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Photos and Story by Larry Turner (   June 1, 2012


In far southeastern Arizona—the ancestral land of Cochise, Geronimo and the Apaches—the landscape is rich with solitude, wildlife, birdlife and an abundance of travel adventuring.  Whereas Arizona is noted for world renowned destinations such as the Grand Canyon, Sedona and regions along the Colorado River, Cochise County is a sequestered gem with minimal tourist pressure except for the notorious western town of Tombstone.


This last month, Lynette Shirley and I spent ten days in this unique and beautiful Arizona county which borders New Mexico and Mexico…and we came away singing praises for this landscape of cordial people, bird watching extraordinaire—especially hummingbirds—unique topography, accommodations that will beckon a traveler back time and time again, new found wine country which I did not know existed in Arizona (and the wines were superb!), star gazing, and perfect weather! And we felt very safe, wherever we traveled in view of initial apprehensions brought on by our knowledge of ongoing border problems along certain corridors of the US-Mexican border (mainly the Texas border).  Not once in our back road travels did we come across anything of concern.


I’m doing a three-part story on this adventure as the experience cannot be condensed into one.  And I will do it sequentially starting with the east side of Cochise County.

  Arizona Amerind desplay   Arizona Amerind Museum  
  Arizona Amerind museum  

Brief History and the Amerind Museum


The county is named after Cochise, the legendary Chiricahua Apache leader who fought relentlessly and valiantly for his people’s ancestral lands, eventually leading to a peace agreement with the Americans. He retired on a reservation and eventually died with his remains secretly placed by friends in the Dragoon Mountains—a place known as Cochise’s Stronghold.  More famous is Bedonkohe Apache leader and medicine man Geronimo, born 24 years after Cochise. He resisted the Americans and Mexicans who murdered his wife, three children and mother, a number of years before his capture and placement on a reservation in Oklahoma. 


A great starting place to brush up on the history of the First People in this part of the Americas is the Amerind Museum and Art Gallery, just off Interstate 10 near Dragoon, Arizona.  Beautifully located in a land of immense and enchanting boulders, the Amerind Foundation (, as it says in one of their brochures, ‘is dedicated to the study, interpretation, and preservation of the art, culture, and history of the first people of the Americas.’ 


The Amerind collection of First American artifacts is extraordinary.  One quote by an Apache lady on the wall stood out: “We had moral standards that few had and they called us savages.” 


Our visit at the Amerind was like being in a holy sanctuary with the gentle Arizona breeze, chirping May birds, soft blue skies with clouds building on the horizon, absolute quietness. Interwoven with the quality of the exhibit, the art in an adjacent building included original Remingtons and other great western painters.  It is a wonderful place to reflect, respect, honor and breathe deeply of the present.  The picnic grounds on the property are located in a grove of giant boulders, like rock redwoods.

  Arizona Bocce Court   Arizona Dining Inside Sunglow Cafe  
  Arizona Breakfast on One of the Verandas  
  Arizona Entry to Sunglow   Arizona Lynette and Brook Near Our Casita  
  Arizona Night Pool Sunglow   Arizona Night Soak Sunglow  
                              Sunglow Accomodations  

  Arizona Sunglow Cafe Evening   Arizona Sunglow Cafe Grounds  

  Arizona Sunglow Cafe   Arizona Sunglow Casitas  

  Arizona Sunglow Morning Swim   Arizona Sunglow Pond and Veranda  

  Arizona Sunglow Pool and Hot Tub   Arizona Sunglow Ranch Entry  

  Arizona Sunglow Sunset  




Leaving Amerind we took the back roads to what I call Shangri La: Sunglow Ranch...a piece of heaven on this earth.  We entered the long fertile valley of Sulphur Springs, a land of orchards, row crop farming, ranches and vines.  We passed the entrance to Cochise’s Stronghold in Coronado National Forest but our schedule didn’t allow time for an excursion (next time!).


Departing Highway 191, we drove east on Highway 181 and drove on several miles of red dirt road to the base of the Chiricahua Mountains to a jewel of a retreat: Sunglow Ranch ( 


At Sunglow we were welcomed by the congenial general manager Brooks Bradbury.   He gave us a brief but thorough tour of the property and then brought to our room our first bottle of wine from this region: a 2009 Three Sisters Syrah from Wilcox’s Keeling Schaefer Vineyards.  It was divine! Rich, noble, elegant…every bit as good as the wonderful syrahs of Washington’s Columbia Plateau and Oregon’s Umpqua Domain…a great start to what would be a perfect sojourn.


Hospitality—and great respect for one’s space—reigns supreme at the Sunglow—a hand written welcoming note by Brook, fresh homemade cookies, lemonade and always coffee and tea, on the veranda of the Sunglow Café every afternoon.


For delicious breakfasts, try the mesquite pancakes and the huevos rancheros.


Unforgettable evening dining included wild salmon chimichurri with parsnip poblano cakes prepared by Hyde Park Culinary Institute of America executive chef Sarah M. Stanley.


