Lead Wrangler Shae Barkhurst Inspires BCR’s One-of-Kind Equestrian Program

Picture this: you’re sitting atop a beautiful black horse, galloping through a meadow at the foot of Wyoming’s Snowy Range. The sun is setting, and the sky morphs quickly, from blue to orange to pink to lavender. You pull on your horse’s reins to stop and take in the last of the sun sinking below the signature Brush Creek Ranch rock, soaking in the peace of the twilight. Finally, you wipe the sweat from your brow, and turn back towards the barn so you can get back to your cabin in time for dinner.

Shae Barkhurst

Meet Lead Wrangler Shae Barkhurst, the woman who will make this scene a reality for the guests of Brush Creek Ranch—even those with no prior riding experience.

“Brush Creek’s equestrian program is more advanced than your average guest ranch,” the Wrangler Team says. “We have wranglers who specialize in cutting, barrel racing, and roping. In a drastic change from the plod-along head-to-tail rides of other establishments, our trails allow for a variety of different levels to test their skills.”

Guests have an endless variety of terrain at their disposal: a gorgeous indoor and outdoor arena, flatter trails that meander along the Brush Creek, and more challenging climbs that reach the property’s most spectacular vistas. Half-day rides include a gourmet picnic lunch at one of Brush Creek’s pond-side yurts.

Shae says, “The most important task for my team, aside from making sure that each guest is in a lesson that matches their ability level, is making sure that they experience the beauty of the 13,000 acres that this ranch has to offer. On horseback, you see the ranch completely differently than you would in a car, or even walking.”

The ethos for the Brush Creek Ranch is simple: it offers guests a luxury vacation while still maintaining the quirks of an authentic working cattle ranch. There’s no better way to experience the real American West than by hanging out with one of our wranglers.

“I’ve competed in rodeos since I was 5 or 6 years old,” Shae says. “I’ve ridden as long as I have walked.” Shae, who grew up as the 4th generation on her family’s ranch, won several state titles while competing in Wyoming rodeo competitions, and was the state’s roping champion in the Wyoming High School Rodeo Association.

What’s Shae’s favorite memory from her time on the ranch? “Watching the first time a child rides—how they try to be brave and not let anyone know that they are really not too sure about this furry friend they are making.” But, by the end of the day, that same kid is kissing his horse on the nose and begging to learn new tricks. “Those are the moments that keep families coming back to the Brush Creek summer after summer.”

Shae Barkhurst and the wrangling team are happy to chat with you anytime to help plan your dream equestrian adventure. Email: guestservices@brushcreekranch.com

~Corinne White

corinne

Corinne White has been a BCR employee since 2009 and loves being there so much that she would rather be on ranch than in Tahiti. She has been everything from a hay baler to guest concierge and is best known around the ranch for having a fleet of ranch dogs following her around. Currently residing in New York City, Corinne is working at an art auction house and learning how to cope with east coast skiing.

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Delivering Authentic Riding Adventures at Brush Creek Ranch: Corinne White gets to the heart of cowgirl wrangling and making equestrian dreams come true

When my family first purchased the Brush Creek Ranch in 2009, my only knowledge of horses was the Hollywood visions I had gathered from movies like Dances With Wolves. I had no idea what it really felt like to be out riding under Wyoming’s tremendous skies. But in the past few years, after gaining more experience, I can say this: only on a horse–certainly not in a car, and not even on foot–can one begin to experience those feelings of independence and freedom that define the real American West.

Meet Shae Barkhurst, Maria Peschges, and Bailey Gornto, the cowgirls that make these experiences possible every day at the Brush Creek Ranch. With a mysterious knack for making people feel comfortable on a horse, these women teach our guests, levels beginner to advanced, how to really get to know the Wild West.

BCR Equestrian

Lead Wrangler Shae Barkhurst leads guests on a trailride through the picturesque sagebrush valleys on Brush Creek Ranch.

When it comes to horseback riding, what sets Brush Creek apart from the competition?

Bailey: Brush Creek’s equestrian program is more advanced than the average guest ranch. We have wranglers who specialize in cutting, barrel racing, and roping. In a drastic change from the plod-along head-to-tail rides of other establishments, our trails allow for a variety of levels of riders to test their skills, from the basics tailored to beginners to advanced rides designed to test the rider and horse. These rides allow for riders to use horses that match their skill level, from spirited cow ponies to gentle trail horses. The rides we take at the BCR differ, from gentle, scenic 1-hour trails to the more challenging 3-hour or half-day rides (including my favorite, Jim’s Draw Trail). Water crossings and incredible scenery are what our riders remember most, not just the backside of the horse in front of them. We ride at different paces, cover a number of different terrains, see a variety of wildlife, and have a horse available to suit the personality of almost any rider that comes to enjoy everything that our horseback program has to offer.

