Science Getaways 2014: Take a Science Vacation at a Colorado Ranch

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Feb. 4 2014 11:15 AM

Take a Science Vacation in the Colorado Rockies

Science Getaways
Vacation with your brain.

Photo by Phil Plait/Science Getaways

Do you love science? Do you wish there were more of it in your life—like being able to learn more about the world and Universe around you?

Then this is relevant to your interests: My wife and I run a company called Science Getaways, where we take normal vacations and add SCIENCE. And we’re very pleased to announce our next trip: The Waunita Hot Springs Ranch near Gunnison, Colo., nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains! This trip is from June 22–28, 2014, and registration is now open.

hirseback riding
I'm on a horse! Click to equestrianate.

Photo by Phil Plait


This getaway is an all-inclusive week at the ranch, which means meals, horseback riding, river rafting, skeet shooting, and lots of other ranch activities are included in the price.* This is a family-friendly ranch, and we welcome younger science enthusiasts. There will be special activities planned for the children, including science hikes, a special astronomy session with me, and more.

Besides the ranch activities, we’ll have three scientists there. Our favorite geologist, Holly Brunkal, is a terrific guide and enthusiastic rock hound, and as a Gunnison resident she really knows the area. John Sowell is an ecologist who will show us the various ecosystems in and around the ranch on hikes. We also have an astronomer of some experience by the name of me. I’ll have my 8” Celestron telescope out every clear night to show you the cosmos (the ranch has very dark skies), and there will be some solar observing during the day as well.

Black Canyon
The ridiculously picturesque Black Canyon. Click to engorgenate.

Photo by Phil Plait

We also have a special trip planned: a visit to Black Canyon near Gunnison. My wife and I toured this canyon last year, and I cannot tell you how jaw-droppingly amazing it is. It’s one of Colorado’s best destinations, and it’s spectacular: The steep walls of the canyon drop hundreds of meters down to the Gunnison River. We’ll start off with a ranger-led boat ride down the Gunnison River, then have a picnic lunch packed by the ranch. After lunch we’ll head to the canyon for sights that I can only describe as breathtaking. The rocks in the walls are hundreds of millions of years old, and some are more than a billion. I had no idea rocks this ancient were exposed in the U.S., and they are simply beautiful. I’ll note the canyon trip is extra; see the Science Getaways page for details.

My favorite part about these trips is that they are low-pressure. There will be talks, hikes, group activities, and more … but if you just want to sit back and enjoy the crisp Colorado air and read a book, have at it. The area is lovely and very quiet. The ranch is at an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet, which means it doesn’t get too hot, and nights are cool even in the summer. The views of the mountains are as stunning as you’d expect, too.

Goats are surprisingly soft and fun to pet. There are several animals at Waunita that the kids (ha! haha! Get it?) will love. Click to enchevronate.

Photo by Phil Plait

By the way, there’s a reason they called it the Waunita Hot Springs Ranch—a soak in the naturally geothermal-heated pool is probably something you’ll want to do.

If this sounds like something you and your family will enjoy (and it is), head on over to the registration page. I hope to see lots of BABloggees there. And just to let y’all know: Only 30 spots are available (including kids), so you’d better grab ‘em while you can!

*To be clear, travel to and from Waunita Springs is not included in the price. You can contact the folks at the Ranch to find out your best options to travel there; the link is on the registration page at the bottom.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


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