We enjoy volunteering for a lot of reasons, and one is that we become immersed in a community and it’s people. In our nearly three months here we’ve had the opportunity to learn about the town’s history, meet it’s people, and, important for us, sample the restaurants!
Patagonia lies in a narrow valley between the Santa Rita Mountains, which peak at 9,453 feet and and the Patagonia Mountains, which peak at 7,221 feet, and is just 18 miles from the Mexican border. At a bit over 4000’, it’s a bit cooler than Tucson during the day, and much cooler at night. The town began as a supply center for area mines in the late 1800s, and with a railroad station became Patagonia in 1900. The years haven’t been kind; the mines are almost all gone and the railroad tracks disappeared in 1962. But the town has evolved into something special – a cross between Berkley and Billings.
Walking around town gives you an idea of the eclectic group that resides here. In the park next to the train station (now the town hall), there are hitching posts complete with a manure rake. Behind the Wagon Wheel Bar and Grill, you’ll often see saddled horses tied up while their owners attend Cowboy Happy Hour. Stop in one of the restaurants and prepare to be waited on by someone 50 years removed from a granny dress, flowers in their hair, and VW Microbus. Or have a cup of gourmet coffee at the Gathering Grounds and listen to the locals discuss the latest play at the Tin Shed Theater. And if you’re in the mood for gourmet Pizza (and who isn’t?) drop by the Velvet Elvis, described by USA Today as Arizona’s best pizza place. Our favorite is the “Mariachi Blanco”, with green chili & jalapeno cream cheese sauce, capers, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, garlic, and sundried tomatoes. And yes, there is a velvet painting of Elvis on the wall!
The Stage Stop Inn dominates the center of town, and the lobby maintains the cowboy spirit of the old west with its original lobby desk and floor showing area brands. Used by cast and crew members of the movies Rio Bravo, Rio Lobo, and Young Guns, it’s the best hotel in town – and the only one.
We do most of our shopping in Sierra Vista, a nice-sized community about 40 miles east. While shopping at Lowe’s, we noticed an owl painted on a group of mulch bales on the top shelf of one wall. Looking above, we saw the reason why – two baby Great-horned Owls. One of the staff told us that the parents have been coming for seven years, each year nesting in the same place. Looking across the garden area, we could see both mom and dad sitting on the support beams. Getting a little closer, dad gave us a look that told us he wasn’t real happy to see us.
As the weather gets warmer, more and more hummingbirds are arriving. Watching them in the bright sun, I’m amazed at how their colors change as they move about. Here’s our most common hummer, the Anna’s:
A Rufus, just stopping in as he heads north:
We’re down to our final weeks here at the preserve, and we’ve had a wonderful time – new friends, new experiences, and new birds for our “life list”. And the “Velvet Elvis” just up the road. What more could we ask for?
Stay tuned, we’ll be moving soon!