The Saratoga Sun -

Med Bow Lodge turns 100

Owners Tim and Debbie Bishop to hold celebration Saturday

 

July 12, 2017

The first thing one notices when entering any of the guest cabins at the Medicine Bow Lodge just outside Ryan Park is how much cooler the cabins are than the outside temperature. Even with temperatures near the 90-degree mark, the cabins feel like they are at room temperature, even without air conditioning.

The cabins are simple, the kind of understated elegance that comes from the use of simple materials and designs: stacked log construction, with exposed, hand-hewn rafters, along with pine plank floors lightly finished. The gaps in the wood planks aren't there to add rustic charm, either, they're to allow for the contraction and expansion of the planks that occurs with temperature fluctuations.

Once upon a time, the floors were dirt, said Tim Bishop, who owns the lodge along with his wife Debbie.

Back when the lodge opened in 1917, guests had dirt floors. At least now, as the lodge prepares for its centennial year, guests have wooden floors.

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Lunch, and every meal at the lodge, are served in the large main building. Dominated by a tremendous stone fireplace which passes through the wall to be visible from the dining area and activity room, the main building houses a kitchen, dining area and large sitting room that has pool tables and other games, as well as a small library.

Unlike "housekeeping cottages" that might be found at some other resorts, which include kitchens in each cabin, there are no such cabins at the Medicine Bow Lodge. All meals are served in the large, inviting dining room in the main lodge where guests have the chance to mingle with other guests, and get to know the staff and owners of the lodge.

Tim and Debbie both agree that having housekeeping cottages or cabins would fundamentally alter the experience of a place like the Medicine Bow Ranch by reducing the amount of time for guests to get to know others.

During the day, the lodge offers many activities to guests. Horseback riding, hiking, cookouts and fishing are all on the agenda. But if any guest just wants to sit out on the rear porch and listen to the water on the creek, they can do that, too.

According to Debbie Bishop, it's possible to get so used to the sound of the water in the river flowing over rocks, one can hear when an animal is standing in the water from the disruption in flow it causes.

The lodge will also arrange overnight horse pack trips and other guided activities for guests. Evenings bring a campfire in a massive new fire pit constructed of boulders.

The activities at the lodge are limited only by the imaginations of the guests. Anything from rock collecting, to stargazing and even arts and crafts are available, and the staff will accommodate anything they can.

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The lodge is celebrating its 100th year this year, and is in a constant state of reinvention. The bathhouse is being renovated to be a Jacuzzi and sauna house since all guest cabins today have in-cabin bathrooms. The bathhouse will also have a small massage studio.

The Bishops hope to one day be able to bring in a masseuse to offer services to guests.

Other cabins are being rebuilt and restored, including several of the oldest cabins on the property.

But perhaps the biggest challenge came several years ago, when in 2009, a part of the original main lodge caught fire. The area that today houses the game room was destroyed and had to be rebuilt.

For the Bishops, it was a stressful time, but they say support from the local community helped out a lot, with many people offering whatever assistance they could to make the repairs and restoration go smoother.

The restoration went well. The room has been restored and the massive fireplace that was the center of two rooms in the main lodge is in working order, bringing the rooms back to their original rustic charm.

The library of books had to be replaced as well since the originals were lost in the blaze, but guests have their choice of one of several hundred books to pass the time with while taking in the surroundings and cool mountain air.

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Saturday, the lodge will celebrate 100 years of bringing the West into the lives of guests from all over the country with a celebration on the lodge property.

At around noon, the celebration will kick off with music from local singer Teense Willford. Later in the day, around 3 p.m., guests will be treated to a barbeque and a host of other activities to allow them to get to know their neighbors, guests of the lodge and the staff and owners.

For anyone who has not been, the event will also give people the opportunity to explore and learn a very fascinating story about a charming place in the mountains, a place that has drawn visitors for over 100 years and sent many home only for them to long to be back among the clear air, cool mountain breeze, the river, wildflowers and the rustic charms of much simpler days.

Describing a visit by a recent guest who is the daughter of long time guests, Debbie Bishop said it took years of urging by her family for the daughter to finally relent and visit the lodge. When it came time to leave, she didn't want to.

The lodge's 100th anniversary event this weekend will allow anyone the chance to find out why, when people finally make the trek up to the Medicine Bow Lodge, they may not want to leave.

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