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Traveling Solo to the Circle Z Ranch

The welcoming social atmosphere of the Circle Z Ranch lends itself to those who find that traveling solo is a reality. The inclusiveness of our horseback riding program, plus the family atmosphere at dinner and social hour, breeds a camaraderie that is rare at other resort type vacation spots. Our small size makes it easy to meet new friends, and whether you want to mingle out on the trails or find a peaceful place to read, your time at the ranch will be exactly what you are seeking.

Our solo traveler friends Lindsey and Michelle explain how they felt traveling solo to the Circle Z Ranch.

“To all at Circle Z Ranch, Just wanted to thank you for the most amazing holiday. I had wanted to go on a Ranch holiday for over 20 years but coming from the UK on my own always seemed so daunting when I have never traveled anywhere by plane alone before. Transport from the airport to the Ranch was arranged by the ranch at a reasonable price so I didn’t have to worry about hiring a car and driving on the “wrong side of the road” lol. Unfortunately during my stay I was unwell and the owner and staff of the Ranch went above and beyond what I could ever have expected. They took care of me and made me feel a part of their amazing family. The horses and area you ride are just stunning – even though I was the only “new hand” guest there this week and the only guest from the UK I was welcomed by all the “old hands” and the staff and instantly felt part of the group and have already booked to come back next year with all my new found friends. I would thoroughly recommend Circle Z Ranch to anyone traveling alone because you will not be feeling alone for very long – Awesome place, staff and horses. Thanks again” Lindsey Cox.

“I had been wanting to take a horseback riding vacation for some time but none of my family or friends are riders so I hesitated going it alone. Circle Z turned out to be the perfect solution. Going solo as a woman could have been somewhat uncomfortable but I was made to feel part of the group.” Michelle

By |April 20th, 2018|Community|0 Comments

My visit to the Circle Z Ranch

CIRCLE Z GUEST RANCH

By Jen Zeller

If you’ve ever dreamed of riding in a place that looks like it could be from a Western Film, then you’ve got to get to Patagonia, Arizona, to Circle Z Guest Ranch.

The ranch was started in 1926 and is the original guest ranch in Arizona!  It’s everything you think a ranch in the Southwest should be.

There’s turquoise everywhere. Turquoise is good for your soul. Seriously.

Their dining hall is so cute. And don’t get me started on the food. The foooooooooooood

They serve continental breakfasts, as well as a hot breakfast. Everyday. Everyday, people!  And if you have dietary restrictions, no worries, the staff will accommodate you!  You will likely over-eat. At each meal. I don’t know what to tell you except that you’re on vacation. Go for it. That’s what they told me!

The ranch is an incredible home away from home. It’s the perfect way for you to get away from it all. Put your cell phone away during meals, and visit. You won’t find Wi-Fi anywhere but in the Cantina, where the daily happy hour is held. Happy Hour is BYOB — so grab a bottle of your favorite wine or preferred spirit and they’ll have whatever you need to mix with it. Plus, they provide fun little appetizers each night — on Mexican Food day you’ll find fresh guacamole and homemade tortilla chips (and let’s not forget Huevos Rancheros in the morning!)

If you’re looking for a television, don’t bother! You won’t find one.

But who needs a to when there’s a corral full of horses?  Everyone here is treated like family! The riding environment is so friendly and the horses are incredibly well trained. They’re great at their jobs, happy with their lives and it shows. Once you’ve been a guest and found your dream horse, you’ll get to hang with them on subsequent trips to the ranch. How cool is that?

The staff are awesome!  They’re all very helpful and super fun!

And it’s okay to forget that the staff exist when you meet Tony, the ranch donkey. He’s super lovable.  He’s the best distraction!

Every day your ride will find you in a different terrain. You won’t ride in anything that looks remotely similar from day to day! I’m not gonna lie though, one of those trails scared the poop out of me!  However my gorgeous horse, Taffy, took great care of me whilst I bit my fingernails, and avoided looking down! I’m not even scared of heights, I’m just slightly claustrophobic and the narrow trail didn’t help me. At all! The view from the top was certainly worth it, however!

Is Taffy not about the most stunning girl ever? Holy wow she’s gorgeous… I wanted to pack her up and bring her home with me. They quickly said “No!!”

