THERE is nothing better for the mind, body and soul than a stay on a ranch, whether a true working ranch, dude or resort property.
It is a total wind-down holiday and truly relieves the stresses and strains of back home. I've sat outside a cabin in the fresh evening air after a wonderful home-cooked meal and been content to simply listen to nature, whether it's the sound of birds, a distant coyote or a running creek or brook - with no TV, telephone or newspapers.
Then in the morning, a 6am ride to freshen up the senses for the day ahead, then to be greeted by the wafting smells of freshly brewed coffee, sizzling bacon, eggs and pancakes, as we entered a clearing through sage brush.
A ranch holiday can be as relaxing, entertaining or as active as you want it to be. However, the working ranch is for an experienced rider whose idea of having a good time is spending up to 9hrs in the saddle each day roping, branding and dehorning the cattle with the rest of the crew.
On a dude ranch, or resort ranch, it is a different story. The day's activities are more structured with a choice of morning, afternoon or all-day riding if you wish.
The image of an isolated ranch set in a dusty plain is not a true one. Depending on the state you are in, you can have a 2hr ride in the morning, perhaps do white-water rafting in the afternoon, or a day trip to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming or the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Texas has the beautiful Hill Country and Big Bend National Park, and is the only state featuring authentic ranches where you can also combine your holiday with a coastal resort stay along the stunning beaches of Corpus Christi and South Padre Island in the Gulf of Mexico.
The 100-year-old Dos Vaqueros Ranch is just 40 miles from this coastline where activities include golf, fishing, swimming and, for nature lovers, the nearby wetlands is a bird watcher's paradise. This is a working ranch but also a five-star-plus luxury resort with arranged activities.
Dude ranches are ideal for those who want to join in the fun of experiencing a daily programme including hayrides, cookouts, nature trails and horse training, among other things. Children can be taken off their parents' hands by ranch staff who organise supervised activities for them.
Then it's back to the ranch for a swim and a hearty, help-yourself meal in the dining room before an evening of entertainment.
This can include a fireside sing-along and tales from a cowboy or Indian about their homeland or customs. It adds to the enjoyment of the holiday, where the ranch becomes your home and the staff become true friends.
The US is a wonderful country; it's so diverse and offers unforgettable experiences. I have donned my stetson and 'driven those doggies' across the Rocky Mountain states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho on cattle drives.
I have travelled over Montana's stunning Glacier National Park by helicopter, as well as taken a mulepack trip into the Dakota Badlands.
I will also never forget the three-day trip by snowmobile into Yellowstone National Park. These were fascinating experiences which have helped me to pass on information to clients interested in taking a ranch holiday or visiting the Rockies.
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