Spirit West River Lodge

Artist R.G. and Senior Olympian Lynn Finney’s home along Wyoming’s Encampment River.
Artist R.G. and Senior Olympian Lynn Finney’s home along Wyoming’s Encampment River.

When Lynn and R.G. Finney’s sons were small, the family lived in a Victorian-sized house that had belonged to her grandmother. When they had an opportunity to build a new home, they allowed plenty of space to harbor all of their interests.

They designed the home themselves with bedrooms for each of their sons, Sean and Ryan, a studio for R.G., who is a Western painter and sculptor, and a large kitchen and great room plus a master bedroom and adjoining hot tub room. Lynn is a Senior Olympian who has several gold medals in cycling—a sport she shared with her dad, Vern Phillips, who also won in Senior Olympics. She is also an avid outdoors woman who enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. She has taught aerobics and other exercise classes and needed a place for her various pieces of equipment and gear.

Situated beside the Encampment River, just east of Riverside, Wyoming, the Finney’s rambling ranch-style home particularly reflects Lynn’s historic connections to the area. Her great-uncle Gee-String Jack Fulkerson freighted supplies to the Grand Encampment copper mining district at the beginning of the 20th century and earned his nickname for his ability to drive 20-horse teams with a single jerk-line, called a gee-string.

Her maternal grandparents home-steaded and ranched west of the Continental Divide, while her father came to the area around Encampment during the Depression. He later worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps in addition to helping out at area ranches, running a garage and playing bass in a band.

The log home is built from native timbers harvested in the Fox Park area of the Snowy Range by local contractors, who also constructed the home. The interior work, all of it designed by Lynn and much of it actually done by Lynn and her father, features log walls, weathered wood from old ranch hay cribs and rocks gathered in the nearby mountains and even from the river. Some of the rocks are glacial-era, making them among the oldest found in Wyoming.

The signature design elements are a bank of west-facing, floor-to-cathedral-ceiling windows, a great room with a cathedral ceiling and huge open beams, a native stone fireplace, flagstone tile in front of the windows with a green slate thunderbird embedded and a wrap-around deck that gives views to the west toward a small pond and of the river on the north.

After their sons left home, Lynn and R.G. changed their lifestyle and converted the house into a bed and breakfast. They have just recently constructed a new studio, exercise room, storage area and an upstairs apartment. Meantime son Ryan has returned to the area with his wife and daughter Shiann, who spends plenty of time in her grandparents’ home.

Throughout their Spirit West River Lodge, Lynn has placed antiques and memorabilia from her family including pieces that belonged to her parents, grandparents and Gee-String Jack. These family heirlooms blend with R.G.’s artwork: his sculptures grace tables, while his paintings hang on the walls.

Their great room is balanced by an alcove beside the stone fireplace, where Lynn has a functional wood cookstove once used by her parents (she operates it as a warming oven when entertaining). The room also showcases her collection of antique oil lamps, among other antiques, and an inlaid table made by her grandfather. Across the room R.G.’s Irish roots show in Celtic slogans he inscribed on barnwood signs that hang from his bar.

Outdoors the deck has a rugged wood railing, made by R.G., with the logs tied together using heavy rope and accented with outdoor lanterns. Each of the bedrooms has a door opening onto the deck, giving family or guests easy access to the riverfront. An outdoor cooking area is used for breakfast preparation during the summer and a sheep wagon adds to the setting. Lynn routinely has animals—such as raccoons and porcupines—that wander onto the deck to find a meal.

With saddles and Indian paraphernalia as decorative elements, this home is all about the West. The fact that virtually all of the antiques are personal family heirlooms makes Spirit West about as authentic of a place as you find anywhere.

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