Our destination is the Tres Piedras Ranch between Bayfield and Pagosa Springs Colorado, less than a four-hour drive from Albuquerque. The 40-mile long Piedra River runs through it. The Spanish word Piedra means stone in English.
Among its uses have been as a hunting and fishing venue, with two cabins built in the 1950s for lodging. Kathy’s late father bought it in partnership with a friend many years ago, and eventually a third family bought a share.
The 300-acre plus ranch can be found down a dirt road behind two locked gates at one end of the US Forest Service’s Lower Piedra Campground.
Finally we arrive.
Kathy masters the combination lock and unlocks the gates with assistance from Chuck.
Less than a 10-minute drive down a bumpy dirt road and we arrive, driving past the caretaker’s cabin and parking at the large cabin that will be our home for five nights.
The larger cabin contains three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and two kitchens, designed to be separated into two duplex units.
Kathy’s younger brother, sister-law, and daughter are there to greet us, and have accomplished a lot to make us feel at home. Tom, Ellyn, and Haley stay in the smaller cabin several hundred yards up the road.
Once our two SUVs are unpacked, we have time to relax and cool off a little in the 100-degree heat on the large deck overlooking the river.
Edgar Hamilton, Tom’s and Ellyn’s young Gordon Setter, keeps us entertained.
Jace, the youngest of our eight grandchildren, takes the opportunity to show Uncle Tom a card trick as Auntie Karen, our elder daughter, looks on.
Dr. Haley, Kathy’s veterinarian niece, spends part of a rare day off cuddling her own dog.
The following morning features Tom’s plate-filling version of huevos rancheros.
The second night is highlighted by a seven-rib roast cooked on the barbecue grill, and a surprise 16th birthday celebration for Riley, the youngest of our five granddaughters.
Kathy’s youngest brother, Greg, drives up from Farmington, New Mexico to join us for a Spades card tournament and dinner. Tom regards Greg as the world’s best Spades player.
Our days consist of walking, swimming and tubing in the river, and driving the venerable Yamaha Rhino around the property.
Kathy gives grandson Blane a Rhino driving lesson while Jace looks on attentively.
We also enjoy watching the trail riders traverse the precipitous path across the river, and never tire of watching the hummingbirds swoop in for nectar on the deck.
The patient Riley eventually can say a hummingbird has perched on her finger.
One early morning features a surprise one-hour trail ride across the river for the five Hildenbrand family members.
Above: L to R Back: Kim, Blane, Riley, John - Jace in Front
Our son-in-law John rode a fair amount when he was younger and manages to look quite comfortable in the saddle.
One night John builds a fire, the children make s’mores, and our other son-in-law Chuck oversees a game of Charades.
Kathy’s nephew Chris and his family join us from nearby Bayfield for dinner on our final evening, and almost too soon it’s time to pack up, leave the ranch, and drive to Durango.
There, as we drive Chuck and Karen past the riverfront house where Kathy and her three brothers grew up, the owner emerges. Kathy introduces herself and before we know it we’re touring the extensively remodeled home, now featuring an open kitchen.
It looks fantastic. Kathy’s mother would have approved.
We eventually all wind up at Tom’s house for an overabundance of wonderful appetizers before driving up the road a mile to one of Durango’s features, the Bar-D Chuckwagon Supper and Show, featuring the excellent Bar-D Wranglers.
Thanks to Tom’s connections, Riley gets a special 16th birthday shoutout from the emcee, which she handles well.
After the show we drive to Farmington, stay overnight at the pleasant Hampton Inn we know from previous stays, and visit Greg and June at their beautiful house for a magnificent farewell lunch the next day.
From there it’s less than four hours back to ABQ, where we gas up our rental cars, return them, and take the shuttle to the airport.
We check our bags, navigate a chaotic and confused TSA checkpoint, and eventually board our Alaska non-stop flight to Seattle.
The flight is fine. We’re awarded two upgrades on Alaska and put Karen and Chuck in First Class. Kathy and Brian have an empty middle seat in Premium Economy. The five Hildenbrands sit toward the back but at least are together.
The fun starts when we land. We can’t hear the pilot’s announcement but we land at a remote gate, as is common in Europe but not here, probably due to an overcrowded airport.
We take a fairly long bus ride to an entrance in the terminal. Kim and family have to wait for a second bus. It takes 27 minutes for our luggage to arrive. We all meet up and then wait at least a half hour for an overcrowded parking shuttle to ShuttlePark2. Thumbs down to them!
Construction in the shuttle pickup area and a very busy airport make for a real mess.
We end up at our hotel, the Renton Hilton Garden Inn (sadly a bit run down but still decent) well after Midnight Pacific Daylight Time and awaken after not enough hours of sleep. Son David, who lives in the area, advises us on vacation from Frankfurt Germany (while dealing with a flight delay) of the best restaurant nearby for breakfast, the Countryside Cafe. It’s terrific, and proves to be a great place to celebrate Brian’s birthday and the finale of a great trip.