I’m staring into this vast landscape, with nervous anticipation as I await a local legend, a man among men, ‘Duke Philips’ or Big Duke, as he’s called, is a third-generation rancher.
I’m on a remote ranch in Colorado located proudly in one of the most magnificent landscapes on Earth. High desert grasslands, alpine forests, wetlands, sand dunes, creeks and lush meadows, this area of Colorado is regarded as one of the most ecologically diverse landscapes in the United States.
As Duke comes through the door, I wasn’t really sure what to expect…
The first thing that struck me was, from head to toe, he was the archetypal cowboy, adorning a thick moustache that I’m convinced a bird could nest in, along with the swagger and demeanour of a gentle giant. I was instantly put at ease, greeted by a warm contented smile, a firm handshake and a sense of calm confidence.
As we head out into the wilderness, everyone we meet greets Duke with a big smile and huge hug. People just seem different out here, it’s very clear to me everyone works incredibly hard, but are also passionate about what they do. Choosing to dump the complexities of the modern world for a simpler way of life. The area and the locals all seem to possess a genuine sense of calm and peace and as a result, they really respect and look after each other and it’s infectious to be around.
Big Duke oversees all livestock and operations here at ‘Ranchlands’ and to give you a sense of scale, opposed to a trusty steed as his transportation he flies a small plane to keep an eye on his vast prairies. Coming from the old school brotherhood, carved from granite and moulded from the outdoors. This is a family business found by Duke Snr, now managed by Big Duke with Duke Jr and daughter now also working for the business.
His vision for Ranchlands is to preserve ecosystems and the ranching heritage, as well as managing a conservation herd of 2,000 bison. Education, they say is the key to preserving this way of life for future generations. Offering an internship that provides a hands-on experience in all operations, from fencing, digging pipelines, moving cattle and participating in grazing planning. This educational element has attracted a young team of staff (and women) which is refreshing and unique in this field.
If you’ve ever dreamt of seeing the real wild west, escaping to a genuine working ranch, savouring incredible food and a night under the stars…then this is it!
Find out more about our Colorado camp here.