Where in the world can you see wild

  • rattlesnakes
  • white-tail deer
  • turkeys
  • lizards
  • rabbits
  • quail
  • frogs

[photos below]

and almost no other people…all in just the narrow span of 4 hours?

One of the few other places where I’ve seen so many wild animals was in the river plains of the Amazon – and the zoo.

So I was surprised to find such abundance and diversity of wildlife in Arizona. And not all of Arizona, in just one small area of Arizona:

The Chiricahua Mountains

They are known as one of the isolated “sky island” mountain ranges found in southeastern Arizona and northern Mexico.

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Of course there are many other animals in the Chiricahua mountains that I didn’t see – like

  • javelinas
  • jaguar
  • fox squirrels
  • black bears
  • mountain lions
  • coatimundis
  • skunks
  • ringtails
  • raccoons
  • chipmunks
  • foxes
  • coyotes
  • bobcats
  • bats
  • ocelots

What took me here to this magical place?

I found the Savanna Hermitage on the Foundation for Intentional Communities website (ic.org), researched the Savanna Hermitage on ic.org and on Savanna Hermitage website, filled out a form, and soon thereafter was on my way from a week-long stay with my parents in Green Valley, Arizona – to the Savanna Hermitage outside of Pearce, Arizona.

Avalon Gardens -> Savanna Hermitage

Why go to a hermitage (in the desert and in the middle of nowhere!)?

My current home is Chiang Mai, Thailand and I look forward to getting back there within the next few months. However, I’m taking some time to explore different communities and ways of living. I spent nearly a month in Puerto Escondido, Mexico and now I have the opportunity to explore different communities in the United States.

I’m looking for people and places that are

  • living as a part of nature
  • questioning (and making sense of) the big changes in our world
  • actively improving their health – body, mind, spirit

What is Savanna Hermitage?

From the website:

The Savanna Hermitage, located near the Chiricahua mountains in southeastern Arizona, is a small, quiet retreat oriented toward facilitating lifestyles and practices of higher consciousness to maximize human potential

3 Reasons to Visit Savanna Hermitage

Despite the great information shared on the website, I really didn’t know what I was getting into before going to Savanna Hermitage.

Now looking back I would break it down into 3 main categories

  1. Nature
  2. Spirituality
  3. Simple Living

1. Nature around Savanna Hermitage

This was the biggest surprise and gift from my time at the Savanna Hermitage.

When Karl invited me to go hiking in the mountains, I was thinking of something similar to the foothills outside of Denver where I grew up and spent most of my life: mountains with little trees and forest cover exposed to the sun, lots of other people, and little opportunity to truly see and experience nature (including wild animals).

In fact, when I think of hiking, I think of it more as just walking in a different place. I enjoy hiking but it was never really all that interesting to me. I would hike maybe once a month or so.

However, with Karl as my guide in the Chiricahua Mountains, it was an entirely different experience.

As we were driving out of the desert and into the mountains, everything changed. We passed farmland, ranches and, as the arid desert landscape turned into pine forest, we saw many deer along the side of the road and slowed down to take a closer look.

As I reflect on our “hike”, I realize that we didn’t really hike with a destination or goal in mind. Usually when I hike, the goal is to finish the hike.

However, with Karl we took our time exploring. We bathed in a pool below a waterfall. When a bird called, Karl stopped, looked and listened. He knew the types of birds by their calls. He knew the types of trees. He was really in tune with nature. He was much more a part of nature than me (and I imagine many others who pass through nature on trails).

Rather than sticking to a walking trail, we walked up the creek. This made hiking more challenging – both physically and mentally as the footing on rocks, trees and dirt was not certain.

But the reward for taking this route was amazing. We saw lizards, frogs, butterflies and birds. And eventually we came across wild turkey.

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2. Spirituality at Savanna Hermitage

With the prominence of meditation in the description of Savanna Hermitage, I assumed this might be part of the experience.

Before we went on our epic hike, we took time in the morning to set up some mats and cushions on the dirt of the desert floor where we did a combination of breathwork and meditation.

I was intrigued and inspired by Karl’s focus on getting the correct sitting posture for meditation. Until now, I had mostly disregarded posture as being fundamental to a more profound meditation.

And I think the same goes for breathwork. Rather than me explaining it here, you can watch Karl’s video:

3. Simple Living at Savanna Hermitage

I was impressed and inspired by the simplicity of the off-grid living at Savanna Hermitage.

Shelter. I stayed in a cabin that had enough space for a bed, table and dresser. The walls were insulated with foam and the ground was concrete so it kept the room relatively cool – down to about 60 degrees at night and up just over 80 degrees during the day.

Electricity. There were a couple of solar panels on the cabin that offered more than enough energy to power our devices and cooking appliances. (For internet, I used my phone as a wifi hotspot which worked well.)

Water. There’s a big water tank next to the cabin that is fed by the gutters on the roof of the cabin. This gave us water to use for showers, cooking, cleaning, etc. There was a private outdoor stall that served as the place to take a bath (using a tiny tub, bucket and a sponge).

Food. I brought some vegetables for us to share, as well as some meat and boiled eggs for myself. There was a shed that served as the kitchen – with a stove, Instant Pots, and more.

There were two coolers for us to keep the food. The trick was to keep the coolers in the sun and, if possible, open them up at night so they cool off. Food won’t keep for long this way but it served our purposes for the 2 days I spent there.

We cooked millet, lentils, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and sweet potatoes – and spiced it up with curry seasoning. We added some mixed greens as well. I added beef heart and yogurt. Delicious – and nutritious!

Where do you pee and poo? Instead of a bathroom, there were two buckets next to a bush in the open desert. One bucket was full of dirt and the other just had a bit to cover the bottom of the bucket. I carried a toilet seat from my room out to the bucket, set it in top of the bucket, squatted, and, when I was finished doing my thing, I covered it with dirt. Easy – and enjoyable with the solitude and desert landscape. As for pee, I just peed on the dirt wherever.

Karl would then burry the shit bucket when it was full and create some nice compost soil for the nearby plants.


As you can see, I really enjoyed my short (3ish day) stay with Karl at Savanna Hermitage. I would like to go back when I have more free time without the distractions of the “real” world in my head. That is, no computer. No cell phone. Just nature, meditation, good food and good people. Simple living at its best.

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About the Author Jason Ryer

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