girl fishing on pond
image of corral and Tomichi Dome
riders on trail
riders crosing over top of Stella Mtn.

Waunita Smoke Signals

Volume 5, No. 6, Newsletter 20154, Gunnison, Colorado

The year 2014 brought with it lots of snow, ...

...then lots of water, flowers, hay and, happily, lots of guests enjoying all the riding and other activities at Waunita Hot Springs!

Numbers from the 2013 summer season add up to…

... guests having visited Waunita in past years. Another 29% were either sent or more often brought by former guests. Folks travelled to the ranch from 27 different states and 4 foreign countries..

Summer guests enjoyed a week of trail rides, fishing, swimming, rafting, cookouts as well as evening events like hay rides, square dancing, skeet shooting and music, music. The new open-air ATV RZR rides were especially popular.

In 2015 – our 54th summer at Waunita ...

... we will offer "more of the same," and we will again feature a special "Faith Wrangling Week," June 28 – July 4. All ranch activities will be included in that week, with the addition of inspirational Western music and messages by the English Brothers.

From October through April we will be hosting groups for retreats, meetings and winter sports, as well as folks for relaxing B&B stays.

Family News

Wedding Bells: Kolby Pringle and Courtney Andrews were married at the ranch in May – a beautiful event on a beautiful spring day! Randi Pringle and Josh Kerns, who has been working as a wrangler, plan to marry at the ranch in August 2015. And Logan Pringle and Sasha Blasen will be married at Waunita in June. Happy, Happy Events in 2014 and 2015!

Rod and Elisabeth live in Abilene, Texas, where they enjoy helping care for granddaughter Parker. Parker’s dad, Josh, will soon complete an Accounting degree at Abilene Christian University. His wife Kallie teaches Kindergarten in the Abilene school system. They are looking forward to the birth of their second daughter in April. Logan continues to work with Narrow Gate Ministries in Tennessee. His fiancé, Sasha, teaches at a Charter School in downtown Nashville.

Wes and Kari both retired from teaching positions in the Farmington, New Mexico school system in May. Wes then spent several weeks completing requirements for a MS Degree in Teaching at New Mexico Tech. And in August he accepted a position with the Bixby, Oklahoma school system – again teaching science and coaching track. Their daughter Jessica and granddaughters, Ava and Liv, are delighted to have their grandparents in the Tulsa area. Son Brody is working in Albuquerque and taking courses in film-production at Central New Mexico College.

Ryan and Tammy continue to very capably manage the ranch, with Tammy delegating most kitchen duties to Randi and Courtney. Kolby manages the barn and helps with maintenance. Dani, a senior at Gunnison High School, is playing basketball again this winter and will help in the kitchen and housekeeping next summer. She plans to attend a Christian college next fall to pursue a degree in psychology.

Rod and Junelle: Yep, still at the ranch and helping where they can.

Olathe Property: Although we still have a lease agreement with Double Heart Ranch for hay from their ranch near Waunita, we recently purchased a 77-acre property near Olathe, Colorado for winter pasture and extra summer hay. Our older horses will appreciate the milder winters in Montrose County. And the horse facilities on the property make it possible to raise and train new horses. The plan is for Kolby and Courtney to spend part of the winter in the home there, while caring for the horses.

Video: A short video was produced at the ranch this summer and is available on our website or on YouTube

2014 Staff: Again, we enjoyed having an excellent staff last summer. And where are they now? Eric Soerensen continues to work at Waunita part-time, helping at Double Heart Ranch in the fall and taking time out to hunt and fish. Josh Kerns is working in Wyoming. Casi Williams will complete her degree in Nursing next spring at School of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, MO. Natalie Ragatz is attending Harding University in Searcy, AR. Deanna Aeschleman is attending Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA. Slaten Barnett returned to Oklahoma Christian University in Enid, OK. James & Monica Hunt are living in Loveland, CO, while he attends Colorado State University. Andrew Hall is currently serving in the U. S. Military. Jared Myers returned to PA to work in his dad’s trucking business. Shannon Carmody spent the fall helping a local outfitter before returning to CA. Bunk Jackson is attending Gunnison High School.

Tammy's Reflections

When I welcome folks to Waunita I always have to tell them that this place was a health spa in the late 1800’s and that Dr. Davis traveled every summer from Chicago with his patients to Waunita for all kinds of treatments. It is so fascinating to me to think of this journey each summer and each fall. We have a history binder that we encourage our guests to read. However, we keep them so busy I am not sure how many have actually read it. I would like to share a little of that history with you.

Early records show in 1843 that Fremont’s surveying party was in the area along with fur trappers. By the 1860’s the Moache band of the Ute tribe, along with miners, were enjoying the springs during the warmer months. In 1879 Col. Robert Moore built a crude building near the springs to cater to settlers and miners. At the time it was called Tomichi Hot Springs. In 1882 Charles Elgin settled at the lower springs. He built a 30' x 40' log hotel. This spurred Col. Moore on to make some improvements to the upper springs, so he built a 20' x 40' one and one- half story log hotel and his daughter and son-in-law Charles and Fannie Berdel built a house.

Frank and Annie Rivers arrived and built a combination house/boarding house south of Col. Moore’s property. Frank and Annie Rivers were pretty colorful characters as you will later find out.

A sawmill was in operation, as well as mining; and a few homesteaders were attracted to the property. However, they soon found out that the growing season was extremely short, except for native hay.

In 1882, enough folks were traveling to Waunita that a stage was scheduled from Doyleville. The fare was $1.50, and they proclaimed that the trip could be made in less than two hours. Since it took the train about an hour to travel from Gunnison to Doylevillle, the trip to the springs from Gunnison was about three hours, an extremely slow trip compared to today’s 35 minutes.

