Location: Wildcatter Ranch, Graham
What You’ll Need: Nothing at all
The wildcatter ranch resort and spa isn't exactly a hard-core dude ranch, but that’s how I sold it to my dad and two brothers when we were mulling over plans for our annual family vacation. “Just think,” I told them. “We can go horseback riding! We can shoot things! We can eat steak!” Meanwhile I was plotting my own weekend of pampering and relaxation. I can sunbathe by the pool! I can get a massage! I can drink my way through the wine list! Although the Wildcatter—located in Graham, about one hundred miles northwest of Fort Worth—is situated deep in cowboy country, the 1,500-acre property is closer to a Western-themed boutique hotel than a rassle-your-own-supper working ranch. The sixteen luxury cabins, each outfitted with granite vanities and fireplaces, and the sixteen-room hotel are nobody’s idea of “roughing it.”
Fueled by a respectable continental breakfast, we headed over to the archery range. After shooting more arrows than I’d care to admit, I finally heard the sweet thwack of a bull’s-eye. Next we considered paddling lazily on placid Conner Creek but decided instead on an hour-long ATV tour. Stopping to snap pictures at the scenic outlooks on Kisinger Mountain, we learned all about the region’s outlaw history. Engrossed by the gory tales of Indian raids and wagon-train massacres, my brothers drove over to the skeet range, where they no doubt imagined the orange sporting clays to be desperadoes on the run from the law.
I, meanwhile, made my escape to the infinity pool, which is perched on a bluff overlooking the Brazos River Valley. My only care in the world was deciding which treatment to book at the Wildcatter’s Sage Spa. Just as I’d settled on the Urban Cowboy facial (“an enzyme-treated steam removes impurities . . .”), my brothers roped me into a friendly game of horseshoes. And then tetherball. And then Frisbee golf. By the time we’d moseyed back to the hotel—where Dad was enjoying the sunset from a rocking chair on the back porch—it was dinnertime, so we walked the ten paces over to the Wildcatter Steakhouse. Thanks to the juicy pork tenderloin served with an apple-poblano chutney and the golden chicken-fried chicken, we were eating off one another’s plates like we did when we were kids. For dessert, we grabbed the s’mores kits that had been left on our pillows and headed to the fire pit to roast mallows underneath the stars.
After waking up and checking my sleeping bag for snakes—oh, wait, I mean willing myself out of the cushy bed—I grabbed some coffee with my dad, and we snagged seats on the long covered wagon parked in front of the hotel. Pulled by a John Deere tractor, we made our way down to the pastures to feed alfalfa pellets to the Wildcatter’s Longhorns. Big Boy, who allegedly owns the third-largest pair of horns in the state, broke part of the fence in his excitement but was perfectly polite as he ate out of my hand. Then we saddled up for an hour-long horseback ride. We ambled along narrow trails, passing old pump jacks and watching hawks circle overhead. Although my brother couldn’t resist whipping out his iPhone, I was all too happy to hold off the start of another workweek.
Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa
6062 Texas Hwy. 16, 940-549-3500 or wildcatterranch.com. Rates start at $149 a night.