I received a flyer in the mail a few months ago…  It was offering a Retreat of sorts (with horses, books, hiking, food and wine) at the V6 Ranch!   Hmmmmm, sounded yummy!


The hitch was that the entire Retreat theme was “Wild” – but not for what you might be thinking – it was for the book, WILD, by Cheryl Strayed.  (The movie was recently released with Reese Witherspoon.)  This weekend was for those who loved the book and wanted to hike and be out in nature to reflect.

Well… I hadn’t read the book nor seen the movie.

But, that didn’t stop me!  I WANTED IN.

So, I looked balefully at Hubby and he agreed that I should go.  Yay!  So I immediately replied to hold a spot.

… I had enough time to read the book… right?!

This is a wonderful group shot of all the Wild Weekend particpants on V6 Ranch horses riding on the 20,000 acre V6 cattle ranch in Parkfield, CA.  I'm the one waving.

This is a wonderful group shot of all the Wild Weekend particpants on V6 Ranch horses riding on the 20,000 acre V6 cattle ranch in Parkfield, CA. I’m the one waving.  You can see that I did a horrible job tying my Wild Rag.  I need lessons.

BARB’S WILD WEEKEND in photographs!

I’m going to tell the story in a few words and lots of photographs!

Parkfield (the earthquake capitol of the world and the home of the V6 Ranch)  is around 6 hours away from my house.  I had mentioned this trip to my neighbor (the one who now blissfully keeps Princess Llama Llama Llama) and she wanted to come… so she and I drove together.  Perfect.

(Yes, I had just finished the book in time!  Phew!)


This was the flyer for ‘Barb’s Wild Weekend’!  Barb has never had her own event at the Ranch… We were all so excited to be a part of Barb’s first venture into designing and hosting her own weekend!


My friend and I arrived early to Parkfield and ended up wandering into the Parkfield Cafe.

Now… let me set the stage… Parkfield has a few residents and they are all family members.  The Lodge and Cafe were built by John Varian.  Barb (his wife) runs the Lodge and Cafe.  John builds every structure and runs the Ranch and the Ranch recreation (Dude Weekends, Cattle Drives, Wine Weekends, Photography Weekends…)

Parkfield is a family affair and family dogs run freely (which I loved…).  Everyone knows everyone.  No one is a stranger.

So, my friend and I figured we’d be fine entering the Cafe… eventually someone would grab us and tell us what to do next.

And that is exactly what happened!

We entered the Cafe and Barb immediately grabbed us and gave us our handmade, copper stamped and leather lanyards.  A very nice touch!  (You’ll see the lanyards around many of our necks in the photos below!)

The town is populated with Varians.  That's it... and their dogs!  It used to be a Mercury Mining town, long ago.

The town is populated with Varians. That’s it… and their dogs! It used to be a Mercury Mining town, long ago.

This is the Parkfield Cafe, built by John Varian and run by Barb Varian.

This is the Parkfield Cafe, built by John Varian and run by Barb Varian.  The V-6 Ranch is a private cattle ranch here in CA.

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This is my lanyard  Barb made these with TLC.  The leather had our names with the V6 brand.  The copper was engraved with the last words of the book, "How wild it was to let it be."

This is my lanyard.  Barb made these with TLC. The leather had our names with the V6 brand. The copper was engraved with the last words of the book, “How wild it was to let it be.”


Our first adventure started at 3pm the day we arrived – it was a hike at the top of the Ranch…  All of us (17 new friends) piled into 4 cars and drove up the County Road to the top of the ranch.

We  fell out of our cars for the first adventure – a hike!

I was a bit nervous since I have been sick (Lyme) for a few years… but I did fine.  The hike was fairly easy and GORGEOUS.

And at the end, a lovely, thoughtful surprise!  Barb had her husband, John, and her daughter, Kathryn, drive up through the ranch to the designated point where they set up a table (pre-designed and photographed by Barb so they knew what to do) full of yummy appetizers, wine and several other beverages and fruit.  Yum!

Please note the W-I-L-D letters on the table.  Another sweet touch created by Barb.

Is there anything better than pristine ranch land?… I was enchanted.


