For me it was a rocky mountain high in more ways than one. I’d climbed from sea level to a lofty 5,000-plus-foot altitude in the short amount of time it takes to fly from Los Angeles to Denver, and even hiking up the steps to the Devil’s Thumb Ranch lobby was an aerobic experience.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch is a 5,000-acre eco-friendly property located in the Ranch Creek Valley at the foot of the Continental Divide. Just 65 miles from Denver, the ranch is surrounded by acres of open grassland and piney woods. The scents and sounds are organic and soothing, and the accommodations are rustic yet elegant — the perfect place to decompress from big-city stress and circuit overload.
“Why ‘Devil’s Thumb’?” I asked, as we drove into the ranch, headed for the lodge.
The driver pointed to a rocky outcropping towering high above the ranch that looked like (what else?) a thumb. Legend has it that once the battling Ute and Arapahoe tribes finally settled their differences, they buried the devil but left his thumb exposed to remind them of the evils of war.
The original ranch homestead was built in the 1930s. In the 1940s it opened as a vacation destination and continued to be both a working and dude ranch until the 1970s. Following various incarnations, it began to morph into its present state when Bob and Suzanne Fanch purchased it in 2001.
Under the couple’s ownership, Devil’s Thumb has turned into a decidedly “green” resort. Their commitment to running the ranch as an environmentally sensitive operation has won them numerous awards. Some of the ranch’s many environmentally friendly practices include a geothermal heating system, EPA-approved wood-burning fireplaces, environmentally sensitive cleaning products, a comprehensive recycling program, recycled asphalt roads and a land preservation plan that allows only 2 percent of the 5,000 acres to be used for ranch buildings and facilities.
Having puffed my way up the front steps, I stepped into the main lodge. The lobby was spacious and cozy at the same time. There was wood everywhere — walls, ceiling, floors, you name it. Wonderfully cushy leather chairs and couches snuggled up to a roaring fire. Cowboy and Western memorabilia — hats, spurs and boots — and excellent original Western-influenced artwork combined to create a beautifully executed Western-themed environment that was classy without being formal.
My large-but-cozy room in the main lodge had a covered patio that overlooked flowering meadows and distant mountains. The high bed with its luxurious down comforter and plethora of pillows looked inviting, but hunger won out: I headed to Heck’s Tavern for lunch.
While ranch activities sounded tempting, I decided to give my body time to adjust to the altitude change before engaging in any active pursuits. The spa beckoned.
Housed in its own building a short walk from the lodge, the 12,000-square-foot Ranch Creek Spa opened in February 2008. As with the rest of the ranch, the emphasis is on environmentally friendly practices. Beetle-kill pine — the wood from dead standing trees, killed by beetles — has been used throughout the spa’s interior. Products, geared toward high altitude, sun-soaked and four-season weather conditions, are made from 100-percent natural ingredients.
There are eight treatment rooms, including a 700-square-foot couple’s suite, men’s and women’s locker rooms, a sauna, steam room, oxygen therapy room, reception lounges, a yoga and fitness studio and a small boutique.
Someone had fun naming the treatments: Up a Creek, a hot stone massage; The Stampede, using deep tissue techniques; and Field o’ Greens, a facial using eight different greens, including yucca and flax seed. For the ultimate in pampering you can sign up for the four-hour Lazy Days package. This includes a facial, a soak in a tub infused with dried buttermilk and oils, a massage and a foot treatment, all topped off with a glass of wine and a cheese platter.
A cheery fire crackled away in the natural stone fireplace as I filled out the pre-treatment questionnaire before heading upstairs to the changing and treatment rooms. After donning a sparkling-white robe and matching slippers, I met my esthetician, Terry, who ushered me into a dimly lit room. I’d opted for the Snow Bunny facial, which promised to help replenish moisture lost in a high, dry climate like that of Colorado. It also promised to leave me radiant and more youthful, which sounded dandy to me.
The Snow Bunny facial uses all organic Eminence products, including, appropriately, the Carrot Vitamin Masqueis, which is comprised of carrots, orange pulp, honey, lemon, vanilla, zinc oxide, linseed and vitamins A, C and E. One or two more ingredients and I’d have been a carrot cake. The low lights, New Age music and fresh-smelling lotions and potions just about lulled me to sleep as Terry worked her magic. The treatment ended all too soon.
After a stint in the sauna followed by a dip in the outdoor swimming pool, I was feeling refreshed and revived. I figured by morning I’d be ready to tackle the altitude and hit one of the ranch’s hiking trails.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch
3530 County Road 83
Tabernash, CO 80478
tel 800 933 4339
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I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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