Arizona – desert stay

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Border town beverages

Arizona accommodation

Arizona has lots of great places to stay. Staying right in the desert is actually an option. A surprising place, there’s a lot more going on in the desert than you may imagine.

Some people live pretty much in the desert, right on the border of the Saguaro National Park.  Casa Tierra is a lovely adobe (hand made Mexican brick) hacienda on the edge of the desert, ably run by David Malmquist.

It is very much a stylish home with rooms arranged around an inner courtyard.  The soothing sound of a fountain adds to the ambiance. It’s cosy and comfortable with the lovely Mexican tiles that you find everywhere here.

I loved the quirky touches like the old typewriter and gramophone, which still works by the way. I especially liked the book swap shelf. As a frequent traveller I always appreciate a new book to read and happily leave one of my own in exchange.

Casa Tierra – hacienda living

Arizona – desert sky gazing

The large veranda outside lets you sit and  watch the amazing and ever changing desert sunset behind the rugged mountains. Just when you think you’ve seen the last of it, another peachy back lit glow appears.  Eery bluish shadows continue on until star lit darkness.

Saguaro sunset

Remember to cover your your wine glass though as it quickly fills up with flying insects at dusk.

Dave’s breakfast is also worth a mention. The cactus shaped cornbread and the prickly pear French toast are delicious. The desert setting of the place Casa Tierra is fabulous and  we enjoyed Dave’s warm hospitality and extensive knowledge of the local area.

Cactus cornbread at Dave’s place

Arizona – the Sonoran Desert Museum

A visit to the Sonoran Desert Museum is a must. Think about the time of your visit though, as if it is anything like the middle of the day, you will find everything is fast asleep! You may see a paw or a nose or a tail sticking out from a stationary animal, but that will be it!

I am writing from experience here. Going at the wrong time of day, I rechristened it the “Snorin’ Desert Museum.” Something was awake though,  a mad looking rattlesnake!  A very tame Tarantula was also active.

The raptor show at 2pm was excellent and just before I left, the mountain lion Cruz woke up. He paced about majestically on cue, and pretty much won me over with his film star good looks. The museum was instantly redeemed.

I am ready for my close up.

Arizona stays –  the Crickethead Inn

Another cool place to stay in the desert is with Mike over at the Crickethead Inn. Mike is married to Wayan who is from Bali so the place is a kind of Indonesian/Western mix.

A beautiful garden is full of fine cacti which are also for sale, as well as Wayans’s herbs and spices which she cooks with. I  wasn’t expecting Nasi Goreng for breakfast but it was very tasty. 

Wayan even made some delicious home made ginger tea with fresh root grown in her garden which she gave to us. Mike built the house himself and he has lived in it for forty years. It’s a great place for watching wildlife too, with that beautiful ever present mountain backdrop.

Garden in the desert

Wildlife spotting in the desert

We saw a little family of Javelinas several times. Javelinas look like a sort of wild pig but are actually a type of peccary which is in fact related to the hippopotamus. We also saw wild Coyotes right at dusk which looked like a small grey dog or an oversized fox.

The desert is a great place for star gazing – another thing that Arizona is famous for, as it has strict light pollution controls. Mike even has his own little forest of Saguaro to look out on.  He saved the plants from developments where they would have been destroyed, and he has transplanted hundreds of them here.

Breakfast at the Cricket head Inn

Old Tucson movie set

Another popular place to visit is Old Tucson. This old movie lot has been used for making Westerns for 75 years. Purpose built in 1939 for the film Arizona, as the real Tucson was considered too modern looking. Westerns are part of our collective cultural consciousness. This make believe town has been used in more than 300 films with the real background of the Golden Gate Mountain.

There’s a coach coming in!

The dusty streets have been trodden by all the great cowboy movie legends, including John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Ronald Reagan. It has hosted countless episodes of Bonanza (remember Hoss?) and the High Chaparral (my Grandma’s favourite) and Little House on the Prairie. It was even used in the 1990s remake of Tombstone with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer.

There’s no call for that behaviour in this town!

A shoot out based on a real story involving an Arizona Ranger in 1907 was in progress. He was trying to bring some law and order to the Wild West. The shoot outs, which are always so dramatically drawn out in the movies, in truth only lasted seconds. It’s great fun though.

Desert daisies

Check out the awesome PIMA air and space museum