Who just wants to stand around and watch the red and gold leaves slowly fall from their tree branches to the ground as we move from summer to fall? Instead, take in the changing seasons while you're on the move. From hiking through Vermont’s North Woods to fishing in Michigan like a literary legend, we searched the country for the best spots to get the true autumn experience.
Red Reflet Ranch (Ten Sleep, Wyoming)
Arriving at the distinctly modern Red Reflet Ranch feels as though you're stumbling upon the type of hideout you'd see in a James Bond flick. It's that striking. The name Reflet (pronounced Ref-lay) is French for reflection, and each luxurious guest lodge is situated so that when you wake up in the morning, all you can see are the endless red rock canyons that surround the area. Besides being a luxurious and gorgeous resort to put up your boots for a few days, Red Reflet is at its essence a phenomenal place for guests to immerse themselves in all those rugged activities that are so quintessentially western. We couldn't get enough of them.
It may be luxurious and fancy pants, but, to be clear, Red Reflet ain't no Mickey Mouse dude ranch. This place is home to real cowboys doing backbreaking labor. To get a taste of what that means, we jumped into the mix of a cattle drive to try and help out. It turns out that moving a couple hundred stubborn Black Angus a few miles down a dusty road isn't easy after all. Fortunately, a few hours of following their stinky, methane-spewing butts was blessedly cut short by the dinner bell. Arriving at the dinner table dusty and sweaty is encouraged – it means you earned your cowboy badge of honor. In a matter of moments, you forget all about your sore heinie as you sink your teeth into mouthwatering, locally-grown-and-raised food. Yet despite the delicious grub, the view as you chew is what it's all about. Situated just above a lake, the giant open-air dining room makes you feel like you're on top of the world.
We'd be remiss not to point out that one of the highlights of our experience is that it came with built-in buddies: owners Laurence and Bill Kaplan, who would give 'The World's Most Interesting Man' a run for his money. They're both pilots (they fly in guests on their on-site airstrip), they've traveled the world, they speak multiple languages, and they run charitable organizations. Yet their true love is this ranch, and it's apparent. The couple accompanied our team for every meal, came along on all the activities, and treated us like part of their family. Checking out was actually tough, because it felt more like saying goodbye – that's saying something [from $1,300 for 3 nights 4 days, all-inclusive; red-reflet-ranch.net].
Credit: Photograph by Robert Wright