Shae: My goal at Brush Creek is to make every guest feel like they are the only person for many miles, making it a special experience from the beginner, who has never touched a horse and is scared to no end, to the person who has ridden numerous times. I take the extra step whether it’s spending an extra hour with the person who is scared to death just to make them realize that every horse we have here is a gentle giant and that they can overcome any fear.  I can make special events at the ranch even more special; for example, we do champagne toasts at sunset after riding to the highest peak on the property. We love when a small child can create a bond with Sally and Eeyore, our miniature horses, then take the next step of making a regular horse their friend for life. These are the moments why guests come back year after year. There is no doubt in my mind that we can make anything happen while having the utmost safety during all of the fun.

What are the different riding experiences that guests can experience?

Shae: We offer a large variety of experiences, and each one is individualized. There are no 2 experiences that are the same—I don’t believe in the cookie cutter model. There may be some that feel more comfortable with the head to tail experience at first but by the last day, you see them gaining confidence and pushing the envelope a little bit more, demonstrating the skills that they’ve learned during their stay.  Each private lesson or private ride is designed with an ultimate goal of the guest gaining confidence in themselves that will carry over into other aspects of their life.

We have standard activities that I have changed some for the upcoming season. Rather than offering a 1 hour, 2 hour or 3 hour ride, we offer a beginner ride. This type of ride might start out in our indoor or outdoor arena, so we can get the rider more comfortable in a controlled environment. Once they’ve reached a certain comfort level, we’ll move them to a simple trail ride. I am very proud to say that we’ve had several guests who start out very scared, but by the time the ride is complete they are very comfortable.

We offer an intermediate ride this will accommodate the guest who has ridden maybe years ago but needs a refresher course. Our advanced rides are longer and faster-paced. All three options offer gorgeous views of the ranch and the surrounding snow-kissed peaks of the Snowy and Sierra Madre mountain ranges.

We offer cattle work: cattle drives where you move the cattle to various pastures for land grazing purposes.  Other cattle events include cutting demonstrations—guests are given instruction and the time to practice those new skills.  We are really lucky to have Bailey on our team—she has lived the cutting world for years from the training level to the top competition level. Other cattle related options are team penning or cattle sorting. We make teams of three and the team to pen or sort their designated animal in the least amount of time is the winner.

Our wrangler team has the talent and ability to offer private instruction in horsemanship, arena events, and general equine knowledge.  Our team consists of a select group who each has a strong talent in various areas ranging from doctoring the animals on the range to arena events at the professional rodeo level. We are lucky to have such outstanding people on our Wrangler Team.

BCR Equestrian

Top left: Bailey Gornto heads into her second year at BCR, Middle/Top Right: Maria Peschges, a skilled barrel racer who helps lead the team is going into her fourth season, and Bottom: Julie Nelson, a two year BCR wrangler in vet school, leads horses through the outdoor arena.

How do the wranglers handle guests with different ability levels? Will there be riding opportunities for me if I’m a beginner rider, or an expert? Do you customize the riding experience for each guest?

Shae: When I first have the chance to meet the guests I have a pretty good idea of their ability level. You can tell by the way they discuss their interest in the horses. I suggest what ride would be best for them, and see if this fits what they had in mind. This enables us to individualize the ride for each guest from young to old or beginner to experienced riders. The most important part, aside from making sure the guest is in a lesson that matches their ability level, is making sure that they experience the beauty of the 13,000 acres that the ranch offers. We have such a wide range of landscapes that are sometimes only accessible by horseback.

Tell me about your favorite trail ride on the ranch.

Maria: My favorite trail ride on ranch is our half-day ride. The ride consists of walking, trotting, loping, river crossings, jumping logs, seeing lots of wildlife, and climbing to the highest point on the ranch. We also pack a gourmet picnic lunch and stop at one of the yurts to enjoy lunch, alongside one of our crystal-clear ponds.

Describe the typical day of a wrangler.

