My husband, Quent, turns 50 this year. I decided late last year that we should try to do something out of the ordinary every month in 2017 to celebrate the year of his birth. Could be a fancy dinner out, some sort of extreme adventure, or a trip. Yes, my husband’s “birthday year” is a great excuse to book some awesome travel in the coming months (can’t wait for July!), but it’s a fun way, too, to celebrate a guy who is always — and I mean always — game for some entertainment and adventure, whether it’s close to home or halfway around the world. I’m calling it the “Year of Quent” — or #YOQ (we pronounce it “yawk”).
For January’s getaway, Quent didn’t even know it was happening until 24 hours before we were set to leave the house. (Surprise!) I told him I’d booked an overnight date, and to pack a bathing suit, warm clothing, and gear for hiking or snowshoeing. We hopped in the car and he didn’t blink an eye when we ended up at Avalanche Ranch Cabins & Hot Springs in Redstone, Colorado, about a 45-minute drive from our home, and I told him we’d be sleeping not in one of the cabins, but a 6x12x6-foot sheep wagon!
Indeed, these three sheep wagons (or sheepherder’s wagons or shepherd’s wagons) on the property accommodate two with a full-size bed, two benches and shelves, a coffeemaker, electric lights, and, most importantly in the winter months, a propane heater. Guests use the bathroom and shower in the bathhouse adjacent to the property’s hot springs pools, just steps away (literally – doors to the unisex bathroom and gender-specific locker rooms are 30 steps from our wagon’s front door; we measured it). Other nice amenities include conditioner and moisturizer (you’ll find shampoo in the showers at the hot springs’ locker rooms); pool towels and bath towels; and homemade cookies and a handwritten note to welcome us. The wagons are dog friendly; canine friends are welcomed with dog biscuits, pet-waste bags and a towel just for four-legged friends (I suppose to wipe off wet paws).
These types of wagons were first used by sheep herders on the plains of Wyoming in the late 1800s, and are still in use today by herders. Or they are being repurposed like these unique accommodations. Each wagon at Avalanche Ranch currently rents for $85/night. There are no kitchens, as are found in the cabins here, but each wagon does have a BBQ grill and picnic table–which must get more use in the summer months. There’s also a new 100-square foot “tiny house” on the property ($125/night).
Sleeping in the rustic wagon was for sure entertaining, but I think the real draw of staying at Avalanche Ranch is its three pools of cascading natural hot springs. They are open to day visitors from 9am to 5pm daily, but lodging guests can use them around the clock. We soaked in the pools once the sun went down Friday night (after a yummy dinner at the nearby Redstone Inn) and again Saturday morning after breakfast (again at the Redstone Inn) and after super-short hike that we decided not to extend since it was so stinking cold — i.e. 0 degrees Fahrenheit at 9am. Yes, we felt extremely cold walking from our toasty warm wagon to the hot springs. But once we were in the springs, the hot water felt sooooooo good. The mountain views weren’t so shabby either. So good for the body and soul.
Next time we’ll pack thick robes and Crocs. We had our Sorel winter boots to walk to the hot springs, but putting them on afterwards with wet feet was cumbersome. We also brought flip flops but those felt too flimsy to stay safe on the ice. We think Crocs would be ideal.
Avalanche Ranch has some other nice amenities we didn’t take advantage of on our overnight stay, like a communal lodge available to all guests, but especially great for wagon guests can spread out in when the wagon starts feeling too cramped. It’s got a wood stove, a library of books and games, TV with videos, ping-pong table, and a slew of ice skates to borrow to use on the on-site pond. We spotted some snowshoes to borrow. Summer brings canoeing and fishing in a stocked trout pond.
In all, the first #YOQ adventure was a grand success. Let’s see what February brings!
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