Saturday, August 29, 2009

2009 Family Season in Review

The Greenest Season in Memory...

Heaven forbid we kick off our first blog with a discussion of the weather, but this year the rains dramatically altered our landscape, and we felt it was worth noting. For our June and early July guests, the unusual moisture meant even more wildflowers than normal. Lupine, Arrow-Leaf Balsam Root, and Sticky Geraniums were out in greater numbers than many of us 'old-timers' at the ranch could remember seeing. For our late July and August guests, the change was the most dramatic. Nightly rains and cooler days kept the tall grasses green, and Paradise Valley--typically sun-baked and dry by early August--remained lush and green. Flowers that normally would have dried up in the heat remained long after their usual growing periods, and the sweet clover patches grew 6 feet tall, covering the foothills in brilliant yellow. The afternoon rains came like clockwork, and we found ourselves treated to a stunning rainbow or two every week. No wildfires, no drought... the only complaint came from fishermen, who had to wait longer than usual for the rivers to settle down.

Teen Programming: Skeet Shooting a Blast, Climbing Trips Rock...

Our teens were treated to some new activities this year, in our never-ending quest to make their stay as entertaining as possible. We teamed up with Buffalo Ranch Sporting Clays to offer Tuesday night trips, combining the activity with pizza at nearby Chico Hot Springs. For many, it was a great lesson in the proper handling and use of firearms. For those who had done it before, it was a great opportunity to practice at a great facility, and under the expert (and entertaining) tutelage of Harry, the master of 'golfing with a gun.' Participants rotated through 11 stations, where clays simulated everything from jackrabbits streaking along the ground, to multiple geese flying at you head-on. Several parents managed to sneak-along on the trip, and the program was so successful that we'll be offering it next year.

We also teamed up with Reach Your Peak climbing, to offer guided rock climbing trips on Friday mornings. What the participating teens sacrificed (like sleeping in after Dance Night) was more than compensated for by the entertainment value of the trip. Guide Ron Brunkhorst bolted two brand-new routes on a great rock in Yankee Jim Canyon, and teens enjoyed the challenge of climbing these two routes, and enjoying an airy rappel at the end. All they had to do was show up on the front porch in the morning, and R.C. and Ron took care of the rest, providing lunches, water, harnesses, helmets, shoes, and transportation. Ron has secured access to a larger rock just 50 yards from our climbing site this past season, and we look forward to the addition of several new routes of varying difficulty next year. We'll likely offer this trip as an off-ranch excursion available to anyone interested.

Team Penning Enjoys Another Successful Year...

Our participants in Team Penning this year added yet another horsemanship skill to their repertoire, as they honed their herding skills in the arena. Four pairs of steer were numbered 1-4. Teams then drew numbers out of a hat to determine which numbered cattle they would have the option to separate from the pack, and herd into a pen at the other end of the arena. Teams were challenged to communicate, both while developing a game plan, and during the competition itself, and had to utilize every skill they had to herd the stubborn cattle into the pen. Many teams finished with times of under one minute.

Kids Program News Briefs:

Kids Discover (and Destroy) Alien Attackers Disguised as Hideous Housekeepers

A group of children and counselors unearthed an evil plot by cleverly disguised aliens earlier this summer, and made short work of the invasion by protecting ranch residents and guests with Fruit Loop necklaces. "Everyone knows aliens will explode when sugar touches them," explained one five year old, "So just touch them with the Fruit Loop if one is chasing you." The group, armed with water guns and water balloons, managed to repel the invasion by lunch time.

"Diaper Justice League" Spreads Awareness, Dispenses Justice

Children and counselors, tired of prejudice against those who wear diapers, donned diapers on their heads and armed themselves with diaper-related facts and a parade banner, all in order to dispel certain myths surrounding diaper use. It also proved a convenient time to fight crime. "Over 99.9% of people have worn, or will wear, some form of diaper at some point in their life," explained Amy Odland, head of the Kids Program. "We're tired of people making fun of diapers... and we also need to track down the troll who stole our morning snack and teach him a lesson."

"Amigo" and "Juniper" Take Top Honors in 6-Year-Old Arena Instruction

During interviews conducted at the 6-year-old Arena Instruction Graduation Ceremony on Saturday afternoons, Amigo and Juniper received rave-reviews from their riders. "I like Juniper because he does what I ask him to do," reported one girl, petting the horse's neck while she talked. When asked his favorite thing about Amigo, one young rider replied, "I like him because his fur is shiny... and because he stops when I tell him to." Peacemaker was the recipient of many accolades as well, for his fine work as Kids Program lead-line horse.

Mountain Sky Staff Updates

Congratulations to Tawnya Rupe and Kurt Mraz, who were married this Spring! There was a beautiful ceremony in Wilsall, MT, followed by a massive reception in Livingston that turned into a virtual Mountain Sky reunion. Guests and staff--both current, and of years past--all congregated to celebrate this long-awaited event.

R.C. Townsend and Stacy Rose announced their engagement this March, and the happy couple are due to be wed next September.

Congratulations to owner Arthur Blank, whose Atlanta Falcons defied expectations with a fantastic 2008-2009 season, going 11-5 with a playoff appearance, and sweeping honors for GM of the Year (Thomas Dimitroff), Coach of the Year (Mike Smith), and Rookie of the Year (Matt Ryan). They'll look to build on last season's success and win the NFC South this year, with valuable additions to the team like Tony Gonzales.

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