Drive through the vast, rich-green national forests that blanket the Cascade Mountains and keep driving. Let all the city lights drown away. While many traveling west to east may be tempted to settle at first sight of the high desert landscape — continue farther and your appreciation and wanderlust for Oregon will grow too.
The Retreat and Links at Silvies Valley Ranch in Eastern Oregon is a gold mine nestled within 140,000 acres of rolling hillside, fields of fragrant sage brush, forest and beautiful meadows hugging the various creeks, wetlands and the Silvies River. What may seem like the middle of nowhere will soon become the middle of everything. Visitors can’t turn a corner or look out a window without seeing grazing antelope, deer, osprey, eagles and various other wildlife.
While it isn’t quite the largest working ranch in Oregon, the property uniquely isn’t broken up which makes its footprint cover a very large portion of Highway 395 between Burns and John Day. Travelers will know they are there by the large entrance signs off the highway, continual signage marking points of interest, and consistent emerald green-topped roofs on the various barns and buildings strung throughout the property. It is like a cowboy’s Disneyland.
The Retreat opened officially in May 2018 and its luxury rooms and cabins, world-class golf — including the second reversible course in the world, spa and gourmet ranch-to-table dining make this a hands-down five-star resort. But it’s the genuine, humble and hospitable staff — most wearing flannel shirts and cowboy hats — that make guests feel that they are just at home on the ranch.
From the ranch owners to the cowboys taking care of the property’s 2,600 goats and over 4,000 cattle, everyone aims to give visitors a real western ranch experience by family-style dining, good conversation, and the variety of daily activities including a shooting range, side-by-side tours, goat herding, cattle round-ups, horseback riding, squirrel hunting and more. It is obvious that the community of Silvies Valley Ranch loves its home and wants to share that with the people that come through the gates.
There really isn’t anything like this place — a resort where you can spend one day helping herd 500 goats or branding cattle, and the next day sipping the signature Horseshoe and Nails cocktail while golfing or sitting in a your personal hot tub.
As if Silvies wasn’t already standing out from the pack, golfers can rent their personal goat caddie outfitted with a custom-made goat golf bag for drinks, eats and clubs. They say the goats prefer to be tipped in peanuts.
While the long list of unique activities can keep a visitor plenty busy, just lounging in a porch swing or lakeside chair and looking out on the landscape, listening to the quaking aspen leaves rustle in the breeze, will calm the soul. Look beyond the lake and most likely, for as far as the eye can see, there won’t be a single person. Perhaps just a family of “speed goats.”
So keep driving. Don’t just plan on a weekend vacation, plan for a shift in perspective. Plan for an entirely different adventure. Plan on disconnecting (literally, there is no phone service) and reconnecting with good people, gorgeous nature and what seems like an untouched part of state — frontier Oregon.