Our first adventure was driving to the top of the ranch and hiking inland to these incredible vistas. The V-6 Ranch is the largest privately owned ranch in CA.

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I took this photo on our hike. All the family dogs have a great life! They are all very well behaved, too – except when they find cattle…!

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As the sun was starting to set, my camera created an arc in the lens which I loved!

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We reached our destination, the original homestead of the Smith family who first settled a part of the Ranch.  Here is Kathryn Varian (15 year-old daughter), manning the lovely appetizer and beverage table waiting for us. Gorgeous.   (I’m bummed my shadow got in this but it was just that time of day!)

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The sun was setting as we headed back.

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Tinkerbell, the Corgi, hiked with us.

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Our first group shot!


We all had a glorious time getting to know each other on the hike.  We knew dinner (tasty! served at the Cafe) was at 6:30 so as soon as we got back to our rooms…

Oh!  Our room!

I need to tell you that we roomed in the Post Office.  Yup!  it was the original Post Office from when Parkfield was a Mercury Mining town.  Anyway, mules moved it from its original spot to where it now resides.  John rebuilt it and Barb and her sister decorated.

Of course, my friend kept telling ghost stories from her room through the wall into mine.  But, I fell asleep anyway – very comfortably – in the front office of the Post Office!  ;)

(The rest of the Wild group staying in the Lodge that John Built.  That isn’t its name but it might as well be…  ;)  )

This was my friend, Fran's bed... I was in the front of the Post Office.  Very cute rooms.  John Varian rebuilt the Post Office hotel rooms and also made all the furniture.

This was my friend, Fran’s bed… I was in the front of the Post Office. Very cute rooms. John Varian rebuilt the Post Office where we stayed and he also built the Lodge and Cafe.  Oh and he made all the furniture.  He’s a handy guy.


Now, I am not a ‘group’ kind of gal.  I tend to veer away from groups of women instead of towards.  But I gotta tell you, this was FUN!  Not only did I learn so much about my new friends via their comments regarding the book; but Barb and her mother  provided a photo journal of thought provoking questions that were beautifully projected onto the wall of the Great Room in the Lodge.

Funny, all this time I was so worried about finishing the book… and I was worried for nothing.  Not only was there no test, but no one cared who did or didn’t finish the book.  The good news was the book was very fresh for me (very fresh) so I could recall whatever they were discussing easily!

As an aside, those who had read the book AND saw the movie, had  A LOT to say about that…

*I neglected to take a photo of our ‘goodie bags’ that Barb made for us.  They were very sweet… ‘Barb’s Wild Weekend’ was stamped on the front.  Inside were lots of locally made goodies (grass fed beef jerky, handmade brittle, handmade soap, a Parkfield Cafe mug, and my favorite item:  a V6 Ranch Wild Rag!  You can see most of us wearing ours on the ride.  What I found very amusing was that Barb managed to match the correct color of wild rag to each person.  Mine was red.  Perfect!).

My favorite quote of the weekend, "My beautiful disaster."  A wonderful way to look at the curveballs in life - and how they shape the next adventure.

My favorite quote of the weekend came out of the book club discussion of the book WILD: “My beautiful disaster.” A wonderful way to describe the curveballs in life – and how they shape our next adventure.


We were told we could bring our own saddles, which I did.  We could also have brought our own horses, but most of us used Ranch horses that John picked for us individually.

I forgot to mention that I had met John and Barb a few years ago when I ventured onto a Cowboy Weekend at their ranch (you can read that story linked here).  I had a wonderful time NOT taking my horse (I was the only one on that ride who didn’t bring  their own horse – and I think I was the only happy rider. ) and I learned that Ranch Horses are wonderful creatures.  They know the ropes and are very sound, secure and sensible beings.

This trip, I was given, Lucy, one of the Varian daughter’s roping horses.  She was cute, smart and short.  Yay!

I cannot begin to tell you how glorious it was to ride this ranch as if we were alone in the universe… the way California was before…  Lucy and I were a team of explorers (at least in my mind which traveled through time and dreamed the entire afternoon.  I don’t think I said much of anything to anyone on this ride.  I was in my own world.)

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I was too busy enjoying the ride to take photos… this one is from another rider.  I am the one whose face is obscured by the Wrangler’s hand.

