By Jacki Mieler | Photo by Paul Markow
Some people jump out of airplanes. Others buy sports cars. But the day Wendy White realized she was far disconnected from the rock-climbing, adventure-seeking woman of her younger years, she built a lodge in the woods.
When she and her husband, Jaime Ballesteros, constructed what was originally the Sled Dog Inn just south of Flagstaff in 1997, they envisioned an outdoor-recreation haven. They led tours right from the lodge and gave guests the chance to take their team of 18 sled dogs out on snowy adventures. It gave Wendy the outlet she so desperately needed to escape from the divorce papers that piled up at her law practice.
Fifteen years later, things are a little different, but the roots that Wendy and Jaime planted still permeate this country inn. It's now known as the Abineau Lodge, inspired by one of the San Francisco Peaks' most stunning trails. The four remaining sled dogs live comfortably in a luxurious kennel, eagerly accepting biscuits from guests. But, if you're looking for a home base for some serious outdoor adventure, this is still your spot.
With themes like Forest Hideaway and Ranch Romance, each of the lodge's nine rooms is designed to make guests feel at one with their mountain surroundings. Rustic reclaimed wood can be found throughout the property, even in several bedroom pieces handcrafted by Wendy and Jaime.
Endless miles of Coconino National Forest surround the Abineau Lodge, which might otherwise seem daunting without Wendy's hand-drawn map of the hiking and biking trails in the area. She prides herself on giving guests the inside scoop on the roads less traveled and the trails less explored in Northern Arizona.
Because it was originally built as an outdoor-adventure center, the spacious common areas beckon guests to socialize after an active day. Stock up at the in-house My Little Wine Shop and create the perfect happy hour by the fireplace, or set up camp on the deck for sunset and elk viewing.
Breakfast is included, and it's not to be missed. Wendy's love of the outdoors is rivaled only by her culinary passion. If your visit doesn't coincide with one of the glorious mornings that vanilla yogurt pancakes are served, consider extending your stay.
Wendy didn't need any death-defying stunts to reconnect with her former self. She just built a lodge in the woods and invited everyone to come explore their adventurous spirits with her.
The Abineau Lodge is located at 1080 Mountainaire Road in Flagstaff. For more information, call 928-525-6212 or visit www.abineaulodge.com.