PUBLISHED WORK > Hotel, Resort and Lodge Reviews > Cibolo Creek Ranch - Shafter, TX
iTraveliShop.com April 2009
Cibolo Creek Ranch - Shafter, Texas :: Hotel Review
When you arrive at El Cibolo Fort at Cibolo Creek Ranch, prepare to be torn between the inside and the outside at this luxurious one-of-a-kind slice of old Texas. The rooms and facilities are a homey and elegant combination of historic architecture and authentic décor that never slips into lazy cliché.
All but five rooms also have built-in adobe fireplaces but none of the rooms have a television or telephone and your cell phone and PDA (blissfully) probably won’t work out here either (though there is a computer with an online connection tucked into a discreet corner for those who simply can’t disconnect completely).
Courtyard rooms open onto a communal, airy, tiled porch facing a small garden with a spring-fed creek gurgling languidly through it. Lakeside rooms open onto a wide, enclosed, glass-fronted communal “sleeping porch” complete with reading chairs, day beds, intriguingly-stocked bookshelves and doors that open onto the edge of a spring-fed man-made lake ringed with enticing lounge chairs.
But before you can curl up inside for a nap you will be lured outside into the 30,000 acres of Cibolo Creek Ranch. The slowly rehabilitating ranchland is a stunning testament—as far as the eye can see—to one man’s commitment to bringing the landscape back to the way it was when Cibolo Creek Ranch was first settled by Milton Faver back in 1857.
Owner John Poindexter works with a range of environmental groups and spends thousands to buy and apply a targeted growth hormone on small parcels of his vast ranch each year. The spray causes the invasive cactus species—which took over much of the state after ranchers unwittingly let their cows overgraze the land—to literally grow themselves to death. Once the prickly, water-hogging invaders are gone, the area’s indigenous buffalo grass returns and thrives leaving a waving, silky, blonde carpet over the gently rolling hillsides. It’s a revelation after spending my life thinking that the desert scrub, mesquite and cactus I’ve seen from one end of the Lone Star state to the other is the way it’s always been in Texas.
Wildlife appreciates the reinvigorated flora too. During just a couple of hours on horseback I saw a group of elk as well as an African Oryx that was incongruously imported to the ranch. Celebrities are easy to spot at Cibolo Creek Ranch too and many come to recharge or to work—Texas native Tommy Lee Jones chose various areas of Cibolo Creek Ranch to shoot scenes for his movie "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada."
But it’s not just the land that Poindexter has brought back. Three listings on the national registry of historic places and five state historical marker plaques are testament to the years and untold-millions Poindexter spent resorting (then gently modernizing and adding to) the forts and outbuildings using what little was left of the adobe structures, old photos of the buildings and the memories of even older old-timers. Cibolo Creek Ranch is the only state historical site I can think of that’s not open to the public. Once through the gates out on the main road, it’s registered guests only—and a mostly dirt driveway, so don’t bring your Porsche.
While Cibolo Creek Ranch’s big themes—privacy, relaxation, service and authenticity—are abundantly apparent at El Cibolo Fort, the ranch does have two smaller and more remote areas of accommodation that take those themes to an even higher level. La Cienega, 30 minutes from El Cibolo, has five rooms in the small restored fort (including a fantastic children’s room up a winding staircase inside a turret) and five more in an adjoining hacienda (including one with the most mysterious bathroom I’ve ever seen—ask about it). Guests at La Cienega enjoy their own staff, a swimming pool, hot tub, a sprawling hammock filled lawn and the utmost discretion—Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall used to retreat here regularly.
If that’s still not quite secluded enough for you, book a few nights in La Morita. Left largely un-restored at the request of local historical agencies, this small beautifully ramshackle fort has an adjoining two room adobe cottage with a wood burning fireplace, double bed, oil lamps and water heating system and a thoroughly modern bathroom (but no electricity). With no kitchen or on-site staff, guests at La Morita take their meals at Cibolo Fort. With no distractions, guests at La Morita spend their days reading by the backyard pond and watching the birds and the elk that wander across the ranch. It’s about as romantic as you get.
Cibolo Creek Ranch seems aware of its dual appeal and makes it easy to divide your time between indoor pleasures (facials and massages, the fitness center, the swimming pool with roof sundeck, the sauna and hot tub) and outdoor adventures (fishing, horseback riding, walking trails, paddle boats on the lake, mountain biking, even hunting).
A true outdoor highlight is the two-to-three hour guided property tour in Cibolo Creek’s tricked out Humvee which includes rows of padded seating on top and built in coolers. The best thing about the Humvee, however, is that it handles the rugged road through miles and miles of the ranch allowing you to see 800-1,000 year old petroglyphs, mountain lions at the waterfall (if you’re lucky), a herd of buffalo and even some of the locations from "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" not to mention awesome views down over the Chisos Mountains, across Big Bend and into Mexico from elevations of up to 6,000 feet.
You can rest assured that your busy days will be properly fueled by what comes out of Cibolo Creek Ranch’s kitchen. This is where I got hooked on daily breakfast of chilaquilles—dry pieces of tortilla soaked in a fresh and mild tomato sauce then topped with eggs or chicken and cheese. Lunch involves more Mexican favorites done to perfection by a kitchen staff that’s been at the ranch for years. Special dietary requests can also be accommodated.
A convivial cocktail hour before a nightly 7:30 communal dinner (think steak and seafood) encourages informal lingering and lasting friendships. Cap off a great meal with a drink or two with your new friends (Hola, MexGyver!) around one of the stone bonfire rings that surround the lake before giving in to the charms of your room at the end of another perfect indoor/outdoor day at Cibolo Creek Ranch.
Rates start at $240 for the room by the pool and $360 for courtyard or lakeside rooms. All rates include three meals per day for up to two people per room.
Cibolo Creek Ranch
In April, 2006 peripatetic journalist Karen Catchpole left her job as deputy editor of SHOP Etc. magazine in New York City and embarked on the Trans-Americas Journey, a three year, 150,000+ mile working road trip through North, Central and South America. When she's not reviewing luxury hotels, resorts, ranches and B&Bs, she can be found enjoying the nearest campground. .
Resort, Lodge & Hotel Review Keywords: Cibolo Creek Ranch Shafter TX Texas Cibolo fort hunt humvee mexguyver chilaquilles Three Burials of Melquiades Chisos Mountains, Big Bend Mexico La Morita La Cienega Tommy Lee Jones John Poindexter Milton Faver national registry of historic places Marfa