By Noah Austin | Photograph by Steven Meckler
The Spirit Tree Inn’s namesake is hard to miss. And if you have your windows down as you drive up, you might hear it before you see it.
A massive Fremont cottonwood, nearly 200 years old, dominates the view from the bed and breakfast’s patio, and its rustling leaves are a constant soothing presence. Mary Jane Pottebaum and Tom Bartholomeaux, who opened this secluded Patagonia property as a B&B in 2005, decided the tree inspired a better name than the “Tuck ’Em Inn,” one of Tom’s suggestions.
“I was telling [Mary Jane] one day about tall trees and how they’re revered in the Plains states by the Indians, because they believe their ancestral spirits reside in these trees,” Tom says. “She said, ‘Oh, so we’ve got a spirit tree.’ And that was it.”
Originally homesteaded in the 1800s and later operated as a cattle ranch, the property, now 52 acres, is surrounded by the Coronado National Forest, and it’s cradled by the Canelo Hills to the northeast and the Patagonia Mountains to the southwest. Its four guest rooms in the main house, plus two dog-friendly casitas with kitchenettes, are popular with hikers, thanks to a nearby trailhead for the Arizona Trail, and birders, who see hundreds of species pass through every year. (Two of them, a northern cardinal and a house finch, arrive on the patio while Mary Jane and Tom talk about the B&B.)
In the main house, the Oriental Room has a massive armoire Tom found in Ohio, while the headboard and footboard in the Lavender Room came from former Governor Rose Mofford’s estate. The Equine Room reflects Mary Jane’s lifelong love of horses, and the Library (pictured) lives up to its name with plenty of reading material, plus Native American accents and a loft with an extra bed. All rooms have private baths, comfy mattresses and luxurious bedding, and the house’s adobe keeps the temperature pleasant.
Breakfast varies from day to day and can be tailored to any dietary needs. A recent morning saw Tom cooking up gluten-free blue corn pancakes with agave syrup, turkey bacon and fresh fruit. And guests have the run of the property, which includes an 1830 Amish barn that was disassembled and shipped there from Pennsylvania. A group of Amish traveled to Arizona in 2008 and meticulously reconstructed it, and it’s become a charming venue for weddings and concerts. Near the barn, Mary Jane tends her horses and a donkey named Etos.
There’s no TV and limited cell service, so besides Etos’ occasional braying around mealtime, the sound you’re most likely to hear at the Spirit Tree Inn is the spirit tree. And that’s the way the owners like it. “This is an extension of our home, so we try to give people a sense of peace and quiet,” Mary Jane says, “and make them feel like they’re at home.”
The Spirit Tree Inn is located at 3 Harshaw Creek Road in Patagonia. For more information, call 520-394-0121 or visit www.spirittreeinn.com.