Owners of iconic Colorado Springs dude ranch vow comeback
COLORADO SPRINGS — For 60 years, the Flying W Ranch has been offering a look at how cowboy life used to be back in the day. Owner Russ Wolfe and his partner Jean Tempel have been operating the old west ranch for decades. The ranch has been home to weddings, parties, retreats and even honeymoons over the years. The ranch was a 15-building old west town of sorts.
“I came here in 1948, following the war to be a cattleman,” said 87-year old Wolfe. “But this Pikes Peak area of the Springs was so beautiful I wanted to share it with everyone. At Garden of the Gods, they had a cowboy cookout Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so I thought why not open up a dude ranch and do the same on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Pretty soon I pushed them out of business and the rest is history.”
Tuesday, the couple was home when they saw the fire come right up to the ranch and run around and take off up the hill. Minutes later, the flames blew back on the ranch.
“Flames were all around us,” said Tempel. “Russ told fire crews he wanted to stay and help them fight the fire, telling them ‘I know where the hydrants and hoses are,’ but they told us we had to go. When the flames got to the tennis courts I just told him, ‘honey it’s time to go!’”
They haven’t been to the ranch but they did see pictures of the damage. Authorities are trying to keep them away so as not to ‘upset’ the owner of the cowboy town.
The chuck wagon could feed a thousand people a night. One couple from Highlands Ranch, who honeymooned there 32 years ago, was very touched by the loss of the ranch.
“We had family gatherings there, we celebrated anniversaries there,” said Jeff Matsch. “My wife loves the out of doors so we just thought we’d cowboy up and confirm our marriage there.”
The owners vow to rebuild if politics don’t hamper their quest. They had plans for a big 60th anniversary in September but that could be on hold. But, Russ says if he has to rent big tents he says the party will happen if they can clear away all the rubble.
What a neighborhood project that would be for all who have had fun and parties at the Flying W.