2013 In Review & 2014 Plans!
With the 2013 cattle and guest season behind us, we now pause and look back to see where we have been as well as look ahead, to see where we are going. Here are some thoughts about 2013 and projections for 2014.
Water: We started 2013 with a snow pack below average but in better shape than 2012. Some of you might recall that in June of 2011, the snow pack was a staggering 318% of average, a 500th year in runoff. To the contrary, June of 2012 was a dismal 11%. In June of 2013 we were about 65% of average – almost a 400% improvement over 2012. However, there was little runoff to fill the ponds as most of the snow pack went right into the ground, restoring the watershed. This resulted in a season with plenty of grass but lack of water in the livestock ponds.
We were fortunate to obtain use of two additional forest pastures-Lover’s Cabin and Headquarters. These offered both good grass and water, allowing us to hold the cattle until they were shipped to the buyer. We have not used these pastures for many years and their use this year posed some challenges. Mainly, the fences had not been maintained and on short notice, had to be made cattle- proof. This was done as much as possible under the circumstances but we knew it would not be perfect-as did the cattle. They managed to find some opportunities to escape and much to our guests’ delight, there was some challenging riding to find them.
Cattle Recap 2013: The yearling cattle from California arrived in May, approximately 1200 head. As explained above, grass was abundant and drinking water was scarce. In summary, the cattle weights were good at shipping time but we would have kept some longer if the water situation had been better. As it was, we shipped 2 different times, the beginning and end of August. We were pleased with the outcomes considering the drought impact. Our death loss was minimal and all the cattle were accounted for…no small feat considering the tendencies they had to wander!
2014: We have 1400 head of cattle on pasture in California and plan to receive most of them in May. California is facing their worst drought on record. You can bet we are in constant monitoring of the high ridge pressure that is keeping storms far to the north and California in a dry spell. We are hoping this high pressure weakens and allows a more favorable outlook for precipitation. If not, we will have to move our cattle to a feedlot until snow melts and grass comes here. Typically, we go on our forest pastures the last week in May – a great time for those who want to ride and move cattle.
Our 50 cows delivered a healthy calf crop in 2013. The steer calves are sold but we have kept all of the calves here this winter and are feeding them hay. In the spring, we will deliver the steers calves to a ranch in Steamboat Springs. The heifers will remain here. We will begin calving 50 bred cows and first calf heifers the first of April.
Guest Season 2013: The highlights of a guest business can be summarized as re-connecting with familiar friends and making new. In 2013, we not only welcomed back many of our regulars but also had our third photography workshop with Karen Schulman. This occurred at the beginning of July and was one of the highlights of the season. It was a busy week as the participants were quite inspired and creative. At the end of the workshop there was a group presentation of their favorite photos. This was very impressive! In fact, this workshop was so successful that we are offering it again in 2014, August 24th _ 30th. Check the website for details.
Fly fishing was very good both early and late in the season. It was interesting to see how the fish would do in lower stream flows and above normal temperatures this summer, after having made the improvements on the river in 2009. It appears there were enough deep holes for them to retreat to in the heat of the day. At the end of June, we did curtail the hours of fishing so as not to stress the fish.
In late September the rains came and so did a group of fly fishers who have been coming for the last several years. Before they left, plans were already being discussed for their 2014 rendezvous…another way of saying they were not disappointed!
2014: Cliff Watts will be offering his fly fishing clinic
the week of June 22nd….beginners and well seasoned
fishermen should check this out. Cliff generates a lot
of enthusiasm and is quite knowledgeable about our
stretch of river as well as other local options available
for all levels of skill. We are also pleased that Cliff will be
available more often this season to guide and to teach.
After a long career as a physician, he has retired and
looks forward to a more flexible fishing schedule.
Projects Completed in 2013: We all can identify with “to do lists” and the satisfaction that comes with a completed job. This past year we undertook several projects that ranged from top priority to routine maintenance.
*Fencing occurs every year and this year, The Wrangling Pasture in front of the ranch house was completed. Some new pedestrian gates were added in this same area.
* We made great progress on cleaning more of the barn and hauled a load of stuff to the dump.
*The final stretch of the river work was completed in October. This was part of the project that began in 2009. From the new bridge to the end of our property on the west end, 5 j-hooks were built. The purpose is two-fold: stabilize the banks and improve the fish habitat. We hope our spring runoff will be significant enough to test both of these objectives.
On The Horizon….2014:
* February-dismantling of the Two Story Cabin and reconstructing it at the Savery Museum
* April-trail cows home from their winter pasture; Cows begin calving;
* May- trail horses home from their winter pasture; receive & work the cattle from California; begin the guest season; trail yearling cattle to forest pasture;
* June- work cows and new calves; Trail cows and calves to their summer pastures; weekly roundups and pasture rotation of cattle; Cliff Watts’ Fly Fishing Clinic; continue cattle roundups and pasture rotations;
* July- anticipate roundup, sorting and first cattle shipments;
* August-roundup and shipping of cattle; Photography and Ranch Workshop with Karen Schulman; guests enjoying the early signs of fall while fishing, hiking, horseback riding;
* September/October-Pregnancy testing the cows, selling/shipping the calves, finishing projects before the first snow….buttoning down the hatches
* November/ December- trail cattle and horses to their winter pasture; Thanksgiving then Christmas!
Our guests are the driving force behind the plans we make and the pleasures to be experienced throughout the year. We continue to value our membership in The Dude Ranch Association and feel their endorsement is also meaningful to our guests.
In the past, we fretted over the uncertainty in the economy as recovery seemed slower than expected. It appears now that the economy has recovered to the point where vacationing is once again a priority for individual and family well being. There are many variables to consider when making projections for the 2014 guest season but we are more optimistic this year than last. Our international bookings are up for this point in time and we hope this trend will continue. Those inquiring about a ranch visit indicate that they plan to travel and are looking for adventure travel within the 50 states….we are certain we fit the bill!
We send all of you our best wishes for a fulfilling and prosperous 2014. As always, we enjoy hearing from you and would enjoy even more, seeing you when the snow melts and the ground opens up.