I am regularly reminded of the investment, gamble, and anxiety that a trip to a new vacation spot entails. What if the new site disappoints you, is misrepresented, or is otherwise less than advertised?
Here is a mail that came in this morning, that tells us we have been on the radar for this family vacation for 5 years!
“Was wondering if you had availability in July. We are open for any dates then. It would be for my husband and I, and our 14 year old daughter.
Been thinking of visiting for over 5 years! We were going to go to Europe but I think this actually might be more fun!”
Just a few hours later, we received the following sorrowful e-mail
telling of the passing of a dear friend and ranch guest from last year. He was the patriarch of a marvelous family
that gambled on our family ranch as the location for their 50th
anniversary celebration. We have since
shared Christmas cards, birthday gifts and photos as we continue our extended
friendship. Now, we join our friends in
mourning over the passing of Bill, the gentle and loving patriarch of the
“It is with deep sadness I'm writing to let you know of the passing of my father Bill ____. He died suddenly on Thursday night, Feb 14th. I'm sure you remember his great personality, stories, and laughter.
We have been looking through photos for a couple of days, many from Marble Mountain Ranch. It was the best vacation any of us have ever had together. Before our trip, he was so concerned that his "gamble" on a previously unknown (to us) spot would work out... no need to worry. Thank you for making our 50th anniversary celebration trip such a fantastic time….”
I am struck by many thoughts and emotions at the time. “What if Bill had also waited 5 years to schedule their family vacation?” The glorious memories and the family bonding during their shared vacation would not be available had Bill stalled in his commitment to take the family.
inescapably mortal. We have limited time
and opportunities to bond with our loved ones, and sometimes it behooves us to
capture the shared times sooner rather than later. Thanks for gambling on us Bill, we will miss you.
We hope that all of you too, as well as our 5 year observer, can join us this year for a vacation that will be on your family’s “best ever” list.
The best advertising is always free. Word of mouth referrals, Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews are tops on the list of great free exposure for us. However, every 4-6 months we have also been getting nice coverage in various magazines such as the Sacramento “Style” magazine, the Rachel Ray magazine, and most recently in this month’s “Money” magazine.
The January 2013 Money magazine has an article on page 55 addressing high value all inclusive vacations. The author’s choice for the best dude ranch in this category was, yes, Marble Mountain Ranch. Wahoo! And HOOT HOOT!!!
I often struggle with our list of inclusions as I market our packages, because they are generally not available or expected to be included in typical dude ranch packages. In fact, the term “all inclusive” has become so diluted that it is unfortunately a point of misrepresentation to some unwary shoppers. Here is a contrast I see in the industry:
“All Inclusive” inclusions at ranch XYZ = three meals daily, lodging of some sort, some level of horse riding program, evening group ranch events, and ranch infrastructure.
“All Inclusive” inclusions (is this redundant?) at Marble Mountain ranch IN ADDITION to those listed at ranch XYZ = rafting and kayaking three times during the weekly program, daily shooting sports at our range, riding instruction in addition to trail rides, fly fishing instruction and group fish-outs, mid morning bakery brunch, unlimited drinks, taxes, and free airport shuttles.
It seems to me that the savvy shopper might be wise to ask prospective ranch sites the question: “What is NOT included in your package offerings?”
I had a sad phone call last summer from a guest who had left a competitor’s location early, and was desperately trying to get his family into our filled program. One of the notable complaints was that there were too many unexpected expenses for his budgeted “all inclusive” vacation. The anticipated vacation was turning out to be much more expensive than planned. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do other than offer a friendly ear.
Anyway, we are thankful for all of the marvelous reviews our guests have posted for Marble Mountain Ranch, and for the regular free exposure our dude ranch gets in the print media.
We hope you and your family can join us in the coming season for a truly all-inclusive dude ranch vacation. Just park your wallet in your car and enjoy the week.
Doug and Heidi Cole
Here at Marble Mountain Dude Ranch, in Somes Bar, California, we live in a climate that is classified as temperate, with the four seasons clearly defined. At the moment, the clearly defined season is WINTER! Upriver at Happy Camp, snowdrifts are ranging from 2-6 feet deep with downed trees, downed power lines, and power outages, resulting from the heavy snow. It’s just a royal mess. Many of the town residents have had barns collapse under snow loads, trees have fallen on homes and equipment, many roads are impassible, and life is all around more difficult.
Just 35 miles downriver at the Marble Mountain Dude Ranch, we have mildly slushy rain and no snow on the ground at the moment. The river corridor is hidden under floating masks of fog with teasing filaments of winter light. I have to qualify the image though. If you leave the river highway and drive 5 minutes up any secondary road to gain elevation, you are again hindered by deep snow, fallen trees and impassible roads.
