The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain
With its tall, thick trunk and upward-curving branches, the saguaro cactus is an iconic symbol of the American West. Native only in the Sonoran Desert, a vast area that spans parts of Arizona, California, and Mexico, the saguaro needs the heat, lower elevations, and mild winters that this desert offers. It’s exactly the setting my husband, Mike, and I decide we need as well, to get away from the busyness of home, work, and kids.
A quick flight from Dallas gets us to Tucson, and from there we head 30 minutes west to The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain. Although it’s dark by now, the grounds are illuminated by fire pits, and we spy enough of the outline of the Tortolita Foothills to realize that we are enveloped in a canyon. Like many nights here in the desert, the weather is perfect — the large glass doors that separate the lobby from the grounds are wide open, making the resort feel as though it’s a part of the outdoors.
The next day, we head to the golf course for brunch at Cayton’s. We’re greeted with mimosas and led to a table overlooking the bougainvillea- and hibiscus-filled patio and, further beyond, the Jack Nicklaus Signature Design golf course, where the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is played each February. The golf course looks inviting, but even golf is more effort than we want this weekend. Instead, we try the Southwestern offerings at Cayton’s — a delicious crab-cake scramble with bacon, goat cheese, arugula, and ancho-lime remoulade, and huevos rancheros served atop masa cakes with homemade salsa verde — then make our way over to the spa.
While the resort has two fantastic main pools (one with a water slide that’s just as fun, we later discover, without kids), the smaller, secluded spa pool is sublime. Because we have spa treatments booked, its use is complimentary, and the glorious pool beds are ours for the taking. We get a nicely shaded bed next to an herb garden and spend the rest of the afternoon reading, swimming, getting a massage (Mike) and a facial (me), and taking in the fragrant aromas of rosemary, oregano, sage, and mint — promises of a great meal to come.
By evening, we’re craving a little adventure, so we rent bikes from the concierge and take off to explore the dirt paths that meander through the foothills, 20 miles of them to be precise. We stop for water and realize there is not a sound to be heard. We feel alone, isolated, until we round a corner and come nearly face to face with a longhorn. Coming from Texas, seeing a longhorn isn’t such a novelty — but encountering one that’s not separated from us by a fence is, I must admit, unnerving. A little jolt of adrenaline, though, eases the trek back up to the resort and makes me even hungrier.
That night, we walk outside through the resort’s citrus orchard, with its lime, lemon, grapefruit, orange, and pomelo trees, to get to Core Kitchen and Wine Bar. The cuisine is billed as American, and hints of the desert Southwest come through, from the refreshing “Sage Splash” cocktail of Grey Goose La Poire, grapes, sage leaves, and lime to the chile-lacquered New York strip with corn-nopales relish, avocado fries, and poblano sauce. But it’s the braised short ribs appetizer, with garden-herb gnocchi, tomato-corn broth, and arugula, that wins me over.
By the time we’ve taken the last spoonful of carrot-mango sorbet, we’re tired, the kind of tired you only seem to get when you’re on vacation not doing much of anything at all. And though we didn’t get too much accomplished, we decide the next day will be much the same.
Rooms start at $319. (520) 572-3000, (800) 241-3333, ritzcarlton.com
— Lori Stacy