The Old Ranch Scrapbook

Celebrating 70 Years Of Guest Photographs, Stories, Memories & Movies

Share Your Own Story!

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 “Remember that summer Bing came fishing…”

Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge

Dear Guests and Longtime Friends,

Over the last 70 years we have hosted unforgettable summer vacations for thousands and thousands of families. In that span of three generations, we’ve heard incredible stories and witnessed generations of family memories being made. Connecting with you all in a genuine, western ranch hospitality way has led to more fun, rule-free, and memorable experiences than we can keep track of. What a treasure trove of stories! Please help us remember it all! To help celebrate our family’s 70 years and three generations of summer vacation memories, we decided to reach out to all of you who’ve shared the joy of a Flathead Lake Lodge summer, and made our family’s life so special. We created this page to be a living storehouse to collect as many fun, funny, heartwarming, or just plain crazy stories as you are willing to share. So please enjoy these stories that span the time from last summer way back to the summer of ’45 and then – share your own story!

Help Us Fill The Old Ranch Scrapbook

To share your story, photos, letters, or even movies with us, just click on the link below and follow the instructions on the story submission page. We’ve made it as easy as pie to share your memories and we sincerely hope you take us up on the offer and help us create this living archive of Flathead Lake Lodge vacation memories to share with generations to come! Share A Story

Cheers and Thanks From The Averill’s

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A Perfect Vacation

Peter & Cathy, 1992

It was the summer of 1992 that we packed up our Chevy van & headed west from Ohio to Big Fork Montana. Our 2 girls, ages 12 & 9, were addicted to a Nickelodeon tv series called “Hey Dude” that took place on a ranch. They talked about going to a similar place so we decided a trip to a dude ranch would be a fun adventure. Little did we know it was going to turn out to be the best family vacation of a lifetime! We spent hours looking through pamphlets that i had sent for to find a Dude Ranch for our vacation. We finally narrowed it down to what we felt looked like the “best” dude ranch around>> Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge. It was an amazing place & the friendships & bonds our girls had with not only friends they met but with the ranchers & staff, were fantastic. The horses, dogs, pool, lake, rodeo, campfires,food & their newfound freedom built lasting memories . They even got to go with the Averill kids to their house & jump on their trampoline & raid their refrigerator! It was a sad day when our van pulled out of the parking lot. We headed to Glacier to continue our vacation but we had to endure 2 pouty & sad girls for the rest of the trip. We still all talk about it over & over & our dream is for all of us to return & to take the grandkids too!

Funny story>>my husband had never ridden a horse prior to our trip so this was a new experience for him. He absolutely fell in love with riding & with the horses as you can see from the picture! His first horse was named “Huge” & that horse was certainly enormous! We laugh every time we talk about it. The dogs were Cinnamon & Brandy who visited us daily.
Thank you so much for giving us the beautiful memories to feast on & we hope to see you all in the near future once again!

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Sailing the Great Nor’Easter

Noble Welch 2005-Present

While growing up, Noble’s father had a power boat that he loved to play on. That started his love for boats and ships. After graduating from Groton then Yale in June 1953, Noble went to Office Candidate School in the US Navy. He graduated in October 1953 and was stationed on his first ship. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant and saw action in the Korean War before leaving the Navy in Oct 1956. Today he owns at a 34′ Tartan that he purchased in 1981.
Because our vacation was so early in June, Noble spent most of the week in the boat barn “puttering” and preparing the boat for the summer in the water. Noble loved the preparation ALMOST as much as the actual sail. After many years of returning with his family the same week, everyone decided that Noble needed to return to the Lodge one week earlier the following summer to prepare the boat for water, so he could spend his family week actually sailing.
He was presented with this idea as a gift from the Lodge and his family.
He was thrilled with the idea and has done just that every year since. He spent the first week as a staff member performing chores that would debilitate many of us, yet he forged on. He often had to paint the bottom of the boat and varnish the deck along with assisting with the actual production of placing the boat in the water, lifting the mast, and rigging the sails.
Noble would then be the first on board each day, anticipating the afternoon winds. He would also happily discuss the history of, or how-to’s of sailing the Lodge boats at the Saddle Sore Saloon each night with anyone who wanted to know. He has taken great pride in his accomplishments each year, knowing he has helped ready the Nor’ Easter for a summer full of guest enjoyment.

