Many of the customers who return year after year to Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge consider it upscale camping. Nestled in the gorgeous Oak Creek Canyon, it’s just the place to unplug from civilization and just relax in a homey little log cabin.
And summer is one of the best times to go to the lodge.
“The canyon is a cool, green haven,” said Mary Garland, who has been one of the proprietors of the lodge for the past 40 years, along with her husband Gary.
“They can walk through the orchard; the garden is starting to happen. There are blackberries, apples and peaches.”
The small crop of peaches will find their way into cobbler and peach daiquiris and the apples into apple pie, salads, applesauce and even a signature drink called Banjo Bill’s Anticipation served cold in the summer and warm in the cooler months.
“What we find is that people come here to unplug from cell phones. We don’t even have cell phone service, although we do have wi-fi,” she said. “People get to know us and come back because the food is sensational. Some of them like the yoga classes. Some get massages.”
She said “luck” got them into the business.
Back in 1972, Gary’s father, Bill Garland, retired from the steel business in his 50s. He wanted to reinvest and have a second career. The lodge was for sale.
“It was generational shift. It was owned for years by Frank and Catherine Todd. They were ready to sell and it was a good time for the Garlands to purchase it,” Garland explained. “Their kids were just getting out of college. We all moved up here to start the lodge.”
She and Gary were newlyweds at the time.
Everyone seemed to gravitate toward his or her interest in running the business.
Gary had graduated with a degree in civil engineering, so he was interested in the water systems, plumbing, building new cabins and remodeling the old ones.
Mary’s talents were in the front-of-the-house duties such as guest contacts, reservations and the like.
Gary’s sister, Susan, was the cook in the family, so that became her niche.
Brother Dan switched his major in college to horticulture and managed the orchard and organic garden.
“We were all just learning the ropes. We just figured it out as we went,” she said.
The family approach worked until everyone began to marry and have children. It became clear the lodge could not sustain the whole family, so they began to branch out into rugs, jewelry and even a trading post.
Mary said she does not know how she and Gary ended up running the lodge.
“Gary was suited to mange an older property with quirks. Maybe we were more entrenched in the lodge,” she said. “It is a beautiful place. It’s a great environment. It’s a unique and beautiful place. The orchard and organic garden are really unusual and wonderful.”
She says the best thing about running the lodge all these years is the interaction with people.
“You develop friendships and relationships. You see kids grow up and bring their own kids.”
She said one of their guests dresses up each year as the Easter Bunny. No one asked him to or even paid him, but he loves being on hand for photo opportunities for the children.
“At first we rented him a costume and then we had one made for him,” she said.
Then there was the Queen of Pumpkin Carving.
“She always comes and does the carving job for our front desks every year. Those traditions just evolve.”
If they had the chance to do it all over again, would they?
“No regrets,” she confirmed.
There are 16 individual log cabins that usually accommodate two people, but she says once in a while, a few more can be squeezed in.
Summer is less busy than fall when people come to see the colors. The lodge closes in winter from Nov. 20 until the end of March.
Of course, spring is nice too.
“Oak Creek Canyon is sheltered and temperate enough to protect blossoming fruit trees, wild violets and daffodils, and to welcome the first migrating birds.”
And the food is fantastic. “We specialize in extremely sophisticated, eclectic, American cuisine, including entrees from rack of lamb to braised duckling to fresh fish a few times a week and homemade pastas. We make everything from scratch every day, including bread, rolls and salad dressing.”
Amanda Stine, the lodge’s beloved chef, has been there for 30 years. Her “sidekick,” Steve Hosmer, has been there for 20 years.
“They create the menu each evening, which includes homemade bread, soup, salad, entrees and desserts,” she said.
But a person does not have to be a guest at the lodge to take advantage of the daily feast. The restaurant takes reservations for anyone who wants to partake.
Many guests find it the perfect place to celebrate anniversaries and other special occasions.
Guests of the lodge get breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner.
“We call it a modified American Plan.” FBN
For those who wish they could eat at the lodge every day, a cookbook, “Sharing the Table at Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge,” is available with more than 200 of guests’ favorite dishes.
Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge is eight miles north of Sedona at 8067 North SR 89 A. Telephone is 928-282-3343″ or visit www.Garlandslodge.com.
Mary Garland says, “We really want people to call us!”