Often our trips to the Palm Springs, Calif. area involve little more than dining, shopping, relaxing poolside with an icy drink and a good book. We wanted to do a bit more this visit; we planned a couple of hikes, a tramway trip to the top of San Jacinto Mountains followed by the inevitable dining, shopping and relaxing poolside. But we found ourselves in the first week of this month with temperatures well below the average, accompanied by strong winds, rain, and at the top of the mountain: snow. Which brings us to the number one travel tip: Always have a “plan b.”
The first morning we started out with a short hike. The winds were whipping around the desert at 30 mph, so we located a short hike that was somewhat protected by nearby hills and a thousand or so palms: the easy 1.7 miles to McCallum Pond at Coachella Valley Preserve.
Our second hike on this getaway weekend was also fairly short. We made the 1.8-mile climb up to Tahquitz Canyon Falls.
Both hikes are excellent for all ages and abilities. Both offer great views, geographic variety and photographic possibilities. Both can be prime activities for those looking for one to two hour excursions to supplement a day of shopping, sightseeing, a round of golf or lounging poolside.
In the case of inclement weather, always have a few indoor activities lined up. Several museums, shopping malls, galleries in the area provide indoor things-to-do. Because both my husband and I enjoy craft beer, we opted to visit two of several craft beer breweries. One is La Quinta Brewing in La Quinta, a 15-20 minute drive from Palm Springs. Old Town La Quinta is a picturesque and pleasant array of shops, galleries and eateries.
Beers sampled at La Quinta included the Poolside Blonde, an easy-drinking, light blonde ale, the Bloody Hot Summer, a refreshing, fruity beer, the Even Par 7.2 IPA, a smooth, perfectly balanced IPA, the Heatwave Amber Ale, a tasty brew with malt and caramel, and the Koffi Porter, with rich coffee, chocolate and malt.
Coachella Valley Brewing (or CVB) has many types of brews with a wide variety of flavors and blends, something for almost everyone, except the amber, red or brown ale drinker. Beers we enjoyed were the I-10 IPA, a lower alcohol session IPA, the Kolschella, a refreshing Kolsch-style German ale, the Harvester, an imperial IPA with grapefruit, and the Palms to Pines, a triple IPA at 13 percent APV!
After a weekend of wind and rain, we wrapped up our getaway with a day of abundant sunshine next to the Westin Mission Hills pool. We like to recommend: Allow ample time on the last day to let the events of your vacation soak in. Let the intermittent bursts of kids splashing and laughing blended with faint sounds of different styles of music and low rumble of adult chatter lull you into relaxation as you turn the page of your book or magazine or swipe your Kindle. Gaze up at the sun through the palms, take a deep breath and know: no matter what the weather or other environmental factors; you’ve had the time to unwind.
Traveling throughout Arizona to its smaller towns and cities, I’ve learned to allow time to explore the downtown areas. Window shopping, browsing through antique or thrift stores, visiting local attractions and relaxing in town squares have been important activities of my Arizona getaways. My visit to Safford’s historical downtown area provides another snapshot of an Arizona small town.
Safford’s central business section is attractive and well-kept, but like most historic districts, some buildings still need a facelift. The downtown includes a well-defined Main Street, rolling out to a city and county government complex and park. Side streets include many additional businesses, offices and light industrial firms. Safford’s downtown reminds me of the “Back to the Future” movie town – “Hill Valley.” Walking down Main Street, one can envision Michael J. Fox’s character hopping on a skateboard and careening over parked cars. Even the Graham County Courthouse strikes a keen resemblance to Hill Valley’s courthouse – sans the clock. I guess classic revival or neo-classic architecture style must have been popular for government buildings constructed during the early 20th century.
I was expecting to find quaint shops and eateries lining the thoroughfare, as I often have discovered in other Arizona ‘historic downtown’ districts. I found a few, but with all the historical storefronts, I really thought there would be more. Much of the street level commercial frontage seems to be undergoing renovation. Some existing businesses were simply closed on Saturdays such as professional and medical offices or business services providers. Obviously downtown Safford doesn’t exist to the whim of tourism and clearly Safford is not attempting to be the “shopping Mecca” of Arizona. Local commerce here is more about providing goods and services for its townsfolk. Granted, on this particular blustery Saturday, clouds and winds threatened monsoon rains so I didn’t spend as much time wandering the downtown as I’d hoped.
However, a few shops did manage to capture my interest — I’m really glad I took the time to browse two women’s apparel stores: Sorella’s Elite Fashions and The Wear. I find independent, locally owned clothing retailers especially appealing. Call it nostalgia, but I like the way clothing, shoes and accessories are neatly and tastefully displayed at these shops. It makes shopping extra enjoyable. Friendly customer service is a bonus. Another recommended store is Gingerbread & Co., a gift and home accessory shop. If you’re drawn to decorative knickknacks, this place is for you. Plan to spend a while here, browsing through odds and ends: frames, signs, wreaths, bookends, you name it. Let’s put this way: if you have an empty spot on a wall, table or shelf in your house, it may be filled when you return from Gingerbread & Co.
