Monthly Archives: January 2016

A guests guide to birding and horseback riding at the Circle Z

Yes, I was the kid who always hoped for a pony under the Christmas tree. But if one wasn’t going to be forthcoming (and it wasn’t), another good choice for Santa would be a new field guide or better binoculars for my other outdoor hobby: birdwatching. I’ve continued to pursue both hobbies pretty well life long and love finding vacation spots where both are readily available.

Enter the Circle Z.

Southern Arizona is widely known by birders across North America as being an exceptional place to find birds that are difficult, and even impossible, to discover elsewhere on the continent, as many here are at the extreme northern limits of their ranges. This is true even in the depths of winter, which is when I visit the ranch.

The ranch’s location is ideal for birding in southeastern Arizona, as they are bordered on the east by Patagonia Lake State Park and on the west by the Patagonia-Sonoita Nature Preserve. Just across Highway 82 is the famed Roadside Rest, known for turning up rare birds year after year.
From the other side, any reader of guest ranch guide books knows that the Circle Z has been famous for its great horseback riding program for 90 years.

There are numerous ways of combining the two hobbies at the ranch. One of my favorites is merely watching for the frequently-amazing bird life while you are out on horseback, exploring the canyons, desert washes and mountain foothills nearby. I have found that many birds are less shy of humans when those humans are mounted on horseback than when on foot. As well, birds that prefer the more remote settings are much more easily found on a ride than when it would involve a trek of several miles over frequently-rocky and uneven trails on foot. During my week here in January 2016, I have seen flights of 20 or more Mexican (Gray-breasted) Jays fluttering iridescent blue in Flux Canyon, have been surrounded by flocks of Black-Throated Sparrows in the mesquite scrub, and have seen Montezuma Quail, that secretive skulker, scurry away up the hillsides.

Several wranglers who lead the rides (ranch manager Jenny, and wranglers Alice and Johnny) are all good birders in their own right, and are always keen to help identify a bird or to take a ride to the spot where a specific species has recently been seen. On many days it is also possible to ride for half of the day and then go birding for the other half. Paton’s Hummingbird Sanctuary is only a 10 minute drive from the ranch, and other well-known hotspots such as Kino Springs (one of my favorites) and San Pedro Nature Preserve can be easily covered in a half day. If you can spare a whole day from riding (a difficult decision to be sure!), Madera Canyon and Whitewater Draw would easily welcome you.

Some special birds are also big draws to the ranch area. It is one of the few spots where the Elegant Trogon can be seen reasonably regularly, and the nearby nature preserve was the site of the first sighting ever of Sinaloa Wren in the US. And this is all just during the mid-winter season. Come spring, hosts of hummingbirds, flycatchers and other species that prefer warmer weather, or are on their migratory route, begin to appear within easy viewing, often at the feeders on the ranch grounds.
Come to think of it, I might just have to try a Spring trip ….
Written by Barb Mclintock, long time Circle Z Ranch guest

By |January 22nd, 2016|Nature|0 Comments

A Day in Tombstone

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If you’re staying over a Sunday at the Circle Z Ranch, there is always the question of how best to spend this unplanned day when horses and wranglers have their day off. There are plenty of options – drive to the historic mining town of Bisbee, tour the Karchner Caverns, head back to Tucson for a little big-city life and shopping, or just enjoy a peaceful day on the ranch, maybe doing your laundry in the new guest laundry, hiking or just kicking back.
This year, however, our group of three decided to spend the day in Tombstone, “the town too tough to die” located little more than an hour’s drive from the ranch on Highway 80 just south of Highway 82. (An added bonus of the trip is some spectacular scenery quite different from that of the ranch as you cross the grasslands on the way east.)
Tombstone has a bit of a reputation as a tourist trap. And there’s surely enough kitsch around to make it a tourist trap if that’s what you’re looking for. You can find remarkable numbers of tacky souvenirs, tours by horse-drawn US mail wagons, and so many “genuine authentic” re-enactments of the Gunfight at the OK Corral that I quite lost count. On arrival in Tombstone, it is both amusing and kitschy to be greeted by numerous re-enactors in the dress of the 1880s walking down the Tombstone streets (and sometimes trying to sell you the virtues of their particular “Tombstone experience”).
But Tombstone can also be a great deal more than that. It was truly the center of life in the Arizona territory for much of the late 19th century, and in a few hours, you can get a wonderful glimpse of the life and history of those times.
We had decided it would be fun to see one OK Corral re-enactment, and (thanks to the reviews on Trip Advisor), we chose the one entitled simply OK Corral Museums, located the closest to the site of the actual 1881 gunfight. The re-enactment was indeed quite entertaining with some reasonably good actors involved, but even more interesting were some of the museum exhibits. I was most intrigued by the replica of a prostitute’s “crib” and the discussion of the lives of these women in days when prostitution was entirely legal.
Best of all, however, was the museum in the old Tombstone courthouse which is now considered a state park. There you can learn about life among the Apaches, the final surrender of Geronimo to end the Indian wars, life in the mining communities, and the justice system of the day, just to name a few topics.
The exhibits are nearly all wonderfully illustrated, mostly by the photographs of C.S. Fly, who with his wife Mollie, was considered one of the first photo-journalists in North American history and the only white person to gain photos of the Apaches during their last battles and final surrender. The black-and-white photos, suitably enlarged, really give a feel of life in those times, all the more remarkable when one considers the huge amounts of equipment required for photography in that era.
If you want to continue learning about the history of the area, instead of buying regular souvenirs, several stores sell accurate and fascinating books describing various aspects of life then.
We all voted it to have been a well worthwhile day, and would recommend it to other Circle Z visitors who would like both a pleasant and an educational Sunday.

Written by Barb Mclintock, long time Circle Z Ranch guest

By |January 22nd, 2016|Day Trips|0 Comments