BY OUR LAST NIGHT, at Cibolo Creek Ranch, a trio of refurbished forts at the foot of the rugged Chinati Mountains in southwestern Texas's Big Bend country, our seven-year-old daughter, Grace, had become best friends with a yellow Lab named Hopi. One of the ranch's well-mannered hunting dogs, Hopi had taken to escorting us to and from the dining room, though all she was hunting for was a good pat on the head.
Cibolo Creek Ranch
Doubles cost 0, suites, 0, inlcuding meals. Kids up to age eight are an extra per day; ages eight to 12, .
Cibolo's three adobe forts, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, were built by cattle pioneer Milton Faver in the 1850s to protect his kin from Apaches and Comanches. A stay in one of the 35 saltillo-floored rooms includes three gourmet meals a day (think wild-boar chorizo or garlic-crusted tiger shrimp) and roaming rights to the 35,000-acre property. Guides can take you horseback riding through the rocky juniper- and ocotillo-studded hills to spot the 328 bird species and 18 bat species. You can also hike or borrow one of the resort's mountain bikes to search the many caves for arrowheads and pictographs, but no one will blame you if you grab a cold Lone Star and plant yourself in a cottonwood-shaded hammock or by the pool.
The morning we left, we hadn't gone half a mile before we were stopped by a herd of elk crossing the road, ushered majestically by a giant buck. The buck didn't move. Grace started to cry, though not from any primal fear of big deer. She was just missing Hopi.