Colorado dude ranch: behind the scenes
Colorado dude ranch Nork Fork Ranch is owned and run by Dean and Karen May and their family, who have been welcoming guests through their doors for dude ranch vacations for more than 25 years. Top50 spoke to Dean about what really goes on behind the scenes at North Fork - discover why every guest on their dude ranch vacations is treated like a celebrity, and why running a slick dude ranch operation isn't for the faint-hearted...
So Dean, what's an average day for you at North Fork Ranch?
The alarm goes off at 5am and I'm out the door by 6am. First task of the day: coffee! I'll start the coffee and then grab one to go. Every morning I walk around the ranch and do a 'visual' to make sure everything's as it should be. Then it's back for staff breakfast at 7am to organize the day and I delegate duties to the team, which all depends on the day's activities. Then I'll make sure the evening activities are in order before spending the rest of the day in the office, usually until 9 or 10pm.
Wow - that sounds pretty full-on! Do you ever get any time to relax?
With such long days we make sure to take one day off a week, once our staff has been trained to handle organizational and office duties. On days off, Karen and I will normally sleep in, chill by the pool, maybe go out for dinner or have a night out.
Sounds like you earn your days off! What, for you, is the best thing about running a guest ranch?
Have you had any celebrities taking dude ranch vacations at North Fork?
We've had quite a few famous people - they need vacations too! They appreciate our honest approach to hospitality. But honestly, I try to treat all our guests as famous people.
We're sold! So what would you say is your most memorable moment in your 25 years as a guest rancher?
The birth of my children. Oops, as a rancher... Probably the day we signed the full purchase. As for our guests, I really enjoy every day - well OK, almost every day...!
Well your kids are pretty important in the grand scheme of things! How did you find it raising them on a guest ranch?
It had its challenges - in fact many! - what with raising them in the public eye. That said, I am extremely proud of both our kids - they've developed great social skills (especially in this texting world..), they’re very confident and I do believe this business has provided well enough that we have been able to expose them to a lot of exciting adventures.
We'll bet - not least all that horseback riding. Speaking of which, what do you look for in a good dude ranch horse?
This could become a book! It's almost a process of elimination... I generally go for geldings and I look for a kindness in their eyes, that's really important.
Finally, would you recommend guest ranching as a career choice?
This is not a career for everyone. It’s nowhere near as glamorous as one may believe but, that said, I wouldn’t change a single day - even the bad days lead to good days. You do live your life in the public eye and there is a huge commitment in giving up your private time - if you’re a private person, the guest ranching lifestyle isn’t for you. To be honest I kind of happened into this line of work - call it fate, call it destiny, call it God's will - either way it fit me and Karen, and we’re very proud of our accomplishments and what we have provided to the world.
For more information on dude ranch vacations at North Fork Ranch, visit Top50Ranches.com