Shae: The Wrangler team starts many days before the sun has come up and ends the day long after the sun has gone down. We are saddling in the dark. Some rides leave the arena at daylight to take in the amazing sunrises or get back at dark after taking in a sunset ride.  If a ride is scheduled for 8:30 we start gathering horses from the pasture at 6:00 AM. We have long days with lots of footsteps involved. We generally saddle 30 plus head of horses during peak season, each being groomed and cared for individually. Then at the end of the day, you’ve got to unsaddle each of them and turn out for the night.  We are okay with these long hours because we honestly love our horses and what we do. It’s a lot of hard work but so very rewarding.

How do you define a cowboy or cowgirl?

Bailey: A big hat and jingly spurs are not what make a cowboy or cowgirl. It’s the love of the land and the desire to preserve a way of life that most parts of the country have forgotten. The use of horses for work and pleasure, pushing cattle toward water and graze the old fashioned way, and the camaraderie that comes with knowing your coworkers will always have your back are what makes a cowboy or cowgirl.

Shae: A true cowboy or cowgirl is not the clothes, boots or hat you wear, but comes from within. You have to have the heart to put in the long days. You can’t be a cowboy/cowgirl for monetary gain but for the personal growth. We love the animals—we have compassion for them just as we do for people. They are not only a piece that is necessary for our livelihood but they are our friends.

BCR Equestrian

Bailey crosses Brush Creek, followed by Maria and wranglers Brian and Brad.

What are some of your favorite memories from the Brush Creek Ranch?

Shae: The most touching and heartfelt memories for me so far at the ranch have been the dreams that we as wranglers get to make come true, particularly for the smaller children.  Every little girl and some boys’ dreams of pretty horses or ponies growing up are able to become a reality with our help. Watching them the first time they ride, trying to be brave and not let anyone know that they really are not too sure about this furry friend they are making. By the end of the day, they kiss the horse on the nose, and I might shed a tear or two.

Maria: I love waking up before the sun rises to bring in the herd of horses and watching them run in the crisp morning. I’ll always remember: racing on the lanes of raked grass before they bale the hay, the constant jokes and pranks that continue through out the days between all staff, watching guests play with my black lab, Chongo, long rides after work with my boyfriend, and all-staff races…these are the things that make my summers complete!

Bailey: Since I’ve been at Brush Creek, I’ve had a number of amazing adventures. Everything from snowball fights in June to racing horses and getting in water fights with my fellow wranglers has been an experience worth repeating.

Stay tuned for more blogs featuring the BCR wrangling team and unique riding adventures at Brush Creek Ranch.  Shae Barkhurst and the team are happy to chat with you anytime to help plan your dream equestrian adventure. Email: guestservices@brushcreekranch.com

corinne

Corinne White has been a BCR employee since 2009 and loves being there so much that she would rather be on ranch than in Tahiti. She has been everything from a hay baler to guest concierge and is best known around the ranch for having a fleet of ranch dogs following her around. Currently residing in New York City, Corinne is working at an art auction house and learning how to cope with east coast skiing.

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February Greetings from Mike Williams: Brush Creek Ranch seeks “Best of the Best” Hospitality and Outdoor Adventure Professionals for 2014 Season

Boy, the time does fly. We’re nearly halfway through our winter, or “off,” season already! Believe it or not, the team that hangs out at the Ranch all year is very busy, preparing the public buildings and accommodations and maintaining the winter stock of horses and cattle. We’re also looking at every facet of our business model to tweak it and make it as memorable as possible for you, our valued guests.

Inevitably, what we focus on most is recruiting the 70+ associates who will provide that unparalleled service to which our guests are accustomed and for which we are highly rated. While we strive to bring back as many returning team members as possible––and historically, are blessed each year with some representing us for a second, a third or even a fourth year––we always have the opportunity to select and introduce new associates to Brush Creek Ranch and our fabulous guests.

BCR Staff

A few of our returning staff. From Top, Left to Right: Ryan, Schelby, Ron, John, Brian, Annie, Roz, Will, Bailey, Caitie, and Maria.

Often, I receive calls and emails from guests who, after enjoying everything within our front gates, want to refer a sibling of a relative, a friend of a friend or a sibling of their own, etc., as a potential great hire. These are the best referrals we could ever receive, because after being here and spending time with our team members, you know the Ranch DNA necessary to deliver that service excellence.

Please, if you can think of any referral who would be a great fit for Brush Creek Ranch, don’t hesitate to reach out to Schelby or me, so we can get in touch with them. Our team members are our finest assets, despite the obvious investment we have in the land, the buildings and everything else here.

