The goat caddies are garnering all the attention by the golf world at Silvies Valley Ranch and Spa. Yes, they are really cute, a super fun idea and we all want to go play with them on the new 7-hole McVeigh’s Gauntlet Course. However, the ranch has so much more than the four goat caddies, like a herd of over 2,000 American Range goats. This is the largest organic meat goat herd in the world, tended by Peruvians from a long lineage of shepherding with the help of their Great Pyrenese dogs. In Peru their meat would be called chivo but in the ranch’s gourmet restaurant it is Chavon, very French and tasty. Ranch guests will come away with a new meaning for “get your goat.”
At check in, guests saddle up in their very own golf cart for transport around the 140k acre working ranch. The specialty-built golf carts are equipped with lithium batteries and heightened suspension for a fast (really fast) ride over the hilly trails where cattle roam. Wild elk and pronghorn antelope herds are also often spotted as on a safari. An eco-tour with Colby details history including the era when the French paid fur trappers to eradicate 200k beavers in order to dissuade settlements. It turns out that beavers’ damming is pretty darn important to the natural order by creating a spongy environment for good growth. Dams washed out and the water table dropped making it difficult for homesteaders. When the Campbells bought the ranch, they started the wetlands restoration project. By fixing the water with culvert systems, the sponge and meadow is back. So too are the deer, elk and birds. Now international foresters come to see if they can mimic the solutions to solve water issues around the world. That’s deep!
Remains or markings of the seven homesteaders from the 1800s are seen during the grand tour. The seven theme permeates ranch life. On Friday nights everyone looks forward to Chef’s seven course meal in the ranch house bar and restaurant. The rustic décor is enhanced by an elegant table setting and the chef introduces each creation. The evening is consummated on the patio by the firepit stargazing and storytelling.
To work up a bon appetit, there is hiking, biking or golf. In addition to the fun new McVeigh’s Gauntlet course, the Chief Egan executive nine hole plays out by the lake. The granddaddy of golf here is Dan Nixon’s reversible loop Craddok and Hankins 18-hole courses. Isolated among the rolling hills and pine forests, there is no encroachment of houses or civilization. The link style routing provides open range fairways and elevation diversity between tees and greens. If you land in a bunker, the rakes are etched with funny sayings. Fun is the name of any Silvies’ game. The 18th hole of the Hankins side was designed with a grip it, rip it downhill, down-wind opportunity for mere mortals to hit the longest drive of their life. A challenge to do so is stated at the tee and yardage markers make it easy to measure and have attested by partners. Achievers are awarded a special drink, the Horseshoe Nail (think Rusty Nail concoction with an actual horseshoe nail piercing a pickled crab apple slice, grown on the ranch). A book in the clubhouse records golfers’ driving feats.
If your golf shots are lacking, you have a shot at the gun ranges. Colby or one of his Retreat team members sits down with each participant and reads together with them a litany of safety rules and regulations regarding firearms. Each person must acknowledge his/her understanding before touching one. The Rifleman, Sharpshooter and Pistolero ranges are partitioned with cubicles so that each person has a less intrusive feel. Colby ensures each person is comfortable with the feel and proper manner of handling each firearm. Not only is safety more paramount here than on any other range we have experienced, but the instruction on how to accurately aim and hit a target was, well spot on! All three shooters, one of which had never even held a gun were hitting the bull’s eyes. Laughter ensued and a few “wahoos” after hitting multiple targets with a few rounds of ammo. Colby advanced Danny to a Smith and Wesson 500. Yep, a big and heavy 50- caliber handgun. Scary and intimidating, the sound was piercing. It was like a portable cannon. Shooting can be a fun family or buddy bonding experience with bragging rights just like golf. And Colby might send you away with your holey paper target scrawled with a nickname like Dead Eye or Quick Draw like McGraw, the Hanna Barbera horse.
Horseback is a verb at the ranch. We are not talking single file trail rides but out on the prairie, steer your own steed ride. It was a real treat for Alice to ride with Colby’s wife Shelly, the stable’s ring leader. Shelly saddled up her horse Sadie and the family horse Cloud whose last name should definitely be Nine. Safety again was ensured by a test of skill in the arena before heading to the open range. The only sign of life was a small herd of cattle huddled under trees by the pond, a red tail hawk circling overhead and a little striped water snake slithering across the stream between them. There is no greater feeling of solitude than out on the range horsebacking with Shelly where it feels like you might encounter Little Joe and Hoss from the Ponderosa at any moment. Meanwhile, back at the corral Colby monitored the herding of 100 head of cattle as the brand inspector checked them off before loading for market. This is indeed a working ranch.
Creativity and fun are always worked in at the ranch. Another idea being mulled is a machinery experience in the sandpit. Think big boys with their John Deere Tonka toys. And coming soon is the completion of the spa and fitness center with a climbing wall, full size pool and jacuzzis.
The Silvies Valley Ranch and Spa website tells the whole goat and ranch story with humorous style giving a true flavor of how your customized visit could be if you give it a go(at).