Sincerely, Phoebe Knight (Noble’s Daughter)

Nobel sailing the Nor'Easter

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Of Course Your Little Girl Will Be Safe

The Miller’s, 1998

Of course your little girl will be safe!” Piper, my three year old looked up at me to see if I was going to trust the Flathead Lake Lodge staff and babysitters and I reluctantly agreed. Best decision ever!
We came back. And back. And back. 16 years of coming back. Cabin 1 was our home and Piper and Hayley had so many firsts at the ranch that it is hard to know where to start.
First horse rides. First water skiing. First sleep over with wild animals. First freedom from protective parents. First gambling experience (always buy the 1st mouse, it sells for 1/2 of the fourth one). First barn dance, or any dance for that matter.
They learned how to ride bikes at the ranch and Hayley was so proud that she actually slept in her bike helmet. They learned how to fish and how to wrangle. Most importantly, they learned to love Montana. It is a love we all developed that will never die.
So many firsts and so many memories. We now have a home in Montana about a half hour from the ranch and we feel like our annual weekly magic is available to us year round. The ranch has changed us all and will forever be in our blood. And our memories.

miller1 miller2 miller3 miller4 miller5 miller6

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Lifetime Friendships

M & C, 1981-Present


The Playpen Ladies

Flathead Lake Lodge is for our family a magical place where lifetime friendships were formed and a love of Montana developed that has been everlasting.  Mike was born on Flathead Lake in 1940 and left at the age of seven to live in Tokyo, Japan. Many years later in 1981 he returned to Montana and stayed at Flathead Lake Lodge with his wife and daughter who was eight years old. For fifteen plus years our family stayed at Flathead Lake Lodge every year for two weeks. It was during those years that we made wonderful friends from all walks of life. Maureen Averill was so thoughtful to always put us in the same group of cabins next to each other every summer.  We called our area  ” The Playpen “. Later on our family along with some of our Lodge friends decided to build houses on the Lake just south of The Lodge. Our log home was completed in 1995 and now we enjoy beautiful summers on Flathead Lake.

The Playpen Gang

Because of our dear friends Doug and Maureen Averill our daughter Tara and her husband Jason were married at Flathead Lake Lodge and today they come back to Bigfork yearly with our two grandchildren. They have made Flathead Lake Lodge and Montana an integral part of their life. We are so grateful for the vision of Les Averill and The Doug Averill Family for creating this wonderful paradise in the west.
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The Summer of ’86

Cec, 1986

It was the summer of 1986…I’d take a job out West as a wrangler on a dude ranch in Montana! I was a little apprehensive but my boyfriend Dave assured me I’d love it and that Montana and Flathead Lake Lodge were incredible places.

The 1986 Wrangler All Star Team: (Left to Right) Ed, John, Mike, Cec, Dave
The 1986 Wrangler All Star Team: (Left to Right) Ed, John, Mike, Cec, Dave

Leaving my home state of Illinois, I arrived in Bigfork that June with Dave and I can honestly say I never looked back! The job was a lot fun with a fair amount of hard work thrown in. 28 years later I am still here in Bigfork, still working at the lodge ( albeit in a different realm) and still in love with Montana, the Lodge…and even Dave!

I spent 3 summers working as a wrangler. The memories and friendships made during those summers and the years that followed are priceless!

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I’m not going home

Suzi, 1964

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Spinning Ropes at FLL

Loui, 2008

To Doug Averill, Flathead Lake Lodge,

A few weeks ago I was at the airport waiting for my wife to come in from Puerto Rico and I wandered through the gift shop where I saw a magazine called Flathead Living with you and Darv on the front cover. I bought the magazine and turned to the article on the Lodge. I was sure surprised to see the picture of me spinning a rope on the top of the Paint horse. That picture got a lot of mileage, It was used on the front of your advertising brochures for a couple years and over the years I saw it someplace regarding the Flathead. In case you don’t know the story of that picture, Les gave a photographer a weeks vacation to do pictures of the Lodge activities. Luie UdallWhen he took those of me spinning the rope there were three photos! The one used in Flathead Living was the first one where the loop is just starting out, the second was where the loop was just about to go down around the horse and the third had the loop clear down around the horse. I had the first and second pictures but where the third went I have no idea. I gave you one of Les and I with me spinning a loop around us and I hope it made it into your history room. Incidentally, I would like to see that ‘history’ room sometime when I am in the Flathead.  I will give you a call. It interests me as I was very much a part of that Lodge for three years. That paint horse had a formal name of ‘Spotted Robe’, but one of the workers at the Lodge dubbed her ‘Paint Sack’ and that stuck. I trained that Paint and Sorrel mare both to trick ride on but I lost most of those pictures. When I worked there I kept shoes on 20 horses all the time as the total remuda was 22 or 24 and I took 10 to 15 rider out alone all summer. I was bucked off my own saddle horse in front of about 10 dudes one morning and I think that is the one that hurt the most!! (To my pride) It was right in front of a cute little blonde, oilman’s daughter and that really hurt! Anyway, they had their laugh for the day!


