BY J.R. ORTEGA
BERCLAIR – Make a right on Farm-to-Market Road 883.
Now go down eight miles – and there, to the right, behind the bright neon-green gate, sits 706 acres of pure tranquility.
This is Barnhart Q5 Ranch and Nature Retreat, one of Goliad County’s hidden gems.
Even Claire Barnhart Korth, who lives on the ranch, considers it a gem. She also calls it her own little slice of heaven.
“I realized this is where I wanted to be all my life,” the 58-year-old said from the air-conditioned home nestled amongst the acreage.
She first moved there in 2000, after her job fell through in Houston.
Her father, John Barnhart, acquired the land in 1993.
Over the course of the next 10 years, while Korth was living in the fast-paced downtown life in the metropolis of Houston, the ranch was transforming.
Her father got the till rolling on cleaning out brush and, of course, building a home, and eventually homes for those looking for a break from the city.
The idea of moving from Houston to live on the ranch wasn’t newfound for Korth or her father, a retired lawyer who also lived in Houston.
After all, Barnhart spent much of his earlier adult years raising his kids in Beeville, 22 miles south of the ranch.
“I just fell in love with the idea,” said Barnhart, now 86 years old.
Because of his age and deteriorating health, Korth and her husband are now are primarily working the ranch.
Korth still remembers that feeling when she first moved to the ranch 12 years ago. Her wheels were turning and her soul began to tingle.
She followed in her father’s footsteps.
“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I knew there were great things you could do with this.”
In 2004, the ranch won the Lone Star Land Steward Award through the Texas Parks and Wildlife for sprucing up the land.
Sure enough, after that, the great ideas flowed forth.
Through Texas Parks and Wildlife, she learned about nature tourism, the idea of opening up your private ranch to allow people to experience true wildlife.
This, in turn, shows the public why it is important to conserve these tranquil pieces of Texas habitat.
Tranquil it is
The ranch has three full homes for those looking for a retreat. The ranch offers stargazing, wildlife sightseeing, fishing, biking and hiking.
Some guests just go for a simple retreat, a place where they can get away from the lights, the sounds, the technology and just live one among nature.
From the center of the ranch, nothing can be heard but the wind snaking through the mesquite trees and the songs of birds echoing through the rolling hills.
At night, lights from the city are non-existent and the stars are out in full force. The ranch even has telescopes for a better stargazing experience.
And then, there are the miniature donkeys.
There’s Lady Bird, Gregorio Cortez and Benito Juarez, and that’s not even the half of them.
The donkeys are perhaps one of the more exciting parts of the ranch for the kids, and even the adults.
They are gentle creatures who practically nudge your arm, begging for attention.
This is why Barnhart Ranch is home, Korth said.
This is why it’s heaven.
“Few people get the chance to come and experience ranch life,” Korth said. “Every day, I learn something new.”
To learn more about Barnhart Q5 Ranch and Nature Retreat, call 361-375-2824 or visit barnhartranchretreat.com.