Before we know it, these associates will be traveling to Wyoming to begin their Ranch experience, and we will be opening up our gates for our fourth full season. We are so excited. Everyone on the leadership team is engulfed in preparing each department for nothing short of excellence. We hope to see you all back on Ranch in 2014.

For more information about employment at Brush Creek Ranch, including detailed job descriptions, visit our Employment Page.

Happy Trails!

MWilliams

Michael Williams

Executive VP/COO, Brush Creek Ranch

 

 

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Inspiring Holiday Tablescapes with Floral Designer Natalie Bowen

Tis’ the season at Brush Creek Ranch! The snow has been falling, the Christmas tree is going up and we are busy preparing the ranch for our holiday celebrations. Our Christmas décor is largely inspired by the vast Wyoming wilderness surrounding us. We love to accentuate the woodwork in the magestic Trailhead Lodge with elements of nature, and bursts of festive color to create a cozy, rustic chic holiday setting.

Floral designer Natalie Bowen of Natalie Bowen Designs, along with the talented ladies at Event Space Consulting, were the muses behind this inspiring Christmas tablescape. We caught up with Natalie to find out how she created this ”woodsy glam” table set.

Wood chargers play off the ornate tablecloth to create a rustic chic feel.

BCR Holiday Decor

Simple, elegant rustic luxury.

BCR: You focused on garland for this tablescape. Why did you do that rather than single arrangements?

Natalie: I love the look of garland during the holidays. I like that that it looks full and brings warmth to the table. I love starting with single branches or a garland of greens and then adding other elements such as fruit, nuts, candles and small arrangements to accent the garland. If you are doing this at home, it can last for a couple of weeks so you can get multiple uses out of it, too.

BCR: You used bay rather than traditional holiday greens. Why?

Natalie: I love that bay looks very holiday while still being unexpected. I love the soft silvery green tone of the foliage and also love that it looks good even after it dries.

Use bay leaf plant for a unique twist on garland or greenery.

Use bay leaf for a unique twist on garland or greenery.

BCR: You mentioned using fruit and nuts in the garland decor, can you elaborate on this idea?

Natalie: I think something that makes arrangements special is to keep them seasonal and also add something unexpected. A little pile of walnuts in the shell or whole pomegranates are a great way to accent garlands and vignettes.

BCR: Any tips on how to make a table setting feel extra special?

Natalie: I always like to put a sprig or single bloom on each napkin. If you set the napkin in the center of the plate, rather than the side, it really balances the table. A little sprig of bay leaf or rosemary or a single small blossom place on the napkin makes the whole table come together. Trust me, your guests will notice!

Ilex berries offer a pop of color.

Ilex berries offer a pop of color.

Carry this inspiration over to your cocktail station, buffet table
and beyond, for an elegant, western holiday look!

Thanks Natalie!

BCR Holiday Decor

A sprig of mint adds a festive contrast to your punchbowl.

Natalie Bowen at Brush Creek Ranch

Natalie Bowen at Brush Creek Ranch

Photos by Mel Barlow
Compiled by Rosalyn Young

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Inspired Cuisine in the Great American West – Getting to Know BCR Sous Chef Randy Gresham

Walk by Brush Creek Ranch’s open kitchen in the Trailhead Lodge, and you’re likely to see Sous Chef Randy Gresham on the line, offering a friendly smile and hello while he crafts something delicious, perhaps one of his signature soups. Randy has become famous on ranch for his soups and guests do their ‘darndest’ to go home with one of his recipes.

The Houston native is heading into his third season at Brush Creek and has become a key leader of the culinary team, a staff that consistently showcases tremendous amounts of creativity and flexibility. “We have five unique venues on the ranch that we use to serve guests,” says Randy, “So it keeps things exciting for sure. Our meals, even aside from the food preparation, involve a huge amount of behind the scenes setup on a daily basis.” But Randy says the hard work is all worth it, when he sees  guests enjoying cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and the expansive views at Falcon’s Peak, or a family dining together at Creekside Dinner Camp. “Our creekside venue is really my favorite,” he says, “I think it epitomizes what Brush Creek Ranch is all about. A ‘down-home’ rustic, country outdoor BBQ  in the heart of the wilderness with some luxurious, chic touches.” It’s this type of experience that pulled Randy to Brush Creek Ranch. “My desire was to be in a ranch setting but still produce the refined and precise food that drives me.”

