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Live from the Ranch

This is the official Ranch Journal, a collection of short reports about daily life on the ranch. Postings are made by all ranch staff, but mostly by Tess Leach & Kate Matheson, Guest Services Managers, David Leach, Business & Marketing Manager and Jeff Gossage, Ranch Manager. (Banner photo 3 by Stephen Weaver)

Friday, Apr 29, 2011
Well, it sure has been busy here at the ranch. Last week we had a wonderful week with a group of amazing guests. I was so glad to be able to enjoy the week with the Reed and Ciavola families, as well as the Hallims and the Kirkpatrick for a few days. All of our guests had great attitudes and were tons of fun; our reward was great weather and lots of racnh activities. I want to say a BIG thank you to all of you- it was a great week and you made that possible.
It is also an exciting time here because of all the calves on the ground. We took this great picture while moving the cows last week. It is really interesting to see how one cow will babysit so many calves, so the other cows can enjoy some grazing time without their little ones. Carla and I named this photo "the kindegarten class," as there were so many cute little calves with the one momma. She was equally proctective over all of the calves when we tried to approach them. Our cows are very good at protecting their young, the coyotes don't even have a chance to get them.
Then on Saturday, we saw our first bison calf on the ground. The bison traditionally calve in May, but it is common for them to start the process in late April. As of our bison tour this morning, I have seen 6 bison calves. I will try to post a picture next week, as they are really interesting to see. They actually look more like a cattle calf than a bison- they are born very small and are an orange color and do not have horns yet. The bison cows are even more protective of their calves and make it very difficult to even get a picture, as they are always trying to hide them behind their large bodies. Those bison cows that have not yet calved are very pregant, so I am sure we will see many more within the next week!
The wind continues to blow hear, but fortunately the lodge has calmed down some. We are looking forward to our next ranch guests arriving, including those participating in our joint week. We will be branding and camping out at the Chico Basin Ranch for 2 days, and I know they will show us a wonderful time. We still have a few openings left, so please give me a call if you are interested!
Posted by Asta R. on 04/29/2011

Crestone Needle
Another one of the four Crestones is Crestone Needle.

Crestone Needle's elevation is 14,197 ft. and is one of the four peaks making up the Crestones, that include Crestone Peak, Kit Carson Peak and Humboldt Peak.

Crestone Needle is one of the hardest fourteeners in Colorado due to the difficult routes and somewhat technical climbs that lead to the top, primarily the route between Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle.

Crestone Needle also gained popularity after being featured in Steve Roper and Allen Steck's book, Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.

A technical and beautiful peak!

*Information and picture sourced from Wikipedia
Posted by David L. on 04/27/2011

The Valley's Agricultural Roots
In the early 1800's, agriculture had begun being introduced to the valley with sheep and cattle ranching. This sliver of history is jam-packed with interesting stories, some quite tragic. Today's post tells the beginning of the story, and be sure to read next Thursday's post to learn about the Trujillo Family, one of the first Spanish families to settle on the Zapata. Here's a picture of Teojilo Trujillo and his 2 sons.

In the 1810’s, New Mexican pastors began herding sheep up the Rio Grande for summer grazing. Considerable trouble developed with the Ute Indians, but each year the sheep men secured more land. The demand for wool and mutton was so great in Colorado that cowboys are said to have planned raids to rustle sheep from Native Americans in Texas and bring them back to sell at Fort Garland, CO.

By the 1860’s cattlemen began to move into the San Luis Valley. Mexican families began settling the Zapata Ranch. Rivalries developed between the sheep ranchers and cattlemen over the acquisition of the land. Slowly but surely, with no legal recourse, the Mexican families sold their land to the Dickey family. Soon the Dickey Brothers owned 9,000 acres and acquired leases on 90,000 more. They choose, out of all their land, to make Medano Ranch their headquarters.
Posted by Tess L. on 04/21/2011

Getting Green
New green grass and foliage is beginning to emerge around the ranch and lodge! You can see the little patches of green starting to pop up in these pictures.

The weather was amazing over the weekend with temperatures in the 60's and bright sunny days. Tess and I went fishing on the Rio Grande in South Fork and it was great to shed some layers in the warm air.

Last night's full moon was one of the brightest I've ever seen due to clear skies and with so much light we had a song bird who sang all through the night probably thinking the sun was just about to come up. I bet he was wondering what was taking so long. It was pretty surreal to wake up at 3 in the morning and have light streaming in through the windows with a little bird singing away.

