Winding up the gravel road to Cornucopia, you can’t help but stare at the craggy mountains that surround you. The sense of anticipation builds as you round each corner. Sunshine dapples the road and the peaks get larger and larger on the approach. Wild plum trees drip with ripe fruit. We stop to gather some for an experiment in jam-making, then hop back in the jeep and continue up the road. A few more turns and a slight rise in the road reveals our destination – a family owned and operated mountain lodge that provides the perfect getaway for families, individuals or couples.
Cornucopia Lodge sits in the deep drainage of Pine Creek, 12 miles northwest of the little town of Halfway, on the edge of the beautiful Pine Valley. Built in 2008, the homey lodge’s lobby opens into a large living and dining space, with a huge rock fireplace, windows on three sides and a door that leads to a wonderful deck, from which you can listen to Pine Creek rumbling over the rocks and gaze at Cornucopia Mountain. A stairway leads to the lodge’s bedrooms (don’t step on one of the two large but friendly resident dogs). Meals are prepared in a kitchen just off the great room.
In addition to the lodge, Cornucopia has several cozy and cute cabins, scattered in the woods around the lodge, with comfy beds, covered decks and plenty of space between for privacy. After settling into our cabin, I set out for a short hike up Pine Creek. I stopped to say “hello” to the corral of horses and mules, who were jostling for position at the feeders where their hay had just been pitched, then headed straight toward the towering Cornucopia Mountain. High up the face of the peak are the dark holes of mine shafts that served a booming gold mining industry into the early twentieth century. Upon the discovery of gold here in 1880, a mining town rose nearby and millions of dollars in gold was extracted from these peaks. Looking up, it’s hard to believe miners climbed the steep slopes and brought the gold down with pulleys and tramways.
Late afternoon, I had the trail to myself as I crossed three foot bridges and passed through shady woods and sunlit grassy open areas. Earlier in the day, the Cornucopia horses had carried riders high into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The lodge outfitters organize day rides and multi-day pack trips throughout summer and fall (check out their event calendar online). But for now, the sights, sounds and smells were mine alone to enjoy and I relished every minute.
Evening comes early to the steeply walled canyon so I turned and headed back to the cabin when the sun slipped behind the peaks and the air gained a chill. Clouds were rolling in quickly, as well, hinting of a gathering storm.
We had made reservations for dinner in the lodge, served home-style and promptly at 6:30. Most of the other weekend guests had chosen to spend the evening at the Panhandle Rodeo in Halfway. The only guest diners that evening, we were joined by our host and proprietor, Ralph Eyre, for the wonderful meal and friendly conversation. Ralph cooked us a delicious meal of barbecued ribs, macaroni salad, baked potatoes and melt-in-your-mouth home baked bread. Dessert was deep dish apple pie (an ample serving, served with a twinkle in the eye and a silent challenge for me to eat it all!) Dinner was accompanied by a short but intense rain and wind storm, which kindly stopped before it was time for us to stroll back up the hill to our cabin at dusk.
Though very relaxing, our one-night stay at Cornucopia was much too short. But the peace and quiet, exhilarating scenery and warm hospitality will draw us back for a longer visit – and hopefully a horseback ride into the high country.