Randy began as a dishwasher and prep cook during his teen years in Texas and worked his way up in the culinary world, training under one of his mentors, Chef David Welch, who studied at the esteemed Le Cordon Blue in Paris. “Chef Dave taught me so much about refinement and still being true to roots with your food,” says Randy. It’s those roots that inspire many of Randy’s dishes. “I try to inspire memories and emotion with my food. To me, food is one of the few truly visceral experiences that we can have as humans. There is something innately emotional about sitting down to a meal.  So I try to draw from my past in an attempt to perhaps bring out childhood memories in my take on a classic dish. Or, I might try to take a classic and put a slight spin on it to create a point of conversation and inquisitiveness.  I want my dishes to speak, but not to yell.  There is something to be said for finesse and simplicity.”

Speaking of finesse, Randy is also known to be quite the two-step dance partner. “I do love to two-step,” he laughs. On occasion during the summer season, Randy will finish dinner service and head to the Saloon to offer two-step lessons to guests or deal poker. “It’s a fun way for me to interact with guests since I’m in the kitchen most of the time.” On his rare days off, Randy takes advantage of all the activities the Platte River Valley offers. His favorites are fly fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking and exploring the many trails of the Medicine Bow National Forest.

He also enjoys homebrewing beer in the winter season along with BCR Executive Chef Drew Anderson, and has extensive wine knowledge. “It is fun to pair both wine and beer with food. I think beer often gets outshined by wine, when in actuality, it is much more open for pairings in terms of varieties and flavor profiles. Everything from a dark stout paired with a braised short rib, to a sour Berliner Weisse, German wheat beer, paired with a spicy mussel dish.”

His favorite bottle of wine in the Brush Creek Ranch cellar is Terlato Wine’s Chimney Rock Elevage (their Bordeaux Blend). “I was able to visit the winery last winter, see the grapes grown, taste the fermenting juice out of the barrel and have an in depth conversation with the winemaker, so that particular bottle will always be special to me.”

And then there are those famous soups of his, which he says he tends to make more in the fall and winter seasons.  Who doesn’t love a hearty soup or stew when it’s cold outside? “It’s a comforting dish,” he says, “I appreciate soup as a canvas that allows lots of opportunity to work with different flavors, complexities, and textures. It really gives you a chance to play with different ingredients that might not have a bigger role in an entree.”

Given that Thanksgiving is around the corner, and inspired by the fall season, Randy shared one of his soup recipes, recently featured in Wine Enthusiast Magazine that is perfect for turkey dinner leftovers.

Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetite!

 Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 4

1 cup cranberry sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion
2 celery ribs
1 leek, cleaned and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 quart turkey stock
2 pounds leftover mashed sweet potatoes
2 cups heavy cream
¼ teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash Sherry vinegar
8 ounces cooked turkey

In a skillet over high heat, reduce the cranberry sauce by half and set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed pot set over medium heat, add the olive oil and sweat the onion, celery, leek and garlic. Once translucent, deglaze them with the white wine and reduce by half. Add the stock and sweet potatoes, and cook for 10 minutes. Blend thoroughly with either an immersion blender or by carefully transferring in batches to a traditional blender. Return the mixture to the pot and reduce the heat to low. Add the cream and cook until smooth, approximately 5 minutes. Season the mixture with nutmeg, salt, pepper, cayenne and vinegar.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, reheat the turkey. Ladle the soup into bowls, and top with the turkey and cranberry sauce reduction.

Pair this creamy soup with the buttery 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay from Terlato Family Vineyards. 

~Rosalyn Young

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Fall 2013 Update from Michael Williams

Happy Fall from Brush Creek Ranch! It feels like yesterday we were opening our doors for the summer season, and now have said goodbye to our summer staff and are shifting into winter gear. What a season it’s been! From couples and family vacations, to weddings and group retreats, our 2013 summer season was an absolute blast. I say it all the time, and I truly believe it –we have the best guests in the world. Nothing lights us up more as a staff than seeing you relaxed, connecting with family, friends, and coworkers, and having a great time adventuring on the ranch.

My own family joined me at the ranch this summer, so I know just what a perfect venue it is for bringing your family and loved ones together. My grandchildren loved  horseback riding, feeding Oreo the calf, riding around with me on the ATV, and hanging out with our great staff in our Lil’ Wranglers kids camp. I remember sitting on the Saloon deck as the sun went down one evening, enjoying a cigar and laughing with my sons Ryan and Kevin, their wives, my sister and my nieces (one who even worked for us all summer!).  My grandkids Emma, 6 and Levi, 3 ran around giggling with the dogs and playing games on the lawn. These are the moments together I cherish. I hear over and over from our guests that their stay with us was the best family vacation they’ve ever taken. And that their kids have never had as much fun or slept as hard!

