Discover the freedom to explore, relax, and connect with nature
As we made our way up the winding driveway to Westward Look in the Catalina Foothills north of Tucson, blurred desert scenery passed without a glance as I attempted to get some last-minute work done.
Respond to those well-timed Friday evening emails: check.
Clear inboxes on Instagram and Facebook: check.
Confirm that all completed work submitted: check. Wait, what about...phew. Definitely, check.
With one last turn, the resort came into view and, for a brief moment, the work day was pushed from my mind. Lightly colored stucco buildings contrasted perfectly with dark wood mantels, while towering trees, potted plants and native cacti created a picturesque welcoming. As I internally debated which vignette would make the best Instagram photo, I reminded myself of my goal for this weekend: step away from the hustle, my work and just breathe.
The first few weeks of the year flashed by in a haze of goal-setting and planning, and then trying to execute all of the above as quickly as humanly possible. But, I had finally made it here, to the last weekend of the month and a much-anticipated escape to Westward Look, a Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa. As my boyfriend and I walked through the tall double doors to the lobby, I felt a mix of enthusiastic anticipation for the adventure ahead—and worry about leaving my work to sit for two full days.
A sunset ride with the wildlife
After an easy check-in, my boyfriend and I went to our room to get ready for our first adventure. We were greeted by a stunning suite in a casita, complete with a flowing patio fountain and wide city views. Although the plush, king-size bed and piles of pillows beckoned, we dropped our bags and headed to the stables for a sunset horseback ride right on the property.
Within a few minutes, our trail guide and wrangler, Emily, had our horses saddled and we were off. Caruso and Bandit confidently steered us along the path for nearly two hours, during which Emily educated us on the resort, from its rich history to the native plants that the horses occasionally stopped to snack on. Throughout the trail ride, I only pulled out my phone for pictures once—at the cost of a sideways glance from my boyfriend—when the mountain-scapes surrounding Tucson were painted with vibrant hues of pink, yellow, orange, and red—a signature Arizona sunset I couldn’t resist. For a few minutes, a brave, young coyote quietly ran alongside our caravan and we traveled in silence at a steady, gentle pace, free of worries and mental constraints.
Fresh, regionally inspired cuisine
By the end of our ride, we worked up an appetite and went straight to GOLD, the resort’s signature fine dining restaurant, for a delicious, regionally inspired meal. At Emily’s suggestion, I started my order with a prickly pear margarita and we treated ourselves to a few starters. The potato latkes with sockeye smoked salmon, fried quail eggs, and citrus-herb crème quickly stole the show, leaving us waiting in anticipating for our entrees of crispy roasted duck and Five Rivers Arizona Delmonico Ribeye. A burst of fresh flavor accompanied each bite thanks to the ingredients sourced straight from the Chef’s Garden on the property.
After sharing an indulgent but oh-so-worth-it berry cobbler, we went back to our suite. I felt the pull to pick up my laptop as we walked through the door, but opted instead to pour a glass of bubbly prosecco. Definitely the right choice. The bed proved to be just as dreamy as it looked, and we settled in for a restful night’s sleep.
Getting back to nature
For the first time this year, I woke up not thinking about my to-do list. Instead, my Saturday morning began with a light in-room breakfast, as I was due for a property tour at 9 a.m. After weeks of sitting at my desk or running to meetings, I was eager for the opportunity to walk around outside, learning about the plants and animals that I encounter (briefly) on a daily basis.
I was met in the lobby by Raymundo, the groundskeeper, and we started our tour. For the next 90 minutes, I was repeatedly blown away by Raymundo’s depth of knowledge and passion when it comes to Westward Look’s grounds, which more than deserve their title as an 80-acre botanical garden. As we wound through the path, we passed the meditation labyrinth, the Butterfly and Hummingbird Gardens, the colorful Chef’s Garden, and more. All the while, Raymundo tells me about the vast variety of historic and cultural uses for what seemed like nearly all 240 plant species on the property, occasionally handing me fresh fruit to try or blooms to collect in my pockets.
With more than 30 years of experience at Westward Look, it’s clear that this is his calling. I walked away inspired to do my own off-the-beaten-path exploration of Tucson’s lush desert—actually explore and see instead of rush past. My phone was decidedly forgotten in one of my pockets, buried beneath tart limes and sweet mini oranges.
A relaxing escape
I felt energized—my mind only had thoughts of relaxation. Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, I realized it was time for our appointment at the Sonoran Spa. We were greeted by plush robes, fresh iced tea and small bundles of aromatic herbs, including rosemary and lavender picked fresh from the spa garden just outside the front door. As chronic computer users, we asked our expert masseuses to zero in on our necks and shoulders. We walked out 80 minutes later feeling light and rejuvenated, our keyboard-induced hunch long gone.
After a refreshing meal at Lookout Bar & Grille, a casual grill with a Southwestern spin, we had to return home. We drove away staring out at the desert with a new perspective. As my boyfriend raved about the prickly pear barbecue sauce (again), I instinctively reached toward my bag, ready to pull out my phone and start checking messages. Instead, my fingers brush a tiny orange, and I leaned back to take a bite as I admired the beautiful view and planned our next escape to Westward Look.