These words also grace the transom of the doorway that welcomes guests to the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa owned by the Gila River Indian Community and located on the their lands just 15 minutes south of Phoenix International Airport.
I last visited the Wild Horse Pass Resort in 2006, and returning recently felt like a homecoming. There’s a welcoming presence at the resort, a sense that you are among friends. Ginger Sunbird Martin, the resort’s cultural concierge, says that 80 percent of guests come to experience the Native American culture represented in all facets of the property. Every detail in the architecture, art, and décor reflects the heritage and culture of the Gila River Indians, a community actually comprised of two tribes: the Pima and the Maricopa, who have coexisted on this land for generations. Their peaceful nature permeates the resort.
WHERE HORSES RUN FREE
As I walked around the expansive lobby with Ginger, she shared the meaning of the immense murals painted on the circular ceiling, each representing an important aspect of her culture. Huge boulders in the lobby were modeled after those found at a sacred site and provide the setting for a waterfall that cascades down to a lower level. Giant windows look toward the Sierra Estrella Mountains. Across the vast reservation 1500 wild horses still run free.
I didn’t see a band of wild horses, but I did enjoy taking a ride at the Koli Equestrian Center one morning during my stay. Jeffrey, the resident cowboy, met me in the resort lobby and whisked me to the stables, where he and I mounted our steeds for a relaxing walk among the tumbleweeds. Other amenities at the resort include golf, tennis, four lushly landscaped pools, a casino, and a Wild West-themed attraction—perfect for families. Restaurants include Kai, a five-star, five-diamond establishment that serves Native-American inspired cuisine, and Ko’Sin, where you can dine under the stars on Arizona Desert cuisine.
Another morning I traveled into the Sonoran desert for a heart-thumping hot air balloon ride with Hot Air Expeditions. Capt. Patrick took us as high as a mile above the desert for a bird’s eye view of Phoenix and the rich desert landscape. Favorable winds carried us 20 miles toward the southeast as blasts of hot flames kept the balloon floating peacefully along. Upon landing, we were welcomed back to earth with a traditional champagne breakfast. Hot air ballooning is a modern-day version of a magic carpet ride and should be on everyone’s list of experiences to enjoy.
Back on the ground, but still floating, I headed to Wild Horse Pass Resort’s award-winning Aji Spa, which features indigenous treatments. I chose to try a healing massage with Belen Stoneman, a member of the Gila River community who uses her intuition and spiritual abilities to help heal whatever might be troubling you.
I had mixed feelings about my treatment because I knew in order for Belen to do her healing, I had to tell her what was broken. Where would I begin, I wondered. The answer came in a dream I’d had the night before about an angry wasp caught in a plastic bag. Sitting at a small table in a darkened room in the spa, I shared my dream with Belen before my massage.
When I finished, she said, “Let’s play a game. You are the wasp. I am going to ask some questions, and I want you to answer me as if you are the wasp.” It was an amazing exercise and helped me discover new insight about the things inside that were keeping me from moving forward. “I detect fear,” she said, and I knew she was on the right track.
I can’t begin to explain the massage itself except to say my mind swirled with visions as Belen did her energy work. As she kneaded my body, I could feel her energy, and even more astonishing, I could feel my body respond to her energy. At one point she said, “You have very clear energy, and your body is in very good shape,” and I knew she meant it sincerely. Near the end she began shaking my belly like she was trying to knock something loose, like she was helping me let something go. When the treatment ended, I felt like I’d been on a journey and only hoped I could recall the messages revealed to me along the way.
A stay at Wild Horse Pass Resort is indeed an escape, a place where, like the wild horses, you can run free and find the beauty and mystery that resides within.hotairexpeditions.com