Thursday, August 21, 2008

Carefree in Arizona

Preparing the balloons for an early morning balloon ride over the Sonoran desert.
By Darcy Hodges

From the frenetic Big Apple to the to alpha bliss of the Arizona desert
and peace of mind. And all it took was a 4.5-hour flight from JFK to Phoenix airport and an hour drive to The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa in Carefree, Arizona, making it just in time for Breakfast.

I have been to Phoenix a number of times but never to the tiny town of Carefree, Arizona (bordered by the city of Scottsdale to the south and the town of Cave Creek to the west). The Boulders is set on 1,300 acres of wilderness in the Sonoran Desert.
I was greeted at the main building which is Southwestern in style.
My bags were stashed on one of the many golf cart limos.
And then transported to my room.
The front entrance of my very own Casita.
My Casita was located in a secluded section of the hotel set among the stunning beauty of 1.4 billion-year-old boulders.

The decor of the Casita was bathed in a warm southwest ambiance, featuring wood beam ceilings, Mexican tiling, and overstuffed leather chairs. Plus an oversized bathroom, walk-in closet, and the most incredible Egyptian Cotton sheets.
I settled right in, having breakfast on my private patio sitting alongside the Cardinals, Gila Woodpeckers, Desert Cottontails, Jackrabbits, Javelinas, and Coyotes that inhabit the desert landscape.

It was the beginning of the monsoon season although the temperature still topped 100 degrees. Yes, it is a dry heat, but ...
My private secluded patio.
I decided to walk to the Golden Door Spa — only 5 minutes from my Casita — taking in the various styles of casitas, desert flowers, vegetation, and cactuses.
The prickly pear cactus is in season.
Walking over the bridge on my way to the Golden Door Spa.
The Golden Door Spa opened its doors in October 2001 at the Boulders — bringing with it the distinct philosophy of the original Golden Door created 50 years ago by Deborah Szekely, in Escondido, California.
I decided to take a swim at the Spa pool, one of four pools on the property. Had a light lunch of hot and sour soup before my 3 pm massage at the Spa Pool.
The Spa Pool.
My lunch of hot and sour soup.
Later that evening, a group of us had cocktails at the Discovery Lounge with Michael B. Hoffman, Managing director of The Boulders, and Jennifer Wayland-Smith, Golden Door Spa Director.
The following morning at 5 am, I met up with a handful of guests of the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau for an early morning Balloon ride over the Sonoran desert.
Watching the sunrise over the golf course.
A magic carpet ride ...
Unloading the beautiful hand-crafted wicker basket.
Unrolling the massive balloon. The whole process takes about 30 minutes before they are ready for flight.
Inflating the balloon by motorized fans.
A look inside our half-inflated balloon. Propane burners are used to ignite and heat the balloon during lift off.
Up, up, and away as we gently glide above the desert sand. I was told we were traveling at a pace of 5 or 6 mph. We were treated to 360-degree unobstructed views.
We were greeted on the ground eight miles and 1 1/2 hours later from our original site in the traditional hot air ballooning way: a flute of champagne and a breakfast of chilled champagne, orange juice, quiche lorraine, chocolate croissants, soft cheeses, and seasonal fresh fruit.
Next activity: An afternoon Tea Party with the girls ...
The girls at the afternoon tea.
The stacks of tea sandwiches and delectable desserts and an appearance by tea and pastry chef Bradley S. Miller.
Taking a closer look at the sandwiches ...
... and the desserts.
After the tea, I went to take a peek at the impeccably groomed Jay Morris 18-hole championship golf course and accompanying driving range.
And back to the Golden Door Spa, designed with an active (West) wing and a tranquil (East) wing.

The West wing houses the check-in area, fitness and mind and body movement studios as well as the Cafe Spa. All enhanced by sweeping views of the awesome 12 million-year-old boulder piles or Black Mountain in the distance.
The serene east wing boasts 24 treatment rooms offering an array of treatments. The elegant amenities for both men and women include blissful lounges, steam rooms, saunas, and an Ofuro, a traditional style Japanese bath.

The Spa also offers a fitness center with yoga and Pilates studios, a state of the art gym, mountain biking, rock climbing, and mind, body, and soul connection.
At your disposal: Both Native American and Eastern-inspired treatments and massages ...
On the Golden Door Property stands a 5,280 square foot organic garden, equipped with a full kitchen. During the cooler months it is used for full dining. The thought of dining at night under a full moon and a starry sky ... pure bliss.
The Golden Door is famous for its spa cuisine. Alex Schnapp, Spa Café chef, is a graduate of the famous CIA. Here he is demonstrating a number of his famous Spa recipes.
The Golden Door Spa features an authentic Tipi. The structure stands 18 feet in diameter and 26 feet high, accommodating up to 10 people. The primary use of the Tipi is for guided meditation sessions with an initiated Shaman named Serge Runningwold Martel.
Nestled beneath the twelve million-year-old Boulder formation is a classic Labyrinth. Unlike a maze, a Labyrinth has only one path to the center and back. The mysterious winding path for the healing journey, the therapeutic process, and a mirror for where we are in our lives. Its seven rings are symbolic of wholeness and unity and are reflective of the world we live in.
Much of the food and Wine served at The Boulders is organically grown. In celebration of my last night, I decided to try Elk for dinner. Wonderful!
My Elk dinner.
On my way to the airport I decided to take a detour a few miles from the hotel. It was surprising that this western town of Cave Creek has kept its Wild West character being so close to the rapidly growing cities of Scottsdale and Phoenix.

Cave Creek was established as a gold mining town and stopping point of the U.S. Calvary in the mid 1870s.

Today it's a stopping off place for the post-atomic cyber age of travelers who come from all over the world to visit the The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa.