The furnaces have a constant roar, like demons trapped in a box, and the dry, crisp Colorado air mingles with a heat like you’ve never felt before that whispers by your body at over 2000 degrees farenheit.

Where are you? A glass blowing studio of course.

The gallery at North Rim Glass

North Rim Glass Studio in Crawford

Rolling down the hill past the ‘Desperado’ (our local liquor shop, gas station, and hardware store) as you come into our quaint Western town (Crawford) from Gunnison and the vast canyon to the south, it’s hard to miss the modern corrugated iron structure to the right before you round the curve up the hill.  That hard to miss spot is North Rim Glass.  North Rim is a glass blowing studio and art gallery that has some of the most incredible work one will find not only on the Western Slope of Colorado but arguably in the U.S.  And, in addition to enjoying perusing the wonderful collection of works by Jared and Nicole in the gallery, guests of Smith Fork Ranch can partake in this incredible art form with a class!

Blowing glass is a multi step process, like a dance with fire on a stick and a ferocious white heat, every move affects the end product and every step is critical.  But, never fear, you can almost always heat it up again and fix that little mistake!

The Studio

In this series of steps it begins with the experts dipping the wand into the molten hot liquid glass as you stand beside them, it immediately goes into another hot oven that brings the temperature down but only so much to maintain its pliability.  After that, and I’m quite sure I’m missing some steps here, the color is applied to the hot glass in the form of a sand – where it is rolled onto the wand.  And then it’s back into an oven.  All the while gently rolling the wand around to maintain its shape.  After several more steps including namely blowing air into the glass to create the form, and cupping it with a cold, wet wooden scoop spoon to shape it, the piece begins to come to life.  But, still a bit of a mystery as it goes into the final oven to finish and a day or so later – voila!  The glass vase, ornament, bowl, or whatever was created is complete.  Your class includes step by step on hand instruction, and you can take your work of art home with you!

Do not stare directly into the light!

The process is incredible – the variables of time and temperature in harmony with the chemical make up of glass – it truly is a wondrous thing to experience.  And Jared and Nicole are terrific teachers.  They are incredibly attentive to the safety and comfort of their student as well as sharing their stories of glass blowing adventures around the world. Which you can read more about HERE.

North Rim Glass showcases their works throughout the country throughout the year.  Including their upcoming attendance at one of the largest fairs this winter in New York City, to show off their spectacular custom pieces including phenomenal light fixtures.  They will also be hosting a reception and showing the Friday after Thanksgiving, as well as at our very own Holiday Bazaar at SFR on Saturday December 11th.  The Bazaar will have a wide variety of local artists, craftsmen, vintners, and food vendors on hand, making it easy for you to pick up those custom Holiday gifts all in one spot.  And North Rim Glass will have a variety of unique gift items for that special someone on your list – handmade and not to be found anywhere else!


A student shaping the glass with Nicole and Jared

The ability to mold and manipulate glass in so many different colors and forms is tremendous – and with the talents of Jared and Nicole Davis your imagination is truly the only limitation.  S0 call up North Rim Glass for your next custom project and be sure to book a class on your next visit to Smith Fork Ranch, for an experience like no other!

A finished piece by the artists: The Flat Fission Vase in Transparent Turquoise - stunning!

Their famous glass antler chandelier

Recent guest and diamond expert Rordan Shane, of The Shane Co., shares his proposal story (which took place here at Smith Fork Ranch) with the world.

Tom Shane’s World – The Big Moment

Congratulations Rordan and Amanda!

Do you have any memorable romantic moments from SFR?  Or would you like to make some?

Needle Rock

Originally uploaded by danlong

A wonderful half day or even half of a half day hike is nearby Needle Rock.  Though it is in question how exactly the rock and land mass came to be (some say volcano, others igneous rock formation) all can agree that the hike provides a wondrous view of the Smith Fork Valley, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the reservoir, the North Fork Valley pastures, and the vast mesa beyond.   It is particularly awe inspiring at sunset.  As one can see in this beautiful image of the nearby natural wonder from the talented Dan Long – a good friend to Smith Fork Ranch.

A few recommended spots to grab a bite to eat in and around Smith Fork Ranch and the North Fork Valley of Colorado.

When venturing out to Smith Fork Ranch, either before you arrive, after you depart or during your visit on a day out and about there are several great spots to pick up a quick lunch, a delicious latte, or a nice dinner before heading out of town.

