tree hotel. I was very happy with this particular hotel. The service was good, there was a jogging path right behind the hotel, and a small river was floating by. Plus we got our signature Double Tree cookies: Yum! After our short stay in Durango, we headed to Mesa Verde National Park. It was amazing! When we arrived at the park, we decided that we would do the Balcony House Tour. This tour was so fun! It had such great views, our tour guide was phenomenal, and I learned a lot of really nifty stuff. I would not recommend this tour for small children because we did climb a few pretty tall ladders. I would also not suggest this tour if you are uncomfortable with heights; the tall ladders are on the edge of a canyon (it sounds crazy but it was really awesome and beautiful). We spent the night at the Fairview Lodge, which is inside the park. The rooms were extremely simple, but they weren’t dirty or disgusting. Just simple. There was also a restaurant and a lounge. The food was very good and the lounge was a great place to just hang out and listen to music. I was content with Fairview Lodge. We then made are our way to Grand Canyon National Park. I must say, this was the most breath-taking drive I think I have ever had. The scenery was gorgeous, with the magnificent plateaus all around. I had never seen anything like it, and it was just so unique. Once at Grand Canyon, I had the privilege to witness yet another wonder of nature. I swear it wasn’t real. It looks exactly like the photographs and it really could’ve been a painting. It was so scenic and gorgeous. Then I noticed the people. People everywhere. It was so crowded and kind of ruined the picture for me. I usually don’t mind big crowds, but this one really bothered me. Few people seemed to really appreciate how cool this whole thing was. The next day, we solved that problem. We hiked down into the Grand Canyon. There weren’t as many people, and the people we did see were kind, and seemed to be enjoying themselves. These were where the real outdoorsy people were, and they valued and respected nature. This was my image of the Grand Canyon before I arrived, and I am very pleased that I was able to leave with that picture in my mind. I felt that two days in the Grand Canyon was plenty, and we soon left for Ft. Collins, Colorado. I had been to Ft. Collins before, and it continues to be my favorite city in Colorado. It’s so cute and charming, with all of its little shops and restaurants. After a quick stop for lunch and ice cream in Fort Collins, we headed toward the crux of our trip: Cherokee Park Ranch. We would be staying at the ranch for a week (which was so not enough!). Cherokee Park Ranch was amazing! We rode horses, swam, fished, hiked, ate really delicious food, met some wonderful people, and so much more. If you are thinking about going to a guest ranch, I would highly recommend Cherokee Park. There is so much to do for all ages and all skill levels of horseback riding, and there is such a variety of activities to participate in every day. Some of the activities include white water rafting, a van trip to Laramie Wyoming, cookouts, a visit to the neighbor’s art gallery, square dancing (one of my favorite parts) and rodeos. The staff members are wonderful; they really make the week so enjoyable and entertaining! I loved Cherokee Park, it easily was one of my favorite places I’d been to, and I really want to return back! As you can see, this was a pretty awesome trip. I encourage you to broaden your variety and try a Colorado vacation. All of the above places mentioned are wonderful and adventurous and I recommend that you spend some time in said places if you choose to vacation out west.

Submitted by Emma Murphy, September 2013