When John York and Paula Payne purchased the 50 acre ranch in 1997 it was just
an empty patch of chaparral at the foot of Mount Gower (AKA Black Horse Mountain)
and was only accessible by horseback. A small cabin was built in the riparian forest
that runs through the middle of the ranch, complete with campground, campfire ring
and guest corrals. The cabin was a favorite cowboy hangout.
Eventually a paved road was put in along with electricity, water and telephone.
The Pueblo style "big house" was designed by John and Paula, and completed in
1999. It survived both the Cedar Fire in 2003 and the Witch Creek fire in 2007, both
of which roared through the canyon. Unfortunately, the cabin, barn, several outbuildings
and nearly every other thing on the ranch were destroyed in the Cedar Fire.
In those days, cattle, horses and pigs were raised on the ranch. Part of the large
pasture is now a vineyard, but the Tasting Patio still affords one a bucolic vista of
animals grazing with a backdrop of Mount Gower Open Space Preserve and The
Cleveland National Forest.
"When people visit the ranch for the first time they often tell us that they can see why
we call it 'Hellanback', says Paula. "It's a bit out of the way", she laughs. "We love it
here and are reluctant to go anywhere once we're home. It's kind of like living at a
resort. Of course, at a resort, I wouldn't have to clean pig pens and work in the vineyard…"
Early on, John built a couple of miles of wagon trails on the ranch for horseback riding
and hay rides. They still enjoy taking hayrides on the weekends with John driving the
old 1955 Ford tractor and Paula and the dogs on the hay wagon…and of course, there
is always wine drinking involved these days. Life is good at Hellanback.