by Lauren Kramer
It’s dusk at the Wild Catter Ranch Resort in north central Texas, and I’m on the porch, overlooking the rugged granite outcroppings and serene beauty of the Palo Pinto Hill Country. The shrill sound of crickets fills the air and the dense heat, which has kept the mercury unchanged at 108 degrees Fahrenheit all day, is finally tolerable now the sun has gone down.
Without its intense glare on my shoulders, I can finally appreciate the magnificence of my environs. I sit on a rustic wooden rocking chair outside my cabin, watching the hummingbird that keeps returning to its porch-side feeder, and listen as the breeze catches the laughter of children far away.
This land is hauntingly beautiful. At first I’d wondered how people could survive in this heat, where one must move from one air conditioned space to another to keep from expiring.
But at dusk, the answers become apparent as you see the land bathed in a new light. The gentle flow of the forested hill into the valley below. The warm breeze that tickles your nape. The bright orange breast of a bird that stops to observe you curiously before diving into the undergrowth. And the unobtrusive amble of an armadillo as it searches for food in the brush.
Early morning, before the weather becomes blisteringly hot, is the best time to be out and about, partaking in the many activities at the Wild Catter Ranch Resort.
My family and I start the day with a canoe ride at the creek, dipping oars into the shallow, murky water of the Brazos River and watching the occasional fish somersault into the air before returning to the shallows.
By 10:30, it’s reached 99 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that renders paddling a major exertion. Within a half-hour we relinquish our canoes and head directly to the swimming pool, a place guests keep returning to as the day wears on and the sun continues to toast the land to a fine crisp.
I venture out again in the afternoon, buoyed by curiosity and a love of riding horseback along the craggy bluffs that overlook the river.
Dusty, my faithful horse, trots along rocky trails and canters across grassy meadows, passing parched plants and the scattered bones of a lone cow along the way. Carrion-seeking vultures scour the terrain from the thermals.
I gleefully anticipate a reviving dip in the swimming pool followed by a good meal at the Wild Catter Steakhouse. That night, I fall asleep to the sounds of an old Western movie, dreaming of handsome cowboys and the massive expanse of dry land that is proudly Texas.
Indeed, my dry environs are rich in history. Located in Young County, just six miles outside the small Texas town of Graham, Wild Catter is surrounded by a variety of historic sites where Texas legends were made.
This land has witnessed cattle drives, outlaw mysteries, bloody frontier battles with Indians and overnight oil boomtowns. Years later, these legends were parlayed into famous old Hollywood movies like “The Sons of Katie Elder,” “The Searchers” and “Lonesome Dove.” When we borrow these movies from the resort’s library, the stories spring to life.
But the legends are also woven into the very fabric of Wild Catter Ranch Resort, and reflected in the unique décor of each of the rooms.
Our cabin, titled Famous Chiefs, depicts Indian heritage in its décor and imagery. Photographs of somber Indian chiefs stare back at me from the walls, their worried eyes anxious about the future.
Their fates are laid bare in a comprehensive binder in the cabin, carefully described in the language and point-of-view of the Americans who ultimately usurped their place on this land.
We drive into the town of Graham one afternoon, a community of 9,000 that boasts the largest courthouse square in the United States. On a Sunday afternoon, however, the town’s few gift shops and stores are closed and silent, and the only traffic surrounds the few fast-food outlets and Graham’s single pizzeria.
Back at the ranch there is a wide array of uniquely Texan activities to keep us busy. Jason, my five-year-old son, takes a stab at archery with his dad, while I peruse other possibilities, among them skeet shooting, fishing and hunting.
In the end, though, it’s the shade of the porch that wins my attention. There, on a trusty rocking chair, I allow myself to be transported once again by the exquisite stillness of the rugged Palo Pinto Hill Country.
About the author:
This week Traveling Tales welcomes freelance travel writer Lauren Kramer who lives in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver B.C.
Photos by Lauren Kramer:
1: Canoeing along the Brazos River as it snakes through the valley, is one way to catch
2: Riding horseback is a great way to explore the craggy bluffs and parched landscape
surrounding the resort.
3: Ranch guests keep returning to their infinity swimming pool.
If you go:
Wild Catter Ranch Resort is a two-hour drive from Fort Worth. At some times of the year the resort offers round-trip transportation to and from the ranch, – at other times, you need a vehicle.
The resort cabins, which sleep up to four, range in price from USD$149-$229 per night, continental breakfast included. The ranch offers guests horseback riding and hunting at an extra fee, and complimentary canoeing, mountain bike riding, skeet shooting, fishing, archery and internet access. For more information call (888) 462-9277 or visit www.wildcatterranch.com