Back on October 3, I was invited to help lead a nature walk at the Oasis Bed & Breakfast (also known as "WOW Arizona" for Wild Outdoor World). This little gem is located in unincorporated Tucson, Arizona, just east and north of Oro Valley. Christopher J. (C J) Vincent and MaryEllen Troy Landen run this establishment, a true haven for Sonoran Desert wildlife.
The Oasis manages to cater to a wide variety of clientele, from mountain bikers to amateur naturalists. The grounds are a virtual Eden and the hosts know every resident plant and animal. The water and flowers (mostly native, some ornamental) attract an enormous diversity of wildlife from butterflies to birds and mammals, making it a great place to become familiar with Sonoran Desert flora and fauna while being as comfortable or adventurous as you would like to be.
C J picked me up after work on October 2, so I got to have dinner and stay the night, too. I like the cozy, "contemporary-rustic" feel of their home. The decor includes spectacular images of the wildlife seen and photographed by C J on the scenic grounds. I slept like a baby, and woke up to.....
More food! C J and MaryEllen are very conscious of the differing nutritional needs of their guests. I'm lactose intolerant and they had lactose-free milk. That never happens! The entrees are delicious, a great treat for a "meat and potatoes" guy like me, yet still "gourmet," just not pretentious. Pleasing folks with your menu is a tough task, but The Oasis does so perfectly. Outside the dining room the bird feeders were drawing a variety of fine feathered friends, like this Curve-billed Thrasher.
A little searching revealed one of their resident rattlesnakes, Cartman. He’s quite a heroic specimen of a Western Diamondback. Most of the organisms on the premises are not nearly as dangerous as this, but I like the fact that C J and MaryEllen welcome all forms of life, not just the cute, cuddly, and charismatic (though I personally find rattlesnakes to be quite charismatic in their own right).
C J recently acquired non-profit status for WOW Arizona, so it is now a certified environmental education organization. They hosted a class from Pima Community College a week before our October nature walk, and C J was still raving about the transformation of the students from urbanites a bit intimidated by the wild desert to fascinated people anxious to learn more.
I heartily recommend The Oasis B & B to anyone visiting southern Arizona who wants to avoid crowded parks, see wildlife up close, and enjoy captivating conversations with the proprietors over a great meal. You can get an online introduction at the WOW Arizona website and blog, and follow C J’s posts on Facebook, too. Check it out!