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No Need for a Map to the Stars in Beautiful Borrego Springs

The front gate of the 3,500-square-foot home at 1962 Rams Hill Drive in the Rams Hill Country Club. Photo courtesy of Willis Allen Real Estate

If you grew up somewhere other than a densely populated urban environment, you’ll remember the absolute awe of staring up at a night sky thick with stars.

Borrego Springs is one of those places.

Certified by the International Dark-Sky Association, Borrego is among only 10 communities in the U.S. and the only one in California to achieve a Dark Sky Community certification.

The front door of Smoketree Ranch at 2789 Stinson Road in Borrego Springs. Photo courtesy of Glyn Jones of Over the Top Shots

Butting up against the 600,000-acre Anza Borrego Desert State Park — itself on National Geographic’s list of the best state parks in California — Borrego has long been a draw for visitors from around the world for its secluded and serene beauty.

An aerial shot of a 1,400-acre estate at 2789 Stinson Road in Borrego Springs on the market for .874 million. Photo courtesy of Glyn Jones of Over the Top Shots

It’s also a draw for second home owners due to its proximity to San Diego.

Kristin Ryner, a Realtor with Keller Williams San Diego Central Coast, has a listing for an extraordinary property at 2789 Stinson Road listed for $3.874 million. Known as Smoketree Ranch, the 4,768-square-foot home sits on 1,400 acres with five bedrooms and seven baths and a detached 1,568-square-foot guest house. The 1,400 acres includes 18 contiguous parcels that could be developed.

“You can stargaze, hike, off-road or relax to your heart’s content,” Ryner said. “It’s a perfect setting for light-free stargazing as well as sunrise and sunset views.”

The “fly-in” property has its own airstrip and a 5,000-square-foot airplane hangar and is only 20 minutes to San Diego or Palm Springs.

Ryner said the property sat vacant until the current owner purchased it in 2011.

Before the sale in 2011, the property was once known as Desert Sky Estate. It went vacant for several years because it was caught up in an effort in the mid-2000s by Sherman Oaks-based GH Capital LLC to revitalize Borrego through investment and development. Victims of the Great Recession, GH Capital put the estate on the market in 2011 and eventually sold off its other Borrego holdings as well.

Ryner said the sprawling ranch home was constructed in 2006 by noted San Diego-based father-and-son team Hubbell & Hubbell Architects. Among other achievements, the architects were awarded the 2015 Construction and Engineering Award for the Best Aesthetic and Ecological Architects in California.

The structural system of Smoketree Ranch is composed of wood, steel posts and timber reclaimed from the Pacific Northwest. The walls are made of straw-bale infill, which is a thermal mass that slows the transfer of heat into the building, keeping it cooler by day and warmer at night.

The landscaping was designed and planted with native, low-water desert plants by Fredericks Landscaping Construction. Tom Fredericks scouted the property for the perfect specimens of Ocotillo and then planted them facing the same direction that they had been found growing naturally in the desert.

“The actual home extends like two arms around the outdoor patio,” Ryner said. “On the east side are the master bedroom, master bath, office and walk in closet. On the west side are four en suite guest bedrooms, each with their own themed bathrooms with imported Italian tile.”

Ryner said the current owner is a cowboy at heart — loving the vast open space and wild west feel of old Borrego, “but with the modern-day perks of paved roads, local stores, post office and country clubs.”

Ryner said the owner, a former private pilot, loves being close to a private airstrip. The home is built to entertain and that is exactly what he and his wife do from October through May.

Connie Berkley, a broker with Willis Allen Real Estate, also knows Borrego well. She has lived in Rancho Santa Fe since 1985 and specializes in covenant and surrounding area properties. She also has a second home in the Rams Hill community in Borrego, where she has six active listings ranging in price from $175,000 to $1.499 million and three recent sales.

The Rams Hill Golf Course, formerly known as the Montesoro Golf & Social Club, closed in 2010 and was left to the harsh elements of the desert. Now under new ownership, the club has reopened with lush fairways and greens. The renowned 18-hole Tom Fazio Golf Course was recently recognized as one of the best golf courses in the country by GolfAdvisor.com.

Berkley, who has been in real estate for 24 years, said Rams Hill is a gated community on the south side of Borrego. The original 3,000-plus-acre resort was built in the 1980s and there are currently 326 existing homes.

One of Berkley’s six listings is at 1962 Rams Hill Drive. It’s a three-bedroom, four-bath home with 3,500 square feet on a 0.47 acre lot. Built in 2006, the listing price is $1.499 million.

You enter the property through an artistic, custom, metal sculptured gate onto a large enclosed patio with unobstructed views of the surrounding desert landscape. The home is professionally decorated in a sophisticated, yet casual style. The inviting glimmering pool ensures a relaxing desert escape.

“It’s always been a special place for me, even though this is an area with very modest commercial activity,” Berkley said. “The magic is in the sunrises and sunsets, the ever changing light, the raw landscape that is alive, sturdy mountains , craggy valleys, occasional wildflower eruptions, stunning night skies, dry heat, and the quiet — except outside Carlee’s Place (in downtown Borrego).”

Send luxury real estate items to sglidden@sdbj.com.

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