Sunglow Ranch has 475 acres bordered by the Chiricahua Mountains and Coronado National Forest.  It is a fecund zone of native Arizona oaks, pines, juniper, mesquite, cactus, grass woodland and other Upper Sonoran plant life with a stunning backdrop of the alluring Chiricahuas. Sunglow is located on the fabled mountains lower flanks.  The view is of wilderness with no other homes or structures in sight.


During our first morning at Sunglow, we awoke to gilded, golden light gently spraying—filtered and dappled by the large oak tree—into our room.  In our robes, we enjoyed coffee on our patio.  During our second day, rains and lightening came to the dry landscape—a welcome rain—suffusing the landscape and skyscape with drama better than any movie at any drive-in that you’ve ever seen.  We delighted in the storm within the safety of our room, our veranda and other verandas on the property.  Between storm passages, we soaked in the hot tub and swam in the 45-foot solar heated pool.  Except for one other pair of guests—Chicago residents Stu and Rose Salisbury—we had the Sunglow to ourselves.  As Rose said, “This is the kind of place which draws us: private, isolated, beautiful, not crowded and there are plenty of zones of exploration.”  We became instant friends with them and the entire Sunglow staff as though we had known each other forever.  I’ll always remember Stu’s quote ‘Go fast and take chances’…mindful of the way that I like to snow ski.  But at Sunglow, it is just the opposite.



  Arizona Black Grosbeak and Finch   Arizona Canoeing the Pond  

  Arizona Hiking in the Chiracahuas  

  Arizona Lynette Hiking   Arizona Sunglow Hiking Sign  

  Arizona Sunglow Deer  

  Arizona Magnificent Hummingbird  



A series of hiking and horse riding trails lead out from Sunglow where one can trek until one's heart and butt are content.  Lynette and I explored several, having them all to ourselves. We started from the Sunglow elevation of 5340 feet and ventured into the Sunset Hills. Trail riding is another available option.  We elected to stay and enjoy the property—why leave paradise?


If a guest is booked in for a week, day drives from the property to Chiricahua National Monument (20 miles away), the Wilcox wine country and small towns with inviting names such as Paradise, Apache and Portal…and of course, Cochise’s Stronghold, are good options as well.


Bird watching on the Sunglow property is second to none.  Breakfast was one of our favorite times to enjoy the birds.  From the large, flat rock veranda with cushioned chairs and couches close to the Sunglow Café near the bocce court, we lingered with our sumptuous breakfasts while viewing and photographing hummingbirds, lazuli bunting, finches, thrashers, woodpeckers, cowbirds, mourning doves,  flycatchers, Mexican jay, sparrows, black grosbeaks, doves and phoebes.  On the Café porch, the Sunglow keeps bird guides and binoculars for guests.  Birds abound throughout the day in and around the property.  Near the patio of our room was a large granddaddy oak tree, always filled with bird activity.


Other wild critters roam this land, too.  While star gazing at night from the hot tub or pool, we heard howling coyotes.  We knew, too, that beyond our night eyes, there are mountain lion, coatimundi, javelina, white-tailed deer—and if one was very, very lucky, a rare ocelot (last seen in December of 2011) or jaguar; this part of Arizona’s southeast was where the last was seen—in the Chiricahuas.


There is a large pond on the property with a canoe and sitting areas, perfect for afternoons to sit under a shade tree for reading, writing, thinking or not thinking at all.   Four domestic geese roam the property and were always a delight to see.




With great reluctance, we departed Sunglow under a gentle breeze caressing the mighty oaks.  It was like leaving an old friend.  Sunglow is an ultimate place as a retreat for peace, quiet, solace, adventure.  Prices for staying in the casitas (each is differently decorated) includes breakfast and dinner (tax, gratuity and alcoholic beverages are not included).  Be aware though: once you go, you’ll want to put it on your travel agenda the remainder of your life!  And by the way, while there, not once did we lock our room!



  Arizona Charmayne   Arizona Room Portal  

  Arizona Dos Cabezas Nigh Sky   Arizona Dos Cabezas Property View  

  Arizona Dos Cabezas Room Guest Book   Arizona Famous Dos Cabezas Guest  

  Arizona Jon Samuelson Seranading Us   Arizona Morning Coffee at Dos Cabezas  

  Arizona Our Dos Cabezas House   Arizona Our Talavera Tile Sink Dos Cabezas  

  Arizona Road to Dos Cabezas  



Leaving Sunglow in the mid-afternoon, we took quiet roads (Highway 181 and 186) to the hamlet of Dos Cabezas, tucked away on a gentle pass between two mountains, one with a dual peak named Dos Cabezas (meaning two heads, in Spanish).  As co-owner of Dos Cabezas Spirit and Nature Retreat Bed and Breakfast (, where we spent the night, Charmayne Samuelson says, “Two heads are always better than one.”

The high spirited and witty Charmayne showed us our charming and comfortable adobe room (appointed with antiques and furnishings with a Southwest flare) and immediately we just wanted to unpack, hang out, relax and explore the Samuelson’s (her husband Jon is her other half) great naturalist and historical library.  A small museum/gift shop is attached to the room and Charmayne let us peruse it.  Time was an element as we had an appointment in Wilcox for a wine tasting so we put a few things up and drove to Wilcox, fourteen miles away.

