Fire can’t kill State Bridge |

Fire can’t kill State Bridge

John Ryder barely got out with his life from the State Bridge Lodge, so Saturday wasn’t such a bad day.

Scott Stoughton, the part owner and decade-long operator of the well-known lodge, answered an early phone call thinking it might be good news about his other enterprise, Vail’s Samana Lounge, which has faced basement flooding problems with the rise in Gore Creek.

His morning nudged on the biblical, but he was upbeat before noon near the smoking remains of the lodge built in the 1890s, an eternity ago in the West.

He vowed to put a tent up and keep the concerts coming. And to rebuild. The cabins remain. The yurts remain. The river and the railroad tracks and the magic of the place remain.

And John Ryder is alive. He may not realize quite how close his call was. His dog, Tatiana, was a lost mongrel found loping along Highway 131 about a year ago. Ryder picked her up from the pound, saving her before he knew her history.

Ta Ta, as he called her while recounting the story, made him wake up just before 4:30 in the lodge he manages. She kept at it, insisting as only a desperate dog can. He woke up to flames, and got out.

This was close enough that when he turned back to try to grab some belongings, it was too late. His room was gone.

Figure on about two minutes difference between life and never waking up. The fumes will get you before the heat. The flames? They just clean up.

This man is extremely lucky to be alive.

A year ago, before the dog, forget it. I would not have the opportunity to shake his hand, hear his story, tell him we’re glad he’s alive.

The lodge was a landmark, first as a railroad stop, than for apres rafting and especially the music scene in recent years. Don’t forget the hunting, either. Teddy Roosevelt didn’t.

I don’t think the place is done. Stoughton has too much drive. Ryder didn’t sound like a man ready to quit. You just know the many folks who know and love State Bridge will do what they can to see the place rise and thrive in the future.

In other words, call the burning of the main lodge before dawn one more colorful chapter in the story of a special place.

Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 748-2920, or Read his blog at

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