The porch of the Double J Hacienda just outside Mineral Wells

(Photo by Michael Amador)

Needing an escape from city stress, I packed a bag and drove 45 minutes west of my hometown of Fort Worth for a stay at the new Double J Hacienda, a 12-acre retreat just outside Mineral Wells. Almost as soon as I arrived, I realized I had found a favorite getaway destination.

My first clue was the tail-wagging, canine welcome I received from Pequeño, 2 Jakes, Chigger, Bravo, and Nigel, the ranch’s unofficial welcoming committee. The dogs’ enthusiastic greeting mirrored that of Jane Baldwin, an anthropologist and yoga therapist who opened the inn two years ago with her husband, Jimmy Baldwin, an advertising executive and singer-songwriter. The enterprising pair instilled new life in the former Seybold Guest Ranch, a 1940s retreat that was popular mid-century with such celebrities as Bette Davis and John Wayne.

As we admired the breathtaking view of a bend in the Brazos River from the hacienda’s back porch, Jane told me how they stumbled upon the ranch five years ago and wound up creating a place that proves irresistible to artists, writers, musicians, yoga enthusiasts – and anyone who craves restoration and refuge.

Inspired by the architecture and lifestyle she experienced duringmultiple college summers in Mexico, Jane longed for a hacienda of her own  in Texas. At first, the  couple searched for property in the Hill Country. But while scouting locations for a music video, Jimmy found the Mineral Wells ranch, and the two were moved by the rocky, rolling landscape and the area’s spirit. They soon learned that the region was rich with heritage forged by Comanches like Quanah Parker; cattle drovers like Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving; and celebrities like Judy Garland, Clark Gable, and Lucille Ball, all of whom vacationed at the legendary Baker Hotel in nearby Mineral Wells.

“The hacienda was built like a bunker, with a solid foundation. It just needed restoration,” Jane said. From rooms at the front entrance, they created a yoga studio and an art gallery for exhibiting work by Texas artists. Soon, Jimmy was dreaming of hosting live music at the ranch, and Jane imagined holding myriad mind-body retreats. “Through our musings, a creative outpost was born,” she says.

Before dinner, I explored the property. The hacienda’s Main House features a barrel-tile roof, original wooden floors, and—in the four bedrooms—family antiques. Encircling a sunny courtyard, 15 more rooms offer a somewhat more modern style, with tile floors, platform beds covered in bright bedspreads, Mexican serape curtains, original artwork, Western knick-knacks, and handcrafts from south of the Rio Grande. A boulder-strewn hiking trail leads down a cliff to the river, but the view from atop was enough for me.

Over dinner that evening in the Great Room, the hacienda’s central meeting place, a fire blazed in one of two enormous rock fireplaces. The Bald wins told me how they made the leap to sell their home in Dallas and live at the ranch, fulltime. They knew they had made the right decision when they held their first retreat, over Easter weekend in 2006, and 40 guests showed up from across the country and abroad. “We loved having people here from different cultures and backgrounds together sharing humanity and creativity,” Jane says. “We knew that’s how we wanted to grow.”

For the next two years, the couple offered the hacienda for workshops focusing on wellness and artistic pursuits. Guests at such gatherings still continue to meet in the Great Room, on the shady porch with the clifftop river view, or in the cactus-studded courtyard. The serenity and beauty here often inspire guests to put up an easel, pull out a guitar, or put pen to paper.

This year, the Double J ‘s doors opened to individual travelers, too, wanderers like me who crave a place to unwind. The most special pleasure I found was in a private yoga class with Jane on her studio balcony. When we took our final deep breath, right at sunset, I understood the healing that could happen here.

Some weekends feature the Baldwins’ special events; such as yoga-therapy certification courses or Jimmy’s “music evenings,” when Jimmy plays with visiting performers. For meals, the vegetarian-leaning yoga groups tend to take advantage of the hacienda’s full kitchen; on “music evenings,” a nearby barbecue joint called the Hashknife often caters a meat-lover’s feast. Bed and breakfast guests usually bringin take-out from the Hashknife or other area restaurants, and enjoy dinner on the porch overlooking the Brazos. Trust me: Meals are particularly inspiring when conversation turns to the art of fulfilling dreams.

 

From the May 2009 issue
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