It started with the Ken Burns documentary about the Roosevelts. As I became more fascinated with these iconic Americans, I learned about a Dude Ranch getaway that these President’s (among others as well as many famous celebrities) would go to unwind from stress and worry. A place of healing, hunting and horse back riding. A little area known as Sasabe and the Rancho De La Osa.
Where the hell is Sasabe? Drive south about an hour and a half from Tucson, straight towards Mexico. Just before you come to the border patrol crossing, you’ll find an unassuming dirt road with a faded sign pointing you in the direction of the ranch. It doesn’t take long before you see the oldest continually used building in Arizona, originally built around 1720 by Jesuit missionaries, the current Ranch homestead.
As I park my truck, large dogs laying in the sun get up to greet their newest visitor. The smell of the working ranch fills my nostrils as I take in the high desert surrounding. The Ranch hands greet me with a nod and a tip of their cowboy hat. I get a warm welcome by the owner, a tall woman in chaps, boots and a sun beaten and weathered face.
There is an afternoon horse trail ride happening that I sign up for. Although I’ve never been obsessed in any real sense with horses, I can’t deny that we have a special bond when together. I saddle up and get my stirrups tightened, then we ride into the adjacent Buenos Aires Federal Wildlife Refuge. Deer dart through the brush as we go. My kinship with my horse Dusty grows quickly into that undeniable bond between man and beast. The cowboys with us remind me of my tough bear Uncles and Grandpa, all of whom are no longer with us. Tears flow down my cheeks as this thought comes to me in an unapologetic wave of nostalgia.
Evening comes to my first night at the Ranch. I came on President’s Day weekend, thinking that it would be fitting since former President’s retreated here back in the day. I did forget though that this year the holiday also coincided with Valentine’s Day. This meant that many couples were here to celebrate that as well as enjoy time on the Ranch. I find out that we do communal dining, which didn’t really bother me except for the fact that I was solo amongst couples in love. The food served though was locally grown on the ranch, and the fact I was solo among these new strangers became a distant thought as I devoured the organic goodness.
After dinner, I hear a loud hooting call outside and one of the ranch hands shows me the tree that the sound is emanating from. The largest owl I’ve ever seen makes its home here on the Ranch. It soon flies off into the darkening night, ready to hunt.
The stars out here are exceeding brilliant, and the energy of the universe fills my soul with a warm comfort that I’ve so desperately needed.
It’s only been a day, but the allure of Rancho De La Osa has seeped into my pores. I sleep in the suite that many believed FDR stayed in at least twice during his time here. It’s the best night’s sleep I’ve had in months.