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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)

Land Monitoring Workshop
Last week Charley Orchard from Land EKG came out to our sister ranch, Chico Basin, to teach a workshop on monitoring land health.

Charley's system is recognized by most major agencies like the BLM and Forest Service as an acceptable, accurate and reputable method for measuring land health. Land EKG is comparable to a regular EKG, the machine they hook you up to in a hospital to monitor your heart and make sure you don't flat-line (i.e. die), and is a system that allows you to measure land health year to year so that you can make management decisions based on the land's status.

The best part about the system is that it's easy to use and only needs to be done once a year. The gist of what you do each year is you return to set locations on your property and photograph the exact same locations each year to monitor plant and soil progress. The photographs and notes you take are then uploaded to an online database that is extremely easy to use, that allows you to compare pictures and notes side-by-side. So after loading this year's photos I can compare them to the same points from the past three years and see whether or not there are new plants, new bare ground, etc and make management decisions based off of the progress.

The ease of use while remaining a professional tool is a big win for ranchers that allows us to have top-notch, accepted data at our fingertips and right online when we need it at the drop of a hat. Being able to easily show and document ranching as an effective land management tool is a very exciting thing.

Thanks to Charley and to everyone who made it to the workshop!

Click here for the Land EKG workshops schedule.
Posted by David L. on 08/30/2011

Steve Weaver's Photography Workshop is underway!
Yesterday began Steve Weaver's photography workshop at Zapata. We have people from all over the US here for it, some professional photographers and some hobby photographers. This morning the group left the lodge at 5am to watch the sun come up over the Medano side of the ranch. Apparently the sunrise cooperated as they got some great shots! The day was spent in the Education Facility honing this morning's images and preparing for this evening's shoot. Right now, they're all over at the Sand Dunes and planning to be back in time for a quick dinner at 6:30, and then out again to shoot sunset over the Zapata.

Stay posted for some of their pictures! In the meantime, here's a shot that Steve took at the ranch last year.

Posted by Tess L. on 08/26/2011

Wednesday, Aug 24, 2011
We have had a very busy weekend and week- lots of fun packed in! Jeff, Jonathan, Jack, and Nadine took the Rolet family, from England, and Nicole, from Holland on a 3 night pack trip over the weekend. They had a long ride to get back behind the dunes at Sand Creek on Friday, where they set up camp for the first night. Carla and CJ had led the pack string in and ended up staying the night too, so they could move camp up the canyon the next day. I'm sure Jeff will have more details on the trip, but four out of the group went on a long ride/hike on Sunday and made it almost up to Little Sand Creek Lake- that is quite a lot of distance to cover! On Monday, CJ and I led the pack string back into camp and helped finish packing up and loading the horses. Jonathan took the guests out on the trail to Crestone, but to simplify trailering, we took the pack string straight back through the ranch. It was a gorgeous ride that I had never done, so I was very excited. The picture above is of us all heading out, along Sand Creek, between the mountains and the ranch. The sunflowers were amazing! If you notice, there is a big black cloud over the Dunes. Well, that cloud reached us just as we got onto the ranch and man did we get hammered! Coming from the east, I haven't experienced hail all that often, but I sure did on Monday. We were able to make it to the trees by Sand Creek and hide out for a bit, because the pack string didn't want to keep moving very well. It then turned into a steady rain, which was cold but managable. We made it back to the Medano headquarters cold, wet, happy and ready for dinner, but it was a well worth it trip.
Posted by Asta R. on 08/24/2011

Rainbow Over the Dunes
Yesterday afternoon we had a big rain storm sweep across the valley that left a huge rainbow over the sand dunes.

The rainbow got more and more intense and was almost blinding to look at.

We still need more rain on the Zapata, but the Medano is looking nice and green from receiving more rain and also having more water below the ground that feeds the roots.

The majority of the staff and guests are getting back today from a pack trip to the mountains. The group went up sand creek into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and spent the weekend riding, hiking and fishing. They also ate well too, with big steak meals, pancake breakfasts and desserts. The pack trips are a lot of fun and we'll share more pictures once the crew gets back.
Posted by David L. on 08/22/2011

Winner of NAME THE HORSE contest #1
Our first ever NAME THE HORSE contest has been a success. Thank you to all who participated-- 48 in all! 

We are pleased to announce the winning name: Emiliana Zapata, "El Tigre" for short. Congratulations to Katie Goforth!

Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for NAME THE HORSE contest #2...and potentially #3.

Posted by Tess L. on 08/19/2011

Thursday, Aug 11, 2011
Well its been a while since I've checked in, so let me get caught up on all the excitment here at the ranch over the past few weeks. We had a really busy end of July- a big thank you to everyone who made it wonderful. The horsemanship clinic was a great addition to our summer; Cam and Duke both are wonderful instructors and everyone enjoined learning more about the techniques of moving and sorting cattle. We look forward to putting on the clinic again next year!
In addition to the horsemanship clinic, we had our regular rides going out each day. We also sent a group rock climbing at Penitente Canyon, rafting in Salida, and a big group of us went into Monte Vista on a friday night for the Ski-Hi Stampede Rodeo. We also hiked up to the bat cave at Orient Land Trust a couple of nights to watch the bats fly out at sunset. The view from the top of the hike is gorgeous, especially as the sun sets over the valley. Then the outflight of the bats, about 1/4 million of them, is a sight to be seen- the bats are asid to eat 2-3 tons of insects each night! About 20 of us headed up to the dunes one night after dinner to hike up the dunes at sunset (some made it further than others, everyone made it further than me). And of course, Fred joined us for a couple of evenings to play by the campfire. Between the hard riding during the day, and all the activties in the evening, the weeks flew right by!
We are preparing for more guests to arrive beginning this Saturday. We have several families coming from aorund the world and I'm really looking forward to an exciting few weeks. We will be heading out on another pack trip, as well as moving bison, cattle, go rafting and fly fishing.
On another note, I picked up two new horses yesterday. Stay tuned to facebook for pictures and a naming contest- they both need names!
I hope everyone is enjoying their last few weeks of summer and is ready for the beauty of fall to arrive!
Posted by Asta R. on 08/11/2011

Rock Climbing in Penitente Canyon
Last week several of our guests went climbing in Penitente Canyon. Penitente has world-class climbing that people from around the world travel to and is full of various climbing routes for different abilities. The canyon also has several old rock sketches from Native Americans who lived in the area.

Everyone got harnessed in and had fun bouldering around the different formations and checking out the intricacies of the canyon.

Towards the end of the week Tess, Duke, Sarah and I went hiking behind Zapata Falls. A lot of guests take the route to the falls and if you continue up and around you can see the river that feeds the falls and can climb into a little canyon above it. We took our little Australian Terrier with us and after checking out the canyon above the falls we did some light climbing to get up over the ridge behind to go down the face of the hill to the north of the falls. It was a good hike that gave great views of the San Luis Valley and different lakes and Curtis (the terrier) had fun on his first climbing experience.

*Picture of the climber above in Penitente Canyon is from Wikipedia
Posted by David L. on 08/01/2011

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