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Within A Wolf's Cry

Mini-Yellowstone Offers All the Nature Without the Crowds

A view from one of the Idaho Rocky  Mountain Ranch's favorite kickback spots-the front porch rocker.

A view from one of the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch's favorite kickback spots-the front porch rocker.

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As the summer of 1929 dawned, Wood River Valley miners danced the night away at Guyer Hot Springs, their partners decked out in silk dresses purchased for $9.90 at the J.C. Penney’s in Hailey.

In the absence of TV soap operas, homemakers anxiously awaited the latest installment of “The Mystery of Haunted Mansion: What the Grey House Hid” that appeared each week in the Hailey Times.

And those fortunate enough to get a little vacation could hop a Union Pacific train to Los Angeles for $50.90.

The talk of the town was the tinderbox conditions that had enabled a wildfire to streak through Deer Creek threatening the tiny mining town of Carbonate. And of photographer Bob “Two Gun” Limbert’s plans to build a camp at Redfish Lake.

It was into this mix that a front-page headline in the Times announced that the push was on to build a dude ranch amidst the “idle shade” of the Sawtooth Valley by the following year.

Three carloads of timber had already been shipped to Ketchum to be used in the project and 900 logs had already been peeled, the article boasted. When completed, the ranch would include four electric refrigerators, a bath in every apartment, and a concrete swimming pool fed by natural hot water.

It was the intention of the owners to create the premier dude ranch of the entire West, according to a spokesman for the Sawtooth Ranch Corporation.

“We are encouraged to make this investment by the knowledge that the interior of Idaho offers the greatest attractions for summer recreation to be found anywhere in the West,” he said.

It’s only natural that such a big deal should have been made of the refrigerators.

The man behind the Idaho Rocky Mountain Club, or “The Club,” as it came to be called, was Winston Paul, a Frigidaire distributor from New York.

Captivated by the beauty of jagged peaks resembling a saw blade that stretched more than 8,000 feet into the royal blue Idaho sky, Paul bought 874 acres just south of Stanley from the Williams families, whose best-known member was Dave Williams, a mail carrier between Stanley and Galena and one of the first climbing guides in the Sawtooths.

The building project was inspired by the Old Faithful Lodge at Yellowstone National Park, and proved a welcome source of income for 60 men as the Depression tightened its grip on the country. The crew floated logs up Williams and Gold creeks, pulling them by horse to the Big Meadows where they milled the logs on site. A blacksmith forged the wrought iron, while a stonemason built all the fireplaces out of local stone.

One man on the crew back then recalled those days to Bill Leavell, general manager of the ranch for the past 17 years. He said he had ridden his horse nearly a hundred miles from Carey, camping atop Galena Summit before riding into the ranch where he got a job as a carpenter and later, a wrangler.

“We worked for a dollar a day. And we were glad to have it,” he told Leavell. >>>

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