For a restful weekend retreat, it would be hard to top the Red Corral Ranch. The rambling 1,100-acre spread—which lies halfway between Wimberley and Blanco in one of the prettiest and most solitary stretches of the Hill Country—boasts an organic farm, nature trails, and an abundance of wildlife. Only a herd of grazing cattle noted our arrival at the Red Corral, lowing when we swung open the ranch gate. Hand-painted signs led us along a rocky dirt road to Stillpoint Cabin, a secluded cottage in the woods where a vase of lilies and just-baked banana-walnut bread awaited us. The tiny pine-and-cedar cabin was decorated simply with Mexican blankets and illuminated by the ample sunlight that streamed in its windows, with a wood-burning stove for cooler nights. After unpacking, we took a leisurely walk through the woods, following a trail that wound past wildflowers, prickly pear, and a golden-cheeked-warbler habitat, where two white-tailed deer bounded across our path. Upon our return, we grilled dinner on the cabin’s hibachi and settled in for the evening with a bottle of wine, watching from our porch’s rocking chairs as the sun dipped below the horizon. We did not see a soul until the next afternoon, when we drove to the Limestone Lodge, the ranch’s elegant headquarters, where guests may also spend the night. (On advance request, meals using ingredients from the Red Corral’s organic farm are prepared here for an additional fee.) White peacocks strutted about the grounds, which include a swimming pool, ornamental gardens, and a meditation labyrinth, based on the original at Chartres cathedral in France. We left relaxed and restored, regretting only that we could not stay longer. PAMELA COLLOFF
Light years from dallas—actually, about a two-hour drive east—Cooper Lake is a wonderfully wild aberration in the world of Texas lakes. You’ll find no private development—no tract mansions, no marinas, no bait shops—marring the waterfront; every inch of shoreline is claimed by either the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. What you will find at Cooper Lake State Park are tidy facilities for campers, a secluded RV park, an enclave of screened shelters, ten miles of trails for horseback riding, and the fifteen spanking-clean Pecan Ridge Cabins.
Since we gave up sleeping on the ground years ago and are (I hope) a couple of decades from catching motor-home fever, Richard and I checked into one of the cabins after picking up our key at park headquarters. It was a chilly April afternoon. A steady north wind was launching whitecaps across the 19,000 acres of water, so we hunkered down in our temporary home with good books, cranked up the central heat, and listened to the gale howl. Although the cabins are clustered together, ours, nestled in thick woods, felt completely private. We were blissfully free from the distractions of telephone or television, and thanks to the wind and our midweek timing, the only anglers braving the choppy waters of this popular bass-fishing lake were a flock of white pelicans. Each of the identical sixteen- by thirty-foot cabins (okay, so I counted the floor tiles; it takes me a while to really relax) has one bedroom with two double beds, a living-dining area decorated