Way to rain on a girl’s parade, people! In their defense, she’s super awesome, and if she were mine I’d not part with her either, so I get it!

When you’re ready, if you feel up to it, you can lope on your ride! If you don’t feel up to it, that’s okay too! they’ll send you on a walking only ride!

The scenery will blow you away. Seriously.

Their new covered arena is pretty killer! You can schedule yourself a riding lesson before your day of riding. Not gonna lie — the barrel racer in me thought to myself — I could smoke a run in here!

And speaking of barrel racing — they have a gaming day! You can work cattle, learn the poles and run barrels. For some reason I was chosen to give a barrel racing demonstration. I don’t know how I got volunteered for that gig! Hehe!

A highlight at the end of each day is watching the horses get turned out.

Each day is something new and exciting. The food is great, the staff is great, and often, you’ll find Diana Nash, the owner, as your host.  She’s is so enthusiastic about life, the ranch and the guests you’d have to be a serious cranky pants to not feel welcome and comfortable with her.

A highlight of the week is the Friday ride in the San Rafael Valley.  This valley is where they filmed the movie Oklahoma. Several other movies have been filmed here as well.

On Saturday they ride into town, to the local bar, have drinks, lunch and otherwise get rowdy in the way they once did in the old west!!!! I missed that ride, because “home” called and said I had to get back, but if I ever get to go to Circle Z again, I think the bar ride sounds like a must-do event.

If you’re interested in keeping up with the goings on at the ranch make sure you follow them on Facebookand Instagram, and for more photos from my trip, check out the hashtag: CirlceZRanch.

Until next time, Happy Trails!

Jenn

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This post was brought to you, courtesy of Circle Z Guest Ranch. I cannot find the right words to explain how fun this vacation was.  I combined my love of the outdoors, photography and riding into one phenomenal trip and I’m so grateful to Diana, and the ranch, for giving me the opportunity to capture the spirit of Circle Z. I hope I did it justice and I hope you’ll choose to come here when you’re in search of an epic riding vacation.

By |March 20th, 2018|Community, Horse Talk|0 Comments

Muffie’s Cheesecake Recipe

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We are diligently working on assembling a Circle Z Ranch cookbook and boy are we finding some yummy recipes! Here is a sneak peak at one recipe from a long time guest who is quite the cook. This one is surprisingly simply and utterly delicious; it is a guest favorite. Hope you enjoy this Cheesecake recipe from Muffie’s kitchen.

 

 

Muffie’s Cheesecake

Make 1, 9 inch cheesecake

¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1 ½ pound cream cheese, softened
¾ cups sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 ½ tsp vanilla
2 cups sour cream
3 Cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Crust: Mix graham cracker crumb, butter, spices and sugar until combined. Press into bottom and partially up sides of 9 inch spring-form pan. Bake for 8minutes.

Filling: Blend cream cheese and sugar. Scrape down bowl and heat until there are absolutely no lumps. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add vanilla and pour over crust. Bake for 20 minutes or until set. Remove from oven.

Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Mix sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Carefully spread over cheesecake. Return to oven and bake for 5 minutes.

Allow cheesecake to cool completely and then chill.

 

By |October 2nd, 2017|Community|0 Comments

An authentic dude ranch experience

An authentic dude ranch is not a resort, nor is it a place for a typical “vacation”. An authentic dude ranch offers true life experiences, where guests not just take a break from reality, but leap into a reality of a different nature. So what makes a dude ranch authentic? Living the history of the ranching lifestyle is the key to the real experience a dude ranch offers.

In the early days of dude ranching, city folks were drawn to the idea of living on the frontier, but without the danger of trying to fend for themselves in the hostile environments. Ranchers would often team up with hunting guides who were looking for safe, cozy places for their charges to stay, and to experience what life on the frontier was like. Also, the unspoiled landscapes, and deep mystery of the wilderness, drew the wealthy to seek out places of leisure where they could experience the wilderness without the work. Taking on dudes was a great way for ranchers to help supplement their operations, while providing once in a life-time experiences for the city folks.

Ranches opened their homes and hearths, providing meals and beds, but most importantly, the opportunity to live vicariously the life of the cowboy. Branding cattle, riding horses, exploring untamed wilderness, all in the safety and careful hospitality of these frontier cowboys. These dudes, as they were called, would return year after year, and they felt a part of the family, of something bigger than themselves, experiencing a change of pace from the cities.

