Communing with Nature! Really!!!

June 22, 2014

Ms. J—who tells me she might like to be Ophelia, or some other name, for Mark Rubin Writes—works for The Nature Conservancy. Great organization, and she loves her work!

Recently, she told me she needed to make visits to some of the TNC preserves in Arizona. “Would I come along,” she asked. “Sure,” I said slowly, for I’m a fine husband and a man who loves nature … seen through a window.

First stop? The Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Sanctuary.


So off we go on a Sunday morning. Along the way we passed the 4th and Pennsylvania intersection in suburban Patagonia, which brought to mind the intersection of Pennsylvania Ave. and 4th St. in Washington, D.C., where I had been during the prior week. Different, just a little.

4th and Pennsylvania, in Patagonia

4th and Pennsylvania, in Patagonia

National Gallery of Art, near 4th and Pennsylvania, in Washington, D.C.

The preserve was fine. Here’s a photo:


If I sound dismissive about the first trip, I must confess that I was awaiting the next visit, to the Hart Prairie Preserve, north of Flagstaff. Why? Well, Flagstaff has developed a very fine reputation for its food and beverage establishments. A few hours each way in the car, a touch of the nature thingy, and cocktails and great food! How could I do better?

I need to clear up one issue, up front. I’m not a very good food blogger. I can’t remember to take the pictures before I start drinking and eating, or at all. So no food pics. We did have an excellent dinner on Friday at Brix. Brix is part of SLO Restaurant Concepts, which also owns downtown Tucson’s Proper. More on Friday evening in a moment. (Working on the picture thing.)

So we arrived Friday afternoon in Flagstaff, had a quick lunch at Macy’s European Coffee House & Bakery (eat the salads; skip the pizza), and drove off in search of the preserve. The place is not on the map, or on the car GPS system. (That brought to mind for me The Diamond as Big as the Ritz by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which takes place on land no one seems to know about.) Anyway, with a short detour to the Arizona Snowbowl—it has a Hart Prairie Lodge near the top, and is on the map—we arrived.

Here are some photos:


Looking south, toward the San Francisco Peaks and Snowbowl

Looking south, toward the San Francisco Peaks and Snowbowl



Ms. J aka Ophelia

Ms. J aka Ophelia

Selfie, Chillin'

Selfie, Chillin’

Not sure I’m planning to leave. Beautiful country, and TNC does some amazing things from this 245 acre site. In addition to maintaining historic buildings and a rare Bebb Willow stand, TNC works with the Forest Service and others on major forest management initiatives that will save forests, reduce fire danger, and lessen the forest’s water needs. Cool stuff!

So about the nature thing. Well, the plans involved a meal in town on Friday evening, lunch and dinner in town on Saturday, and breakfast on the way out of town on Sunday. Before we left for dinner on Friday, though, we met some neighbors and put together an impromptu cocktail party plan for Saturday evening. A drink or so, Ms. J as designated driver, and we’d have a late dinner in town. Works for me!

We left for Brix, found parking, had a lovely dinner, and drove back on U.S. 180. (If we’d stayed on it we would have gotten to the Grand Canyon.) We turned on to 151—not a U.S. or State Route; it’s a Forest Road—and bumped along in the dark. After a while we thought we’d been driving too long. We saw stuff we were sure we had not seen before. After about five miles Ms. J turned us around and got us back to U.S. 180. With a bit of driving we knew we’d been on the right road, so we tried again. Alas, everything looks like “not much” when it’s very dark. We drove not very far, turned around, drove into town, and were fortunate to find a vacancy at Little America. (The picture honors my Emperor Penguins trivia team, in a tie for first place with two weeks to go. Six consecutive championships. Will there be a seventh?)

Little America signage

Little America signage

As I finish this post on Saturday afternoon, I’m delighted by the fact that Ms. J works for TNC, and that we have a chance to visit such beautiful places. The people here are also delightful. Welcoming, interesting, and fun! The cocktail thing has morphed into a light dinner, for we’re not chancing not finding the place again. (Turns out we must have driven right past the turn off to the gate, and when we first arrived I was driving and in the middle of a long conversation with out-of-state attorneys, not paying attention to markers.) And Ms. J can’t get me away from sitting outside, communing and reading An Idea Whose Time Has Come:  Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by Todd Purdum. Life is good!

P.S. But for a “cool” or two, one “chillin’,” and the purple cotton sweatshirt, not a single reference to the weather.

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