This week’s Back Roads took Tom and me about six hours north of our home in Prosser WA., to Bull Hill Guest Ranch just north of Kettle Falls, WA. It had been years since we had made this journey. My dad used to teach in Kettle and my parents made their home in Marcus, so we were not strangers to the area. Yet, neither of us were prepared for the breath-taking views we were about to enjoy.
The Guglielimino family, Italian immigrants – are no strangers to the land, nor are they anything but authentic cowboys. The Guglielimino Ranch was settled in 1905 and continues to this day to be a working cattle ranch. Brother’s Pete and Don decided in 1995 to share their way of life with others, by opening their ranch to guests. Pete Guglielimino is a professional horse trainer and served as the president of the Washington Cattlemen Association.
It is with certainty I can tell you, “When you visit Bull Hill – you will feel as if you died and gone to heaven,” or as Pete and Don’s sister Jeanne said it, “at the very least you will think you’ve knocked on heaven’s door.”
It was hard for me to decide what was the most stunning, my mind could not decided between the amazing views that causes one to continually have to catch their breath, or the palpable admiration and gratitude this family has for the land that they call home, both stunning in their own unique way.
Tom and I were invited to visit Bull Hill by friend Kelly Tareski and her hubby Monte – I know Kelly through our lives as writers, bloggers, photographers, and I was thrilled for the opportunity. However, if I were truthful, I would say that I anticipated a weekend with other industry people – where we would all have on our “work hats.” Sure, I knew we would have fun, the food would be awesome, and horseback riding would be a must. What I did not expect was the overwhelming warmth that we experienced by the Guglielimino family. There was not moment that I felt as if I did not know them. From the minute we arrived, we were treated as if we had just returned from town and all the sudden what had been in my mind a work weekend, melted away into a great weekend with friends.
As I sat on my deck of the beautiful tent that we were calling home for the weekend, I pondered the “why”… “Why would a family so steeped in heritage and land be so humble as to wait on the likes of us?” I thought.
However, as I watched them, it became clear. They were not putting on airs, pretending to be one thing or the other. I had determined that “thing” that motivated them, is their deep love of the land, and the cowboy life, a joint resolve that makes welcoming others to their “Hill” second nature. You get a sense that sharing it is their way of preserving the sacred life of a cowboy. A way of life that has been handed down for generations, they are torch- bearers (in a way), and they take their “job” seriously. Even the youngest of the Guglielimio clan serve as a reminder to any one, any age, the importance of playing hard, laughing sweetly, and being un-plugged from the things that can cause us to forget to be grateful for the simple things, like skipping a rock over the pond, or playing tag.
It isn’t just the two- legged Guglielimio’s that take their jobs seriously, the four legged ones all seem to know what is at stake as well. All are well behaved and seem to know their responsibility, too.
If like me, you have ever stepped off into a day- dream, and wondered what it must be like to run with the wild horses. A trail ride at Bull Hill may help you find that answer. To the nearly 70 horses that call Bull Hill home, they too seem to know that they have a role, and they show up ready and proud to do their job. Like their wild cousins, these horses are mountain horses and know every step of the trail. Smart, sure-footed and all business, it is as if Pete and the wranglers have sat down and had a chat with each of them, insuring that they understand the important role, they play in teaching visitors about the life on a ranch.
Bull Hill Guest Ranch is not a step back in time, as everything there is one-hundred percent twenty-first century, but rather a perfect union between what is important and what is not.
There is more than a hint of sweetness in the air. As you stand on the deck outside the cook house, and lean over the deck to drink it in, almost collectively the guests seems to be silently asking, “What is that?” As the day passes and, the sun takes rest on the hill…. It comes to you. It is gratitude. It seems to well up from the ground. It is as if it boils up out of the ground like oil. Beginning with the soil then in to the faces of the happy wild flowers that burst out everywhere, into each blade of grass and to the animals, then being lassoed by those whose charge it is to care for land and beast, and spilled over in deep abundance to all who get to say they have visited Bull Hill.
In the hustle and bustle of every-day life, it can at times be easy to forget what truly matters. Yet at Bull Hill, the land seems to take the opportunity to remind you.