I just had a ball looking through our “2013 BCR Summer Season” photo album on the Brush Creek Ranch Facebook page. Be sure to check it out here.  We love keeping in touch with guests throughout the year via social media so please join us there for a slice of ranch life, and thanks to all our guests who shared their vacation photos with us!

We’ve been enjoying a beautiful Indian Summer in Wyoming over the past few weeks, but winter is just around the corner and it is a magical time to visit the ranch. We offer a plethora of winter activities including cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice skating, sledding, tubing and ice fishing. And there is nothing like sitting by the fire in the Trailhead Lodge and watching the snow fall outside after a fun day of adventures.

We are open December 27th through January 5th and for weekends only from January 31st until March 16th. Join us for the holidays to ring in the New Year or for our new Superbowl Winter Weekend Spectacular, which I’m particularly looking forward to! Although I would love to see a miracle happen and my beloved Bears somehow figure out how to get back to the Superbowl, realistically, it’s about as likely as an ice cube melting up here on the ranch in the middle of January! But what the heck, here’s my prediction for the big game: Broncos and 49’ers. I know, big leap of faith!

As usual, my fantastic front office staff is ready to answer any questions you might have about planning your ranch vacation, so give us a call anytime. I am always happy to chat with you directly as well.

Until next time,

Happy Trails….

Michael Williams
COO/EVP
The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch

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Brush Creek Ranch Featured in Luxe Mountain Weddings Blog

We were thrilled Ashley and Greg chose Brush Creek Ranch as the venue for their wedding in June and it couldn’t have been a more beautiful celebration or fun group of people! Today, Luxe Mountain Weddings  features their rustic chic wedding on their blog – check it out for more photos and details of Ashley and Greg’s special day.

“We would recommend this gem to any couple looking for a dude ranch or destination wedding. It is truly one of the most amazing, spectacular and hospitable places we had ever been and our family and guests concur. The staff at BCR is unbelievable; every detail was taken care of ALL weekend. Everyone at BCR from every part of the ranch went out of their way to make everything go smoothly and it did. The Spa at BCR is excellent!” –ASHLEY

Ashley and Greg - Photo by Brinton Studios

Stunning vistas at Brush Creek Ranch

For more luxury ranch wedding inspiration, or for information on planning your wedding at Brush Creek Ranch, visit our Weddings Page.

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True Cowboy Spirit Endures with a Twist of Adventure at Wyoming’s Brush Creek Ranch – Q&A with Ranch Manager Ron Hawkins

For guests of The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, one of the first stops is the Outfitter’s Barn, their central hub for scheduling activities and gathering the gear those adventures entail. Our expert outfitters team is always at the ready, eager to help create an experience like no other. They provide a wealth of knowledge that sets guests at ease, even when they’ve officially reached the outer limits of their comfort zone.

Leading our Outfitters team is Ron Hawkins, the Ranch Manager. With more than 30 years of ranch and livestock management under his belt, he’s our resident authority––and a real-life cowboy. We sat down to chat with Ron to learn more about his role and about what guests can expect during their time on the Ranch. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Describe a typical day on the Ranch for you.

That’s a tough one, because there is no typical day. The livestock here is at the top of our priorities each day, whether it be cattle or horses. And of course, our guests’ satisfaction is always our priority. We do a lot of maintenance too, either on the waterways or roadways on the Ranch. There are a ton of other things, but these are the chief priorities.

 Q: How do you define “true cowboy spirit?” What does it mean to you?

It’s that authentic Western hospitality––the real deal, not the put-on. It’s the manners and the ethics that cowboys have. They take their hats off for ladies and look a man in his eyes when they shake his hand, and they always show a deep appreciation for the land.

 Q: How does the Ranch embody this “true cowboy spirit?” How do guests experience this philosophy when they visit?

There again, it’s that well-mannered behavior we are making standard for all of our employees to have. Our guests can feel that we’re genuine in what we do. We say “thank you” a lot and that we’re glad to see them, but they realize we mean it and that we appreciate their business. We always take the time to try and get rid of that hustle and bustle of wherever they just left, so they can ease into Ranch life.

Q: Describe how the Ranch interacts with this expansive terrain and the animals that live here.

