Wicky-Up Ranch Bed and Breakfast
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Paradise FoundFebruary 2015
By Fache Desrochers
Photos: Kelli Avila
“Go west, young man,” the old saying goes. And since the legendary days of covered wagons, the meaning remains essentially unchanged: go west for freedom, go west for adventure. Go west for oranges and wide beaches and tall trees and movie stars. “Go west, young man, go west and grow up with the country.” From pioneers striking out into a wild frontier to chilly East Coast dwellers dreaming of citrus trees and sunshine, California is pervaded with a spirit of active contentment, having been entirely populated by those who gambled on a journey to the edge of the map and arrived at their own personal Eden.
At the historic Wicky-Up Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Woodlake, this kind of California history has been preserved through the generations of one family who journeyed west in the 1880s and never looked back. Hosts and owners Monica and Jack Pizura are the current stewards of the legacy started in 1898 by Monica’s ancestor Fred Harding. Out west on a trip with his wife, Harding was intrigued by the burgeoning citrus industry, and enamored with the beauty and potential of the area that would one day become Woodlake. The Wild West was still alive and well a century ago, and the area near which Harding purchased his tract of land was still home to Native Americans. The people of the Wukchumna tribe and Harding coexisted happily, each fascinated by and welcoming of the others’ culture. Harding built the historic manor that houses Monica and Jack’s Bed and Breakfast today, as well as the 300-plus acres of oranges that surround it, and the story that he started has flowed through his descendants like the most charming Steinbeck novel that was never written.
One of the most interesting aspects of Wicky-Up Ranch is its matrilineal heritage. “There were no men born into this family after Great Great Uncle Fred,” explains Monica. “So this place all went to his nieces. One of his nieces was my grandmother and she had my mother and the ranch went to her. Then my mother had two girls, but my sister didn’t want it, so it went to me, and we have one girl, Juliana.” Monica smiles, and a gentle, quite musical laugh escapes her. “But our one girl had a boy! The first male born into the family in over 100 years.”
Although Monica grew up on the ranch and her roots there run deep, by her adulthood, she had settled back east with her third-generation Bostonian husband Jack, and couldn’t have imagined that the story of her life would find her nestled again against these foothills, turning her family’s history into an opportunity to delight guests. “All the inheritors have been women, but the joke is that none of the women wanted this place; we were all city girls,” says Monica. “But it was the men we married who convinced us to come back to this place, and we were all lucky that way.” Jack’s eyes twinkle. “Oh yes,” he says, an unmistakable Boston accent turning up the corners of his soft voice. “The reason the men in the family always wanted to take over this place is because it was just too much to give up.”
Indeed, between Wicky-Up’s rich history, classic California beauty, and productive, sustainably farmed organic orchards, there was far too much for the Pizuras to give up, and even far too much for them to keep to themselves. Monica and Jack are the first ones to open up the ranch to visitors, but with their natural charm, gentle demeanors and welcoming traditions, a bed and breakfast seems the perfect, modern-day destiny for the Wicky-Up Ranch. Today’s San Joaquin Valley is a collection of bustling cities and farms within an even busier world. But here on this historic property, time seems to move slightly slower, as though everything around you is not resistant to the passage of time and the evolution of the world, but merely untroubled by it.
A stay within these original walls is the coziest trip back in time that anyone could ask for. Those fortunate guests who follow Monica’s intrepid ancestors to the threshold of Wicky-Up will find a luxuriously comfortable bed, an elegant, candlelit breakfast lovingly prepared with fresh, local ingredients, and a personalized, genteel kind of hospitality that could only be the result of generations who wandered west, and found paradise.
Wicky-Up Ranch Bed and Breakfast • (559) 564-8898
22702 Ave 344, Woodlake
www.wickyup.com • Find them on Facebook and Google Plus