This weekend I’m just outside the small town of Graham, at the Wildcatter Ranch set in the North Texas Hill Country overlooking the Brazos River Valley. While our group of travel writers was greeted with rain on our arrival last night, we woke to a glorious, sunny, spring morning. Truly we could not have asked for better weather (not too hot, not too humid) for exploring the ranch and the nearby town of Graham.
While Wildcatter is a working ranch, in that it does raise and sell some cattle, the 1,500-acre property caters much less to cows, more to tourists. At the guest ranch, visitors find beautifully appointed suites in Western decor, a myriad of activities for all ages (including horseback riding, of course), a top-notch steakhouse and stunning hilly scenery. In the short 28 hours I’ve been here, I:
- Ate some of the yummiest peppery ribs, tender beef tenderloin, Parmesan potatoes, crab cakes and bread pudding I’ve ever had in my life (all washed down with Texas wine at the Wildcatter Steakhouse)
- Fed longhorn cattle, including one Big Boy with horns spanning an impressive 98 inches (the third biggest rack in Texas)
- Went clay shooting. (I think I hit 4 out of 8 birds; not bad for having held a shotgun twice in my life.)
- Found out what it’s like to be a professional bullfighter. That’s bullfighter, not bull rider — aka “rodeo clowns” (though that’s pejorative, I”m told). The profession involves a lot of broken bones and ACL surgeries.
- Ate chicken fried chicken at the down-home Dinner Bell Diner, owned by three moms who run the comfort-food restaurant Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. so they can spend afternoons, evenings and weekends with their families. (How cool is that? And where else in the world can you find homemade desserts — including fabulous Peach Crunch with vanilla ice cream — for $2.25 a pop?)
- Got made fun of for being a Yankee who didn’t know chicken fried chicken came with gravy. (Duh.)
- Got a marvelous massage, during which I fell asleep having my feet rubbed. Heaven.
- Hiked by myself for an hour, during which I saw two snakes scurrying away in the grass, spotted the Longhorn Tree and admired the expansive view of the murky red-brown Brazos River (looked nearly identical to the chocolate river in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory).
And that’s all in just a little over a day! Tomorrow’s agenda includes horseback riding and shopping around the town square in Graham. My plan is to spend some of the afternoon exploring more of the hiking trails that wind their way through the vast property. I’ll devote future posts to detailing more of the fabulous offerings at the Wildcatter Ranch, but for now, enjoy some of my favorite photos from our day: