Spring Creek Ranch, Wyoming
Return To Brokeback Mountain
By Paul Rubio
Since hitting the big screen that fateful weekend in 2005, Brokeback Mountain ignited a fiery GLBT love affair (and profound carnal lust) for the cowboys and snow-capped peaks of Wyoming. The romance between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal and that unforgettable “spit” scene renewed a lost bond between gay men and the American West. But more than phenomenal acting and a gratuitous soft porn scene, the movie showcased jaw-dropping landscapes that often stole the spotlight from Jake’s baby blues and pronounced crotch bulge.
Though “Brokeback Mountain” is a fictitious place, the raw nature of Wyoming is very much a reality. And while the 1960s homophobia depicted in the film prevails throughout much of Wyoming, tourist-centric Jackson Hole has evolved as a liberal enclave in the land of lassos, grizzlies and western studs. In fact, on the outskirts of Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park, Spring Creek Ranch (307.733.8833; www.springcreekranch.com) welcomes the GLBT community to bask in the frivolity and fantasia of one of America’s most beautiful natural playgrounds.
As the name implies, Spring Creek Ranch is indeed a ranch, but don’t expect strapping hunky cattle herders with chaps to interfere with your activities. This is a luxe “dude ranch,” catering to guests seeking a modern “Wild West” experience of horseback rides, toasty fireplaces, chuck wagon dinners, easy access to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and the full range of woodsy, rustic chic cabins and mountain homes offering inspirational panoramas. Spread over one thousand acres of serenity, the ranch’s fabulous accommodations begin at the economical price point of $170/night for “Inn Rooms,” graduating to more spacious “Condominiums” and maxing out at around $2000 +/night for 5000 square foot “Mountain Villas.” Just because it’s super gay friendly doesn’t mean you’ll find rainbow flags in the lobby; it is simply an all-welcoming ranch that has staunchly supported the gay community since its opening day.
With each passing season, both the ranch and the surrounding landscapes assume new personalities, ultimately succumbing to the omnipotence of Mother Nature. Winter’s snow ushers in stark panoramas of white, snow-flaked elk scavenging for remaining plant life, opportunity for exhilarating dog sledding and snowmobiling, and of course award-winning skiing. In fact, Spring Creek Ranch shares its downhill skiing slopes with uber-exclusive and ultra-expensive Amangani, a private enclave within Spring Creek Ranch. Amangani may garner accolades year after year as a top skiing destination, but sure enough the prized slopes and views are no different for guests of Spring Creek Ranch.
Spring Creek Ranch leads wildlife safaris throughout the year, scouting the best locales to observe and photograph Wyoming’s charismatic species. Perhaps the best season to visit the surrounding Grand Teton National Park (www.nps.gov/grte) and Yellowstone National Park (www.nps.gov/YELL), however, is in spring, when the surroundings grow once verdant, and newborn wildlife abound. While both national parks remain open year round, the majority of entrance points and interior roads close during the harsh winter months, reopening in late spring. Wyoming’s colors are in full bloom by summer, when the national parks unveil the most brilliant blue skies and stunning layers of green in picturesque mountain meadows; and resident wildlife frolic and fraternize in what feels like extended summer recess. But more than mountains, buffalo, elk, and wolves, Yellowstone showcases the globe’s most extraordinary geysers and hot springs, facilitating a hydrogeological rapture that’ll blow your mind. Yellowstone’s active volcanic turf is home to half of the world’s geysers, none more predictable than Old Faithful, who shoots his load (of hot water and steam) like clockwork every 91 minutes. The liquid rainbows produced by bacteria living in the Giant Prismatic Spring rank as one of the most remarkable sights I’ve seen in 15 years of professional travel. Further north in the park, Yellowstone’s “Grand Canyon,” wows onlookers, a 900 feet deep, half-a-mile wide demonstration of nature’s sanctioned power and prowess.
I was seventy countries deep into my travels when I finally made it to the American West last July. I had combed the world over to pen my thoughts on Earth’s most exotic, remote and iconic locales, only to discover this pinnacle of beauty right here in America’s backyard. At risk of growing sentimental and even cheesy, I’ll conclude by telling you that a trip to Wyoming’s national parks is fantastically experiential and that Spring Creek Ranch is one place in the American West where you can live out that Brokeback Mountain fantasy. Jake Gyllenhaal won’t be there to guide you, but your own mountain memories will supplant and even triumph over the vivid movie in your mind.
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