Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tanque Verde Ranch

Over the weekend my hubby and I went out to stay for two days and two nights at a local dude ranch to celebrate our anniversary. Or, well, the last five or six of them, which we hadn't had time to celebrate when they had actually occurred. It was well worth the wait!

The Tanque Verde Ranch is located in the foothills of the Catalina and Rincon mountains to the east of Tucson, about half an hour from our home. The brochure material calls it "high, wide and handsome," and it certainly is.

Because it is offseason (ie, hot) the ranch gives summer specials which enabled us to get a deluxe suite for a very reasonable price (that includes everything -- rooms plus all the meals and activities). We arrived Friday afternoon just in time to take the Sunset Desert Hike, something of a misnomer at this time of year since the sun doesn't set until about 7:30. The hike began at 5pm.

We and a man from Pittsburgh went along with our guides, an older couple (ha! they were probably our age!) employed by both the ranch and the park service at the nearby Saguaro National Park. It was a mild, mostly flat, looping hike about two miles long, and though hot at first, as the sun lowered in the sky and a breeze started up it became very nice.

The cicadas were out in force so the normally silent desert droned with their high buzzing calls and they seemed to zip out of the foliage and dart in front of us constantly.

As shadows began to lengthen, I got some really nice shots of the desert. The photo immediately above is looking north toward the ranch buildings and the Catalina mountains. (the one previous to that, is looking due west, into the setting sun, so the saguaro spines are backlit) The picture below was taken when returned to the ranch. It's in front of the main dining room and also the place where the hikes begin and end. The hanging basket hides the corrals which are off beyond the grass.

Once we got back, we cleaned up and went to dinner. Their southwestern-themed dining room has high ceilings with wood beams and saguaro rib linings, and looks out on the swimming pool with the great blue ridge of the mountains looming behind the desert beyond. As we ate, it slowly turned pink.

When you enter the dining room as a paying guest, they hand you a menu with five gourmet entrees to choose from. I got a veal saltimbocca covered in mozzarella with these little new potatoes fried in bread crumbs. It was excellent. My hubby got the prime rib. Everything was astonishingly good. Even the blueberry pie for dessert.

After dinner we sat on the porch to watch the sun set. Then it was off to bed in preparation for our busy Saturday: first the walking ride, then breakfast, then the lope lesson that, should we pass, would enable us to take the loping ride to a chuckwagon breakfast on Sunday...

More tomorrow...