Staycations with Heart: DD Gamble Guest Lodge & Ranch

DoubleD View

By Rosemary Prawdzik

If you ever feel like work is closing in and life is becoming too frantic, you might find yourself wanting to unplug and re-energize in natural surroundings.

In dreaming about your escape, your criteria may read something like this: Must be within a few hours’ drive, affordable, and surrounded by a natural landscape that wipes away any thoughts even resembling work or day-to-day responsibilities. If you have children, your criteria may also include a place where they are welcomed and where they can run and play without being considered a nuisance. And you might even want to take the family dog along.

A highlight for many is the chance to hitch a cart to the minature horses and take them out for a spin.
A highlight for many is the chance to hitch a cart to the minature horses and take them out for a spin.

One getaway that meets all these specifications is nestled on the eastern slope of the rugged and dramatic Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona. This is Apache country, where Cochise and Geronimo fought to protect their ancestral lands. And at the DD Gamble Guest Lodge & Ranch, you’ll begin to understand why.

Turning off the highway, you may be surprised how quickly civilization recedes. As you travel the mile to the ranch, you’ll feel yourself slipping back in time. It becomes rather clear why the Apaches loved this landscape.

Even more amazing to our contemporary sensibilities: not much has changed. Modern development hasn’t really touched this region, and it looks much the same as it did 150 years ago. Clear skies, stunning sunrises, fiery sunsets, and the moon rising in a sky painted white by the Milky Way.

One recent guest, Carol Schlim, a resident of North Carolina, commented, “What I liked best was the peaceful isolation. The silence and the stars were worth the trip.”

Accommodations at the lodge are rustic, but the rooms are clean and comfortable. There’s a gathering place for reading, working on puzzles, playing cards or board games, or just relaxing and chatting with the ranch’s hosts, Tom and Alicia Davidson. The duo share cooking and clean-up duties, and all meals are included in the overnight accommodation fees.

Historic hiking trails, Old West forts, the Chiricahua Desert Museum and some of the best birdwatching in the state are located nearby. A highlight for many is the chance to hitch a cart to the miniature horses and take them out for a spin. Good-natured ranch hands actually do the hitching and then provide driving and safety instruction. The “mini experience” can provide quite an adrenaline rush, depending on your need for speed, as the horses are capable of moving up to 35 miles per hour!

Children are encouraged to give driving the horse-drawn cart a try as long as they are enthusiastic, willing to follow instructions, and their parents ride along. For those who prefer horseback riding, well-trained livery horses can be saddled up to hit the trail.

An aspect of the ranch that makes it more unique is that is is home to DMD Hearts & Hooves Equine Therapy program.
An aspect of the ranch that makes it more unique is that is is home to DMD Hearts & Hooves Equine Therapy program.

An aspect of the ranch that makes it more unique is that it is home to DMD Hearts & Hooves equine therapy program, a non-profit 501c3 that harnesses the healing power of animal assisted therapy. One of the only programs of its kind in the nation, the minis provide therapeutic healing to those affected by traumatic injury.

“The therapy program is really an outgrowth of a visit in 2009 by Alicia’s mother,” relates Tom. Confined to a wheelchair, she would spend the day grooming and talking with the horses. This prompted Alicia to take classes on training and care of therapy horses. The minis now make “house calls” to VA hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and classrooms as far away as Tucson and El Paso.

DoubeD care fair“About three or four times a year, the Arizona branches of the Association of the United States Army sponsor wounded soldiers and their families to visit the ranch to ride and relax,” continued Tom. “In addition, a number of agencies bring at-risk children as well as mentally and physically disabled children and adults to the ranch to experience the horses.” Research has shown that these warm little creatures aid in physical and emotional healing through lowering blood pressure, heart rates, and stress levels.

Donations and volunteers are welcome. For more information, contact For guest ranch reservations, call 520-558- 1088 or visit

Rosemary Jane Prawdzik is a marketing and public relations consultant and freelance writer and editor living in Tucson. She has a degree in Communications from Miami University and has been published in several regional publications. She is currently working on her first book.

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  1. My beautiful wife and non-stop energy daughter along with myself(100% disabled) spent an absolutely wonderful,decompressing weekend with Tom and Alicia on the behalf of AUSA as family houseguests. Not only was the food wonderful and in abundance,but so was the depth and breadth of the Millky Way directly above our heads.anthewine also flows in abundanceto keep from dehydration setting in…. We all highly recommend this ranch as the perfect AZ getaway. It’s exactly like visiting good family on the beautiful backside of the Chiricauas.I’ve lived in AZ 4X times in my life and I also was afforded the high privilege oflearning things I never knew about our great state.

    Mark,Natalia and Cristina……NOV2017

    P.S.The miniature cows,horses,and bull, with their therapy mission will also blow your mind…

  2. Thank you for the article about DDGamble Guest Lodge! My husband and I as well as another couple who are dear friends just spent 3 nights there to celebrate my 79th birthday. We had a fantastic time bird watching, trailriding, ATV exploring and relaxing. The food was hearty and very tasty, our hosts ate meals with us and we loved interacting and becoming acquainted. We highly recommend this unique ranch get-a-way only 3 1/2 hours from Tucson but in another realm entirely.

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