By Jeff Rebitski, Staff Writer
Here in the West, there are very few places remaining hat offer both solitude and beauty on a grand scale. The Absaroka Ranch, located at the headwaters of Wyoming’s Wind River and at the base of the spectacular Absaroka mountain range and the Ramshorn, is such a place.
These words, found on the website page of this hideaway, located just a few miles West of Dubois, don’t come close to describing the beauty and people you will experience when you make the short trip to the mountains.
The Absaroka Ranch has a rich history. In 1911, Mily and Emil Blaha homesteaded the property. They were subsistence farmers growing and raising their own food. They grew lettuce and cabbage, not only for themselves but for the tie hackers who were working for the railroad in the Dunoir Valley. They also raised cows, chickens, goats, pigs and horses. Five years after they first homesteaded they finished building the main lodge and the cabin, Delta Whiskey. Both buildings are still used today.
The Blahas owned the ranch until it was purchased from them by the Detimores in 1957. They ran it as a guest ranch until 1981 and then sold the ranch to the Delo family. The Delos continued to run the ranch as a guest ranch until 1983, when the current owner Budd Betts purchased it.
Betts then met his wife Emi and together they have been running the ranch ever since. They decided to change the name of the ranch from Highland Meadows to Absaroka Ranch and open it as a guest ranch and outfitting business. Budd and Emi had two children, Robert and Lindsay. Today, Lindsay and her husband Brooklyn are managers at the ranch. Over the years they have welcomed visitors from far and wide to enjoy the beauty and serenity that the ranch offers.
This reporter was invited to attend a scheduled concert last week, but unfortunately, due to a sudden and unexpected storm, the rugged, 5 mile dirt road that allows entry to properties all along it, washed out, causing a regrettable cancellation. Never one to disappoint the clients, she quickly rescheduled the event and although the opening act had to continue on with their scheduled tour dates, the headliner, Nashville recording artist and songwriter, John King and his beautiful wife and child, who are close friends of Lindsay and Brooklyn, were taking a long deserved vacation after being on tour for several months, decided to stay at the ranch and perform a private and much more intimate concert for several close family and friends.
John and his wife were raised in the Appalachian foothills of northern Georgia and John King listened to a wide range of musicians —southern rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Black Crowes, classic craftsmen like James Taylor and Johnny Cash, and ’90s country stars like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. While working construction jobs as a teenager, John desired something else.. When he wasn’t pouring rocks at the worksite or studying in the classroom, he was usually at home, writing lyrics into his spiral-bound notebook and strumming his newly-written songs on an acoustic guitar. By 16 years old, he was writing multiple songs every week, often playing them for his friends around the campfire, which is what he did for us on this night. His compatibility with everyone in attendance was natural as he joked and developed relationships with the group.
Sitting on the edge of a 700 acre meadow, with 30 or so horses grazing in the distance, John performed a mixture of his own songs along with songs that he had written with other artists over the years. Groups like Hootie and the Blowfish with front man Darius Rucker worked with John for a hit or two, while other big name Nashvill artists play songs he has written as well.
All of these things, combined with an elegant, yet rustic meal served on the lawn in front of the cabins was an experience that deserves trying. The services they provide are package deals for folks who want the experience of ranch life and mountain grandeur while being treated like guests. The activities include hiking, packing, fishing, horseback riding, biking, or taking photographs. The cabins are appointed with historical artifacts of the days gone by, while the grounds are clean and well kept with grass and wildflowers wherever you look. With a sauna on the grounds, there is not much lacking in this dream destination. According to Linday, “we host weddings and parties of all kinds and host guests for 6 day adventures in the Absaroka mountains. Everything is included and a peaceful stay is guaranteed.”
When asked, Lindsay Judd stated that there are difficulties in winter as the road is often closed, so they don’t operate in those months. There is a hunting element to the ranch, but those trips tend to fill up quickly in the fall as the elk are plentiful in the area. With Dubois just a few miles away, there is entertainment and dining along with the multiple attractions in the immediate area.
With travel costs and other complications making people consider alternative concepts for vacations, one should consider the idea of a “Stay-Cation” and try a local favorite for history and scenery that is second to none.