We spotted this colorful sign before reaching our hotel.
It made us very curious about what we were really getting ourselves into. Could it really be all those things at once?
The rambling earthy complex, was certainly large enough to be many things!
And I was actually pleased to see all the browns and tans, blending into the foot of the mountain. This was much more intriguing than the bright little sign suggested.
Such An Odd History
Miners and ranchers came to this site as early as 1863 to enjoy the saloon and bathhouse.
By 1890, there was a large Victorian addition with a veranda. There had been a number of renovations even before this 1920 photo was taken.
We found the hotel under partial renovation when we arrived in September 2015. Sadly, this end of the hotel was closed to guests.
I wish we could have explored this part, with the grand lobby and veranda.
There were about 50 rocking chairs with a great view.
I do love a porch, so It was a little frustrating that we weren't exactly invited to use this area. It also seemed a bit eerie to see all these unoccupied chairs kind of energized by the breeze.
The front of the hotel had a lovely view of Peace Valley. The valley has long been considered sacred, due to the healing waters of the hot springs.
We spoke with a local in nearby Boulder, who shared stories about the valley. His great grandmother came as a young woman to the festive gatherings between the Indians and folks from town. They sold and traded goods and participated in games... and left all weapons outside the valley.
Originally, the hotel had clapboard siding and typical porch railings.
The stucco came along later to resemble the California Mission Arts and Crafts style. Our room was in the newer wing, on the left. Newer... meaning built about 1910.
Finding Our Way
There was a bit of a boarding house feel when we checked in. We stepped up to a desk in the same building that housed the bath house.
Then we took our key and headed to our building where we climbed the stairs to the second floor. I will admit, the air seemed a little stuffy in that stairwell. The odor was conjuring up memories of visiting a great aunt in a nursing home. But when we opened the door to Room 202, I smiled.
Some people wouldn't get it, but I was delighted with our corner room.
Not only did we overlook Peace Valley with the pond and cows and horses, but we had mighty fine covered wagon decoration, sitting on the shelf-covered radiator. There was an old desk, some comfy chairs and a brass bed and quilt. I even liked the shade with the finger loop for raising and lowering. I haven't seen one of those in a while.
A Sink Here, A Bath There
There was a decent sized bathroom with a window for light, as well as a sink and mirror near the door to the hall. This would have been a lot of luxury back in the day.
There was a lace covered pitcher for water and 2 goblets. I thought maybe they were trying to tempt us, because I had read some rules about the "center" being smoke and alcohol free. Those glasses looked like they were begging us to fill them with some of the wine that was traveling with us.
Alcohol was not allowed, but evidently weapons were. We had a nice sturdy axe displayed on the wall, along with some other antique tools.
Since our road trip included so many hotels that had stories about hauntings, this could have made me feel a little uneasy. But I found it somewhat empowering, to know we had a weapon to defend ourselves! Another decorative feature, was a little higher on the wall. Check out the copper pipes for steam heat!
The Bath House
This building with the upper windows running down the center, holds the bath house as well as kitchen and game room.
The weather was far too nice to stay inside, but I did have a peek.
Ladies Steam Room and Plunges!
The women's locker room and spa was actually a lot eerier than our guest room with the axe. Since it was empty I invited myself to take a few photos. There was a steam room and 2 tiled "plunges" making good use of the mineral-laden pure geothermal waters.
Don and I compared notes after exploring and we were surprised that the men's side required bathing suits, while women had a choice. But we later learned that "Family Bath and Pool Nights" are a regular thing and the mens' side becomes co-ed.
The Outside Pool
We made good use of our hotel robes to hike to the pool. (I did step on mine a couple times) There was a heated sidewalk, which would be handy for winter... and that was about it for luxury.
We noticed an "S" or two, engraved in the pool deck. They must have added the outside pool in the 1940's, when the hotel became "Diamond S Ranch" for 35 years. I'm sure it was quite the place with big smorgasbords that served 400 to 500 people per night. There were no crowds joining us as we soaked in the warm water, which stays at 96 to 100 degrees.
It was odd that they needed a chain link fence around the pool when we seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere.
But the fence allowed the flowers a nice place to climb. And the flowers reminded us to take a peek at the land surrounding us. It really was like a piece of heaven.
I love barns and there were a couple on the property.
To me the sight of worn wood and red roofs in a rural setting, is about as relaxing as soaking in mineral waters.
I believe these barns do serve some kind of purpose, even if it's just for housing the chickens that were clucking about. There was a vegetable garden and a sweet kitty roaming around. That made it seem like a real farm.
Don and I played by the rules and saved our drinkin' for town. We ate dinner in Boulder's Windsor Bar. (Which was a hoot, by the way) And slept surprisingly well in our double bed. In the morning we sat in the family/game room to use a little internet.
It was peaceful, but the shelves of games reminded me how different the atmosphere must be when the pools and bathouse are open for family nights! What a treat for these locals in the middle of a long winter.
A Peaceful Breakfast
There was another couple eating breakfast when we sat down. They spoke to each other in a near whisper as they sipped their coffee. Were they just quiet people or were they feeling intimidated with the philosophy of the Retreat Center, like I was?
I had read the words earlier. "Honoring, Conserving, Recycling and Healing". It's not like they had a rule against laughing, but I am about respect. What if people are coming here to grieve or meditate? I tried not to giggle over my breakfast.
The cook served us orange juice, coffee and a bowl of fresh fruit right away. When we claimed we had no allergies, she scrambled us some eggs and served them with blueberry French toast and tons of sausage! It was delicious, but I couldn't eat half.
The words "conserving" and "recycling" were making me anxious. I asked for a box, even though I knew we had no room in our tiny cooler. I'm still suffering the guilt of later wasting the food AND the to-go containers!
After saying good bye to our sweet room with the lovely view, we ended up chatting with the other breakfast couple in the parking lot.
They were delightful, sharing photos of the sunset we somehow missed the night before. No they weren't quiet people who only spoke in whispers, they were a lot of fun and if we'd all had another night at the hotel, we might have broken the rules and shared a little wine on those porch rockers.
Of all our stops during our month trip, this hotel to me was the most mysterious and curious. It didn't fit any mold and I was never sure what the real purpose was... even though there were rules and statements posted. But most of all I delighted in all the surprises!
Over and over again, I found myself grinning and pointing. I was pleased to spot the sweet horses in the field or the collection of old hotel dishes on a shelf, or the old Granny "glider-chair" in the guest room. I will have to keep an eye on this place and see happens with the renovations. There could be many more surprises.
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!