50 years of pushing barriers at the Bunk House Lodge
Just north of Breckenridge is a small pavilion adorned with weathered wood siding. Cords of wood surround the backyard. Inside, cowboy hats and snowshoes hang from nearly every wall, which is made of logs that may date back to 1892. Yet within this rustic lodge is one of the most progressive establishments in Breckenridge.
The gay-owned, gay-loving, straight-friendly Bunk House Lodge celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. For most of its history, the lodge has been one of the few safe spaces for gay men in Breckenridge.
The lodge is on the northern outskirts of town, just off Colorado Highway 9 in what was once Braddockville, a ticket station on the Denver South Park Railroad. The small town was founded by Dave Braddock in the 1880s.
“He was a character,” said the lodge’s current owner, Mitch Ringquist. “He brewed his own beer. He had a stagecoach and transported people from town to town. It had the tallest greenhouse at the time. He was very progressive.
Ringquist said Braddockville had developed a reputation. People came to town for a drink, a night out, or a vacation. The town was popular with townspeople who wanted to honeymoon in the mountains.
Around 1892, the Braddockville “honeymoon cabin” was built, Ringquist said. The walls of this cabin now line the kitchen and living room of the Bunk House Lodge.
Ringquist derives much of the lodge’s history from a book beside the lodge’s fireplace, “Blasted Beloved Breckenridge” by Mark Fiester which chronicles Breckenridge’s origins. The story 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 few years. He then converted it into a 22-bed bunk lodge. His vision for the lodge was a safe space where gay people could congregate in the picturesque ski resort of Breckenridge. At the time, the station was barely ten years 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 the goal of reaching Southern California. Along the way, he stopped at the Bunk House Lodge. Rudziewicz was wooed by the mountain vistas and the loving community, so much so that he only made it halfway on his return trip.
He worked at Breckenridge and the lodge until one day in 1989 Gardner passed the keys to the lodge to Rudziewicz. Shortly after, Gardner died of complications from AIDS.
In Gardner’s wake, Rudziewicz transformed the bunk-style lodge into a hotel, with three private rooms for rent.
Ringquist first came to the lodge in 1999 from San Diego without being able to ski, but it was people — not skiing — that brought him to the mountains. He came east with a friend and fell in love with the Summit County community. So he stayed for 23 years, working for room and board until, like Rudziewicz, he took over the lodge in 2015.
Today, the lodge welcomes all visitors 21 and older and allows the use of marijuana. People of all identities can sit at the table, literally. Guests often gather for family-style dinners at the end of the day, and Ringquist hopes to build community from his small lodge on the outskirts of town.
“We try to create this feeling of unity,” he said. “They have the meat, and I bring a side or the salad. Someone else will go get dessert. So, all of a sudden, we created this big celebratory meal together. We are all strangers, trying to create a community.
Guests should call ahead to reserve a room, and they should do so well in advance. Ringquist said the lodge didn’t have a single empty bed from Jan. 1 to April 1, and he said a similar pattern is typically seen during the summer hiking season.
The 19-person lodge has three private bedrooms, four lofts and five single dorm beds. Each bed is labeled with one of the neighboring Tenmile Range peaks, 1 through 10, plus Quandary and Heaven.
The lodge also has enough room for three dogs. However, guests should check their pets’ compatibility before staying, as Ringquist and his partner house three dogs themselves.
“We even housed donkeys,” Ringquist said. “We made a little corral 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 to Breckenridge are encouraged to come as the lodge cultivates a hostel-like vibe.
Guests can rent a hostel-style bunk bed for $60 a night, a two-person loft for $100, a two-person, pet-friendly room for $125, or the largest room with a backyard where the donkeys go. were kept for $150.
The lodge will celebrate its official 50th anniversary on November 26. It is planned to organize a masked ball on the theme of the golden year on July 30th. Visit BunkHouseLodge.com for more.
This story previously appeared in the Summer 2022 edition of Explore Breckenridge & Summit County magazine.