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All the horses were so sensible! This woman in the front is Zee Varian, Jack’s wife and the Matriarch of the Ranch.  She bred raised and trained almost all of the horses on the Ranch.  Jack Varian is the brother to Sheila Varian who is known in the Arabian world.


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Our fun shot! I am on the far right (white shirt – bad tie job on the Wild Rag).

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Tinkerbell was tired…  Note John’s wild rag… we each got one in our goodie bag!

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This is Jack Varian, the family patriarch.  Sheila Varian’s cousin, for you Polish Arabian fans.

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After a lovely lunch, we returned to the ranch.

Our hosts, John and Barb Varian.


After this glorious ride, I was elated!  While most of us went indoors to shower and recoup, I went to the Cafe to see what was shaking!

There were a few of us in the bar part of the Cafe.  We delighted in scrumptious wine spritzers (made from a local vineyard’s wine) and great conversation.  I loved this part!  After a perfect ride, this kind of fun makes the whole day one to remember!

At 6:30, we met outside for a Dutch Oven cooked dinner and dessert.  YUM!

Fran and I turned in, but the others, led by Barb, went on a ‘full moon walk to the lake’.  I heard it was lovely!

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Our Dutch Oven dinner!

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Our gracious hosts!


Sunday morning held another hearty breakfast and then we regrouped for a lovely hike on the other side of the ranch.  Just imagine riding these view on horses… which we did the day before!

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I liked this shot.


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I didn’t climb the rock… but all the others did. I’m afraid of heights.

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Someone snapped this of me.  Wild Rag now tied around my waist.

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We were all so happy! This is Christina!

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Pondering life overlooking Wild California.

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The ‘blonde sister-in-laws’! Note they both received sand colored wild rags which was perfect for them!

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More new friends!

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Of course, our furry guides!

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The end of the hike… on our last day. Our last lineup.  Of course I’m turned in the incorrect direction… Silly Producer.  Can’t take direction.


After this hike, there was a little ‘goodbye’ ceremony that we had to miss because we were late getting on the road already.

Good people, new friends, fine food, superb horses, incredible views and grand contentment.

A great, great time was had by all.


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This picture was taken by someone else. I thought it was pretty! (Note the dog…)

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Dinner at the Cafe!

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Barb in the middle with her lively mother and darling daughter.

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We all loved Tinkerbell!

And this gorgeous lady is Barb's 92 year-old Grandmother who is just more gracious and put together than any of us!

And this gorgeous lady is Barb’s 92 year-old Grandmother who was more gracious and put together than any of us youngsters!

IF YOU WANT TO SPEND TIME ON THE RANCH, JUST DO IT!   This venture was all inclusive and inexpensive!


Here is their website.

Here is the V-6 Facebook page.

Here is their contact info and upcoming events!

The V6 Ranch · VIEW MAP
70410 Parkfield Coalinga Road,
Parkfield, CA 93451
phone (805) 463-2493 or (805) 463-2421


March 12 – 15
Piper MacKay
Photography Workshop

March 19 – 22
Dude Ranch Weekend

March 26 – 29
Dude Ranch Weekend

April 2 – 5
Cattle Drive

April 3 – 6
Jeff Derby Workshop

April 8 – 12
AHA Cowboy Academy

April 23 – 26
Cattle Drive

April 29 – May 3
Wrangler Ride

May 7 – 10
Cattle Drive

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Bluegrass Festival

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Artisan’s Fall Roundup

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November 12-15
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4 comments have been posted...

  1. Vicki W.

    A very lovely account of what sounds like a thoroughly enjoyable weekend enjoying the V6 Ranch in all it’s splendor. Although not critical to the story, Jack Varian is actually Sheila’s cousin. Truly enjoy your blog! Here’s to more memorable adventures that you can report to us on. :-)

  2. Sandy Spurrell

    Fantastic blog Dawn… inclusive of the whole week-end and put together so well! You really told the story through your text and photos (photos are awesome btw;-) I’m glad you took the time to put this together because I can share it with friends who will get a much better appreciation of the beauty we experienced than any of my attempts at trying to explain it to them;-) Great job and thanks;-)

    Sandy Spurrell

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