Head Out West for Science!
At Science Getaways, our mission is to offer fun, relaxing vacations with the added bonus of science and learning. This June, we’ve got a Getaway for the whole family that’s all about the great outdoors: Science Ranch 2014 will be held June 22-28, 2014 at Waunita Hot Springs Ranch, nestled in the Rocky Mountains near Gunnison, Colorado. Visit the Registration Information page for complete details on how to join us on this fantastically fun summer Getaway.
Our week at Waunita will include everything that makes a Western Dude Ranch the best possible vacation, and we’ll throw in science and exploration too! We’ll have three special guest scientists along for Space Ranch 2014: ecologist John Sowell will be our guide to exploring ecosystems around the ranch, perennial favorite geologist Holly Brunkal who will teach us about the fascinating geologic history of the Gunnison area, and of course astronomer Phil Plait will be there with his 8″ Celestron telescope to show us the dazzling display of stars in the incredibly dark night skies.
This getaway will be fun and educational for all ages. Waunita is a dude ranch in the Western tradition, with excellent home cooked meals served family style in the dining room and the finest hospitality you’ll ever experience. Three meals per day, horseback riding, and ranch activities are all built into the lodging rate. Ranch activities include daily horseback riding, river rafting, square dancing, skeet shooting, hay rides, cookouts, fishing, four wheeling, mountain biking, cowboy poetry, a music show, a trip into the town of Gunnison and an optional overnight campout.
If you want to read more about the excellent food and hospitality at Waunita, check out their outstanding Trip Advisor reviews.
Activities for Kids
On this trip, we’re going to pay extra attention to our young explorers with special scientist-led adventures just for them. There be will geology and ecology adventures for kids only led by our resident scientists. Phil Plait will also give the kids their own sky observing lesson and a chance to point the telescope at an object of their choice. Holly will let them break rocks apart and use a hand lens to study the geological treasures inside, and our ecologist will show them interesting things they may have never noticed in their outdoor environment. We want kids to be inspired by the awesomeness of science so they’ll grow up to be the explorers and thinkers of the future!
Waunita Hot Springs Ranch is the perfect place for kids to have fun! The ranch provides a children’s counselor to keep them busy and entertained between family ranch activities. Check out their Children’s Activities page for more info. There’s a petting zoo and outdoor children’s play areas to keep them on the move and exploring all day. They’ll also be able to join in any ranch activities that are age appropriate. The minimum age for horseback riding is 6 and a couple of other activities, like white water rafting and skeet shooting, may be restricted based on age or size.
About Waunita Hot Springs Ranch
Waunita Hot Springs Ranch has been a homestead, a hospital, and a baseball camp, but for the past 45 years it has been a dude ranch owned and operated by the Pringle family. The main lodge was built about 100 years ago as a hospital where guests would come to recuperate in the waters of the natural hot springs. This same building today provides rustic but charming guest rooms with comfy beds and private baths. The swimming pool next to the main lodge is fed directly from the Waunita Hot Springs, which means that the water is always warm and inviting. Since the ranch’s elevation is 8946 feet, days don’t get very hot and evenings are cool, so a dip in the pool always feels great.
Riding at Waunita
Riding is always optional, but whether you’re a beginner or an expert, horseback riding at Waunita is a real treat. The wranglers are easygoing and flexible, which makes for fun and relaxing rides where beginners will feel completely comfortable and more experienced riders can challenge themselves. At Waunita they work continually to keep their horses responsive and even tempered, and that comes through when you’re riding. The scenery around the ranch is stunning and a ride or walk up into the aspen and spruce covered hills will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a quieter, simpler time. You’ll really get a sense of what it was like to be a cowboy when you ride across a meadow with thousands of uninhabited acres all around you.
Fun Things We’ll Do
In addition to all the included ranch activities, we’ll have daily science activities such as nature walks, hands-on field experiences, and stargazing. The skies at Waunita are dark and the Milky Way is always on display. At that time of the year, we’ll be able to see Mars, Saturn, star clusters, and various nebulae through Phil’s 8-inch Celestron telescope.
Included in the weekly rate are a day trip to Gunnison, CO, an overnight camping trip, and a rafting trip where you’ll choose whether you want a gentle float down the river or a more exciting ride through some rapids. There will also be an optional day trip to the simply spectacular Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We’ll start our tour with a ranger guided boat trip down the Gunnison River through the Curecanti National Recreation Area. After the boat ride and a picnic lunch provided by the ranch, we’ll head over to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This incredible canyon was carved by the Gunnison River and displays rocks hundreds of millions (and some over a billion) years old — and we’ll have our very own geologist along to explain the wonders exposed in the canyon walls. (Please be aware that children weighing less than 50 pounds will not be permitted on the boat ride. But don’t worry – day care will be available at the ranch for children too young to go along on this trip).
Accommodations & Rates
Waunita Hot Springs isn’t fancy, but with all the fun things to do and the great company of your fellow Science Getawayers, you won’t miss the flash. The rooms are quaint and comfortable and have private baths. There is no air conditioning at the ranch, but you won’t miss it. Due to the 9,000 foot elevation, even in the height of summer it’s not very hot and evenings are always cool. A ceiling fan and an open window will be all you need to get the best night’s sleep you’ve ever had.
Our special weekly group ranch rates are as follows (non-riders can subtract $200):
Adults $1670 (double occupancy) or $1925 for a single adult
Kids 12-15 $1280
Kids 6-11 $1100
Kids 3-5 $725
The rates listed above include 3 meals per day and all regularly scheduled ranch activities: daily riding, river rafting, square dancing, skeet shooting, hay rides, cookouts, fishing, four wheeling, mountain biking, cowboy poetry, a music show, a trip into the town of Gunnison and an optional overnight campout. Waunita Hot Springs Ranch does not charge a separate resort fee.
*There is a Science Getaways registration fee in addition to these ranch rates – see the Registration Information page for details.
Waunita Hot Springs Ranch does not sell or serve alcohol, but you are welcome to bring your own to enjoy in the ranch house before dinner or in the dining room with dinner.
If this sounds like a vacation you would enjoy, visit the Registration Information page for all the details. We hope to see you at Science Ranch 2014!