Ranchers still open their homes and hearths to guests who come from all walks of life, seeking the intangibles of a reality that is quite different from a resort. We as owners and managers share our meals, we educate our guests about the horses and the wilderness we call our homes, sharing stories around the fireplace as our fore-fathers did. And we cherish every morsel, each spoken word, and the intangibles that our lives bring to our guests. It is not just about providing the best vacation of a lifetime, but the opportunity to experience life on a ranch.

By |June 30th, 2017|Community|0 Comments

Rodeo fun at the Circle Z Ranch

Circle Z Ranch recently celebrated it’s 90th year as Arizona’s oldest continually operating guest ranch, and what a week it was! From a rodeo to a 1920’s party, with the week culminating with a grand afternoon party complete with food, bands and 300 guests; the week was magical.

The highlight of the week for our guests was definitely the rodeo, hosted along with a lunch ride cook out barbeque at our new Z Bar property. In the distant past, the Circle Z Ranch hosted a 4th of July picnic and rodeo, where thousands would be invited from the surrounding communities and ranches. So we thought it would be a fitting throw back event to host another rodeo, just minus the thousands of guests! Here are some photos from the afternoon.

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It takes teamwork to run a Team Roping event. Here, Rick Nash sits atop the chute, waiting for the cowboys to say go. Johnny and George are in the back ground making sure the steers are in their slot.

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Miko Lorta and his roping partner Bo Simpson breaking out of their barrier.

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When they caught up with the steer, the crowd went wild!    Well, maybe not wild, but you get the point.2016-04-26 13.49.33-1

 

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And then there was our own waitress, Kayla, who is a barrel racing champion, and boy did she ever deliver!

2016-04-26 14.22.07Kayla and her horse Fancy impressed everyone, including the Team Roping Cowboys, with her obvious skill. So fun to watch!

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Wrangler Kelly also showed off her amazing horsewoman skills.

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Others participating in this exciting afternoon were our wranglers Davien and Tavo.

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At the end of the day, our young guest Daven from New York told his mom that he wanted to be a cowboy, too, and learn how to rope. So he got his dream, roping the practice steer at Los Corales with Miko’s guidance. Perhaps one day he will be featured in a Circle Z Rodeo!

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Perfect ending to a magical day! Thanks to all who helped organize this rodeo, especially Miko and Tavo for building the arena, for George and Johnny who helped load up the equipment, and to Jennie and Diana, who had the idea for this fantastic day! And of course, our fabulous guests who were game for a new experience. With friends like these, anything is possible. Thanks to Vicki Nielson, Bradley Green, Vannesa Haughtlin, and Diana Nash for contributing the photos.

By |May 14th, 2016|Community|0 Comments

Visiting the Sonoita Wineries

Flying Leaf Vineyard

Photo courtesy of Flying Leaf Vineyard

 

Visitors to the Circle Z know what a delight it is to ascend from the arid desert surrounding Tuscon and into the refreshing mountains around Patagonia. In addition to the magnificent scenery and prime land for grazing livestock, this terrain is also proving ideal for vineyards.

Credit for this discovery goes to Gordon Dutt, a PhD with expertise in soil science from the University of Arizona. Dr. Dutt discovered that the red clay soil of the area (think Red Mountain) was very similar to that of Burgundy, France. In 1973 he purchased land near the tiny town of Elgin, just southeast of Sonoita and planted the region’s first vineyard.

Award Winning Sonoita Vineyard Wines

The success of Sonoita Vineyards started a trend, and soon other would-be winemakers began arriving in the area. Today the grasslands nestled between the Huachuca, Santa Rita and Whetstone mountains are a designated AVA (American Viticultural Area), a federally recognized wine-growing region.

Over forty years later, the Sonoita AVA is thriving. Today there are thirteen wineries in the region, many producing award-winning wines. Several have even been served at the White House. Varieties differ somewhat from one winery to the next, however most focus on grapes that like hot, dry days and cool nights, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc.

