Set in the San Juan mountains between Durango and Pagosa Springs, our historic ranch offers space for you to work on your art or write your novel while surrounded by miles of national forest land where you can also hike, camp, fish or just enjoy the beauty of the wilderness – all in exchange for just 20 hours of your time a week.
We (Jan, former university professor, and Chris, former architect and builder) have 27 beautiful acres located in the mountains of southwest Colorado. We share the property with four horses, two ponies, three dogs, a cat, and three roosters. We are also currently home to 40 Malamute sled dogs as well as a sampling of local wildlife (deer, elk, turkeys, Marie (the barn skunk) and an occasional passing bear – oh, and LOTS of hummingbirds!).
We enjoy sharing this wonderful space with friends and family from all over the United States and as well as workaways from all over the world. We have choices of accommodations for workaways ranging from suites in the main ranch house to a rustic log cabin to several RVs.
In exchange, workaways would help with anything from general housekeeping and house maintenance tasks to gardening/yardwork to construction projects to training and exercising horses, depending on skills and interests. Our hope is that workaways will become part of our ever-growing extended family. Welcome!
DIY and building projects
Creating/ Cooking family meals
Help around the house
On a personal level, we enjoy cooking and have big, family-style meals for most dinners. We would hope to have you join us. If you're interested in sharing your favorite recipes, we'd love to expand our culinary horizons! Breakfast and lunch are more casual and usually we each put together our own meal, so you would have full access to a very well-stocked kitchen for those meals.
On a broader scale, southwest Colorado offers glimpses into a variety of ancient and modern cultures:
Mesa Verde National Park: A little over an hour's drive away, Mesa Verde was once home to the Ancestral Pueblo peoples. It offers some of the best preserved examples of the cliff-dwelling cities in the country, if not the world.
The Gold Rush: Southwest Colorado was part of the Colorado gold and silver mining rush of the late 1800's. Silverton, Ourey, and Telluride are very old mountain mining towns that provide opportunities to explore that history. And, if you're interested in doing a little exploration on your own, Chris is always ready to head up into the mountains to do a little prospecting or panning for gold!
Cattle Ranching: Cattle ranching is an important part of the economy here and the area is home to a number of large cattle ranches. We don't fit into that category but we do have 8-10 head of cattle that we run with a friend's herd of 200+ cows. Two or three times a year we have an old-fashioned cattle drive (moving cattle on horseback) to move the cattle from valley pastures to the open grazing areas of the national forests. If you're here for one of those times and you are an experienced rider, you might be able to join us. And if you don't have riding experience, it's fun to just watch!
Art and music festivals: Southwest Colorado is home to a number of widely-known art and music festivals. If you have interests in these areas, check online to see when festivals are scheduled. If we're going to a festival, you're welcome to come with us.
We enjoy a fairly laid-back lifestyle (as in we spend a good bit of time enjoying coffee and meals, making art, camping and hiking in the local national forest, and just hanging out with friends) but we usually have at least a couple of projects under way. In exchange for meals and whichever type of accommodation best suits you (see below), we’d appreciate help with any of the projects listed below or simply help with the daily work involved with maintaining the ranch house and outbuildings and feeding and caring for the animals.
We would expect 20 hours a week but, especially with project tasks, it could be flexibly arranged so that you could have larger chunks of time to go out and explore the area.
Recent examples of projects include painting the BIG new building (thank you Mark!), restoring the leaning walls and then repainting an 80 year-old outbuilding (thanks to the super team of Mark and Marcus), building a horse and pony trail through the forest (amazing, Eric!), creating a firebreak below the houses (thank you, Jake and Maddy!), and mitigating a decade's worth of scrub oak and brush between the forest and the pasture (Marcus, I can't thank you enough!).
Special thanks go to Jeanne and Eric for the amazing training they did with our horses in just a couple of weeks and especially for showing me a new way of thinking about being with horses. Thank you both so much!
Still on the would-like-to-do list are painting the barn, staining and sealing the outside of the cabin and house, cutting splitting, and stacking firewood, and building a retractable shade system over the back deck (I keep hoping...).
And we always an abundance of daily maintenance tasks available for people to work on: feeding the horses and cleaning up the stalls and paddocks, maintaining the grass and flower beds, running the pasture irrigation system, keeping up with the house chores (it's a big house so there's lots to vacuum, mop, clean, and dust!), and even cooking meals, if that's something you enjoy.
Depending on their personal preferences and who else is visiting during their stay, workaways can choose from several types of accommodations on the ranch. We have:
- a sprawling ranch house with multiple bedroom/bathroom suites,
- two RVs with full kitchens and baths.
Alas, the historic cabin is currently out of commission - but maybe net year...
If you are traveling with your own RV, we can probably accommodate it.
There is also a separate cabin where Peter and Morgan, who belong to the Malamute sled dogs, live.
Because of the distance to town – and the complete lack of public transportation in the area – it’s probably best if you have your own transportation. We typically go into town a couple of times a week - and you would be welcome to come with us – but there wouldn’t be a lot of opportunity to just explore the town.
If you’re contemplating a longer stay, both Pagosa Springs and Durango are busy tourist towns with many summer employment opportunities. If you were interested in finding part-time work in town, we might be able to create a schedule that would work well for everyone.
The Area: We are basically surrounded by the San Juan National Forest and so have easy access to multiple camping areas, hiking trails, and lakes. The Piedre River - a high mountain river with great fishing - is a couple of miles down the road from us. The San Juan River in Pagosa Springs and the Animas River in Durango are favorites for white water rafting. The area also has vast tracts of true wilderness areas with magnificent mountains.
We are located halfway between Durango and Pagosa Springs (about 25 miles west and east of us, respectively) - two lively tourist towns that offer lots of interesting shopping, outdoor activities, and periodic music and art festivals.
Purgatory and Wolf Creek ski areas are about another half-hour drive beyond the towns and provide great hiking and mountain biking trails during the summer months. Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride – old Colorado gold rush mining towns turned tourist destinations - are just an hour or two beyond the ski area.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, Santa Fe - one of my very favorite places to visit - and Utah’s truly amazing Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are only a little over 3 hours away.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
We can take pretty much any size RV and provide water and electric connections (electric limited to 30 amps and would prefer to keep it at 20 amps!); we have a sewer dump but probably cannot provide a 24/7 sewer connection.
We can accept pets for workaways staying in the RVs; dogs must be well-trained and non-aggressive.
20 hours a week
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