Nature’s Rural Retreat is a real treat for hunters and nature lovers
Are you among those of us who over-commit our time and over-schedule our calendar? A wholesome remedy awaits you at Nature’s Rural Retreat in the dramatic loess canyons south of Eustis, Nebraska.
Founded in the late 1880s by immigrants, most of who came from Stuttgart, Germany, Eustis has a reputation for innovative, productive businesses. Visitors often stop at the Eustis grocery store for Lone Wolf summer sausage, hardtack and Wisecracks or a Village Piemaker fruit pie, all popular foods produced locally.
Drive south of Eustis over the hills and around the bend to reach another entrepreneurial venture, Nature’s Rural Retreat, a restored country home built in 1932 by Randy Rupe’s grandfather.
“The house was constructed from bricks that were made from local clay, and then plastered with stucco,” said Rupe who owns the bed and breakfast with his wife Cathy, a former librarian and English teacher in the Eustis school system.
Cathy restored the interior of the house, stripping paint from the woodwork to expose light oak door frames and floors and cleaning everything to a spotless shine while Randy rebuilt the horse barn including a loft with star-gazing balcony.
“When we began restoring this house in 2007, we wanted to create a pleasant, comfortable, quiet place for families, hunters or nature lovers to enjoy each other and the rural life,” Cathy said.
Use, refinish and reuse
Inspired by their mantra, “use, refinish and reuse,” Randy built benches out of wood rescued from discarded electric pole trestles. He and Cathy arranged the benches under shade trees and beside a fire pit as well as overlooking an incredible view of canyon ledge and canyon floor. The benches call for a visitor to pause, ponder and sit for awhile.
Cathy and Randy value preservation of the land, the native prairie grasses, and the wildlife. Phrases like “eco-friendly” and “xeriscape” are sprinkled in their conversations.
“Quail feed on the buffalo grass lawn in early morning and evening,” Cathy said “and we often see flocks of wild turkeys. Every young tree must be protected from nibbling deer because they travel on the property too.” Mindful of the hunters, Randy plants cover crops, shrubs and prairie plants that are consistent with pheasant habitat. The Rupes also plant wildflowers, shrubs and trees that were common on the 1930s prairie to attract birds and pollinators.
The comfortable house is equipped with every comfort and amenity of home including wifi for Internet access and also features an extensive vinyl record collection and sound system. The vinyl recordings remind guests of the quality of sound prior to the digital age and listening to the mellow tones and liquid notes of vinyl recordings is a favorite pastime for guests, Cathy said.
The hunting connection
The hunting segment of their business began when a neighbor, Arlo Shurr, started Great Nebraska Hunting, a family-owned hunting and ranching business. Often Schurr’s hunting clients would stay at the Rupe’s cottage during their hunt, and ultimately Schurr sold the Great Nebraska Hunting domain name and website to Randy and Cathy.
During upland bird, deer and turkey seasons, the lodge is usually reserved by hunters. Hunt packages include a breakfast, such as muffins, eggs, bacon, and orange juice, and for an additional $50 per day Nature’s Retreat provides a lunch of local summer sausages, breads, cheese, chips and salad. The evening meal might be steak on the grill, cheesy potatoes, salad, and pie.
Randy provides guide service for only the first several hours of the hunt, mainly to orient the hunters to the parcels of land and the various habitats.
“Hunters appreciate the freedom to hunt and work with their highly-trained dogs without interruptions and usually outside of the sight of another hunter or human being for the entire day,” Randy said.
The experience is what sells
Cathy and Randy advertise Nature’s Rural Retreat with the Nebraska Bed & Breakfast Association, the Nebraska Game & Parks website and in Nebraska Life magazine, but it’s the experience of nature that visitors get that really sells.
“Guests who return annually tell their friends and colleagues about us and that helps us market the lodge and our services,” Randy said. “Only this week a hunter shot a 24-pound turkey here and you can bet he will tell his hunting story many times. “
“We want to attract nature lovers out to the middle of Nebraska to see our prairie birds and listen to the coyotes sing at night,” Cathy said, “but we also encourage guests to shop in Eustis and enjoy what is here: wildlife, golf, bird watching and activities on the nearby lakes.”
Mina Anderson, a sixth-grade student at Miller Creek School in San Rafael, California vacationed with her family at Nature’s Rural Retreat and immortalized her experience in a poem:
What to Do in Nebraska
Disembark from a two hour flight and name all of the cars out the window.
Glimpse a bull snake in the old cellar then run quickly away.
Dash into the barn, peer at the tiny kittens while they romp and frolic.
Stumble in a gopher hole while you are running across the vast, green field.
Sway in the old tire swing.
Control a tractor around in a circle.
Learn about the Natives.
Gaze at lightning storms in the night and watch it in the distance.
Peer at the ground so you don’t step on any toads in the gravel.
Spend all day with family.