DRAKESBAD GUEST RANCH
From NorCalTravelGuide.com, by Eileen Majors
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Long lists of things to pick up at the store, dust on the furniture and a pile of laundry was beckoning me to stay home. Work had been stacking up for weeks but with wisdom being doled out for free and given without reproach to all who ask, I decided to go ahead and asked for a little enlightenment. I walked past the library table where one grandchild had proudly written their name in the dust and made my way to the quiet of the garden to ponder how to handle the masses of responsibility this week. Isn’t it refreshing how a quiet moment (a moment spent away from all the ‘stuff’) can bring you wise perspective? In no time at all, it was clear that relaxing, quiet moments needed to continue for me, at least for a few days.
There was only one place on earth that came to mind and lucky for me and I had been invited to experience Drakesbad Guest Ranch with a friend. We turned at the fire hall in Chester and soon landed on the dirt road leading to Drakesbad, which is inside Lassen National Park. Leave your blow dryer and your electric razor behind. You won’t be needing them.Twenty charming, rustic cabins with windows lit by gas lanterns, are laid out aside a beautiful meadow in the middle of nowhere.
THE CEMENT POND – SOOTHING HOT SPRINGS WATER
Just off the deck of our little cabin was a path leading past acres of snow cabbage and roaming deer to a sparkling hot springs pool. To look at it, one would not notice the difference between the pool there and the pool at a fine, major hotel chain. Stacks of towels and several dressing rooms are ready for guests as are plenty of lounge chairs on thick green grass. ‘Noodles’ are also available to use for floating in the warm pool. In the daylight hours, the pool is kept a little cooler but still offers warm, relaxing waters which flow through the pool constantly. Families enjoy swimming throughout the day. The pool is fed by a continual stream of hot springs water.In the evening, the temperature of the pool is kept much warmer and the steam through the darkness of night seems to provide extra tranquility. From the pool, you can hear the quiet rumble of little waterfalls along Hot Springs Creek, which runs beside the pool area. The water in the creek is not warm.
HIKING TRAILS, FISHING AND TRANQUILITY
There are several marked trails which the staff will be happy to point out. There are many wonders to see including Boiling Springs Lake and Devil’s Kitchen. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses just above the pool. Drakesbad is the near midway point for hikers traveling between Mexico and Canada. The original sign on the dining hall reads, “Mexico: 1348 miles; Canada: 1410 miles.”Drakesbad welcomes 200 to 300 passers-by from the trail each season, with double portions and special rates.
After a meal, several ventured down trails with fly fishing rods in hand, looking for the many opportunities to snag a native brown or rainbow trout. Anglers we spoke with said the fishing was hot. I, with just a hat and water bottle, ventured off as well. A seven minute hike brought us to picturesque Dream Lake where a canoe sits awaiting hikers from the trail. Somewhat further up the road, we ventured up towards Boiling Springs Lake.
After about 10 minutes of hiking uphill, I opted to relax on a rock while the others chose to hike on up to take the photos. On this very warm June day, I found a seat, cool to touch, on a giant, round boulder in the shade. Finally. it was the moment I’d waited for, a time to ponder the faded sound of gentle waterfalls, the scent of pine and absorb the stillness around me. Like an emptying vessel. I let go of the ‘stuff’., and with a heart full of thankfulness to the Maker of it all, I sat and listened.
After a little tranquility, we headed back towards our cabin, stopping for a look at a beautiful draft horse. There we met one of the ranch wranglers on staff who was busy brushing another magnificent horse. I now understood what the basket of carrots in the dining hall was for, as two children approached with one each for the horses.
Horseback trail rides range from 45 minutes in length to eight hours and at the time of this writing, prices range from $30 to $210, 30-minute pony rides, $16. Several rides are available for beginners and children including those to Devils Kitchen, Boiling Spring Lake and Terminal Geyser. Other rides are recommended for experienced riders with some for intermediate or experienced riders only.
DINING AT DRAKESBAD
“Clang, Clang”, goes the dinner bell. Both guests staying at the ranch and those lucky enough to get meal reservations begin meandering back towards the dining hall. Indoors, knotty pine paneling and picturesque window views set the scene. A bouquet of fresh golden lilies, yellow daisies and red carnations delivers color to each table. Gas lanterns hang high on wooden walls. Pine-green, ruffled curtains sit below shelves lined with mementos of life here since the 1860’s. Outdoors, a patio is set with more tables. Saddles are mounted nearby for restless children.
Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style at Drakesbad. Our breakfast offered both an assorted melon and a berry blend of fresh fruits. Hot and cold cereal and a variety of breakfast items were available at the buffet. Our server also came by with the entree of the morning, blueberry whipped cream crepes. Yum! Each season brings new culinary delights.
There was plenty to eat, and those who had signed up the night before were picking up sack lunches on their way out for the day’s adventure. We opted for lunch in the dining hall. Fresh fruit, homemade cookies and the taste of fresh squeezed lemonade took me back in time. An assortment of breads including freshly baked sliced herb bread was offered with cold cuts and vegetables for sandwiches. We enjoyed several tasty homemade salads and checked out the ingredients in their book of recipes. They even gave us printed recipes for all their salad dressings. We had Apple Maple Vinaigrette which was absolutely different and delicious. All the food was delicious and nutritiously prepared.
For dinner we had Pork Marsala over wild rice with zucchini on the side.We started with a spinach salad, a light and tasty blend with kiwi and pineapple. It was served with a sweet, warm, soft, homemade bread. Dessert was a brownie topped with vanilla bean or chocolate ice cream. It was served with sliced bananas and fresh raspberries. Each night brings a new menu, each season a new tradition.
PRICES & DETAILS
Drakesbad Guest Ranch sits inside Lassen National Park and park fees are collected on the way in or for guests, can be paid at Drakesbad. Reservations for lodging should be made far in advance, especially during peak season. The hiking trails are also accessible from a trailhead just before the ranch entrance. Visit http://drakesbad.com/index.php/accommodations/ for information on rooms, cabins, bungalows and duplexes. Many options have joining room access. Three meals per day are included in lodging prices. Horseback riding and massage services are also available. Reservations can be made by calling 530-258-9702. When we visited, the phones were not yet up for the season, in which case you can contact the office at 530=529-1512 (Ext. 120). Find them online at www.drakesbad.com.