 

 

Wilhelm Wineyards, Cab Sauv

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes bask in the Arizona sun at Wilhelm Vineyards, photo by Wilhelm Vineyards

 

Visitors are welcome. The Arizona Wine Growers Association has created a Sonoita Wine Growers Trail, with a map highlighting the wineries’ locations in and around Sonoita and Elgin. A tour of the wineries makes a nice half day trip from the Ranch; most are open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. In addition to wine tastings, many wineries also offer light meals and snacks. Be sure to appoint a designated driver, or ask the ranch for help in arranging transportation—there are several local companies that specialize in wine country tours.

Upon returning from a day of Sonoita wine tasting, take a look at Red Mountain and see if there’s any resemblance to Burgundy, France.

Click for a printable map of the Sonoita Wine Trail, with wineries and opening hours.

Sonoita Winery Picnic

Enjoy a picnic at Sonoita Winery, photo by Sonoita Winery

 

By |August 15th, 2015|Community, Day Trips|0 Comments

Guest Profile: A family reunion and anniversary celebration

Dick and Bert Wolf-Circle Z 2014

A couple that’s been married for a long time must have a few things in common. But interestingly for Dick and Bert Wolf, horses weren’t always one of them. Bert grew up in the horse country near Louisville, Kentucky, but her husband was more of a city guy. According to Bert, “Dick’s only riding experience was on a pony at the Cincinnati Zoo for a nickel when he was a kid.”

But that was 24 years ago. In 1991 Dick, good husband that he is, thought it might be fun to take a ranch vacation, and selected the Circle Z. (He clearly knows a thing or two about a happy marriage!) That started a tradition: the Wolfs have come back to the Circle Z annually for the past 24 years.

Dick and Bert Wolf-60th Anniversary Circle Z

Bert and Dick Wolf: 60 (yes 60!) years of wedded bliss

So when it came time to celebrate their 60th (that’s not a typo, sixtieth!) wedding anniversary, Dick and Bert knew just where they wanted to spend it. But they also wanted to share this special event with family. Everyone in the Wolf family knew what the Circle Z meant to Dick and Bert, so they worked to join them for their special celebration.

After much calendar coordination, the Wolfs determined the best time to get the most family members to Patagonia was from December 19-26, 2014. In total, 20 family members of all ages made their way to the ranch to help Dick and Bert celebrate. “The ranch lends itself very well to this kind of an event,” says Bert. “We had riders of varying ability, and family members of all ages. There was always something for everyone to do.”

Dick and Bert 60th Anniversary, family trail ride

Dick & Bert Wolf 60th Anniversary, family by the fire

 

“Whether riding the trails or just hanging out by the fire, there was always something for the family to do together”

Dick and Bert were happy just having family around them at one of their favorite places, but the family had a few other plans. Working with Jennie, they arranged to have a surprise anniversary party for the Happy Couple. Saturday night the Game Room was transformed with music, decorations and a special cake. “We were surprised and thrilled,” said Bert. “Everyone had a great time–even two other family groups staying at the ranch that week got involved. The atmosphere was such that they were automatically brought into the fold.”

 Cathy shares family stories at Dick and Bert’s surprise anniversary party

Circle Z has always been about family; whether its aunts, uncles and cousins, the Nash family, the Lorta family, our family of horses . . . or simply the “family” of good friends getting together. We’re delighted that Dick and Bert chose to spend their special event (60 years! We’re still shaking our heads in amazement!) with the Circle Z family. And once you’ve visited the Circle Z, you’re part of our family too.

Dick and Bert, 60th Anniversary cake, Circle Z

By |July 3rd, 2015|Community|0 Comments

Day Trip: Kartchner Caverns

Kartchner Caverns by MRP, flickr

The eerily beautiful “Big Room” at Kartchner Caverns; photo by MRP, flickr

 

The southern Arizona scenery is beautiful, but there are some treasures that lie below ground as well. Visitors to the Circle Z might like to take an excursion to explore Kartchner Caverns, a truly stunning underground wonder.

Located at the eastern base of the Whetstone Mountains near the town of Benson, the caverns were discovered in 1974. Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts were exploring the limestone hills searching for a cave rumored to be in the area. What they found was a “live cave,” where stalagmites and stalactites are still evolving. Despite the fact that the cave was on private property, Tenen and Tufts continued to explore the cave in secret for four more years. In 1978 they shared their discovery with property owners James and Lois Kartchner with the intent of both preserving the unique caverns and making them available for others to see.

