Exploring unusual places has always been a passion of mine. Such was the case one Sunday afternoon in February, 2012, when I set out to find the gravesite of Ed Schieffelin, the founder of Tombstone. Schieffelin’s last will and testament instructed that he be buried standing up in the location of his first campsite. The strange cone shaped tomb stands alone on top of a hill surrounded by a magnificent unobstructed 360 degree view of an immense valley that 300 million years ago was the bottom of an inland sea. Schieffelin’s creation, Tombstone, sits two miles south of the monument, nestled in the shadow of the Dragoon mountain range, once home to the famous Chiricahua Apache leader, Cochise, and his people.
Heading back in the direction of Tombstone, I came across two dozen horses spread out through several large corrals standing in the shadow of what appeared to be a small western town.
Walking down Main Street, a dirt path wide enough for two stagecoaches to comfortably pass each other, I encountered a woman carrying linens out of a building with the words Doc Holliday over the door.
Imagine my surprise when she spoke to me with a heavy German accent. When I inquired about what the place was she explained that it was a hotel named the Apache Spirit Ranch and pointed me to the lobby for more information. It was there I met several more German nationals, and in particular, Julia Wieck, Co-Manager of the Ranch.
I asked Julia for permission to make some videos of the ranch using my cell phone. She graciously agreed and then spent the next hour giving me a tour of the place and explaining the meaning behind the name, Apache Spirit Ranch. She later set up interviews for me with the owner and other ranch employees to help me learn more about this unique environment.
Click below to see the video of my tour with Julia Wieck.
Julia began my tour by a visit to an authentic Apache village constructed on the property by Joe Saenz, a Chiricahua Apache and friend of Peter Stenger, the CEO and manager of the German investment company that owns the ranch. Peter lives in Munich and has a passion for the history of the Wild West. I was lucky enough to meet him when he arrived two days later at the ranch.
Apache Joe Saenz is the Interpretive Display Consultant and Cultural Guide for the ranch. Guests are invited to sit by the campfire in the Apache village and listen to Joe and other members of the Apache Nation talk about the history and former lifestyle of the Apache people who once called this area home.
Brad Kissinger and Eunice Lindsay are the horse wranglers and trainers that lead guests on horseback to many of the unique trails, mines, and historic haunts surrounding the ranch. “We have a variety of horses to suit guests with different riding abilities or skill levels,” says Brad.
The facilities of the ranch are on a par with a three-star hotel, with all the comfort and amenities ideally suited for family getaways. Special facilities are easily accessible for handicapped guests. Tours are available to the main Arizona attractions, such as Tombstone, Tucson, and the border town of Nogales, just to name a few. An enormous barn is available for events that can include full catering services.
Apache Spirit Ranch is far more than a western themed ranch. Peter Stenger, with the guidance and cooperation of his friend, Apache Joe Saenz, has created a unique resort where people can experience a different kind of vacation that goes beyond reliving the era of Cowboys and Indians. It invokes the Great Spirit of the Apache people and honors all those who once called this region home.