Written by guest blogger Sunny Lovejoy
I felt a rush of excitement as my Jeep climbed the 8600 feet into the heart of the Salmon River Mountains. I had scored the summer job of a lifetime. I would be working at the Diamond D Dude Ranch nestled in the Frank Church Wilderness right outside of Stanley, Idaho. I pictured myself fly-fishing on their private lake, hiking to the remote mountain rivers, and sitting around the campfire plucking my guitar. The reality of my summer at the Diamond D was beyond any of my wildest dreams or expectations!
Every morning I got to wake up to a huge lawn covered with dew-kissed grass and see the sun rise over the beautiful Salmon River Mountains. By the time I filled my “Waffle House” mug with coffee, I could hear the wranglers yipping at the horses and watched as they brought them from the pasture into the corral. After our morning work and once the guests were off on one of their many trail rides, I was able to hike up to the ranch lake. The freedom of sitting in my own rowboat, fishing pole hanging out, and the sounds of the wild filling my ears, was more than enchanting. Besides the fishing, breathtaking scenery, horses, gold panning, wild flowers, lake hikes, clay shooting, days spent by the pool- and many other adventures- there were a few events that took my breath away.
One of the most special places I found at the Diamond D Ranch was the River Rock Chapel. Hidden past the river and up along a hillside covered in wildflowers, lives a beautiful chapel. Adorned with stained-glass windows and made of river rocks, this chapel welcomes you like a pillar of warmth placed in the middle of a forest heaven. Every rock was handpicked by Linda Demorest herself, or picked by friends, family, and loved ones of the Diamond D. It took 11 summers to build this chapel and the feeling of peace and tranquility surrounds the whole hillside it is nestled upon.
Of all my favorite events at the ranch, weddings would have to be my most magical memory. Maybe these weddings were my favorite because they involved that beloved chapel, and maybe it is just because I’m a hopeful romantic looking forward to my own Diamond D wedding someday. Since the ranch can accommodate over 40 guests, throughout the summer we had several beautiful ranch weddings. I remember my first big wedding there. The rehearsal dinner in the dining room was classy and laughter filled every inch of the lodge! The back patio was transformed into a private wine-bar and acoustic music lounge. The wedding party activities were always personalized and had me dreaming of my own wedding there someday. Seeing the wedding party and especially the bride make her way to that magical chapel to say her vows, was like a fairy tale. It looked just like you plucked a Cinderella story and placed it in the most amazing of all hidden pieces of wilderness heaven. After the beautiful wedding ceremony, the ranch turned into a wedding extravaganza! With elegant tiered cakes in one room, wine, music, and a fire on the back patio, dining and games on the huge front lawn, and even live music and dancing in the saloon, this wedding was unforgettable.
Although each wedding I witnessed was completely different and individualized, I still pick out my favorite parts and take joy in planning my own special wedding there someday. You can be sure that it will include fly-fishing on the lake for my bridal party, a private dinner with my future husband in the gazebo overlooking the lake, and of course moonlit horse rides. As for the ceremony, that beautiful chapel on the hill will hold my loved ones quite nicely. I will be wearing a pair of cowboy boots under my dress for some swing dancing afterwards and hope that my future husband will be able to keep up! Every worker and guest that I’ve met, and surely any guest to come, will understand my love for this amazing place and also holds treasured memories to last a lifetime! Diamond D, thank you for the best summer of my life and I can’t wait to come back to that little piece of Heaven on Earth!