The Smith Fork Valley in the Fall.

As the days grow shorter and the nights a touch cooler, we turn our attention to Autumn – the most magical time of the year out here on the Western Slope. Riding over McClure Pass (coming from Aspen or Glenwood Springs) the great Rocky Mountains give way to the surrounding river valleys and steep canyons, and a meandering rural road south east leads you to us.  They say people come to Colorado for the winter but stay for the summer, however it’s well known between locals that the true spell is cast in the fall.  Coloradoans love the Autumn – blazing bright golden Aspens are everywhere and the various species colors streak across the hills and mountains, locals are picking, canning and eating, celebrating and exploring – there is so much to do and see and such an ideal climate to do it in!

A visitor to Smith Fork Ranch arrives in this unique region to find an epic landscape of green pastures, rows upon rows of orchards and vineyards, great desert-like mesas, vast deep canyons, and the awe inspiring peaks of the Raggeds and the West Elk Range. We are nestled in the Smith Fork Valley (hence the name) and enjoy a bounty of natural wonders including Needle Rock to the west, Mendicant Ridge to the east, and the aptly named Saddle Mountain and Sleeping Indian to the south and north.

Tipi at sunset with the River Cabin and Mendicant Ridge beyond (and Ranch pup Liberty).

It is easy to see why so many fall in love with this special place or even at this special place!  Romances, engagements, and weddings, among other things, have taken place here and it’s no wonder.  There are many opportunities for private moments and special occasions with the ones you love.  And virtually endless open space!  Hundreds of thousands of acres of the West Elk Wilderness and Gunnison National Forest surround us – you will love just to be here and gaze out to the peaks beyond and the great mesa.  The Ute Indians once called this area home and they have a prayer that includes the saying “Earth teach me freedom, as the eagle that soars in the sky” –  at Smith Fork there is no shortage of opportunities to learn freedom and witness the great birds at flight.   And the Fall is a fabulous time to do so.

Many creatures frequent the grounds of Smith Fork Ranch including deer, as seen here checking out the garden (and photographer).

Preparations for the fall truly begin in summer – with a wealth of local produce from the many outdoor markets and farm stands gathered up for preserving and canning.  Jarring up the local goodness for the winter is a real local ritual – pickled spring asparagus, palisade peach jam, service berry jelly, pickled cauliflower, mushrooms, spiced apples – the options are endless!   Local writer and foodie extraordinaire Eugenia Bone shares her North Fork Valley culinary experiences and recipes on her blog – Well Preserved.  A truly delicious read!  The North Fork and Smith Fork valleys really are love at first bite.  And you know what they say – the quickest way to the heart is through the stomach!

Our Organic Farmstead Garden will be exploding with goodness this Fall

And the quickest way to a fantastic fresh harvest meal is from our own garden.  Autumn is the time for harvesting the majority of crops in our area – with a series of events occurring around the community and several wonderful opportunities to learn more about growing your own food as well as the Slow Food Movement of the Western Slope – a non-profit educational organization dedicated to celebrating and supporting the food traditions of North America.   They host and partner on a variety of events.

And there is always the vineyards!  A favorite activity of locals and visitors alike is touring the grounds and chatting it up with the vintners while tasting a beautiful variety of Colorado wines.  You will love the relaxed atmosphere and inviting hospitality of our area vineyards and cellars.  And you will love enjoying the local wines we offer at our bar – along with fantastic local spirits!

In addition to eating and drinking the local good stuff, there are so many other activities Smith Fork Ranch has to offer this Autumn – excellent upland bird hunting, horseback riding the many marked trails of our property and surrounding wilderness, fly fishing the ponds, creeks, and rivers, hiking into the forests, biking, yoga, massage, even glass blowing!

A ride through the beautiful Aspen forest.

And, our most popular vacation activity – doing nothing at all!  There is an abundance of nothing to do here – be it falling asleep in a hammock cloaked in the fall foliage or having a quiet read in the lodge by the fire – a blanket and a hot tea or coffee always at the ready.  Or simply just enjoy the delicious feeling of sleeping in!  Cozy up under a big fluffy duvet and quilt on one of our pillow top deluxe mattresses and hibernate for awhile – our guests love our beds and relaxation is our specialty.

