HERE AT RANCHO LA PUERTA in Tecate, Mexico — the only fitness resort I’ve ever been to, and the only one I ever care to go to — there’s no need to exercise that gratitude muscle I referred to in my last post. I’m exercising every other possible muscle, but the surroundings are so exceptionally beautiful that gratefulness for simply being here comes easy (that’s my casita, below).
This is my 10th visit to Rancho since 1989, but my first in spring. Now I wouldn’t know chapparal from sagebrush, but I do know that the hills surrounding the ranch, thoroughly explored on the early morning hikes that are the linchpin of the fitness program, have usually been dramatic but brown.
This time I am thrilled at the greenness and the abundance of wildflowers in the hills and the rustic outlying areas, as well as in the more central gardens surrounding the dining hall, gyms, pools, and guest cottages, most built from the 1980s onwards in vernacular Spanish Colonial style
I took it relatively easy the first day — only did four classes. I hiked, stretched, lifted, and tried Bar Method, which nearly did me in. It’s the hot thing in California, apparently (it promises you’ll become 5’9″, with the posture of a ballerina).
Aside from that, I’ve been mostly walking around open-mouthed, taking pictures of the monumental plantings: gargantuan agaves, entire beds of nothing but calla lilies, things we consider houseplants (geraniums, kalanchoe) and minor annuals (alyssum) used as bedding over vast areas, fragrant rosemary and sage as architectural shrubs, sheets of blanket flower and ice plant, pergolas laden with my formerly reviled wisteria, perfectly well-behaved and in its glory.
The current grand, sweeping design is mainly the work of Sarah Livia Brightwood, daughter of Deborah and Edmund Szekely, who founded the ranch in 1940 as a bring-your-own-tent operation. The gardens have matured a bit since I was here five years ago. The team of 22 gardeners is entirely on top of things, I’m glad to say: all is perfection to my eye.
Later in the week, after a Landscape Garden Walk and a Nature Walk, I’ll know more about what things are.
For now, I’m content to try to identify those things Baja California has in common with the Northeast. I even blew off Hula Hoop at 2:00 just to walk around and take it all in.