The Beauty of Bowman’s Bearcreek Lodge
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
Nestled near downtown Hope, Bowman’s Bearcreek Lodge is a lovely oasis in an already charming town. As soon as one drives on property, tranquility sets in immediately. The pond and sound from the rapidly flowing creek nearby contribute to the aura, as does the green grass and cabins. And a warm June evening, with blue sky and light breeze, pushes the setting over the top.
The Gazette accepted a long-standing invitation for an overnight visit to the lodge. The five-course gourmet dinner was a welcome send-off feast before a four-day trip on the Resurrection Pass Trail, which runs 39 miles from Hope to Cooper Landing. Once my wife and I were settled into the cottage, we were ready for the one seating only dinner served at 7 p.m.
Seated at separate tables in a dining area with four other guests, the evening began with an offering of Denali Mother Ale or Chuli Stout on draft, as well as choices of red and white wines. Introductions were given, and the conversation started flowing.
The first course was as tasty as it was lovely on the plate – grilled, cream cheese stuffed poblano pepper topped with Melanie Bowman’s pepper jelly and served with toast slices. The creamy filling presents a fine contrast to the vibrant poblano. The pepper jelly added an engaging sweet/spicy dimension.
Wedge salad with creamy bleu cheese dressing was the second course. The large wedge of iceberg lettuce was crisp and had flavorful depth. Bacon bits were sprinkled the top of the dressing. The salad was refreshing on a sunny June evening.
Course number three was shared from a single plate with my dining partner. Al dente green beans were dressed with a tasty pesto and garlic sauce. Served with chopsticks, diners get to share and participate in the same plate of food.
The fourth course offered two choices. First was a marinated lamb chop served medium rare with lemon dill rice and tzatziki. The marinade was interesting, flavorful and went well with the lamb. The tzatziki was great. The calamari steak was tender, and the picatta sauce was a nice touch.
The dessert was bread pudding made with croissants, topped by rhubarb and berries sauce with whipped cream. The richness of the croissants was tempered by the light tartness of the rhubarb. The bread pudding was a fine finish, even though we had to take some of ours back to the cottage for later.
Bowman’s Bearcreek Lodge grows greens and other vegetables either on site in the greenhouse or a plot in the community garden. All food is locally sourced and made in-house as much as possible.
The next morning, the Gazette interviewed Kent and Melanie Bowman to learn about the lodge and how it developed over the years.
Gazette: Where does the story of Bowman’s Bearcreek Lodge begin?
Melanie: Basically the buildings were here. It was Bearcreek Lodge. We bought it from the original owner, Linda Vathke. The structure was here, but we made it beautiful.
Kent: It was a fairly depressed piece of property at the time. We came in and cleaned it up, took out all of the dead trees. That was when the bark beetles had come through and decimated a lot of the trees. There were trees laying around the property.
Melanie: None of the grass was here. Everything that you see that is green now was gravel. All of the buildings were sea foam green. Kent did all of the siding. All of the decks are new. All of the burls. Every single flower bed on the property is ours except for the original flower bed. Six years ago, we bought the property across the creek. Now we’re at about 4½ acres with all seven cabins.”
Gazette: What year did you buy the lodge?
Kent: 2004. This is year 15.
Melanie: We were in Cooper Landing. That’s where we met. We were there for almost 10 years. I cooked at Gwin’s, and Kent came in to run Drifter’s Lodge. Then we wanted to do something. We were done working for other people. We had friends out here who were saying, ‘Move to Hope!’ Then this place came up. It was meant to be for us.
Gazette: Did you construct the pond?
Kent: The pond used to be a big, marshy area. The first owner, he was a big equipment operator. He dug out the pond and got the permits for the flow through. It has been here for some time.
Melanie: Right after the earthquake. 
Kent: They opened up this whole section of property after the ’64 earthquake when all of the properties sank. The town used to be out on the flats, and all of that sank about three or four feet. The tide came right up, so everyone had to move their homes. So the state opened up these plats and traded properties downtown. That’s how all of this came to be built up here.
Melanie: The original owners had this entire piece of property. When Linda Vathke bought it from them, it had the pond, and she built the cabins and turned it into Bearcreek Lodge. For the first nine years, we were open from 11 in the morning to 11 at night. We had five employees to keep this place going, besides ourselves. We changed the whole program. And we started with the five-course dinners.
Kent: “The first few years were getting the lodge into compliance. After that, we built a reputation. The last five years have been more about tailoring it better for us. Eighty percent of our business is return.”
Gazette: What kind of rentals do you have available?
Melanie: We have the seven cabins, six of which are dry and use the bathhouse. The one that you’re in is the cottage. That is the only one that is plumbed. The Bridge Cabin is fabulous. It has a private kitchen.
Kent: There’s a five-course dinner with one seating at 7 o’clock.
Gazette: How did the five-course dinner come about?
Kent: We used to do breakfast, lunch and dinners. The first thing to go was the six-dollar breakfast. You have ten people sitting in your restaurant for six hours drinking coffee. Then we did just lunch and dinner.
Melanie: We tailored it to our wants. I’m real eclectic with my cooking, so I don’t want a menu I have to repeat every single time. For a chef, it’s really boring. This is our life, not just our job. Someone told us a long time ago that you’ll get to a point where your business works for you instead of you constantly working for your business. That works for us. Our food is picked fresh each day. We grow a lot of our greens, a lot of our lettuces and herbs, all of our peas. We get all of our fish from Whittier.
Gazette: What else would you like to tell me about your business?
Kent: The customers are fantastic. We have people from all over the world here every night. Just like last night, and small conversations are encouraged.
Bowman’s Bearcreek Lodge
Mile 16 Hope HWY
Diners can make reservations if they are not staying at the lodge.