50 years of pushing barriers at the Bunk House Lodge
Just north of Breckenridge sits a little lodge adorned with aged wooden siding. Cords of wood surround the backyard. Inside, cowboy hats and snowshoes hang from almost every wall, which are made up of logs that could date as far back as 1892. Yet within this rustic lodge lies one of Breckenridge’s most progressive establishments.
The gay-owned, queer-loving and hetero-friendly Bunk House Lodge is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. For most of its history, the lodge served as one of the few safe spaces for gay men in Breckenridge.
The lodge sits on the northern edge of town, just off Colorado Highway 9 in what was once Braddockville, a ticket station on the Denver South Park railroad. The little town was founded by Dave Braddock in the 1880s.
“He was a character,” the lodge’s current owner, Mitch Ringquist, said. “He brewed his own beer. He had a stagecoach and would ferry people from town to town. He had the highest altitude greenhouse at the time. He was very progressive.”
Ringquist said Braddockville developed a bit of a reputation. Folks would come into town for drinks, a night out or for a vacation. The town was popular with city folk looking to honeymoon in the mountains.
Sometime around the year 1892, the Braddockville “honeymoon cabin” was built, Ringquist said. The walls of that cabin now line the Bunk House Lodge’s kitchen and living room.
Ringquist gets much of the lodge’s history from a book beside the lodge’s fireplace, Mark Fiester’s “Blasted Beloved Breckenridge” that chronicles the origins of Breckenridge. The history also comes from institutional knowledge passed down through generations of owners, beginning with Rudolph “Rudy” Gardner.
Gardner took over the cabin in 1964 after renting it for a couple of years. He then converted it into into a 22-bunk lodge. His vision for the lodge was a safe space for gay men to gather in the quaint ski town of Breckenridge. At the time, the resort was barely a decade old, and the community was small.
In 1978, Gardner met a man named Adam Rudziewicz. Rudziewicz had hopped on his motorcycle and left Chicago on a whim one day with a goal of reaching southern California. Along the way, he stopped at the Bunk House Lodge. Rudziewicz was wooed by the mountain vistas and loving community, so much so he only made it halfway home on his return trip.
He worked in Breckenridge and at the lodge until, one day in 1989, Gardner passed the keys to the lodge onto Rudziewicz. Shortly thereafter, Gardner died due to complications from AIDS.
In Gardner’s wake, Rudziewicz converted the bunk-style lodge into more of a hotel, with three private rooms to rent.
Ringquist first came to the lodge in 1999 from San Diego with no ability to ski, but it was people — not skiing — that brought him to the mountains. He came east with a friend and found himself enamored by the community in Summit County, so he stuck around for 23 years, working for room and board until he, like Rudziewicz, took over the lodge in 2015.
Today, the lodge welcomes all visitors ages 21 and up and allows the use of marijuana. People of all identities can have a seat at the table, literally. Guests often gather for family style dinners at the end of the day, and Ringquist hopes to build a community from his little lodge at the edge of town.
“We are trying to create that sense of togetherness,” he said. “They’ve got the meat, and I’ll bring a side or the salad. Someone else will go and get some dessert. So then we all of a sudden, we’ve created this big celebratory meal together. We’re all strangers, trying to create community.”
Guests need to call ahead to book a room, and they should do so well in advance. Ringquist said the lodge did not have a single empty bed from Jan. 1 to April 1, and he said a similar pattern is usually seen during the summer hiking season.
The 19-person capacity lodge features three private rooms, four lofts and five one-person dormitory beds. Each bed is labeled with one of the neighboring Tenmile Range peaks, from 1 to 10, plus Quandary and Heaven.
The lodge also has enough room for three dogs. Guests should check their pets’ compatibility before staying, however, since Ringquist and his partner house three dogs of their own.
“We’ve even hosted donkeys,” Ringquist said. “We made a little corral out of our backyard.”
He said a group of backpackers with burros in tow stopped at the lodge while navigating the Colorado Trail. Like them, other hikers, mountain bikers and travelers passing through Breckenridge are encouraged to drop in since the lodge cultivates a hostel-type atmosphere.
Guests can rent a hostel-style bunk for $60 a night, a two-person loft for $100, a two-person and pet-friendly room for $125 or the largest room with a backyard where the donkeys were kept for $150.
The lodge will celebrate its official 50th anniversary Nov. 26. There are tentative plans to host a golden-year-themed midsummer masquerade ball July 30. Visit BunkHouseLodge.com for more.
This story previously published in the summer 2022 edition of Explore Breckenridge & Summit County magazine.
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