We are grateful at Marble Mountain Ranch for the consistent power provided by our off-grid hydroelectric plant, for the dramatically milder winters (although they are very wet), and for this winter season when we can live a more private life out of the public eye. Yes, we love all of our dude ranch guests, but this season is our time to rejuvenate and connect with family in a private venue. We hope all of our dude ranch guests are also enjoying this season, the family connections, and the time to reflect on deeper aspects of our lives. Merry Christmas and happy new year to you all, and we wish the best for all of our extended ranch family. And yes, we hope to see you all again this coming summer.
Doug and Heidi Cole
We were recently contacted by a large print publication doing an article on multi generational travel. In the course of our discussions it reminded me of our rather unique position in providing kid friendly dude ranch vacations. With our group rafting trips, arena ride training, and family groupings, we may be the best dude ranch for kids and whole family bonding.
It seems to me that there are two divergent approaches to handling kids at a dude ranch.
1. Create a kids only program that separates the youth from the family. Councilors and youth staff run a ranch version of a summer camp in this business model. It works well if you can keep the kids happily engaged, but you still loose out on the prospect of generational bonding during this time.
2. We prefer to create a program that enables whole family participation and facilitates shared events. This allows bonding across the generations. This is an especially important consideration if you are a parent or grand parent who is hoping to grow and strengthen family connections. From what we see in ranches following the “kids only” programs mentioned first, the adults often get their “alone time” at the saloon, and the teenagers are left to themselves in the game room.
Clearly there is a risk management consideration when it comes to choreographing rides that include divergent skill sets. To this end, we run all of our trail rides to match the skills of the LEAST capable rider. This forces us to segregate out advanced riders from beginners, and yes, the family is separated in this scenario too. We manage the rafting by providing several participation levels for the raft trip. Parents with young children can run the river in an oar powered raft with the guide doing all the work. Families with older kids might choose a participatory paddle raft, or even single person inflatable kayaks.
There is a place for both these approaches to family friendly dude ranching, but at Marble Mountain Ranch we target whole family participation in as many venues as possible.
If your preference is for more of an adult vacation, we suggest a Fall season visit. September through November brings us a singles, couples and more mature guest audience. The Fall also generally has smaller guest populations at the ranch, and allows us more flexibility in customizing riding, rafting or fishing trips to suit your individual needs.
We hope you can join us for one of the best kid friendly and family oriented guest ranches in the West.
Doug and Heidi
Most of the fall is usually fishy, with fishermen coming and going for our steelhead fly fishing trips , or nutty, with walnuts and pecans dropping both nuts and leaves faster than I can pick them up. However, today all things centered around Pears at our family ranch. Although we did not have much of a pear harvest from our own trees this year, due to odd spring/summer weather, we were blessed to be able to obtain pears from our church farm in Medford Oregon. Today I woke up with the daunting task of figuring out what to do with 120 pounds of pears after having already processed about 60 pounds of Bartlett pears. Today I was working with Comice, D’anjou, and Bosc pears. My counters are now covered with beautiful jars of pickled pears, pear honey, and pear mincemeat. We enjoyed the pear mincemeat with our pork tenderloin tonight and smothered our corn bread in pear honey. YUM! Hope you are all having a marvelous fall. It’s a glorious time of year filled with lots of color and the harvests of the season.
Here is a another of my "what's in the refrigerator" blog entries, title Autumn Pear Torte
Autumn Pear Torte
* 2 1/2 cups flour
* 8 oz. (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1 inch lengths
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1/8 tsp. salt
* 1 egg yolk
* 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
* 2 tsp. water
* 1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs (or ground almonds)
* 6 ripe (d’Anjou or Comice) pears
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) butter, cut into 1 inch lengths
* 1 1/4 cup blanched or unblanched almonds
* 1 egg
* 1 tsp. flour
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 8 oz. mascarpone
To make the pastry, put the flour, butter, sugar, and salt in a food
processor, and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the egg yolk, with the vanilla and water. With the machine running, pour in this mixture and process until the dough just comes together. Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 10 inch springform pan and chill until needed.
Meanwhile, peel, halve, and core the pears. Spread the breadcrumbs over the bottom of the prepared tart shell, and arrange the pears all over the bottom with the rounded side out. You may need to cut some of the pears to fit in the shell.
To make the filling, put the sugar, butter, almonds, whole egg, flour in the food processor and process until smooth. Cover the pears with the almond mixture. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until golden brown, approx. 1 hour. Let rest for an hour before serving (This torte will keep in the fridge for a week). Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream mixed with mascarpone. Serves 8
This year we are starting an new program of Bed and Breakfast culinary retreats . The pear torte will be highlighted on one of our upcoming classes. We hope you can join us!~ Heidi Cole