We’re a 15,000-acre, high-altitude, working cattle ranch, where the terrain goes from 7,500 to 9,500 feet. We set aside different pieces of the Ranch to preserve wildlife, and we’re livestock-friendly. We’ve done riparian restoration on the property to improve fishing, upgraded roads with minimal impact on domestic and wild animals––even our fencing allows game access without any problems.

 We have so many activities here, and yet we keep the guest impact on areas of the Ranch really low. For example, seasonal hunting is done mostly on foot. Quietly, with no motorized vehicles, so impact on the wildlife is low. We spend a lot of time with our guests, looking for the right species or something that pleases them. Then we go in and harvest the animal without impacting the rest of the wildlife. So while we are hunting some animals, it is very select, and we’re preserving the wildlife as well. We keep the number of animals we harvest to a minimum.

Q: Tell me what guests can expect from the Brush Creek Ranch Outfitters team.

Whether it’s our horseback riding guides or our fishing guides, all of them are professional, and you’re getting the very best experience you can get anywhere in the country. We always try to take the adventure to its highest level. While guests are exploring, we make sure they understand how they are a part of our whole ecology plan and our conservation efforts here at Brush Creek Ranch.

Q: When they first arrive, how do guests usually react to being immersed in the Brush Creek Ranch experience?

Everyone tends to be uncertain about what to expect, but our staff makes them comfortable. We stretch them outside of their comfort zone and get them to do things they normally wouldn’t do. If they’re doing an activity they’ve tried before, we expand on their skills while they’re here. We make them better at shooting guns, riding horses or catching fish, or whatever they’re doing, and want them to know more than when they first came here.

 

Q: How do you interest guests in trying new types of adventures, especially when they’re nervous? How do you make them feel comfortable?

Ease them into it and teach them to have a lot of confidence. We’re always building up our guests. We show them we’re going to take care of them, but then we also instruct them, “here are all the things you need to do to take care of yourself.” Education is important on the Ranch. The more people know, the more comfortable they become.

 Q: In your opinion, what makes Brush Creek Ranch unique?

On the whole flipside of our guest operations, it’s an authentic working cattle ranch that helps feed the country, and we have a lot of agricultural product too, to feed all these animals. We work really hard at interlacing three aspects––the agricultural side, the guest experience and the use of sustainable ranching methods and balance across our vast and varied landscape.

 Q: Tell me more about the special experiences your team creates.

We have miles of blue-ribbon waters that we can take that experienced fisherman to. He’d have to go around the globe to get the same quality water he can fish here. We have access to some extremely high-end fishing. When we see guests with high-level horseback-riding skills who move through our program quickly, we can take them on a cattle drive or have them work cattle in the arena. We have several special games they can play in the arena. Our rides are more advanced than those at other guest ranches, so guests are able to enjoy a far greater experience than the nose-to-tail trail ride that others have. They discover a much better understanding of what a real cowboy does.

We also have some incredible rocky mountain experiences, taking guests on a ranger tour thorough our buffalo pasture, hiking or biking over 50 miles of our trails or shooting archery targets in the alpine trees. It’s fun to see both families and adults show their competitive side playing paintball or doing the ropes course and zip lines. We make everyone feel comfortable and it’s great to see them feeling satisfied and bonding with each other from their experiences.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us!

Thank you. I always appreciate getting the chance to talk about the Ranch. It’s my favorite subject to talk about!

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Brush Creek Ranch Activities Director Josh Graffam Places 13th at the Fly Fishing World Championships in Norway

Staff members of Brush Creek Ranch proudly welcomed Activities Director Josh Graffam home to the ranch after his successful 13th place finish at the 2013 Fly Fishing World Championships, held in Mosjoen, Norway last month.  Graffam, and his six teammates on Team USA, placed 5th overall, in a field of 125 competitors representing 27 countries.

Josh fishing different depths in Norway

“My experience at the world level was unbelievable,” says Graffam, “The people of Norway were extremely welcoming, the organizers did a fantastic job running the event, and the scenery was gorgeous. The fishing was definitely challenging in this particularly region; if you were able to catch even one fish on a couple of the very difficult venues, you were doing well.”

The venues included three rivers and two lakes in Mosjoen, which is centrally located in the Vefsna region of Norway and only 45 miles from the Arctic Circle. “It was crazy being that far north, we only had four hours of darkness a night,” says Josh.

