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WilderNest Ranch lets guests unplug

WilderNest Ranch lets guests unplug

Bed and breakfast retreat provides numerous delights

January 25th, 2017 by Neil Abeles in Texarkana Region

Owners Mike and Staci Wilder are happily building their WilderNest Ranch Bed and Breakfast in the far northwest corner of Cass County. They are pictured on the porch of the bunkhouse, which sleeps up to eight guests.

Photo by Neil Abeles /Texarkana Gazette.

Two 6-foot tall Sasquatches stand guard on either side of this pasture gate.

You are in the far northwest corner of Cass County, just off U.S. Highway 67 at its Sulphur River crossing. It is County Road 2512 and through the gate is something new and different. It's a bed and breakfast retreat called WilderNest Ranch, open now for more than a year.

Gallery: WilderNest Ranch lets guests unplug

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Looking through the gate and up the pasture road is a two-story cabin and connected to this is an elevated wooden walkway that leads outward and upward to a tower. At the top of the tower is what appears to be an astronomy observatory.

And that's what it is.

To the right is a pasture with horses, goats and chickens all inside a fence made with tree limbs.

At the center is a bunkhouse and in the distance two home buildings.

The site is a dream of Mike and Staci Wilder from the Dallas area, who are now living here. They've opened a retreat meant to attract people who wish to unplug and relax with nature.

Mike will soon come over to the gate on a four-wheeler to greet you. He'll be led by two yellow Labrador Retriever dogs named Thoreau and Bronte.

Don't be surprised. Most all the animals on this retreat have literary names. The two goats are Judy Blume and Harper Lee. The chickens once had names of the characters in the movie "Steel Magnolia," but their naming only lasted a short while, Staci said.

"The chickens changed so often that we stopped naming them individually, even though the movie names are still painted on the walls," she said.

She's an English teacher, as you might assume, and teaches at Paul Pewitt High School.

Staci's husband, Mike, is semi-retired in the field of hydraulics. He's a former Baylor University football player. They are building a unique bed and breakfast at Wildernest.

If you want breakfast, for example, they'll deliver it to the front porch of the cabin at 9 a.m., knock gently on the door and quietly leave.

"If our visitors want to talk to us, they approach us first. A lot are seeking privacy. I will teach them how to ride a horse, if they want, and once we had a great time with children riding the goats," Mike said.

The Wilders lived in the cabin themselves for about three years while getting the property ready for guests. This year they hope to have two small homes out in the woods and a covered event center that might allow groups of 25 to 50 to come out of the weather, if necessary.

"Once we had a group of 22 kindergarteners camp out with their dads," Mike said. "The tents were all spread out on the lawn. The kids really enjoyed it."

The property was once the vacation plan of Dr. Martin David Tilson III, who wanted a place to visit when away from Yale Medical School and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center at Columbia University, where he was a noted aortic aneurysm authority.

"He had built the astronomy observatory and once had a telescope in it," Staci said. "But not now."

"Maybe one day," Mike said. "We've contacted a Red River Astronomy Club, and they've told us we have a high rating for being a 'dark sky' area."

Tilson's influence continues in a way. He had been valedictorian at Texas High in Texarkana in 1959 and summa cum laude graduate of Rice University. Staci's profession background in English has led her to put quotations from Thoreau on sign boards where trails run off into the wood from WilderNest.

Her parents, Rudy and Nancy Rogers, also live on the property, and Rudy is a retired school principal with a strong interest in history. He fits right in with this area, which once was thickly populated with the Caddo Indian.

"The best ranch hand one could have, too," Mike said of his father-in-law.

The Wilders received plenty of local help in developing the property after buying it five years ago. In a condition nneither finished nor cared for, the land was hidden and not many people in the county knew of it.

The Wilders said they received local help from Don Cole, Jackie Heard and Sonny Harrison of the Naples area.

"People have been very friendly to us," Mike said.

"We came here ourselves to live life deliberately," Staci said. "We will be happy for people to come here, too."

One side of the Wilders' 43 acres backs up to the 28,000 acres of the White Oak Creek Wildlife Management Area, so they have a lot of cushion.

"Still, we are sometimes awakened in the early morning by the duck hunters out on the river or ponds," Mike said.

"And we like to sit out under the umbrella at the astronomy tower or on the back porch of our house and hear the happy voices of children running through those trails in the woods."

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