So go ahead, FALL for us this Autumn – we promise not to break your heart.

Smith Fork Ranch will be open through the end of November 2010.  Join us for an incredible fall season.


The culinary experience at Smith Fork Ranch is more than a necessity that happens three times a day, at SFR dining is an event.  Our talented kitchen staff creates inspiring dishes using local and seasonal ingredients including an abundance of produce from our own organic farmstead garden, and our dining team sets the tone with one of a kind locations, a bar not to be beat, stellar ambiance, and tremendous service.

Terror Creek Winery – one of many lovely area vineyards

At SFR we have the good fortune to reside in the ‘bread basket’ of our great state, and are surrounded by a variety of orchards, organic vegetable farms, cattle, buffalo, and elk farms, vineyards, and even a goat farm from which we purchase the most fabulous cheese!  The viticulture of Colorado is arguably at it’s best within our region – wonderful pinots, merlots, cabernet sauvignon, syrahs, and blends as well as chardonnay, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, and gewurztraminer are grown, harvested, and bottled here. The Slow Food Movement is in full effect in this lush and diverse valley and we actively participate and support it, both within our farm-to-table approach via our own organic garden as well as purchasing local meats and produce.

The Farmstead with Saddle Mountain in the Distance

Chef Matthew Dusharme and Chef Kaylon Wall lead the team with exquisite dishes such as organic soft polenta, tender spring asparagus, poached local farm egg with granna padano bottarga and truffle oil first course or SFR lettuces with local cheese fonduta fresh Paonia cherries and sweet bing dressing followed by local Homestead Beef ragout with home made tagliatelle pasta and a glass of Chianti or porcini rubbed rack of Colorado Lamb with organic smoked tomato farro and a fabulous bottle of vintage Rioja.

And transportation is part of the experience as well – take a draught horse drawn wagon to cocktail hour at Hill House – the owners cabin – and watch the sun set over Needle Rock with a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

And we regularly offer an evening of live Spanish guitar and an offering of authentic Spanish Tapas from Chef Kaylon – who studied in Spain – including Gazpacho shooters, Andalusian olives and almonds, tortilla Española with chorizo and jamon, skewered gambas (shrimp), fried artichokes and classic Paella with first-harvest Arbequina olive oil.  And all complimented with a delicious glass of homemade sangria and finished off with a glass of the famous sherry from Jerez de la Frontera.  And then of course dessert – the delightful, crispy dough sprinkled with sweet sugar goodness and complimented with a rich chocolate wonder – churros with chocolate ganache!

A table of tapas at cocktail hour

And oh the sweets and baked goods!  The Smith Fork Ranch has been blessed to have the wondrous talents of bread maker and pastry chef in training Ashley Robinson as well as the balance of the staff all classically trained in the art of le pain.  Brioche, flat breads, croissants, sweet rolls, baguette, sourdough, rye, challah, whole wheat, a country boule…ah such simple ingredients can yield such wondrous food!

Someone once said “A wonderful, steaming hot, fresh piece of bread is more than just one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s the opening act of an inspired meal”, and at Smith Fork Ranch that is certainly true – every day the kitchen bakes up this pain ordinaire and many other treats for the day ahead.  And every evening they turn their talents to dessert!  Local fresh raw milk panna cotta, molten chocolate cake, homemade Paonia cherry and peach pies, classic créme brülée with garden fresh berries, SFR chocolate chip cookies, double chocolate brownies, fresh lemon custard bars – and so on and so on!

SFR cowboys cracking open a bottle of pinot for mountain top drinks and hors d’oeuvres

And have no fear, there are many ways to burn off those calories – from horseback riding, hiking, fly fishing, and running, to biking and yoga – let alone our fully equipped fitness center and swimming pond, if you are so bold, there is no shortage of work out options for the actively inclined.

The table set for a recent wine dinner

As James Beard once said “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”  So come, experience and enjoy the pleasures of the plate and the vine at Smith Fork Ranch this Autumn – eat, drink, and be merry!

Ah, the crisp days of fall!   Nothing makes one feel as intensely alive as the prospect of Upland Bird Hunting….its refined and elegant traditions juxtaposed with the wild unpredictabilities of nature.