The existence of Kartchner Caverns was made public in 1988, when the caverns and surrounding land was purchased by the Arizona State Parks system. Extensive analysis of just how to admit visitors while still preserving the unique geological and eco systems, coupled with political red tape, delayed the opening of the park until 1999.

The entrance to Kartchner Caverns is tucked into the base of the Whetstone Mountains, photo by Lance & Erin, flickr

 

But the caverns were worth the wait! They are divided into several “rooms,” which can be toured separately or together. Highlights include:

  • One of the world’s longest soda straw stalactites: 21 feet 3 inches (Throne Room)
  • The tallest and most massive column in Arizona, Kubla Khan: 58 feet tall (Throne Room)
  • The world’s most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk (Big Room)
  • The first reported occurrence of “turnip” shields (Big Room)
  • The first cave occurrence of “birdsnest” needle quartz formations
  • Many other unusual formations such as shields, totems, helictites, and rimstone dams.

Even if spelunking is not your thing, Kartchner Caverns are magnificent and worth a detour. Tours are about 90 minutes each. There is a Discovery Center/museum, as well as picnic grounds on site. The caverns are about 50 miles northeast of Circle Z Ranch, which make them an excellent day trip destination. Bring a picnic lunch from the ranch, and enjoy a day exploring some of southern Arizona’s underground beauty!

NOTE: In order to preserve the caverns guest admission is limited and reservations are recommended. For more information go to Kartchner Caverns State Park.

For a video preview of the caverns, see below:

By |July 2nd, 2015|Community, Day Trips|0 Comments

Patagonia Lake: A Park and Preserve

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Guests riding the higher trails on the western side of the ranch often glimpse the shimmering blue waters of Patagonia Lake in the distance. Despite blending beautifully into the scenery today, the lake didn’t even exist when Lucia Nash first came to the Circle Z as a child.

Patagonia Lake near Circle Z ranch

Patagonia Lake was formed by damming up a portion of Sonoita Creek

In the late 1960s a group of local citizens formed the Lake Patagonia Recreation Association, Inc. (LPRA) with the intent of creating a lake and recreation area. In 1968 a dam was built on the Sonoita creek west of the Circle Z, creating 256-acre Patagonia Lake.

Over the next several years the state authorities worked to acquire land surrounding the lake, which at the time was owned by oil company Conoco. Eventually the State of Arizona also secured title to Patagonia Lake itself and in 1975 Patagonia Lake State Park was established. So when Lucia acquired the Circle Z in 1976 she knew the land immediately to the west of the ranch would always be protected!

Today the park consists of over 2,600 acres in addition to the lake and abuts the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area along with the Circle Z, all ensuring a stable environment for the unique ecosystem found along the Sonoita Creek and around the ranch. Tracks from the New Mexico/Arizona railroad like beneath the lake, the same railroad that forms some of the well-worn tracks at the Circle Z.

Fishing is popular at Patagonia Lake in southern Arizona

Channel your inner angler at Patagonia Lake

The lake is a habitat for bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish, and is stocked with rainbow trout during the winter months making it a popular spot for fishermen. Kayaks and canoes are available for rental. If your next visit to the Circle Z has you “angling” to do some fishing or paddling, Patagonia Lake would be a good choice. For the rest of us, the lake provides a beautiful reflection of that magnificent Arizona sky.

Patagonia Lake is a perfect spot for canoes and kayaks

Quiet waterways among the marsh grasses provide wonderful spots for kayaking.

By |June 5th, 2015|Community, Day Trips, History, Nature|0 Comments

The Tack Room: a Photoessay

Circle Z Tack Room 9

There is something special about a well-maintained tack room. The saddles, blankets and bridles look so natural tucked away and in their places. The glow of the leather in the late afternoon sun speaks of trails well-ridden, horses happily nibbling on hay after a day out, all ready and waiting to go again tomorrow.

Circle Z Tack Room -Saddles

Circle Z Tack Room 6

 

Circle Z Tack Room 2

Circle Z Tack Room 8

 

Silhouette of George at Corrales

 

By |April 25th, 2015|Community|Comments Off on The Tack Room: a Photoessay