In 1883, Col. Moore leased his hotel to James Owens. He also settled a dispute with Charles Elgin by paying him $3,500 for the property and buildings at the lower springs, taking possession that winter. Owens added a 16' x 22' saloon and Mr. Munson built an 18' x 20' cabin.

By this time, both springs had “plunges,” or crude swimming pools. Both plunges had gravity flow of water from the springs and probably had gravel bottoms. Also in 1883, the first of many grand Fourth of July celebrations were held at Waunita. People were invited to come and soak in the springs, enjoy camping, picnicking and usually a dance. Often a baseball game was organized and at times horse races were staged. That was the year Col. Moore also organized the first of several encampments of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) veterans.

We meet Frank Rivers again… In 1884 saloon operator, Mr. Mead, had Frank arrested for breaking into his establishment. Case dismissed for lack of evidence. This was the first of several altercations between Rivers and residents in the area, as it is assumed that Frank “couldn’t hold his liquor”. In May 1884, Frank provoked Dr. Pugh to the point that he shot Frank four times at close range. Amazingly, not one shot hit a vital organ and Frank recovered. The shooting was declared justified and Dr. Pugh was acquitted by a Grand Jury. In August, Frank was involved in another fracas when he threatened Charles Elgin, chasing him with a gun across the valley and up Black Sage Pass. That time Rivers was jailed and held for $6,000 bond. The bond was later reduced, Rivers was freed and the Grand Jury refused to indict him. The Whitepine paper reported “Frank was making his banjo hum and dancing a jig last night in honor of his vindication.”

Stay tuned for the next Blast From the Past…

ranch staff





2013 Summer staff members were great! And several of them plan to return for another season of summer work before "joining the real world of employment." Artist in Residence, Mary Ann Cox, came again for several weeks.

The Dream - from the perspective of Tammy Pringle

My father-in-law, Rod Pringle, the forever dreamer, always envisioned himself with his family running a dude ranch. His friend, Leo Chaney, found a tiny ad in Sporting News about a boys camp for sale in the Rocky Mountains. He gave it to Rod, who tucked it away in his wallet. Another friend, Walt Fairfield, planned to travel to the Gunnison area, so Rod gave him the ad and asked him to check it out. He did and came back saying, "the place is old and in need of repairs."

pringles, jeepRod and his wife Junelle decided to make a trip to see for themselves. Yes, it was old and in need of repairs, but they had a dream and three little boys that they wanted to move out of the city. The owners, Carl and Janet Bolin, were ready to retire. The Bolins and Rod then "struck a deal", Rod and Junelle borrowed the down payment and moved to Colorado in a station wagon and a Willys Jeep. This was in March, 1962.

The first summer they tried to do what the previous owner had done, run a boys baseball camp. Only six boys were signed up, so they canceled the camp. Shortly after that a couple of men came in and said, "We need housing for our power line survey crew. Could we stay at Waunita?" Rod and Junelle were more than happy to accommodate. The crew stayed with them all summer. Once that gig was up Rod and Junelle did what they could to bring in income while fixing up the place with very limited resources. The property had a natural hot springs and was a health spa at the turn of the century, so there was already an Olympic size pool fed by the hot springs. They would allow folks to come out to use the pool for a fee, Junelle would cook for anyone, and they would take in guests for lodging. They spent their first three winters working in Houston, after which Rod taught Physical Education in the Gunnison school system for four years.

pringles, horsesEventually, the place was fixed up enough so that they could apply to the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association for membership. They were accepted and began to live the dream. Folks came from all around to stay at Waunita Hot Springs Ranch to experience a vacation of a lifetime, to play cowboy and to get away from life as they knew it. They would ride horses everyday, go on cookouts, hayrides, campouts, fishing, scenic trips, eat three huge meals a day and of course enjoy the hot springs pool. It's hard to explain why people love this, but they do, and over the years Rod and Junelle along with their 3 sons and now their grandchildren have made friends all over the world. We like to refer to it as the Waunita family. So we invite you to come, check us out and "become a part of our family."

The Ballad of Rod

Guests who have been here for our Friday night Western music show will recall that The Ballad of Rod is among the original songs performed, along with a power point show. Following are the lyrics, written by Ryan Pringle, sung to the tune of the theme song for The Beverly Hillbillies TV show.

Come and listen to the story of a man named Rod –
a poor Houston boy barely kept his horses shod.
And then one day he was following a dream – when up
from the ground came a bubbling steam.
Hot springs, that is.

kolby fireNow Rod weren't alone, he brought along a bride,
totin' three little kids, she stood right by his side.
A little help from the bank, a lot a help from the Lord.
With all the work to do, they never did get bored.

The folks all knew Rod weren't a millionaire –
The kinfolks said, "You're movin' way up there?"
He said, "Colorado is the place I wanna be."
So he loaded up the wagon and moved the family
To Waunita, that is… swimmin' pools and shooting stars.

Well the horses were green, but he rode 'em everyone –
Big Red, Blackie and a horse that we called Dun.
I'm not saying that he's traded in his spurs,
but there ain't near the buck in the Polaris six wheeler –
The Gator that is.

Now time has passed and they built a new log home,
with a porch and a chair, they never have to roam.
It's close enough to see when the trail rides all go out,
but far enough that we can't hear him shout,
Junelle, where's my hearing aid?

Well, we've all grown up and the kids they run the show.
But when you live in paradise, where else would you go?
It's been a 50-year long ride. I hope it never never ends.
But if you want us here next year,
then you better tell your friends.
At least tweet 'em.