Surprising Malibu Dude Ranch
I admit I was intrigued when I saw this on the website for Pennsylvania’s Malibu Dude Ranch:
“Think you’ve got what it takes to be the next rodeo star?? Sign up for one of our speed events and compete against other guests during our guest participation rodeos, held during major 3-day holiday weekends.
I knew the ranch had recently added a sanctioned arena and announcer stand so that they could host professional rodeos and shooting competition events (newsflash!). What I didn’t realize was that guests could also star in their own rodeo show!
Somehow I’m not surprised. That’s the kind of entertaining twist Allan “Doc” Detweiler and his wife Phyllis brought to the ranch when they bought it in 2010. In purchasing Malibu Ranch, they saved it from total destruction (a townhouse style residential community was one plan for the property), and in so doing, they saved an East Coast tradition.
And its all been onward and upward ever since. This day, it is 80 degrees, sunny and warm as Doc Detweiler tells me about how he came to own the Malibu Ranch. “I’m the ranch’s sixth owner—the last one owned it for 46 years!” he says. “I hope to God I own it as long!” Doc laughs. “I came to the ranch in 1974 as a kid—I wanted to be a cowboy when I was five. Now my whole family rides—my daughters barrel race.”
Malibu Dude Ranch is located not on the California coast near the iconic movie enclave of Malibu, but in the scenic Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, just 75 miles from New York City. When I ask how an East Coast ranch got the name of a California coastal town, Doc explains how the first owner (a rich Wall Streeter in the 1920s) had grown up in the California town and named his ranch after Malibu. Eventually, he opened it up to the public. Today, the 800-acre ranch offers something for all ages and tastes- from archery to fishing, skeet shooting and horseback riding galore.
Established in 1928, the ranch has a long history of entertaining guests: it is described as the oldest authentic working dude ranch east of the Mississippi River. Thanks to Doc and Phyllis, it still provides the Old West cowboy experience and horseback riding on woodland trails. The ranch suffered a fire in 1973 that took out the original lodge, but the massive two-story stone fireplace in the lobby is a survivor; it showcases the grand entrance to the lodge just as it always did.
Doc first visited the ranch as a youngster not long after the rebuilding that resulted from the fire. That ranch stay molded his young character and he credits it with helping him stay focused on goals later in life. Eventually, Allan became a doctor of family medicine with a main practice is in Long Island, New York (he also employs many physicians in five locations in New York, New Jersey, and Florida).
“I feel this ranch is a legacy, so there’s an obligation to keep this up,” Doc notes. “We’ve put in more than $4 million to renovate the ranch. We updated the entire infrastructure and added the arena, brought our own cattle onto the property, and added a Wild West show for the kids. Everyone who comes leaves pleased.” Doc knows the timing of the ranch’s purchase—during a tough economy—wasn’t in his favor but he’s hoping that the economy will soon turn around and “we’ll reap the rewards.” Now the biggest hurdle is to let the public know (and that’s where Ranchweb can help).
Saddle up (and other diversions)
There’s horseback riding, a Saturday night bonfire and hayride, fishing or row boating out on the lake if you’re into nature. If you’re not so much into the great outdoors, there’s always tennis or basketball, horseshoes, board games, and an indoor pool. In the evening, hang out at the country western nightclub or check out the cable TV on a flat screen.
Not into horses? That’s okay: ride the trails on your own ATV or snowmobile. Enjoy stargazing in the ranch’s clear night skies; shoot skeet or archery on the rifle range (the ranch also offers a hunter package the first three days of the deer rifle season). Golfing is 15 minutes away. Any season, there’s plenty of fun at the Malibu Ranch.
“Come cowboy with us and keep the tradition of an East Coast ranch alive!” Doc says. “We’re only an hour’s drive from Manhattan, about two hours from Philadelphia, and three hours from Boston.”
Details: Malibu Dude Ranch is set in the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, a 3-mile drive from Milford and 75 miles from NYC. It makes a great location for family vacations, reunions, and anniversaries and is a place for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to earn merit badges (ask about group rates). Stay in private cabins among the trees, chalet and motel style rooms near the main lodge, or in the lodge itself. Not ready for a full commitment yet? Ride the ranch’s horses by the hour, take lessons, or bring your own and board your horse here.
PHOTO CREDIT: Photos by Teresa Crerand