The ideal getaway experience doesn’t always involve traveling long distances to an elaborate resort, as I rediscover on a recent trip less than an hour from home. Hearing about a prime “glamping” retreat outside of Weatherford, my husband and I are intrigued to see what sort of escape awaits so close to our usual stomping grounds in Fort Worth.
Our destination is Sundancer on the Brazos, a luxury safari tent that promises a simple and comfortable haven surrounded by thickets of hardwoods and rolling ranchland. Now just a year old, it’s the creation of Fort Worth investment advisor Bill Fuller, whose family has been in the ranching business since the late 1930s. On the 350-acre Double F River Ranch, which Fuller’s dad bought about 50 years ago, Fuller offers a place where visitors find solitude and remember what it means to relax.
“I think people are happiest when they discover their purpose and pursue it. Mine is to create experiences where people discover their best selves. I think that being in nature—the Japanese call it ‘forest bathing’—is healing,” Fuller says. “People arrive at Sundancer after driving on highways and talking on phones and listening to the radio, and step out of their cars into the palpable silence, surrounded by wind and trees.”
And it’s true: I hear only a breeze through the woods when we arrive. Climbing the wooden stairs to the tent’s wraparound pine deck, I note a large buffalo skull decorating the porch; Fuller says it turned up in the Brazos River last summer and is thought to be about 150 years old. I open a door inset with glass to find myself within a little house. Though Sundancer is a sturdy canvas tent on the exterior, it’s all lovely cabin on the inside, with wooden walls and floors and indulgences that include central heat and air conditioning.
“The collision of luxurious and primitive worlds always seems full of romantic possibilities to me, and I wanted to bring that here,” says Fuller, who admits a long-held fascination with safaris and imported his tent from Africa.
The ranch’s riverside setting includes a beautiful picnic site beneath huge, aged pecan and oak trees.
To outfit the interior, Fuller and a decorator chose furniture from Southwestern home stores and antiques shops to fill the cozy bedroom, living and dining space, and spacious bathroom. I’m taken with the elegant wooden four-poster bed, covered in sumptuous linens, as well as the heavy wooden armoire and bedside tables with thoughtfully placed reading lights.
The overall comfort level can’t be overstated, either. I could easily spend hours lazing on the couch (it opens into a bed) or one of the overstuffed chairs, reading a novel or one of the cabin’s myriad coffee-table books covering art and local history. Beautiful Native American and cowhide rugs scatter across the pine floors. A heavy wooden trunk sitting in front of the couch opens to reveal backgammon and Scrabble games, jigsaw puzzles, grown-up coloring books, Frisbees, and a remote-controlled toy boat to use on the creek just outside. Note: We have cell-phone service, but there is no TV or Wi-Fi, and we don’t regret that for even a moment.
The kitchenette consists of a tall antique cabinet retrofitted to accommodate a small sink, microwave oven, minifridge, single-serve coffee maker, and plenty of dishes. The cabin has all the tools we need to make our meals—we’ve brought pork chops and fresh vegetables to cook on the gas grill on the deck, as well as breakfast goods.
During our stay, we move around on the deck from one seating area to another. We sit in rockers while grilling our dinner. In the afternoon, we catnap on chaise lounges fitted with thick cushions while listening to the waterfall spilling into the creek just below the deck. There’s even a wood-fired hot tub at the deck’s far end, with a stack of logs nearby for both the tub and the fire pit at ground level. We sit beside the fire one evening, listening to nothing but the occasional owl’s hoot and distant coyote’s cry.
In the morning we hike roughly a mile to the ranch’s Brazos River frontage, watching for a glimpse of resident turkey or deer. The path follows alongside a designated “fairy forest,” past an old red farmhouse that Fuller also rents to visitors, and over meadows strewn with blooming cactus and wildflowers. Our goal is to play on the sparkling water in inner tubes and kayaks that Fuller provides for guests. (Fuller will also shuttle guests upriver to float down to the ranch for a couple of hours.) The ranch’s riverside setting includes a beautiful picnic site beneath huge, aged pecan and oak trees, as well as grounds for hunting flint and arrowheads left by the Comanche, who ruled this area long ago.
Mostly, we just sit, bathing in the silence and wealth of nature that envelops us. We’ve driven not quite 40 minutes to reach this spot, but the sense of pure, simple escapism adds up to a much greater journey.
Sundancer on the Brazos is on the Double F River Ranch, on Old Dennis Road about 7 miles south of Weatherford. The luxury tent accommodates four guests and is pet-friendly. Rates are $275 on weeknights, $295 on weekends. Call 817-233-2825.