I’m starting family travel traditions with my kids, and I hope we’re all richer for it

Colorado dude ranch
The group ride for kids heads off into Routt National Forest and the Mount Zirkel Wilderness at the Home Ranch in Clark, Colo. The ranch has counselors for kids’ activities.

CLARK — The look on my daughter’s face as she sat up straight in her saddle and glanced back at me was something new — like she knew she was growing up. It was her 7th birthday, and to celebrate, we were in the mountains north of Steamboat Springs over the Fourth of July holiday, visiting the Home Ranch. She granted me one big smile, then turned away, gave a little kick with her pink boots, and my horse followed her horse (and our guide’s horse) up the trail.

Our wrangler, Kenzie Wilkinson, a cowgirl from Michigan who was working at the Home Ranch for the season, led us up the trail and into a grove of aspen trees, where two young elk crossed our path. My daughter pointed, then we continued on without a word.

In addition to the riding, the Home Ranch, outside of Clark, is known for its farm-to-table cuisine, comfortable family cabins (with their own Jacuzzis) and on-site counselors to help with the kiddos. The main lodge has a pool, a fishing pond, a barbecue area and communal seating during meals, where we mixed with guests from around the world, comparing our adventures hiking, fishing and riding.

Travel, they say, is the only thing you can spend money on that actually makes you richer. It’s the experience of going places we’ve never been, doing things we’ve never done, that my kids will remember forever. With that in mind, I was trying to start a daddy-daughter tradition of going somewhere in Colorado with each of my three girls, one on one, at least once a year. Fishing, camping, riding, hot springs — it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s new for both of us.

This year, we’d landed at this guest ranch surrounded by the Routt National Forest and the Mount Zirkel Wilderness. Still quiet except for our horses’ hooves and the birds, we ambled past a trail sign that read “No Tomorrow.” Hahn’s Peak and a small smoke column from some faraway wildfire were visible on the horizon.

The previous night, my girls and I had continued another family tradition — going to the Steamboat Springs Pro-Rodeo Series on a Saturday night. Without really planning, we’ve done this four years in a row now. It was fun and exciting, the sunset in the valley was beautiful and my girls were enamored with the barrel riders. The two older girls participated in the ram scramble, exiting the rodeo ring breathless and smiling but empty handed.

On this morning however, it was just me and middle daughter, traveling through the forest, growing richer by the minute.

Home Ranch is 20 miles north of Steamboat Springs in Clark. 970-879-1780, www.homeranch.com.The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series (Brent Romick Rodeo Arena, 970-879-1818, www.steamboatprorodeo.com) runs through Aug. 12, but there are special events after that date as well, including the PBR Bull Dash over Labor Day weekend. $20 for adults, $10 for ages 7-15, kids 6 and under are free.

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