Jim Manley didn’t hear voices in his head, the ghost of heroes beckoning from beyond the grave to build his field of dreams. He did have a burning passion, since the age of 10, to fulfill his boyhood dreams of having his own cowboy ranch.
“When I was young I loved TV shows like Bonanza, Gunsmoke and Rawhide. I became infatuated with the western lifestyle,” explains Manley. “I made a vow to my father when I was ten years old that I was going to get a ranch.”
Passion and patience drove Manley’s dream. After searching for 20 years he got a fortuitous call from his broker with the news that his dream ranch was on the market. The following day, Manley boarded a plane for Montana, toured the ranch, and bought it on site.
“I wanted the ultimate trophy ranch,” insists Manley. “I wanted an authentic old cattle ranch with an old mining town near by, not a Walmart. I wanted a big valley with rolling hills and a river going through it without a highway. I wasn’t going to settle for less.”
The 43-year quest to fulfill a dream and a promise a young boy made to his father was at last manifested. The first year was reserved for friends and family to enjoy, followed by two years and 30 million dollars of renovation and preservation. The goal was to open the ranch to the public and no expense was spared. He hired renowned interior designer, Jet Zarkadas who specializes in high-end, western chic and was responsible for creating the environment for the ranch with the previous owner.
“When I met Jet, I told her to continue the theme she started. I wanted something that was like old wine, which can’t be faked,” says Manley.
The result is an authentic atmosphere where nothing feels contrived. Every detail was chosen carefully from the door handles to the decorative objects. Black and white photographs pepper the walls of the main lodge and cabins. Purchased at a local antique store, these historical records reveal life in this region at the turn of the century. The spirit of the ranch has been so thoughtfully mastered, that beside the modern amenities and luxury offerings, life does not feel too far off.
The Ranch at Rock Creek was opened to the public in May 2010. Guests can enjoy 6,600 acres of dense pine forests best explored on horseback. The ranch is home to 80 horses and over 100 cattle. Guests are encouraged to take advantage of the Wild West and activities include archery, sporting clays, paint ball, horseback riding, and fishing in the trout creek. In the winter months, there’s skiing, horse driven sleigh rides and even ice skating on the frozen pond.
The main lodge has nine rooms where the dining room, lounge, bar, reading room, spa, boutique and saloon are located. Across the river and about a 10-minute walk are private cabins, each one with its own personality. A favorite is Blue Bird, a romantic one-bedroom cabin with a heated porch overlooking the stream, a pine sauna, and a porcelain tub for two. Other accommodations include luxury tents with enough rustic chic to beckon an Abercrombie and Fitch campaign. With Internet access and a full kitchen, “cowboy and comfort” co-exist seamlessly.
The dinning room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Snacks of warm biscuits and savory treats are served in between. The menu consists of meat and produce purchased from local farmers and seasoned with herbs grown in the back garden. For entertainment there’s the Silver Dollar Saloon with a 4-lane bowling alley, Karaoke, movie theatre, billiards, darts and a bar stocked with fine wine and locally made spirits.
“I wanted all the activities I thought children and adults would love that they couldn’t find on an average vacation,” boasts Manley. “When you put a paint ball gun into a 45-year-old man’s hands, his inner child comes out. Watching families laugh and play together and socialize with the other guests brings me so much joy. This is why I couldn’t keep the ranch all to myself.”