Sad­dle Up For A Great Fam­ily Va­ca­tion

Riverbank News - - NEIGHBORHOOD VALUES - By CARY ORDWAY Cal­i­for­ni­aweek­end.com

If a com­plete and to­tal es­cape from the city is among your Cal­i­for­nia va­ca­tion ob­jec­tives this year, you could hardly do bet­ter than to visit one of Cal­i­for­nia’s lux­u­ri­ous guest ranches. Lo­cated in some of the most beau­ti­ful and pris­tine wilder­ness the state has to of­fer, these ranches spe­cial­ize in put­ting fam­i­lies back in touch with Na­ture — and with each other.

The sum­mer sea­son is prime time for guest ranch­ing fam­i­lies who maybe have tried Dis­ney­land or taken a fam­ily cruise va­ca­tion but have been search­ing for an­other unique ex­pe­ri­ence that ev­ery mem­ber of the fam­ily can en­joy. A week-long stay at a guest ranch means that Mom, Dad and the kids will all be eat­ing to­gether — three hearty home-cooked meals a day — and that the par­ents will ac­tu­ally have some inkling where, at any given time, they can find their kids.

If that sounds good for par­ents, it gets even bet­ter for kids. Most lux­u­ri­ous guest ranches rec­og­nize they are com­pet­ing with Dis­ney­land for the fam­ily va­ca­tion dol­lar and have made a point to in­clude a long list of games and ac­tiv­i­ties to make sure that even the most ornery teenager doesn’t get bored. There’s the ob­vi­ous — horse­back rid­ing, and plenty of it — but add to that such ac­tiv­i­ties as swimming, tub­ing on nearby rivers, volleyball, darts, fly fish­ing, archery and gold pan­ning.

“We had one Aus­tralia fam­ily visit Dis­ney­land and our ranch in the same va­ca­tion,” re­called Ali­cia Ryan of Cof­fee Creek Guest Ranch, “and the fam­ily emailed us from home just to tell us that the ranch was all the kids were talk­ing about.”

Score one for lux­u­ri­ous guest ranches. The ranches will score a few more points with adults who deal with city traf­fic and crowded work­places ev­ery day of the work week and fig­ure the last thing they want to do on va­ca­tion is stand in long lines for theme parks and their rides. Once they’re set­tled in at a guest ranch, they may find a to­tal of just 50 or 60 other guests spread out over many acres with most guests out rid­ing or in­volved in ac­tiv­i­ties. End re­sult: peace and quiet for Mom and Dad.

When the movie “City Slick­ers” came out sev­eral years back, the im­pact on the guest ranch industry was sig­nif­i­cant. Maybe it was the way the movie showed ev­ery-day city peo­ple adapt­ing very well, thank you, to the Great Out­doors — what­ever the rea­son, ranches saw more busi­ness than ever. In re­cent years, some ranches have found that growth has lev­eled off some­what as com­peti­tors such as cruise lines lower their prices and ris­ing ga­so­line prices dis­cour­age long dis­tance car travel. So nowa­days, many lux­u­ri­ous guest ranches are in­clud­ing every­thing but the kitchen sink in their “allinclu­sive” price.

Op­er­a­tors of lux­u­ri­ous guest ranches say that most peo­ple who come to stay at a guest ranch share a love of the out­doors, al­though the ma­jor­ity of visi­tors are not ex­pe­ri­enced horse­back rid­ers. The rid­ing is prob­a­bly the best way to get out and en­joy the scenery, and rides of var­i­ous lengths are sched­uled through­out each day. Skill lev­els are taken into ac­count when de­cid­ing what horse you will be rid­ing while at the ranch and, of­ten, guests will get train­ing and greatly im­prove their skills as the week goes on.

But not ev­ery­one who comes to stay at a lux­u­ri­ous guest ranch is fo­cused on horse­back rid­ing. “That’s where the swimming pool comes in,” says Tr­ish Wil­burn, owner of Green­horn Creek Guest Ranch, “and the hot tub, the porch swing, the fish­ing pond ‘ they never run out of things to do.”

Ranch ac­com­mo­da­tions vary, but gen­er­ally these ranches of­fer a kind of “lux­ury” that is more rus­tic than peo­ple ex­pect from a fancy re­sort. Pri­vate bath­rooms are gen­er­ally the rule, and rooms and cab­ins are clean and nice. The only peo­ple who are dis­ap­pointed, ranch op­er­a­tors say, are the peo­ple who ex­pect five-star ac­com­mo­da­tions, which can be im­prac­ti­cal in the more re­mote lo­ca­tions.

But when you con­sider where you are and com­pare the ameni­ties with camp­ing, these ranches are in­deed “lux­u­ri­ous.”

The home-cooked food is where most lux­u­ri­ous guest ranches shine — am­ple help­ings of beef, pork, chicken and many other basics are avail­able ei­ther buf­fet-style or in fam­ilystyle serv­ing dishes ready for guests on the ta­ble.

Most ranches of­fer allinclu­sive rates that in­clude lodg­ing, food and ac­tiv­i­ties, and some­times un­lim­ited horse­back rid­ing. These are not es­pe­cially cheap va­ca­tions, al­though the all-in­clu­sive as­pect does mean you’ll spend money on noth­ing else dur­ing your stay. Prices for a week at a guest ranch can run from $800 to $1,400 per per­son, per week, de­pend­ing on the sea­son and whether horse­back rid­ing, taxes and gra­tu­ities are in­cluded. Daily rates are avail­able at some ranches while oth­ers re­quire a one-week min­i­mum. Also ask for fam­ily or group rates, which may save you money if you’re tak­ing a fam­ily.

There are sev­eral lux­u­ri­ous guest ranches lo­cated in var­i­ous parts of Cal­i­for­nia, most sit­u­ated in moun­tain­ous, wooded ter­rain but eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble by car. Here are three ex­am­ples of Cal­i­for­nia guest ranches:

Green­horn Creek Ranch — Lo­cated near Quincy, Cal­i­for­nia about 70 miles north­west of Reno, NV, this ranch has been cater­ing to Cal­i­for­nia trav­el­ers for many years. For the last five years, Ralph and Tr­ish Wil­burn have op­er­ated the ranch, steadily build­ing clien­tele and adding ameni­ties. This heav­ily tim­bered part of Cal­i­for­nia is known for its many lakes and streams, and ranch guests are al­ways im­pressed by the area’s over­all beauty. The ranch can ac­com­mo­date up to 80 peo­ple in 16 cab­ins and 12 lodge rooms. A week-long stay at Green­horn be­gins with a one­hour rid­ing les­son and ba­sic ori­en­ta­tion that matches each guest with the ap­pro­pri­ate horse. Through­out the week, guests can get ad­di­tional in­struc­tion and ride on var­i­ous ter­rains rang­ing from gen­tle slopes to dirt and gravel roads to trails. Other ranch ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude trout fish­ing in the ranch’s own pond, swimming, frog-rac­ing, square and line danc­ing, hayrides, bon fires, golf, hik­ing and even a rodeo. For more in­for­ma­tion, phone 800-5872418 or visit www.green­horn­ranch.com.

Fam­ily rid­ers va­ca­tion at this lux­u­ri­ous ranch for a get away.

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