With all this walking, visitors to Safford’s historic downtown may need a ‘little pick-me-up,’ so I can recommend A Step Back in Time Coffee Shop and Deli. This was another downtown highlight. Coffee, tea, smoothies, sandwiches, pizza and breakfast dishes make up the menu. I stopped in for a late morning latte and a chat with the barista on duty. Downtown Safford is still going through some changes; storefronts are being reconstructed and renovated, I learned. Businesses are moving to larger spaces and new shops are opening. A Christmas decoration shop was preparing its new inventory during my visit.
Safford is about a three hour drive southeast of Phoenix. The trip would make a wonderful getaway for anyone wanting a kind of “country Christmas” or “downhome” autumn weekend. You could shop for unusual gifts and holiday decorations while getting acquainted (or more familiar) with one of Arizona’s more rustic county seats. (Don’t forget to pick up a few dozen tamales at one or more of those wonderful southeast Arizona Mexican restaurants.)
There were several other interesting retailers I wanted to visit, but we just ran out of time: Pollock’s Western Wear — a well-reputed western apparel and boot outfitter, and a liquor store that appears to be located in the middle of an intersection, on a traffic island, called — appropriately enough: Triangle Liquor. Those will have to wait until next time.
More reasons to visit Safford and Graham County in October: Graham County Fair is Oct. 11-14; Cowboy Poets and Music Gathering is Oct. 26-28; and Harvest Festival is Oct. 27.
Dogs and cats know the perfect spot to relax. Pets know a beam of sunlight streaming through a window creates the perfect place for producing long sighs of contentment. Instinct invites them to bask in the warmth and glow of the sun. Humans can also find place to bask — at a resort in southeastern Arizona: Sunglow Ranch.
A getaway to one of Arizona’s resorts or guest ranches — like Sunglow Ranch would make a perfect gift, for any occasion.
Sunglow Ranch, located about 45 miles southeast of Willcox, Arizona, reclines at the base of the Chiracahua Mountains, and the boundary of Coronado National Forest. We made a side trip to Sunglow recently as part of our weekend in Willcox. Upon arrival, we were immediately accommodated with a warm welcome. General Manager Brooks Bradbury and his wife Susan, gave us a quick tour of the ranch.
Ranch is a bit of a misnomer; even the words “guest ranch” don’t do adequate justice to describe Sunglow. Indeed, it does have horseback riding and stables. It does have gorgeous views of the “great outdoors” — rolling grasslands and sprawling mountain ranges. (Cue western movie music here.) But there’s a line where the rustic meets luxury and that’s the casual comfort that defines Sunglow. Wood and leather permeate the guest rooms, dining room and common areas. Flowers and fountains add a touch of color and finesse to the outdoor decor. The casitas also are nicely designed — with floral and plant accents, hand-painted walls and innovative lighting features.
Because we only had a quick tour, I don’t really feel qualified to give a full review but I feel confident recommending Sunglow to anyone who’s considering a “getaway gift” this holiday season. The nightly rates start about $300 per night for two adults which may seem a bit pricey to some, but that includes a country-style breakfast and three-course dinner. Since the meals alone would add up to about $80 to $100 per day; these inclusive rates are appropriate. Guests can choose from one- or two-bedroom units. All have separate entrances and patios — perfect for enjoying a glass of wine while watching the setting sun.
Most amenities are included with the room: use of heated pool, hot tub, fitness room, bocce ball and horseshoe courts, fishing rods, mountain bikes and canoes. Massage services and horseback riding are extra and can be arranged separately. The resort also offers special events such as cooking classes, yoga and photography workshops, stargazing programs and winemaker dinners.
Sunglow Ranch is eco-friendly too; we noticed the system for recycling rainwater for watering gardens. Locally grown foods and produced goods are emphasized here, plus the wine list includes many fine Arizona selections including one of my favorites: the 2009 Three Sisters Syrah from Keeling Schaefer Vineyards. Arizona beers from Mogollon and Four Peaks breweries are also served.
Sunglow Ranch definitely isn’t for the jet set. This is place to relax and unwind. Rustic or luxury, Sunglow Ranch can be whatever you choose. It’s both a place to curl up with a good book next to the fire, or a place to soak in the hot tub after a day of strenuous hiking in the Chiracahua Mountains.
Certainly a stay at Sunglow Ranch would be a thoughtful gift for anyone on your list. And after you visit the resort’s website, you may just want to treat yourself!
Other than a honeymoon or wedding trip, have any our readers ever been surprised with a gift of travel? Vacation or a resort getaway? What’s your favorite weekend getaway-place to escape and relax?
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from AZGetawayTravel!