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The Smith Fork Valley in the Fall.

As the days grow shorter and the nights a touch cooler, we turn our attention to Autumn – the most magical time of the year out here on the Western Slope. Riding over McClure Pass (coming from Aspen or Glenwood Springs) the great Rocky Mountains give way to the surrounding river valleys and steep canyons, and a meandering rural road south east leads you to us.  They say people come to Colorado for the winter but stay for the summer, however it’s well known between locals that the true spell is cast in the fall.  Coloradoans love the Autumn – blazing bright golden Aspens are everywhere and the various species colors streak across the hills and mountains, locals are picking, canning and eating, celebrating and exploring – there is so much to do and see and such an ideal climate to do it in!

A visitor to Smith Fork Ranch arrives in this unique region to find an epic landscape of green pastures, rows upon rows of orchards and vineyards, great desert-like mesas, vast deep canyons, and the awe inspiring peaks of the Raggeds and the West Elk Range. We are nestled in the Smith Fork Valley (hence the name) and enjoy a bounty of natural wonders including Needle Rock to the west, Mendicant Ridge to the east, and the aptly named Saddle Mountain and Sleeping Indian to the south and north.

Tipi at sunset with the River Cabin and Mendicant Ridge beyond (and Ranch pup Liberty).

It is easy to see why so many fall in love with this special place or even at this special place!  Romances, engagements, and weddings, among other things, have taken place here and it’s no wonder.  There are many opportunities for private moments and special occasions with the ones you love.  And virtually endless open space!  Hundreds of thousands of acres of the West Elk Wilderness and Gunnison National Forest surround us – you will love just to be here and gaze out to the peaks beyond and the great mesa.  The Ute Indians once called this area home and they have a prayer that includes the saying “Earth teach me freedom, as the eagle that soars in the sky” –  at Smith Fork there is no shortage of opportunities to learn freedom and witness the great birds at flight.   And the Fall is a fabulous time to do so.

Many creatures frequent the grounds of Smith Fork Ranch including deer, as seen here checking out the garden (and photographer).

Preparations for the fall truly begin in summer – with a wealth of local produce from the many outdoor markets and farm stands gathered up for preserving and canning.  Jarring up the local goodness for the winter is a real local ritual – pickled spring asparagus, palisade peach jam, service berry jelly, pickled cauliflower, mushrooms, spiced apples – the options are endless!   Local writer and foodie extraordinaire Eugenia Bone shares her North Fork Valley culinary experiences and recipes on her blog – Well Preserved.  A truly delicious read!  The North Fork and Smith Fork valleys really are love at first bite.  And you know what they say – the quickest way to the heart is through the stomach!

Our Organic Farmstead Garden will be exploding with goodness this Fall

And the quickest way to a fantastic fresh harvest meal is from our own garden.  Autumn is the time for harvesting the majority of crops in our area – with a series of events occurring around the community and several wonderful opportunities to learn more about growing your own food as well as the Slow Food Movement of the Western Slope – a non-profit educational organization dedicated to celebrating and supporting the food traditions of North America.   They host and partner on a variety of events.

And there is always the vineyards!  A favorite activity of locals and visitors alike is touring the grounds and chatting it up with the vintners while tasting a beautiful variety of Colorado wines.  You will love the relaxed atmosphere and inviting hospitality of our area vineyards and cellars.  And you will love enjoying the local wines we offer at our bar – along with fantastic local spirits!

In addition to eating and drinking the local good stuff, there are so many other activities Smith Fork Ranch has to offer this Autumn – excellent upland bird hunting, horseback riding the many marked trails of our property and surrounding wilderness, fly fishing the ponds, creeks, and rivers, hiking into the forests, biking, yoga, massage, even glass blowing!

A ride through the beautiful Aspen forest.

And, our most popular vacation activity – doing nothing at all!  There is an abundance of nothing to do here – be it falling asleep in a hammock cloaked in the fall foliage or having a quiet read in the lodge by the fire – a blanket and a hot tea or coffee always at the ready.  Or simply just enjoy the delicious feeling of sleeping in!  Cozy up under a big fluffy duvet and quilt on one of our pillow top deluxe mattresses and hibernate for awhile – our guests love our beds and relaxation is our specialty.

So go ahead, FALL for us this Autumn – we promise not to break your heart.

Smith Fork Ranch will be open through the end of November 2010.  Join us for an incredible fall season.

info@smithforkranch.com

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