And Smith Fork Ranch can provide you with a most ideal home base from which one can experience the great sport of wing shooting and explore this wondrous valley.   SFR provides the finest in relaxed luxury and impeccable personal service.  Our haute western cuisine draws inspiration from the abundant surrounding valley and our own organic farmstead garden. We also have an extensive bar and wine cellar with over 500 wines including rare vintages from around the World and our valley.

For the quintessential sporting experience, we have combine Western Colorado wing shooting with the exclusive, private comfort of Smith Fork Ranch, featuring our gourmet farm-to-table cuisine, fine wines, and relaxed luxury.

The Sporting Life at Smith Fork Ranch begins when one starts the day with a robust ranch breakfast in our cookhouse. Farm fresh eggs, applewood smoked bacon, and home made bread, pastries, and granola.  Meet your guide and eager dogs at a civilized hour, and begin your day of guided wing shooting adventure found only in our secluded corner of Western Colorado.  Sporting tradition enriches the pursuit of quarry.  Success is a measure not of the day’s bag, but of the totality of the experience.

After a hot lunch at the club house, and an afternoon of more guided wing shooting, relax with cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres by the great stone fireplace in our Old Elk Lodge.  Then comes a delicious dinner with suggested wine pairings from our extensive cellar.  After desert, linger by the fire with your choice of scotch or digestif, or gather your friends for a game of Snooker, Billiards, or cards.  

And then to sleep in the most comfortable bed you can imagine.

A customized hunting and fishing excursion, a relaxing massage at days end, multi-course delightful dinners among friends, drinks and great conversations by the fire, and many surprising personal touches –  Smith Fork Ranch has enough luxury and comfort for the most discriminating traveler and enough action and adventure for those looking for a true western experience. Our guests absolute satisfaction and pleasure are paramount to us.

Join us this Autumn for The Sporting Life at Smith Fork Ranch – it will be an unforgettable adventure.

Our Fly Fishing program is one of our two most important outdoor activities (along with horseback riding), and is probably one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling fishing you’ll find at any ranch in the West.

We offer guided and unguided fly fishing on the ranch’s six ponds, nearly 3 miles of private water on the Smith Fork of the Gunnison, and back country streams and ponds in the surrounding Gunnison National Forest & West Elk Wilderness.  Back country fishing is directly accessible from the ranch on horseback or by hike.  All fly fishing is catch and release.

Smith Fork Ranch has one of two A rated habitats for the pure strain of wild Colorado Cutthroat.  They live in Second Creek, a mountain drainage that runs through the ranch.  These small but beautiful trout are wily – and a sportsman’s delight!

Smith Fork Ranch ponds are stocked with Colorado Rainbow Trout, Brookies, and Browns – with Rainbows and Browns of up to 22”- 24”. The Smith Fork River is host to trout up to 16”.Experienced SFR fly-fishing guides are available daily for all on-ranch fly-fishing.  They are excellent teachers for basic instruction – and happy to address more advanced fishing techniques individually or in groups. We hold clinics on a regular basis to help folks work on improving their casting.  We also have a challenging casting course on our ponds and sometimes hold casting competitions.  The ranch has a well-stocked fly-selection in Trout Central and a stocked fly tying center in the Old Elk Lodge.  We also offer fly tying instruction with our knowledgable guides.

Our ranch has top-of-the-line fishing equipment – Sage rods, Ross reels, Simms waders and boots, and Patagonia vests. The ranch is also an authorized dealer for these brands, so you may purchase the equipment you are using directly from us.

For those looking to add another famous western river to their fishing experience, great fishing can be found in all directions from the ranch.  Enjoy fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley as Mt. Sopris towers off in the distance.  The Roaring Fork River is a freestone river that holds good numbers and sizes of Rainbows and Browns as well as an occasional native whitefish.

Try a combination float of the Lower Roaring Fork and the mighty Colorado River near Glenwood Springs; or how about a scenic walk/wade trip in the red stone walls of the legendary Frying Pan River?

The Gunnison River around the North Fork confluence is a classic western fishery.  High desert canyon lands will be your views as you float on the stretch in or below the Gunnison Gorge.  If you take the jet boat ride into the Gorge, you will go where there is little fishing pressure for trout.  Be aware of the giant Salmon fly hatch early to mid June and lasts about two weeks.  The two and a half inch stonefly adults bring large brown and rainbow trout to the surface.  Walk and wade trips can be arranged here as well.