In competitive fly fishing, anglers are split into five groups, with whom they fish each sector (a river or lake) for the duration of the contest. Each sector is divided into “beats,” for the number of fishermen in the group.  In this case, there were 25 beats for each venue. Generally, beats are 150 yards worth of water, which competitors fish for three hours. Points are awarded based on the size and number of fish caught. “The game,” says Josh, “is to learn how to use every bit of your water.”

Josh, third from left, along with Lance Egan, Norman Makitma and Dan Oas interpret "Beat 21" Sector 3 in Norway

Anglers fished for brown trout and European grayling, all wild fish in this region, which played to Graffam’s advantage, because the waters he practices on in Wyoming are comparable.

“We have a freestone river system here on Brush Creek Ranch and in the surrounding Platte River Valley, and it is consistently changing conditions due to the seasons.  I have a multitude of options available to me – from boat fishing, to wade fishing, to canyon fishing, to small creek fishing. That kind of variety in one area is special, especially being that it is all wild fish. It’s good training for me.”

Brush Creek Ranch hosted Team USA for a practice session in April, which Graffam says was important for team bonding as much as it was for fishing.  “The ranch provided the perfect setting for us to come together and gel as a team, while being able to enjoy all the other activities the ranch offers as well. My teammates were really impressed with the property and facilities.”

As Activities Director for the ranch, Graffam’s key role is to manage the entire team of guides for all ranch activities, which allows him less time for guiding, though he plays a prominent role in overseeing the fly fishing program. “For the same reasons that I choose to live and train here, I am excited for our guests at Brush Creek Ranch. They have the opportunity to fish the Encampment and North Platte Rivers, Brush Creek, as well as our numerous ponds and lakes. It’s all right here and it’s world class fishing.”

Waters across Brush Creek Ranch (above) and in the Platte River Valley offer world class fishing.

Next up for Josh is the U.S National Championships in the first weekend in October, in Aspen Colorado. He currently sits in first place in points in the country, and has already qualified for the 2014 World Championships in the Czech Republic.

“I can’t say enough about my Brush Creek family, and specifically the White Family, for the support they’ve shown for my fishing career over the last few years. I am extremely grateful.”

Honored as a prestigious Orvis-Endorsed Fly-Fishing Lodge, Brush Creek Ranch offers top-of-the-line equipment and guide services for novices and experts alike to create a truly once-in-a-lifetime fully outfitted fly fishing experience. For more information, or to plan your fly fishing adventure at Brush Creek Ranch, call 307-327-5284.


~Rosalyn Young

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Brush Creek Ranch presents “Cowgirl Up for the Cure”

“Cowgirl is an attitude, really. A pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head on, lives by her own lights, and makes no excuses. Cowgirls take stands. They speak up. They defend the things they hold dear. A cowgirl might be a rancher, or a barrel racer, or a bull rider, or an actress. But she’s just as likely to be a checker at the local Winn Dixie, a full-time mother, a banker, an attorney, or an astronaut.” ~ DALE EVANS, “Queen of the Cowgirls” 1992

Round up your girlfriends and loved ones and prepare to “Cowgirl Up” for an unforgettable 3-day weekend event, October 3-6, 2013, to benefit Denver’s Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Plan now to immerse yourself in an inspiring weekend to remember and contribute to this worthy cause! Highlights include:

  • Adventures and activities on our 15,000-acre luxury guest ranch
  • Well-appointed lodging surrounded by an awe-inspiring landscape
  • Rejuvenating fitness and wellness spa offerings
  • Barn Dance plus Nightly live entertainment including a performance by Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb.
  • Gourmet Rocky Mountain cuisine served at an array of Ranch venues
  •  Educational programs and speakers focusing on health, wellness and cancer prevention
  • Opportunities to create an enduring community with fellow cowgirls

SEE AN OVERVIEW OF THE COWGIRL UP FOR THE CURE SCHEDULE HERE! OCTOBER 3 – 6, 2013 ALL-INCLUSIVE 3-NIGHT WEEKEND PACKAGE*

  • $2,250 per person with $750 per person being donated back to Komen Denver Affiliate. Plus, contributions throughout the weekend will be matched, dollar for dollar, by both the Bruce & Beth White Family, plus an anonomyous donor.
  • Pricing covers lodging, meals, soft drinks, premium spirits, beer and wine and a wide range of activities with guides, gear and instruction.
  •  *Excludes: 10% ranch fee, taxes, spa services and off ranch experiences are additional fee

RESERVE NOW! Call 307-327-5284 or email: guestservices@brushcreekranch.com

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