Outfitters include Shrine Mountain Adventure (800/261-5364 or 970/827-5363), which offers guided bike rides through backcountry terrain on dirt roads, jeep trails, and rugged single-track, or over Vail Pass and Shrine Pass. Adventure Ridge (970/476-9090) organizes invigorating full- and half-day excursions with experts who can help hone your mountain biking skills.
Single Track Sports rents bikes on Vail Mountain at Eagle's Nest (970/479-4421) and on Beaver Creek Mountain at Spruce Saddle (970/845-5410).
Watch for roaming chickens, peacocks, and Pork Chop the pig as you pull up the gravel road leading to Linda and Buddy Calhoun's classic slice of Western life, Lazy Ranch (0057 Lake Creek Rd., Edwards; phone and fax 970/926-3876; doubles from $60).
Guests can wander the 60-acre ranch, fish, and hike through the forest. Best of all, the Calhouns have exclusive horseback riding permits for the Flat Top Wilderness Area. The Calhouns have won a National Trust Award for their restored barn, which operates as an equestrian center and boarding stable.
In the century-old farmhouse, Buddy's former bedroom contains an heirloom trunk, pantaloons, and a Victorian hat. Next door, the Cowboy Room is filled with his leatherwork: chaps, a canteen, and an elaborate gun holster. Don't leave without a visit to Buddy's art studio (Michael Landon was an avid collector of his work), where he carves exquisite knife handles out of bear and coyote jawbones found in the woods.
As you would expect in ranching country, Linda spares nothing on breakfast. At her brick-and-iron stove she turns out biscuits and gravy, sausages, eggs, and pancakes. "We feed every mouth around," she says, as evening grosbeaks chirp over seeds placed outside the window.
Though I come from a long line of fishermen who have provided the family with enough silly jokes to last a hundred Christmases (my great-grandfather tied flies with his wife's gray hair so he could tease her by saying, "Toss her in"), I'm no expert. So when I went fly-fishing on Gore Creek, I brought along my dad, hoping he'd lend me a little credibility with the fish.
Our guide was Scott Willoughby of Fly-Fishing Outfitters. He gave us pointers in navigating the fast, late-afternoon waters of Gore Creek and refreshed us on how to mend a line (keep the fly from dragging and giving itself up as a fake) and use an indicator (a mini-fly tied to the standard line to act as a bobber when you can't feel a fish strike). The fish were nibbling on Green Drakes and Sparkle Princes, Parachute Adams and Beadhead Zug Bugs. Give me a Sparkle Prince any day-- but a Beadhead Zug Bug?
We waded up and down the river chasing promising pools. The sun was sinking fast, but we were having a great time and weren't quite ready to reel it in for the day. Scott took us to a "secret" spot for night fishing.
"I didn't know these kinds of unfished waters still existed so close to town," said my dad, a Colorado native. "I'm back in my boyhood, except for my sixty-year-old body." Nothing piques his attention like a stream full of wary fish.
By the light of our leader's headlamp we bushwhacked our way down to a rocky riverbed and waded into the moonlit water. Bats darted overhead, trying to catch my fly as I back-cast. We could barely see the fish jumping, but they were everywhere. As my eyes adjusted, I glimpsed a flash of rainbow trout. A fish tugged. I yanked back my rod to set the hook and held on while he played himself to exhaustion. Fishing has become mostly catch-and-release since the Colorado Division of Wildlife declared fish populations in Gore Creek and Snake River dangerously low, thanks to 10 years of development in the region. So I reeled in my catch, removed the hook, and watched him disappear into the black water.
Fly-Fishing Outfitters 1060 W. Beaver Creek Blvd., Avon; 800/595-8090 or 970/476-3474; half-day packages for two from $185.