The upper Gunnison River in and around the town of Gunnison, is another home to an abundance of trout.  With 15-plus miles of water in this area, many different floats/wades can be arranged.  Every year from late August through September, Kokanne Salmon run from Blue Mesa Reservoir up the Gunnison River to the East River for their annual spawn.  Just seeing and trying to catch these wily, bright red fish is an unforgettable experience.

The salmon fly hatch and several other hatches are trips anglers the world over plan well in advance in order to snatch up one of the limited spots on the river – give us a call and we’ll help you plan your epic fishing adventure, for this year or the next.  Fly Fishing at Smith Fork Ranch will be an experience to remember!

Last night we enjoyed fresh radishes, yukina savoy, herbs, and other veggies picked from our garden – washed and prepared only thirty minutes prior to their arrival on my plate! It doesn’t get much fresher than that. At SFR our Farmstead Garden is a very special part of our Ranch.

We never lose the thrill and exhilaration that comes with each new season here in our beautiful valley in the mountains. The SFR Garden focuses on the preservation and organic production of heirloom varietals. All visitors to Smith Fork Ranch are welcome to take part in the garden activities – wonder the rows with our gardener, learn about the seasons, techniques, and harvests, and pick a fresh, organic veg to snack on or add to the Chef’s basket for the evening meal.

Our gardener Alma Roberts and our Chef Matthew Dusharme will welcome your participation in harvesting the perfect, fresh produce – with names like graffiti cauliflower, winsor fava beans, tavera, rainbow chard, dwarf grey sugar pea tendrils, and allstar gourmet lettuce – this is not your ordinary garden.

Have fun getting your hands dirty! It’s part of the pleasure and experience of Smith Fork Ranch.

Wilderness Whitewater Rafting is quite rare and special. At Smith Fork Ranch you have the opportunity to raft some of the greatest water in the West. We have a special relationship with a local authority on these waters and can offer first rate rafting trips through some of the incredible canyons and rivers this region has to offer. Here Owner of SFR Marley recounts his experiences on a typical rafting trip.

“First you have to get up early, grab a coffee and boxed breakfast from the ranch kitchen, and be on the road by 5:30AM. The driving part of the trip there takes about 2 hours. A third of the way there you change vehicles, and a guide takes the wheel of a really rough 4-wheeler because a normal SUV might not be able to handle the “road” ahead (it’s not really a road, but a trail that is wide enough for a tough vehicle). The next leg of the trip is basically a bumpy 7-mile, 1500’ descent from the high-country down to the startlingly beautiful Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The last part of the trip starts about 1000’ above the river. Everyone gets out and hikes the remaining mile or so (relatively easy) old Indian trail down to the river’s edge. The rafts, supplies and guides have been brought down the night before by pack mules. The guides (the best river guides in Colorado) inflate the rafts, pack in the gear, and sit everyone down to hear safety instructions. Of course “everyone” is just you and your party, the guides, and an occasional bighorn sheep or eagle looking down from above. There is no one else around.”

“The whitewater trip down the river is a truly remarkable adventure. The 11 miles of rapids are wild, and thrilling and you will definitely get wet. The difference is that the river and it’s environment is so pristine, so wild, so empty of other humanity that you quickly realize that there are very few people who have ever had an experience like this.”

“The first time I did this rafting trip I felt like I was Lewis and Clark. After rushing through 1000’ high narrow canyons and surging rapids for 11 miles, and pulling over to the shore for a relaxing lunch, the last three miles of the river trip is relaxing, through calm, easy water to the take-out area. In that 14 mile distance the landscape has suddenly changed. Now it’s barren, sagebrush covered prairie. But good news! The 40 minute ride back to the ranch is smooth and comfortable. You’ll be back in time for cocktails and dinner.”

In addition to Wilderness Whitewater Rafting, we have a tremendous variety of activities to offer including guided horseback riding and lessons, guided fly fishing of our own private waters, guided hikes, archery, horse drawn wagon rides, massage therapy, yoga, vineyard tours, float trips, or even flying a bi-plane!
We hope you can join us this summer for one of these amazing adventures, an experience at Smith Fork Ranch is something you will never want to forget!

How about you? Are you interested in a wilderness whitewater rafting trip or have you been on one? Any memorable stories? We’d love to hear them!

%d bloggers like this: