The low-hanging branches of southern live oak trees stretch out over the house and pavilion areas at Don Strange Ranch, dappling parties, weddings, and corporate team gatherings with splashes of sunlight. Since 1952, the 125-acre longhorn ranch in the Texas Hill Country has hosted myriad events, including scenes from the PBS music documentary series Live from the Artists Den and the wedding of country music stars Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton.
More than just a picturesque backdrop, the ranch?s rugged natural surroundings host outdoor activities such as ropes courses and kayak trips down the Guadalupe River. And the friendly staffers who man 350- to 400-foot ziplines work to ease guests out of their comfort zones, like a mother bird pushing her young out of the nest for their first extreme base-jumping lesson.
Fisherman's Corner outfits groups of anglers with the necessary accouterments before sending them out to two expansive on-site fishing ponds. The bait shop hawks an extensive line of lures, hand-tied flies, and waterproof neon signs proclaiming, "Catfish Eat for Free Today." Four sizes of minnows, seasonal crawfish, crickets, hybrid perch, and other varieties of live bait help tempt the most finicky of catfish palates ($2.50–$7). Lines cast out into two roughly 100'x250' ponds stocked with 5,000 pounds of farm-raised catfish, allowing groups to gather round and socialize or engage in a cross-pond staring contest.
Action Angler & Outdoor Center, a stream-side fly-fishing shop, offers access to a unique segment of the Guadalupe River, replete with trout, bass, and panfish, and reserved exclusively for fly-fishing. The shop's owner and TXPW-licensed lead guide, Chris Jackson, draws on his 30 years of fly-fishing experience, which began at age 12, when he caught his first trout on the fly in the Rio Grande's headwaters. Patrons can buy or rent equipment ranging from kayaks by makers such as Outcast and Diablo to rods, reels, and wading boots, ideal for jogging into the depths during races with your reflection. Once outfitted, visitors can strike out independently, or opt for guided floats and fly-fishing lessons on the Guadalupe. Guides can also chaperone full-day floats on the San Marcos River, Colorado River, and Lady Bird Lake.
Largemouth and guadalupe bass fin through the Colorado River rapids while birds soar above river islands and swimmer-friendly sandbars. Moored in a nook along this artery, Texas native and outdoor enthusiast Danny Walker—known as “Pops”—and his son—“Dan the Man Omega Mega”—equip adventurers by renting regular, tandem, and fishing kayaks, as well as standup paddleboards, from MOC Kayaks. To elevate river adventures from Huck Finn–style floating to Rambo-style hunting, pros outfit customers with fishing poles and tackle, sending them off to catch some of the river's more than 20 varieties of perch. For those who'd rather drop their lines in stiller waters, MOC Kayaks takes paddlers to Lake Travis and Lake Austin, and those who seek coaching on how to catch finned bounty can take advantage of guided trips. Dedicated adventurers can also buy their own kayaks to craft custom adventures or to take home and paddle around neighbors' pools.
Ski Chalet proffers the latest in snow-slicing technology with professional in-shop services and top-flight gear. Prep your skis for mountain season with a thorough tune-up, which delights snow gliders with an indulgent stone grind, bevel, and hot-wax treatment before whispering inspirational quotes in their ears and sending them back to the slopes. Lift loafers can peruse skis, boots, bindings, and poles in the pro shop, or they can complete a preexisting mountain-defeating arsenal with protective wear like GoreTex-laced gloves ($64.95) or ear warmers ($30). Newer skiers can count on friendly, helpful service to pair them with appropriate equipment.