Hunting looks like it will be a successful season for the innkeepers, motels and lodges in the Rangely and Meeker areas over the next six weeks as most owners and managers say they are in good shape as far as hunters filling their rooms.
The season is off to a great start for the Moosehead Lodge in Rangely, but there is a two-fold reason it looks like a booked fall season, according to manager Candace Collins.
“We are doing pretty good with the hunters this year,” Collins said. “But we are already fairly full with workers on the pipelines around here, and there are going to be some good hunting friends who visit us each year who are not going to be able to stay with us,
“We booked up fairly well and early with the pipeline crews, but if the hunters don’t call pretty quickly, there won’t be any room for them,” she said. “Already there are a couple of weeks during the season that we are booked up, which is good, but we will miss seeing some of the friends who have come back year after year and they won’t be able to this year.”
Collins said there are some rooms left now although those who have trophy tags are busy out there during the archery season, which is under way.
“We have a few rooms now because it is just the archery season, but as soon as the October rifle seasons open, around Oct. 9, we are fairly well booked,” she said. “But we have a lot of our regulars who are on a list now, hoping that we will have cancellations.
“We have 16 units at the lodge, and seven cabins,” she said. “We started getting reservations, particularly for the cabins, coming in, in January and February, and those are mostly booked solid during the entire season.”
Another lodge that is doing exceptionally well this year is Nine Mile Guest Ranch, with two locations – one at the base of Nine Mile Hill, about nine miles north of Meeker on the way to Craig and the south camp of the Nine Mile Guest Ranch, which is located south toward Rifle.
“During the archery season, we just use the main guest ranch, and our hunters have had phenomenal luck; with 15 hunters so far, we have had 12 successful elk hunts,” said Rocky Pappas, who leases the properties from his in-laws, the Jensens.
“We are absolutely booked solid this season and are almost completely booked for next season,” he said. “We are 100 percent guided hunts, and the hunters eat here at the lodge, and I can truly say we are off to one of the best, if not the best start, ever.”
Rocky and his wife, Sparky, can accommodate up to eight on the main ranch with three cabins while the south camp has a 3,000-square-foot lodge that can sleep up to 12, although the preferred number of guests there is eight.
Pappas said he has bookings from all over the United States but that Kentucky, Wisconsin and Illinois appear to top the list of hunters this year.
Rocky has been outfitting for 35 years and with the Nine Mile Guest Ranch for 13.
“Our longevity in the business around here has been our key,” Pappas said. “Hunters know us and with the success we have had, they often come back and spread the word about what we do.
“We have good accommodations and good food and we really try to take good care of the hunters,” he said. “And the early success we have had doesn’t hurt us either.”
The Elk Mountain Inn in Meeker is optimistic about filling its 22 units this hunting season, according to co-owner Michele Morgan.
“We’re looking pretty good right now,” she said. “We’re still getting calls daily and we are already booked pretty good starting Oct. 8 until the end of the season in the middle of November.
“We don’t have a restaurant here, and I gladly refer the hunters to our local restaurants,” Morgan said. “We do keep it fairly casual around here so hunters can grill, they can do their own laundry, they can relax in our gazebo or watch TV.
Morgan is also excited for a special they are running this year for hunters who are just passing through, who are camping or who are staying somewhere else.
“We have a great shower deal, and particularly those who are camping or passing through seem to really like it,” she said. “For $5, a hunter or anyone else can stop in and we will give them a towel and they can shower for as long as they want.
“We’re overall pretty relaxed and we pretty much turn over the place to our guests so they can enjoy all the things we offer.”
Ken Stiles, owner of the Adora Inn and the Budget Host Inn in Rangely echoed the sentiments of Collins at the Moosehead that this year in Rangely will be “OK” with hunters, he said, adding that “with the pipeline workers in town, we don’t have a whole lot of rooms.”
“We have quite a few hunters coming in this year, mostly from California,” Stiles said. “But with all the pipeline workers in town, there just aren’t many rooms remaining.
“We have a few rooms left at each of the hotels,” he said of the Adora Inn, which has 38 rooms, and the Budget Host Inn, which has 40 rooms. “We may yet pick up a couple more hunters before it’s all over, but I would say that the hunters will have only a minor impact on Rangely this season.”
Walt Ducey, owner of Ducey’s White River Inn, located about 18 miles northeast of Meeker on County Road 8, is highly optimistic of a good booking season because of hunters.
“We are mostly booked now for Oct. 10 through Nov. 10, but we don’t do the fourth season,” he said. “We have four cooking cabins and four rooms with with microwaves that the hunters can use as we do not have facilities to feed the hunters.”
Ducey said the inn can accommodate 18 persons and that he has bookings this year from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Michigan and Denver.
“We still have a few room for the first and third seasons, but they are going fast,” he said, adding that guests are booked for a five-day minimum.
“All the hunters need to bring is food,” Ducey said. “We have pool, ping-pong, television, tables for playing cards and a fireplace the hunters can all enjoy.”
He also echoed the sentiment that it looks like a good season for the hunters with lots of animals having been seen and some of the hunters in the area already experiencing good success in their archery hunts.
L.D. Grove, owner of the White River Inn in Meeker, says he has a couple of rooms left for the first and fourth hunts but that the second and third are close to booked.
Grove has 32 units at the inn, with reservations coming mostly from California, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“I would say this is looking like a normal year already, but this good weather is costing us a few rooms,” Grove said. “If the weather changes and it gets cold and snowy and the hunters don’t want to be in their tents, we are likely to see more bookings.”
While admitting that this looks like a fairly decent year for hunting, Grove lamented the lasting effects of the national economy.
“Overall, compared to what it used to be, it isn’t really very good,” he said. “The overall economy has hurt the inn, and the gas and oil exploration leaving us after some really good years has hurt us.
“I’m looking for a few good years ahead, but only time will tell,” he said.
Several attempts were made to contact other Rangely-area lodging establishments, but repeated phone calls were not returned.
It is a good thing — no, a great thing — to see the prices of gasoline in three of the Meeker-area gas stations down 10 cents per gallon this past week.
It was reported on national news that gasoline prices will drop another 25 to 30 cents nationally before the first of the year.
It seems there is plenty of “winter blend” gasoline available to cover the nation and that the ready supplies, which are “abundant,” should bring about lower prices “all across the country.”
It will be interesting to see what happens in Rio Blanco County, where, near as I can tell, all stations are now charging $3.79 per gallon with the exception of the Chevron stations in Meeker and Rangely, where their prices are still $3.89.