We ventured off with Al and Miriam Hight today heading for LaJoya and Ranch El Charco. I first saw information about it in one of the tourist newspapers and then Winter Ranch offered a bus trip for $27 each. The bus trip included dinner and a tour of the ranch in a wagon. We decided that we might try to go on our own as it couldn't possibly be that expensive on our own. Last night we heard that it was going to be wet and drizzly today so we thought we might go on Saturday, however, the sun was brightly shining when we woke up and it was 70 degrees so we decided to head on over.
We parked right outside of Boca Paila which is the restaurant on the property. They have a small menu for lunch and Al played it safe and ordered a burger and fries. Lee, I and Miriam all ordered the fish filte which we assumed were fish fillets. The prices for lunch ran from $7.50 to $15. The burger was $7.50 and the fish fillets were $9 and it included three sides. The iced tea was from a mix and not very good so if you stop there, stick to soft drinks. When we left Winter Ranch the winds were calm and it was in the 70's so the only one of us that had a jacket was Miriam and hers was pretty light. At the restaurant the winds were gusting like crazy and we were all cold. We finally moved tables and sat in the sun. It would warm us up until a cloud covered it and then we would freeze again. We had to keep tabs on our straws, napkins and anything that was light weight because if we didn't, they went flying!
When I called this morning to find out what the hours were and was told it was open from Noon to 2 AM. I thought the AM had to be 2 PM because the paper talked about hours from 11AM to 1 PM, however, I guess enough Winter Texans have arrived that the hours have extended. The restaurant has a patio with a bandstand and today two bands were going to play. One started at 1 PM and the other started at 7 PM. There is a concrete dance area in front of the bandstand. The atmosphere is really nice and we loved all the little tables with palm branch thatched roofs. The place is set up with great views of the lake and the houses on the other side. We would give the atmosphere an A+. The foods may be B- and the bathrooms a low C. However, the bathrooms around the Rio Grande Valley are never what you find in Iowa. Most are what I would call disgusting. This one was not that bad except that there were signs asking you not to put your paper in the toilet. You had to use the waste paper can next to the toilet.
Rancho El Charco is on 150 acres and is located on Walker Lake. The ranch is home to several species of wildlife including javalinas, jackrabbits, roadrunners, bison and white tail deer. It is also a great birding habitat although today it was too windy and the birds were in hiding. We did see some white tail deer, a javalina, and some bison. There are also exotic wildlife around the ranch and we managed to see some Impala Bucks, Black Impala Bucks, and some Gemsboks. We were able to see all the wildlife because we took a wagon ride around the ranch. Our wagon was pulled by two enormous draft mules. There were two wagon drivers, a younger boy and an older Mexican gentleman. The older man didn't speak any English and the younger man could understand and speak some English. They played a tape during the ride which was very understandable and interesting, however, the musical accompaniment was really loud. We probably scared most of the wildlife away as we drove.
We made one stop on the wagon trip at a waterfall with a rope bridge from the shore out to a little island. It looks like the area was set up for weddings as there was a large pavilion with an ornate fold out altar on shore. I can't imagine being a bride in a long gown and crossing over to the island on that rope bridge. Lee went over it but I decided it wasn't for me. You had to bend over to hold on to the rope railing and the bridge pretty much swayed and bobbed as you walked on it. However, once on the island, it would have been a great place to do your vows as it was gorgeous.
After the wagon trip, we all headed back home as there is a dance tonight at Winter Ranch.