This article appeared in the JUly 2007 issue of the Hill Country Sun
Pam's Loft at El Rancho Paraiso, romantic river retreat for couples
By CURTIS CHICONNE
Photos by By CURTIS CHICONNE
It's like having your own private park with enough nature to enjoy that it rivals nearby Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area. And you can have it, all to yourself.
It has the unassuming name of Pam's Loft, but don't be misled. This little space housed in a portion of a barn at El Rancho Paraiso near Leakey gives guests total access of the ranch's 160 acres.
That includes miles of hiking trails one of which leads to the top of a hill that provides stunning views—and gravel roads and the Frio River.
"People can come here and enjoy the river as much as they want, however they want, and enjoy total privacy," says Pam Guhlin who owns the ranch with husband Tim. "The Frio can get very crowded during the summer, but not here. It's all yours."
Pam is originally from Illinois but Tim is a native Houstonian who grew up visiting Garner in nearby Concan every summer. They started looking for a getaway 14 years ago and found themselves on their hillside in Leakey.
'The Guhlins built their home here 10 years ago, clearing much of the land themselves. They finally built the loft in part of the barn so their house guests didn't have to sleep on a pull out sofa bed in their living room.
"Tim suggested we should rent that space out to couples who didn't want to be surrounded by hordes on the river," Pam recalls. "We could maintain our privacy and our guests could have their privacy. And I was happy to start a little business that would make some money that would enable me to start a little foundation to donate to good causes.
Pam's Loft - so named because the bedroom floats above the 600 square foot apartment - is cozy and comfortable and not what you expect to find inside a big, red barn even if oleanders do surround that barn. Sure, it has a spacious kitchen with a refrigerator and stove and coffeemaker but neither words nor pictures do the tiled counters, lighted glass blocks, track lighting, flowers, walk-in shower, and the blue enameled commode justice.
And it has a deck out front and a balcony off the bedroom.
Little details abound. Such as having all the lights on dimmer switches so you can choose what level of illumination you want, green stained concrete floors, blond wood furniture and broken tile trim, corrugated metal walls, and an infrared sauna.
It all works, coming together in a modern Southwest decor that is striking, silent, and romantic all at once.
You gain entry to the ranch by driving through the Frio River. Near the loft is a tree-covered patio with huge outdoor grill, picnic table, sink and counter area, and boats to use just over the bank on the Frio.
Also near the loft is an enclosed garden area with flowers and vegetables that guests are free to pick from.
And don't feel overwhelmed by those 160 acres.
Pam will take you on a guided tour in her old Jeep, stabbing at the clutch with her painted toes, zipping under low hanging tree branches and scrambling over the ranch roads.
"The joy of it for me is the connection to the people who stay here," the effervescent Pam says. "When they get here I take them on a drive so they have an idea of the lay of the land and know what they can do here."
While roaming the ranch you'll see roadside art like a giant concrete hand, a bust of an Indian, and an oversized metal rooster.
Your wanderings might be interrupted by an impressive axis buck and his harem or jackrabbits or wild turkeys or Fifi, Gia and Callie, the ranch cats.
"This isn't the kind of place where you check in at 6 PM, sleep overnight, and check out at 6 AM. I want my guests to be comfortable and enjoy themselves and have this total experience," Pam says.
FYI • Pam's Loft is located on El Rancho Paraiso off Ranch Road 336, about four miles north of Leakey. For more information, call 830-232-5902 or 713-529-2735.