BY Ted Loos
July 06 2009 12:00 AM ET
The ranch itself certainly encourages a family vibe. It was established by Malcolm Mackay in 1901 and is still in the hands of his descendants (35 in all), who run it as a group. Mackay's gay great-grandson, Aaron Kampfe, founded OutWest, and not surprisingly, the very first trip he organized was on his family's ranch. (Now OutWest takes gay travelers all over the world, from Costa Rica to China.) Most of us stayed in the Summer Cabin, a charming log structure framed by a grove of birch trees, where the Mackays themselves have summered for more than a century. The Lazy E-L offers four gay and lesbian dude ranch weeks per year at $2,275 per person.
Getting up at dawn, spending long days outside, and drinking lemonade with dinner-it's not exactly lounging by the pool on a gay cruise. But Kampfe has been clever about developing active adventures for those of us who love them. "Growing up here, I always felt a bit different," he told us one night. "So when I founded the company in 1996, I thought, So why can't I have a place where my gay brothers and sisters can enjoy the same activities I love-horseback riding, rafting, and hiking?"
Even though those very activities had me feeling more sore than I had ever felt in my life, I couldn't have agreed more. After that day on Snickers, the possibility of ever sitting down again seemed remote. But then Rusty said the sweetest words I had ever heard, ones that you crave even on the roughest Western adventure vacation: "The masseur is here."