The hidden treasure of Oracle, AZ

When my sister wanted to take me on a trip to celebrate my upcoming milestone birthday, she told me to pick a place and a weekend and we’d go.

I knew three things that I wanted for the weekend – one, to be able to have a maximum amount of time to spend with her (so that meant no long plane rides, as she lives in a different state so we wouldn’t have that travel time together); two, go somewhere I’ve never been; and three, do something I’ve never done before.

After much research, I decided to start with doing something that I’ve never done before but always wanted to try: zip lining. In my research, I found Arizona Zipline Adventures, which is located in Oracle, a town I’ve never been in. With that, the weekend planned itself. My sister booked us a cottage at the Triangle L Ranch, a bed and breakfast in Oracle, and made our zipline reservation. I also discovered that The Fab Four, a Beatles tribute band, would be playing at the Fox Theatre Tucson that Saturday night. The Beatles is my all-time favorite band so we plotted that as a possibility on the itinerary, as Tucson is about an hour away from Oracle.

My sister flew in from Dallas on a Friday afternoon after work and she and my dad came to our house for Shabbat dinner. That gave us a chance to have some family time and my boys were thrilled to see her. She and my 10-year-old enjoyed a great game of Scrabble.

The next morning, we headed for Oracle, which is nearly two hours away. When we arrived at the ranch, we were greeted by the ranch’s manager, Jim, who was really friendly and showed us to our cottage. He let us know about the art gallery, which is in a historic adobe barn, and the Sculpture Park. Triangle L Ranch was built in the 1880s and was once a cattle ranch. Today it’s an art ranch, featuring art events and exhibitions throughout the year.

After we unloaded the car, we decided to check out the ” 6 Women Create” exhibit in the Adobe Barn Gallery and take a quick walk in the Sculpture Park, which features winding paths with installations by many artists.

Outside our cottage, I heard an owl’s hoot and spotted the owl high in the trees.

After our walk, we left for our Arizona Zipline Adventure appointment, which was about 20 minutes away.

Seeing people zip on the high wire between the mountain in the distance and the lobby was both exhilarating and frightening, knowing that I would soon be doing that. We got there a little early, which gave us time to decide what we wanted to order from the menu afterward. Since the venue was celebrating its third anniversary, the staff gave everyone tickets for a free T-shirt so we also had some time to look through the different styles to see which one we wanted.

Since I wasn’t sure what to expect, I had done some research about what to wear so decided on exercise pants, a long long-sleeved shirt (not very loose) and a jacket, as the weather was in the 60s so it got a little chilly on the mountain. Closed-toe shoes are required and I was glad my jacket had pockets that zipped so I could keep my cell phone with me to take pictures and video (free lockers are available for everything else).

When it was our group’s turn to go, we went outside and put on our gear and were given instructions by our guides, Nicole and Kendra. It was a special group, as Nicole’s dad was in our group and it was his first time zip-lining, too. He volunteered to go first and made it look so easy. My sister went after him as I was still building my courage. Since they both made it across the gap between two hills (which seemed so big at that point, but seemed so small after we completed all five lines), I took a deep breath and took my turn.

The five lines range from 400 feet to 1,500 square feet across. You start at the small one and work your way up to the final one, which is 80 feet high. Between two of the lines, we took a brief jeep ride, but there are short hikes between the others. There are also water coolers with the pointy paper cups at each platform so you don’t have to bring your own water.

The Zipline Ecotour took about two hours, which included waiting for others in the group to come across (there were seven in our group) and hiking between the platforms. Our guides were wonderful – so encouraging and patient.

On the first line, my mind was going over all the instructions. Watch the guide’s arm signals. When one arm is down, pull the yellow rope down to brake. When the second arm goes down, grab the black rope and lean back so you don’t hit your face when you reach the end of the line. Look down and enjoy. All that in only a few seconds. I remembered them all. At first it was rather scary to take your hand off the handle to pull the yellow rope, but once you trust that it’s the harness keeping you in the air and not your hands on the handle, it gets easier.

The second time I was enjoying the view a little too much and nearly forgot to pull the brake and lean back. I remembered in time, but spun sideways a little and had a rougher landing.

It got easier by the third and fourth time and before you knew it, my sister and I were standing on the final platform (it’s a double line so we went down at the same time) looking 80 feet down. The instructions changed a little for this final one, as we had to rely on markers instead of the guide’s hand movements because of the distance.

Here are two of the people in our group that went right before us, before we walked up the stairs to the platform:

We did it!! It was an amazing adventure together and we rewarded ourselves with The Fun Guy sandwich (Battered portobello mushroom, peppers, sauteed mushrooms, grilled cheddar) and fries for lunch from the Peppersauce Kitchen. SO delicious We also picked out our T-shirts.

After that, we returned to the ranch and took showers to get ready for our Beatles tribute show in Tucson. But first it was back to the Sculpture Park, which is a whole different experience at night. Many of the installations light up and in at least one place, there was music that is started by a sensor as you walk by. It was truly magical. As we wandered on the path, it was pitch black except for the lit-up installations and the stars in the sky. The whole experience was so surreal. We had no idea this ranch had so many incredible features.

That evening we drove to Tucson for The Fab Four show, which was so fun. The musicians were playing all the instruments (in other words, it was live – no lip syncing) and they did an incredible job with the costumes, accents and mannerisms, too. And of course the music was wonderful! They also did tributes to John Lennon and George Harrison.

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One of the bonuses of the Arizona trip was that we had a few hours in the car, including the two hours on Saturday night, which gave us lots of time to talk.

The next morning, we headed to “The Big House” at Triangle L Ranch for breakfast. Jim had asked us before we arrived if we had any dietary restrictions so everything was vegetarian. It was a beautiful spread and the meal included a vegetarian tamale with eggs, avocado and tomatoes, a chia “yogurt” with blueberries, pineapple & berries, coffee and juice. It was delicious.

After breakfast, we bid farewell to the ranch and headed to Sky Harbor Airport so my sister could catch her flight back home.

Between the ranch with the magical sculpture garden and the adventure of zip lining, Oracle proved to be a treasure in the desert!

Thank you sis, for a truly wonderful weekend.

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