It amounts to more than 11,000 acres of living Texas history.
What took root in the Kerr County hills near Mountain Home back in 1880 with a few head of longhorn cattle has recently been restored as a multi-faceted adventure destination.
The YO Ranch Headquarters offers guests a wide variety of Texas-sized fun on a spread where more than seven miles stretch from the main gates to the headquarter's compound.
“Once you step through the gates of YO Ranch Headquarters, you are in another part of the world," said Tourism Director Debbie Hagebusch. "People can already feel the stress leave them. The whole world is full of stress and they come here to get away from it all.”
Repeat visitor Laura McCracken said she lives in the Montgomery area near Houston, but comes to the hills about once a month. The ranch is a regular destination for her family, friends and the guests she brings along.
“It’s like seeing the ranch all over again because you get to see it through their eyes, so it’s always a lot more fun," McCracken said.
When new owners took over three years ago, they refurbished many amenities and most of the ranch's infrastructure. They also added world class accommodations, homestyle chuck wagon cooking, trail rides through the outback and a walk on the wild side.
Wild game tours offer daytime guests an intimate experience with dozens of exotics from all over the world. Hagebusch said there are more than 30 species of animals roaming the hills.
“There’s always something new, like the giraffes are expecting babies. So of course we are going to come back and see the babies, but we like the people too," McCracken said.
Hagebusch said both Carlita, the giraffe, and her daughter, Bella, are expecting, and they plan to use social media to keep their fans updated on the upcoming long-legged bundles of joy.
McCracken said they enjoy seeing the animals because they are in natural settings and not trapped in small enclosures or behind bars.
Hagebusch said seeing the animals represents only a small part of ranch operations. Conservation is another focus.
“It’s not only giving them the opportunity to interact with the wildlife, but we educate them," she said. "YO Headquarters is actually raising animals that are critically endangered or extinct in their native lands, and one day we hope to return them."
In addition to the wildlife tours, Hagebusch said the wide open spaces are a natural destination for proposals, weddings, reunions and retreats.
“My favorite thing about this whole experience is being able to meet people from all over the world, to teach people about our way of life and it’s just wonderful," she said.
Hagebusch said a corporate group from China is due at the ranch soon and they host lots of guests from Germany on a regular basis. Their goal, she said, is to make sure that everyone leaves feeling like family.