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Within A Wolf's Cry

Mini-Yellowstone Offers All the Nature Without the Crowds

(page 3 of 3)

And while the lodge has never been a dude ranch in the conventional sense of the word, it has measured up to original expectations as a charming, rustic getaway for visitors from as far away as Germany, Italy, and Scandinavia to partake in the beauty and spaciousness of the West.

The original log archway marks the entrance into the dining room, where guests look up from their French toast to eye log burl chandeliers, wooden skis hanging on the walls, and cowboy boots on the rock fireplace.

One of the original Frigidaire Executive refrigerators installed in 1930 still sits in the kitchen, providing cold storage for the vast amount of food that passes through the kitchen in the summer.

The great room, where guests can curl up on handcrafted furniture, features a 1930’s clock that the manager used to have to wind every night, and a refrigerator—Frigidaire, of course—with a selection of Samuel Adams, Woodchuck Draft Cider, Sun Valley Blonde, and other beers.

Most of the trophies dating back to the ranch’s original days as a hunting club have been taken down, including a stuffed eagle, mountain goat, deer, and coyote. But a trophy elk still stands vigil over the old Kimball piano from Chicago and one of the ranch’s old branding irons—the DR with an L on top, standing for the Bogert sons, Laurie and Dee, and daughter Rozalys.

Conspicuously absent are phones, televisions, and radios in guest accommodations.

There is, however, access to the Internet and a courtesy phone tucked away out of sight in the lodge’s main room. (And the ranch has a website, incidentally, at www.idahorocky.com).

“For the most part, you walk into the lodge and go back in time. And that’s really great for our clients, since most are highly successful people who lead hectic lives,” says Beckwith.

“We’ve been able to stay the same because we’ve had only four owners. As a result, the ranch has retained its original charm, “ she says.

The lodge offers 21 accommodations—four rooms in the lodge, and 17 cozy cabins. Nestled among shady pines, each cabin has its own rustic stone fireplace and pine furniture, and handmade quilts covering the beds. Bathrooms contain original benches, rock wall showers, and vanities lit by teardrop lights.

Across the highway, a pool fed by natural hot springs sits above the Salmon River. In late August and early September, guests can watch salmon that have bruised their snouts jumping over dams as they swam some 900 miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean just to lay their eggs in the gravel on the bottom of the river.

But the most popular part of the ranch continues to be the porch. 

Tables of halved logs sit next to hickory chairs, offering convenient places for a guest to place a glass of lemonade, which is available in a jug on the porch throughout the day.

Limbs of knotty pine posts reach out as convenient hangers for a jacket or a pair of binoculars.

The porch is the jumping off point for special Dutch oven dinners, served in a clearing in the woods near a creek. Guests are ferried there in a wagon drawn by Percheron draft horses. The lodge also hosts a popular Idaho night, offering a menu of Idaho specialties such as Idaho trout and lamb. (You don’t have to be a guest to dine at the lodge, but do check on availability first.)

Other menu items include grilled Chilean sea bass in orange rum sauce, New York-style steak in a pepper mustard sauce topped off with walnut basil wheat bread, peach and apple strudel, and mile-high lemon meringue pie.

Cowboy singer Muzzie Braun and Bruce Innes croon “Cool Water” and “City of New Orleans,” as the sun lowers to meet the lodgepole-covered ridge across the way. By the time the guests have wiped the crumbs off their mouths, the view has segued into a night sky littered with stars.

“I’ve had guests tell me they get up in the middle of the night just to go outside and look at the stars,” says Beckwith.

About 20 percent of the ranch’s clientele are repeat visitors.

Among them are a husband and wife who spent their honeymoon at the ranch and then returned in 1990 to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

“What really impressed them was how hard it was to get to the ranch the first time they came,” said Leavell. “They got off the train in Shoshone, and some people from the ranch drove them up.”

Six couples who met at the ranch have scheduled their vacations so they can be at the ranch together every year since.

Another man, from New Jersey, told lodge owners that staying at the ranch was like having a national park experience without the crowds.

The new owners are Steve Kapp, a healthcare investor, and his wife Courtney, an architect, who live in Philadelphia; and entrepreneur David Singer and his wife Diana Kapp, a freelance writer, who live in San Francisco. Steve and Diana Kapp are brother and sister.

“This is a family that’s in it for the long haul—Diana was expecting a child at the same time we bought the ranch and she named the baby Emma Sawtooth. So we call her little Saw,” said Courtney Kapp.

The four plan to keep the ranch fundamentally as it is, but are planning upgrades all around, said Diana Kapp. “This year we have hired a new chef and have upgraded the kitchen. We have also replaced all the main lodge furniture—it hadn’t been upgraded in 40 years.”

Courtney, an architect who is fixing up a 100-year-old home in Philadelphia, is wowed by the detail in the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch lodge.

“It’s a jewel driven by a desire for harmony with the setting,” she says. It could fit very comfortably in the legacy of the great national park lodges.

“We travel a lot, and the setting is without a doubt one of the most beautiful valleys in the world. And the ranch has a rich history—a history that we don’t take lightly. We feel we’re caretakers of it.”

The biggest attraction here, says Diana Kapp is “access to one of the most pristine natural ‘playgrounds’ in the world—whether you are a hiker, mountain biker, rafter, fisherman, or horseback rider.” Or presumably even if you are simply a porch sitter.

Leavell likewise is cognizant of the ranch’s rich history—both natural and human.

With his cabin overlooking the Salmon River on the lower ranch, he’s privy to the bounty of cougar, otter, fox, wolves, and elk that are drawn to a green spot where hot springs melt the snow in winter.

“We call the ranch our mini-Yellowstone,” he says. “It’s amazing to be in bed and all of a sudden hear a long, deep howl—it’s a beautiful sound.”

“I think of Dave Williams, the first owner for whom Williams Peak is named. And then, Winston Paul . . . and every time I walk by the old buildings and farm equipment, I feel like I’m crossing paths with these people.

“I’m amazed that they had the foresight to try to make something happen in this beautiful valley, which at times can have some of the harshest weather extremes in the nation. And look, it’s stood the test of time.” 

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