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Cowboy Up

Culture Watch
Cattle driving is just one of the excursions to experience at Brush Creek Ranch.

Elevated gourmet cuisine is not exactly the expected menu at a dude ranch, but then again, The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is no standard Wild West destination. The Saratoga, Wyoming, property that is open May through October each year is so gorgeous and luxurious it redefines expectations of what a trip to a cattle ranch can—and should—be. Set on 30,000 acres of the Platte River Valley, the pristine landscape is rugged, bucolic and diverse, with magical light emanating from the vast open sky that seems to cast a spell. Then it’s the genuinely plush but authentic accommodations, which comprise lodge rooms and suites, log cabin residences and restored cabins in the high desert prairie—and a barn dance hall to boot.

In a short time, Brush Creek has become a must for families and couples who can’t resist the urge to return over and over, thanks in part to the ever-evolving roster of all-inclusive activities and offerings. New this year: an Aerial Adventure Ropes Course, with a few dozen features and 150-foot dual zipline, as well as expanded spa and culinary programs. Both are intimately evocative of the region: the Bullseye Massage at Trailhead Spa includes targeted tension relief with an arnica-based potion and sandalwood scalp massage, and there’s even a Signature Teepee Journey, which involves a meditation and intuitive rubdown using native Wyoming herbs with the river flowing in the background, providing a soothing natural soundtrack.

When it comes to the food, the ranch truly shines—and stimulates. The just-unveiled ‘pasture to plate’ program means guests enjoy ranch-raised Akaushi beef and flavorful fruits and vegetables grown in the 6,480-square-foot greenhouse (fun fact: it produces 106 different items, from leafy greens to honey to herbs). It’s hard to imagine an array any more local. Naturally, everything is made from scratch, whether it’s smoked lamb chops with mint pistou, pizzas, cucumber gazpacho or a whole grilled Rocky Mountain trout, and with such an expansive amount of land, dining venues vary from a deck to a mountaintop picnic to a Chuckwagon accompanied by live bluegrass. To go with the vibrant dishes, the ranch pours wines from an always expanding cellar focused on lesser-known, small-production but high-scoring wine—think 93 to 100 points.

As tempting as it may be, devotees don’t come to Brush Creek only to eat, however. The panoply of activities offers excitement for all ages and interests, and are organized in a bespoke manner to fit each guest’s desires. Trail rides on horseback are offered in four levels, and there’s also the opportunity to accompany wranglers on a real cattle drive, or take a lesson in barrel racing or pole bending. (Young ones aged four to eight can participate in Lil’ Wranglers Camp.) Also on offer: fly fishing, rock climbing, sporting clays, pistol and rifle shooting, mountain biking, hikes in the million-acre-plus Medicine Bow National Forest, ATV-ing, yoga, paintball, wing shooting and lawn games (there’s also an off-ranch 18-hole golf course). Nighttime offers no shortage of excitement either. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres always preclude feasts, and afterward the saloon is a hot spot only second to the great outdoors—that wide, bright sky filled with twinkling stars, best accompanied by s’mores.

 

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