The Crane Family
A week at the Lane Guest Ranch, Estes Park, Colo.
For the far-flung Crane family, get-togethers can be hectic. Grandparents Sally and Ben divide their time between New York City and Santa Fe; children Susan, Michael, and Betsy live with their broods in London and Denver. The Christmas gathering has everyone trying to pack a year’s worth of bonding into a couple of days—while chasing after six grandkids, all under eight. The 2005 summer reunion at Sally and Ben’s Santa Fe house, with forays into Lamy on the Santa Fe Southern Railway, while fun, was too much work.
So last year Sally decided to try something a whole lot simpler: a stay at a dude ranch. She wanted a locale that was reasonably priced (she and Ben would pick up the tab), easy to get to, and authentically cowboy—"not the kind of place where you dress up for dinner." Most important, the ranch had to have a kids’ program. "We love our children, but you can’t have a conversation when they’re around," says Susan, who has a five-year-old daughter, Lily.
After a fruitless Internet search, Sally turned to adventure outfitter Off the Beaten Path, which is how the Cranes ended up at the Lane Guest Ranch, a family-owned spot surrounded by mountains, alpine lakes, and pine and aspen groves—but only 70 miles from Denver. While the grandchildren rode, fished for trout, and cannonballed into the pool, the eight adults were free to consult the ranch’s roster of activities. One afternoon they climbed into rafts and floated down the Class-2 rapids on the Cache la Poudre River. And every day they went for trail rides—all except Sally, who by her own admission "has no rear end" and preferred to read.
Back at the ranch the Cranes met up for meals—hamburgers and steaks dished out in the woodsy dining room or on patios—and mingled with the staff. Many employees wear several hats, including Jennie, the wrangler who doubles as the masseuse. And then there’s Frederick, the waiter, ice cream–sundae maker, and, as the Cranes discovered on a nighttime ride and cookout, championship crooner. Sitting around the campfire, Frederick serenaded the Cranes until the city slickers joined in. While they didn’t know many cowboy songs, "House of the Rising Sun" sounded just right on the range.
Lane Guest Ranch (303/747-2493; laneguestranch.com); adults $215 a day; children 8 to 11 $175; children 3 to 7 $110; children under 3 free, including meals and most activities; minimum three-night stay. For help planning a ranch or adventure reunion, contact Off the Beaten Path (800/445-2995; offthebeatenpath.com; consultations from $250).