Today is the first day for several of our new ranch guests - two big families from Florida and a couple from France. We're looking forward to a fun week of riding and moving the bulls and bison into fresh pastures!
Posted by David L. on 04/18/2011

Thursday, Apr 14, 2011
Last weekend we packed into and camped at Sand Creek using a trail we’ve never tried before. The trail starts near the town of Crestone and goes about 20 miles or so to the visitor’s center at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. We rode a little less than halfway and camped at Sand Creek, the biggest drainage on the northern part of the Sangre De Cristo range. The first day was spent packing in and setting up camp, the second day we hiked up the cañon of Sand Creek, and the third day we reluctantly packed up and headed home. It’s always a treat for us to go into the mountains that are so close yet so far away in terms of making time to go. The picture captures the ride in and the first view of the Great Sand Dunes as we top a hill and head down into the creek bottom of Sand Creek.   
Posted by Jeff G. on 04/14/2011

Zebulon Pike and Zapata Ranch
Long time, no history post. Read below to hear the fascinating account of Zebulon Pike crossing over Medano Pass and viewing the grove of Cottonwood Trees that our lodge sits in. What a neat story!

(This picture of Zebulon Pike courtesy of:

The American Settlement of the San Luis Valley

In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson sent Lt. Zebulon Pike to discover the source of the Red River, which was considered to be the dividing line between the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase and the Spanish Territories. In the dead of winter, Pike crossed the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with twelve men. Upon exiting Mosca Pass, he described his first view of the sand dunes. He said it was as if one was looking upon a sea. We know from his journals that he descended and camped in a “copse” of cottonwoods that is now the headquarters for the Zapata Ranch. Unfortunately, Pike wandered into Spanish territory. One month after building a fort, the Spanish imprisoned him. Over one year later, he and his men were released at the Texas border.
Posted by Tess L. on 04/14/2011

Crestone Peak
Continuing the nearby 14,000-ft peak adventure, we go to Crestone Peak.

Crestone Peak is the second tallest peak in the Sangre de Cristo Range at 14,294 feet, and is the seventh tallest peak in Colorado. Although it is not the tallest 14er in Colorado, it is definitely one of the most challenging.

Several other 14,000 foot peaks are bunched closely nearby including Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Peak and Humboldt Peak. Together these are commonly referred to as the Crestones.

Crestone Peak is located just a few miles east of the town of Crestone and is a short drive from the ranch.

*Picture and information referenced from
Posted by David L. on 04/12/2011

Horsemanship Clinic - Special Guest Co-Leader
This year’s July Horsemanship clinic with Zapata Ranch and Chico Basin Ranch manager Duke Phillips, will be featuring a special guest Co-Leader. Cam Schryver from Thacher School in California will be joining us with his broad set of horseman skills and a lifetime of experience that will help riders immensely.

Mr. Schryver has been the head of the Thacher School Riding Program for the last twenty years, teaching annually, over 200 students how to improve their horsemanship skills. He feels his biggest accomplishment has been developing tangible and verbal presentation of information that students can use in their development as riders.

Mr. Schryver won the National Extreme Cowboy Race in 2009 and has participated in numbers of California rodeos and vaquero and reata ropings. His goal for this year is to qualify his horse for the world in the AQHA ranch horse versatility competition.

There is limited space left in the clinic and if you don’t have a chance to sign up for this year’s clinic, give us a call or email to get on the waiting list for next year.
Posted by David L. on 04/08/2011

Spring Is In The Air
Well the title says it all: spring is officially in the air here at the ranch. One of my favorite parts of spring are our newborn calves. No matter how many times you see these little guys running around, they always make you smile. I took a ride out to see the cavles on Monday, along with some great guests that we had staying with us. We saw some a calf that looked like it  had been born within the last 24 hours. It was still a bit wet and still had part of it's umbilical cord attached (it is the one nursing its mom in the picture). There were 3 others that were all playing with one another- its maazing how quickly they get their legs under them. They are able to run about and head butt one another when they are just a few days old! While we were out, we saw 2 other cows who were in the birthing process, but we gave them plenty of space, so we didn't interrupt the process. Cattle tend to move away from the rest of the herd during birthing, which I find to be interesting. I was surprised not to see any coyotes lurking near the pasture, as they often do during calving season. Fortunately, our moms are all very good at protecting their young.
Another sign of spring (for everyone I'm sure) is spring cleaning. Tess, Jeff and I spent a great deal of time cleaning out one of our shops today and getting organized for the coming season. It is such a big relief to have it all cleaned out and ready to go, even though the process can be a bit bothersome.
Tomorrow we are heading out to move the bison from the Dixie pasture to the ANtelope pasture. Margot and I have been hard at work trying to get all of our horses ridden and legged up for the season to get in full swing, so we are excited to have a chance to take some more of the horses out on a good, long ride tomorrow. Jeff and Nick will be taking out their young horses they have been working with, so stay tuned to see how they did!
Posted by Asta R. on 04/06/2011

Friday, Apr 01, 2011
While we were away at the Chico branding calves, our buffs took full advantage of the lack of supervision and busted out of their pasture. I got a call from Asta on Tuesday about noon and heard the news about our escaped herd. Luckily, they were stopped by the fence on the north end of the Wyatt, the pasture north of the Dixie where they were supposed to be. Wednesday was spent fixing the fence and taking them south back into the Dixie. Asta and Margot were a huge help to Nick and I two days in a row; muchas gracias ladies.
Posted by Jeff G. on 04/01/2011

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