It seems odd to drive six miles on a private, gravel-topped road surrounded by majestic mountains, cleared land, proportional rock piles and little else to reach the 15-room, Kessler Canyon ranch resort located in DeBeque, Colorado. Why wasn’t it built closer to nearby Interstate 70? The Grand Junction airport is already an hour’s drive from this 23,000-acre oasis and Denver is four hours.
And those horses in the distance aren’t really galloping on the land. They’re actually seven, life-size, magnificent, copper-plated works of art strategically placed to replicate their living counterparts. The silence along the ride lets in the whispers of nature enhanced by eight acres of sod trucked in to complement groomed sagebrush. There are no glaring signs or overhead wires, which makes it easier to spot deer and black bear. With no cell phone coverage, spotty Internet, two rooms with TV and a remarkable experience about to unfold at road’s end, the decompressing trek must be intentional.
Family Retreat Opens to Visitors
Richard Kessler owns this remarkable ranch resort. The underdeveloped remoteness was originally chosen for a family retreat. His impressive career includes four decades in hotel development and operations, dating to his early days as president, chairman and CEO of Days Inn of America. Additionally, he’s a renown visionary, philanthropist and impassioned collector of art and antiques. His son, Mark Kessler, oversaw the project for several years. Today, a small portion of the Homestead is reserved for family use. Larger areas welcome discerning guests, incentive and executive retreat attendees, many of whom are inspired by the ranch’s slogan: “Be Moved, Be Challenged, Be Changed.”
The ranch and surrounding property were originally built by a family in the late 1800s. Today’s buildings include the meticulously renovated Homestead, which houses nine private rooms, a spacious family-style dining room, a wrap-around porch and outdoor fireplace overlooking the lake and historic apple orchard.
The Guesthouse has six private rooms, a gourmet kitchen, great room with flat screen TV/surround sound and state-of-the-art conference room. Its Trophy Hall, often used as a meeting area, features an antique furnace and a bar made of fossils from millions of years ago. Personal Kessler trophy hunts adorn the walls here and are throughout the property. The room’s roll-up, garage-type doors open onto a lawn large enough for a national brewery to land a corporate helicopter on its logo.
Exemplary Pampering and Activities
A life of luxury and opulence at the ranch bypasses anything most people have experienced, yet somehow translates to a homey feel. The artwork alone is staggering, most of it collected during Kessler family trips or commissioned. Paintings, bronze statues and intricately carved furniture are at every turn. Decidedly different at the ranch is the service given to guests. “We’ll drive two hours to the store to get them something,” said a ranch employee. Sometimes the guests number only a single couple. Recently, a family birthday celebration honored its 80-year-old matriarch.
Big game hunting, upland bird hunting and fishing activities are enhanced when Head Hunting Guide and Shooting Instructor, Olympic medalist Lance Bade, shares his expertise with guests at the rifle and pistol clay target practice areas. Other activities include horseback riding, skiing, ATV tours, mountain biking and fishing the four stocked manmade lakes.
Deluxe lodging in mountaintop cabins at the 8,000-feet level is an option for hunters and fisherman after exploring 15 miles of majestic mesa tops and six miles of manicured valley. The property participates in “Ranching for Wildlife,” a program committed to improving habitat for game and non-game
animals. Guns and fishing rods are available for guests’ use. Hunting packages can involve one-on-one guides. An onsite building is equipped to store a hunter’s trophy in refrigerated areas, field dress the animal and transport its meat to a processing plant.
The onsite Poseidon Spa is located in the main Homestead where spa treatments are provided by licensed professionals. Sauna, steam room and fitness center are nearby. Spa products are sold. A small retail shop sells hunting gear, walking sticks, sundries and clothing.
Chow Time Like No Other
Chef Lenny McNab reigns in the ranch’s wide-open kitchen where guests invariably watch him cook or help create a meal alongside his skilled hands. “I can taste a dish in my head,” Lenny said when referring to the protein he’ll use as a starter. Raised in New Hampshire where he flipped hamburgers, after Army service in Germany, Lenny attended the Berufsschule Bad Kissingen culinary school and acquired the basics of Escoffier French cuisine. But he’s a cowboy at heart with an extensive belt buckle collection. He writes cowboy poetry and eagerly recites passages to guests during his guitar and singing performance at dinner’s end.
Lenny is a former chuck-wagon cook accustomed to preparing meals in the wilderness. At the ranch he uses local products, some of them flowers, and has an extensive homegrown garden. A favorite dessert is apple crumb pie with bacon ice cream and topped with a spun sugar creation. “I’m looking for five pounds or a belt loop,” Lenny said when praised for his culinary talent at dinner’s end.
Although the ranch’s solitude is what most guests seek, numerous touristic opportunities exist in the surrounding area from world-class skiing and healing hot springs to Colorado River rafting and extensive art galleries. Visits can be made to Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, Historic Downtown Grand Junction, Glenwood Hot Springs, Grand Junction Motor Speedway, The Museum of Western Colorado, Colorado National Monument and a number of venues.
The Peach Street Distillers in Palisades began three years ago and already has one million dollars’ worth of spirits in their barrels. At its public bar, $6 shots are poured, some from bottles with a pear inside.
Marriott’s Autograph Collection
The Kessler Canyon ranch resort is one of ten properties in the four- and five-diamond category within the Kessler Collection. Marriott’s “Autograph Collection” represents most. The ranch was added May 2011. The new brand is comprised of upper upscale and luxury hotels with distinctive personalities representing the best independent hotels in every category and travel experience. Marriott customers can redeem and gain points at the ranch.
Room rates at Kessler Canyon range from $449-$879 per night, including all meals. Most activities are extra. All-inclusive packages are available. Currently, the ranch offers 15% off four or more nights. Reservations are 10% commissionable to travel agents.
Marriott, 888-236-2427, www.marriott.com