Dos Cabezas is like walking into, and staying in a history book.  The rustic, adobe house where we stayed was the original ranch house on the property, built in the 1860s.  Sequestered between two national monuments, Dos Cabezas is a perfect location for adventure explorations, including some of the best birding in America, with 20,000 wintering sandhill cranes nearby. 

During next year's Wings Over Willcox Birding and Nature Festival, Charmayne and Jon will host keynote speaker Kenn Kaufmann ( Once a major mining town, Dos Cabezas is a skeleton of what it once was, but the quiet life of its current 29 residents fit their fancy perfectly.

Upon our return from Willcox, we sat out in front of the house under a canopy of stars and planets.  The following morning, in our pjs, we had coffee in the same spot, followed by a superb breakfast made and served by Charmayne and Jon.  After breakfast, Jon treated us to several tunes from his voice and guitar, including The Long Black Veil.  We were reluctant to leave their comfortable porch and his rich, character voice…but Chirichachua National Monument was beckoning.

Before departure though, we met Carol Wien-Brunner, a fourth generation rancher from here, who did the photos and captions for the book “The Story of Dos Cabezas” by Phyllis de la Garza.  We found out that among Dos Cabezas’s famous citizens was Katie ‘Big Nose Kate’ Cummings…known as Kati Elder in the 1965 John Wayne western The Sons of Katie Elder.

  Arizona Cochise County Wines   Arizona Katherine Pouring a Taste  

  Arizona Cochise Wines   Arizona Keeling-Schaefer Tasting Room  

  Arizona Rex Allen Museum   Arizona Rex Allen Theatre Willcox  

  Arizona Rodney with our Dinner  



It was late in the afternoon when we pulled into Willcox.  Our first stop was at the Keeling Schaefer Vineyards Tasting Room (  Engaging and affable manager Kathleen Benyak poured us several stunning wines—one of my biggest surprises coming from this Arizona trip: the quality of wines being produced here. The syrahs were my favorite but nothing to sneeze at or pour out was the 2008 Schaefer Boys Mourvedre (‘super ripe, loads of dark fruit, earthy flavors and notes of sage’ as stated by their personal wine notes), 2008 Partners Rhone-Style Blend and the 2009 Keeling Brothers Shiraz.  An avid hiker, herself, Kathleen also turned us on to some hiking trails in the Sky Islands, a term used for the mountains of southeast Arizona.

The high ceiling with tin tiles, beautifully designed, airy tasting room is also home to the Trust Art Gallery (  

Sipping wine and viewing art just goes hand in hand.  Wineries, tasting rooms and vineyards which we did not get to visit in Willcox, but plan to on another trip, are:

Cheers to what is happening in this region with wines!

We finished our evening in Willcox with a visit to the Rex Allen Museum.


Rex Allen, a famous western singer/actor, is a native son to Willcox. We enjoyed a dinner of gumbo with a Philly sandwich at Rodney’s, both businesses next door to the tasting room.  Rodney’s (Rodney Brown) was beautiful funk, a fascinating hole-in-the-wall diner in downtown Willcox well worth a visit.  It is also worth a visit with Rodney himself…a fascinating foodie with a lively sense of humor and philosophy.  In reference to food, one of his quotes is: “If it moves, it’s mine!”



  Arizona Chiracahua Lizard   Arizona Chiracahua Nat. M. Road  

  Arizona Chiracahua National Monument   Arizona Massai Point Trail  

  Massai Portal   Arizona Wonderland of Rocks  

  Arizona Wonderland of Rock Portal  




Over my lifetime, many times I have driven Interstate 10 between Oregon, Texas and Mexico, and I always wonder about the sign to Chiricahua National Monument.  Upon our departure from Dos Cabezas, we headed to the monument, driving in the the northwest entrance along Highway 181.  Last summer a man-caused fire had burned part of the park, lasting a month before it was extinguished.  But do not let that detour you from exploring this fascinating zone, especially the Wonderland of Rocks, accessed at 6870 foot Massai Point.  Driving up the canyon beyond the visitor’s center affords spectacular scenery and once on top, the view will sweep the adventurous traveler away.  A labyrinth of trails exists here. You can take a robust day hike, overnight hike or just a stroll from the parking lot.  We picnicked and took a short hike.  Morning and late light are best, but mid-day light is nice, too, as there always seems to be a refreshing breeze at these higher elevations—especially in summer when heat dominates the lower valleys of Cochise County.


Southeast Arizona gets hot in the summer, but there is always shade…and there are always the sweet hours of the morning and evenings for explorations and enjoyments. 


If traveling, prepare wisely with extra water and other supplies.  If staying at places like Sunglow Ranch or Dos Cabezas Spirit and Nature Retreat, enjoy the shady zones of verandas, your room, the swimming pool or a good ole shade tree with a book that you’ve always wanted to read or a book about the area which will wet your appetite toward more explorations in this beautiful, remote corner of the southwest.



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