In case you don’t remember Les and I logged and cleared the area where the meadow is on the right as you come into the Lodge. Les was having a tough time getting started then and I had the money to buy the chainsaw and an old truck and we put together a ‘logging’ outfit. We worked from daylight to dark falling and skidding logs, loading them and hauling at night. Pretty soon we were really rolling in the money. I was clearing $250.00 a week and in 1951 that was pretty good. Pretty soon prosperity reared its head and Les and I went to town and both bought cars. Les bought a De-Soto and I bough a Ford.


I will never forget the night we headed down the old Bigfork highway with the curves that would put a snake to shame. Les missed the gears at the top of the hill and we free-wheeled down that road. We made it, but it sure spooked both of us. He was very good to me and we had a good association.


Your family has done wonders with the Lodge over the years and it holds a lot of memories for me; the association with Les, the people who came to stay and many trail ride experiences. I also met my wife there and we are come up on 57 years together. Life has been good to me and I still occasionally spin ropes at conventions or company picnics. The horses I have now would pose a problem to my health if I tried to stand up on them!! Over the years I had several Palominos and Paints but my favorite was a Palomino gelding named ‘Nick’, beautiful golden color, four while socks to his knees and a white face, mane and tail. I stood on him for years and he never moved out from under me.


I am enclosing the ‘second’ picture of that series and also one of me taken in 1949 (forty years apart) thought might be interested in them. I see several typing errors but just overlook them! My fingers don’t work quite as well as they used to!!!




Lou Udall

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Sailing…Cowboy Style

Nora, 1985

Questa-1-522x522It was a beautiful evening for a sail on the Questa (being captained that summer by Tom Peichal and Lisa Barrows). There was a colorful summer sky and a silky smooth lake, but it was actually not breezy enough for sailing, making it all a little tame and boring to a 13 year-old like me and many others. Our sailing time was coming to an end and we “came about” to head back to the Lodge. Just then, a big gust of wind came up and, in the blink of an eye, we were surrounded by stormy clouds and menacing winds. I remember sensing the panic in our captains (and most of us) and the gasps as the sail suddenly snapped in the wind. But before there was time to worry about our safety, the ski boat raced to our side—driven by Doug and full of no less than five Lodge “boys.” As stunned passengers, we watched them board the Questa in exactly one second, take charge of the vessel and return us safely back to the dock in no time. I’ve told this story for years, affectionately calling it our “cavalry rescue.” In later years this story became more of an example of how “Doug is always watching.” Back to Top Horizontal Rule

Lasting Friendships

J&M, 1981 – Present

I t was 1981 and we were looking for a new vacation spot to enjoy with our 8 year old son. We happened upon an ad for the Flathead Lake Lodge Dude Ranch. It had horses, tennis courts and a beautiful lake. What could be better than that? Well, we came that year, and kept on coming back for many years.The Play Pen We will always be grateful to Les Averill for creating the Lodge, and to Doug and Maureen for perpetuating and improving on Les’s dream. What they have created is a place where adults and children alike can experience the pleasures of summer camp in an environment so expertly run that the guests have only to relax and enjoy themselves. 


But on top of the wonderful experiences and enduring memories, the greatest gift we received was the friendships that were born and nurtured with our fellow guests, some of whom we count among our closest friends to this day. For us, this is the defining quality of the Lodge, and for which we will be forever grateful. Back to Top Horizontal Rule

Kid’s Camp Adventures

Nora, 1979

I was eager to experience my first kids’ camp overnight as a 7 year-old. When we arrived at the site up on the mountain, there was a bustle of activity among the wranglers. I don’t actually remember seeing the shredded tents—clear evidence of bear activity – but I do remember the radio calls back to base and the speed with which we were loaded up and returned to the Lodge.

Keeping kids up since 1945...
Keeping kids up since 1945…


As kids we were less scared than disappointed in not being able to camp out, but our parents certainly found the story thrilling and amazing! So we ended up having kids’ camp in the South Lodge. We made so much noise—roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories. When Doug and Maureen came to their apartment at the end of their evening, we were all scared and silent – absolutely certain that they would shoo us away to our respective cabins. But they laughed and waved goodnight and the fabulous pajama party continued! Back to Top Horizontal Rule