By Melissa Wynn

After our holiday edition went off to press I was ready for some down time and decided to check out Highlands Ranch Resort at 41515 Highway 36 in Mill Creek. Just fifty three miles from Red Bluff and twenty four miles from Chester, this little paradise in the woods was nearby and the perfect place to relax in all of the best ways possible.

We arrived on a chilly November afternoon to amazing views of BrokeOff Mountain against a crystal blue cloudless sky. Owner/operator Kevin Wilsey couldn’t have Mill Creek Meadowchosen a better location. Perched on the edge of a sprawling meadow, Highlands Ranch offers the best of the Sierra. Lassen Volcanic National Park is right next door and the Lassen National Forest trimmed the edges of the view with snow dusted evergreens.

A roaring fire in the stunning stone fireplace, and an exceptionally warm welcome from Innkeeper Wendy Rehberg greeted us when we entered the main lodge and the worries of the world just seemed to melt away. The friendly staff was busy preparing for the bustling Friday night dinner crowd but everyone took a minute to say hello.

Wendy escorted us down the stone path, past the other six units, to our beautiful cottage home for the night, named Meadow’s Edge for it’s great location. Two of the units have private, two person, outdoor jacuzzi tubs and her first mission was to double check the temperature of ours to insure we could enjoy a steamy after dinner soak on such a chilly day.

We were once again warmly welcomed by a flickering fire in the slate framed, gas fireplace. After a quick lesson with the remote to adjust the heat we were on our own to lounge in  front of the fire in the two comfy arm chairs and watch the news on the big HD TV.

Hardwood and slate tile floors add to the rustic charm of the cabin interior while topping it off with the high end look so present in the attention to every detail at Highlands Ranch Resort. No expense was spared, and every comfort was considered right down to the heated bathroom floors.

Eager to try the exquisite cuisine at the on-site Artisan’s View restaurant in the main lodge that all my friends had been raving about, we wandered back over for dinner. We chose a cushioned booth by the window at the suggestion of server Auggie Ibarra who pointed out the outstanding view of the stars twinkling over the Highlands Ranch Cabinmoonlit meadow.

Cloth napkins and candles graced our hand made table that was built on-site of reclaimed wood. Server Shilo Larson soon appeared with menus and a delightful basket of warm home made bread with a dish of lavender infused, creamy butter. My husband ordered the Prawn Scampi and I told Shilo I was happy to let Chef Joe Symmes choose for me.

I was surprised when he appeared at our table just a few minutes later to explore my options with me. I learned that the secret behind the rave reviews is Joe’s farm to fork, fresh and friendly approach to the cuisine he presents. He harvested the lavender that flavored our fragrant  butter on site and will soon offer jams, jellies and preserves made of locally harvested blackberries among many other organic favorites.

In the end Honey Chipoltle Prawns won me over with the allure of  sweet and spicy. Crispy breading lightly coated with that scrumptious sauce was the perfect contrast to the sweet, succulent meat of the five giant tiger prawns. The Scampi arrived on a steaming bed of angel hair pasta emanating the unmistakable aromas of garlic and butter. Randy shared that he had never tasted better and had tried scampi from St. Louis to San Francisco, quite a compliment to Joe Symmes and his amazing talent. A trip to this great restaurant is not dinner out, it is a fine dining experience.

We waddled back to our cozy cottage far to full and feeling like royalty. In the same way that our decadent dinner fed the body the long soak fed the soul. I would be challenged to find a more relaxing experience than lounging in a private hot tub, beneath the stars, on the meadow in the forest.

Highlands RanchWe drifted off to sleep in the cloud soft, king size bed snuggled between the dreamy Comphy brand linens. These sheets are so popular with the guests that Wendy and Kevin now offer them for sale so you can take a little piece of luxury home to keep.

A lavish, chef prepared breakfast, for overnight guests only, is included with every stay at Highlands Ranch Resort and gave us a good reason to stay just one more hour the following morning. Although our choices included spicy Huevos Rancheros, hearty biscuits and gravy and a variety of other hot and cold options we were drawn to the fresh fruit and mouthwatering honey lavender greek yogurt made with local honey and that fresh picked lavender. Delicious, hot coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice finished filling our tanks and were ready to return, reluctantly,  to the real world.

Whether you are looking for a weekend getaway, a fine dining experience or a secluded romantic place to enjoy some Friday night live music and dancing, Highlands Ranch Resort can hook you up in spades. In room massages are also available by appointment. Call ahead for reservations as space is limited but go out and see Wendy, Kevin and their amazing staff. Life is short, lavish in luxury now and then!  Visit