An interesting season…

Gosh! There is so much one could write about during these challenging but interesting times. Much as there is so much to read and reflect on.

I could write about all the worries when Covid-19 hit the world, about the preparations and processes we put in place to ensure guest, staff and community safety, about the financial challenges of operating a small business in the hospitality industry, about management transitions, about staff stepping up to the plate in unexpected ways as a show of loyalty and commitment, about many guests reaching out to offer support, about long term repeat guests booking twice this year to help us out. And how that is almost impossible, since we are limiting our weeks to around 15 guests this season, about half of last year’s, most weeks are already fully booked.

An interesting season

Covid-19 and other disruptive change, affects us all in many ways. Some individuals deal better with change while change can be scary and challenging to others – neither is right or wrong. Despite careful planning and implementation, we learn that practical and operational plans we put in place do not always prove easy to implement in practice. I could write about how an organization of great people rolls with the flow, with passion – about how after initially getting punched in the face, the organization starts to fight back. I could easily write about how refreshing it is, to see rarely seen waves of creativity roll in spontaneously, with care and from the heart.

I am sure there will be thousands of interesting books and articles publicized on all these subjects, including how a good brand name delivers also in troublesome times. With all the challenges and negative aspects of this crisis, we see a lot of good and positive things coming out of it. If nothing else, a deep appreciation for the basic principles in life

And in the end, it is all part of living life and operating a small business in the hospitality industry.

Happy and Grateful Guests

Instead, let us share some news about our guests – the life and blood of our ranch. The moment our first guests showed up, the months of worries were replaced by energy, positivism, gratefulness, surprise, excitement and much more. We are now in our 5th week of the guest season and I must say, I have seldom felt so energized and fortunate to be able to work at The Hideout. Places like The Hideout are needed to soothe people, to energize people, to hide out from the rest of the world for a week and load up the batteries. Both physically and mentally -to benchmark and put things in perspective.

Our guests have always been excited to visit The Hideout. They were always happy to come Hiding Out at our ranch and take in all the beauty, ride horses and indulge in soothing experiences for mind and soul.

The Hideout and places like our ranch, are soothing for our guests and our guests are soothing for us!

Just the interdependent reality of the hospitality industry!

But this year there was an extra dimension to that. All of us were surprised how grateful our visitors were. Time after time they kept thanking us for being open, for making the experience happen, while implementing measures to limit exposure. Many people in heavily affected areas, were so stressed from being locked up for months. We are social creatures and we need socializing. For several weeks now we observed guests coming in and being on guard, keeping distance. But after a couple days they drop that guard while maintaining social distance, as they get to know new friends. In a beautiful, remote, and isolated setting like The Hideout, where we try to create a perfect world, it is even more difficult to imagine everything going on in the rest of the country and world.

We ourselves discover that of course, being in the hospitality business, our second nature is to please, to care and to socialize. I tend to move in closer to people when being in an animated conversation. Many of us like to hug each other and our guests. It takes discipline to implement the rules of social distancing. And while we had rehearsed our processes and procedures prior to the opening of the season, they need muscle memory. Going into our 5th week, things become easier.

If you are used to hugging, it takes discipline not to hug. I am still working on it!

So, we need to stay tuned in and make sure we respect the rules of Social Distancing and that takes a little practicing, discipline and paying attention.

Fluid & Smooth operators…

We operate in a fluid way, never staying more than 10 / 15 minutes within 6ft of one another. Running an operation like The Hideout makes this a bit easier. Most of the time we are outside, walk around or on horseback and most of our actions are short bursts of energy. In the kitchen we have only one chef, our beloved Rachel, and the servers are in and out of the kitchen quickly, picking up the plates plated by Rachel.

Much like our chef they all wear masks. Black masks with a Hideout logo. That is why we call them “the Ninjas”. Wranglers and guests wear a scarf or mask whenever helping guests in the saddle or cinching up. Our guests follow our trucks and horse trailers in their own vehicles, not riding in our trucks with the wrangler. Many guests appreciate bringing their own vehicles, as they can leave their gear and items in their vehicles. Even inside our big main lodge with 15 guests, not the usual 27 guests, social distancing, flow or air are easy to handle. And to make sure all circulating air is thoroughly cleaned, we use HEPA filters in our heating & AC system.

 All this aimed at making it very cozy and intimate experience.

Will the experience be the same?

Another worry most guest ranch owners have, including ourselves, was if our guests would have the same great experience, implementing some of the Covid-19 rules? We did not have to worry about this at all.. Every guest we asked, both new and repeat guests, has told us this was an amazing experience as usual. That the overall experience was affected little given the usual spontaneous care and respect for our guests we always have had at The Hideout since it was founded.

The repeat guests appreciated that the number of weekly guests was even lower than the 25 guests we usually take on a weekly basis. This season, to respect Social Distance, we limit our weeks to around 15 guests only.

Off to a good start…

Summarizing all this, I feel we are off to a good start. Of course, nobody knows what is luring around the corner and how this will all pan out. But we are still around, doing very well in view of the challenges we faced.

Our biggest challenge? Fat horses!

Our biggest challenge are probably all our fat horses in the green pastures. By now during normal seasons, most of these horses had two months of guest season in their legs and weeks with many more guests. This means that they are fat and sassy from eating too much and not exercising enough. During the day we keep them in the corrals and only turn them out on green grass during the night. After the rides, we don’t give them the usual power feed. That helps!

These days I call my little half mustang / cutting horse mare Little Fatty instead of Little Bleu. But I am still amazed, that even looking like a barrel she is very quick and has no problem taking on a 16- mile ride working cattle, trotting most of the time and going up and down hill.

Stay safe, sane and see you at The Hideout!