Paradise in the desert lets you wake, bake and bird

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Tucked away on the western flank of the Santa Catalina Mountain Foothills, Christopher (CJ) Vincent and his partner MaryEllen started a journey 25 years ago to preserve desert wildlife and plants, while adding their own type of “mother nature” to the mix.

Vincent, a naturalist and medicinal cannabis expert, purchased the three-acre plot of land and turned the desert into a nonprofit oasis for bird watching, photography, lodging and sitting back to enjoy some organically grown cannabis.

Wild Outdoor World (WOW) Arizona is a retreat with a plethora of colorful flora, fauna, birds and Vincent’s marijuana garden. He grows the legal amount of plants for his household size.

“We have 12 plants for two people, so that is the legal amount we can have,” Vincent said. “We cannot sell it, but we can give it away.”

Vincent said they prepare “Homeless Helpers,” or packages of cannabis treats they give to the homeless.

“I mean who needs it more than homeless people,” Vincent said of the packages.

WOW is a nonprofit retreat that supports wildlife through extensive habitat restoration. Vincent’s land provides nesting and shelter sites for desert wildlife. Yet, with over 80 hummingbird, suet, thistle, black oil sunflower and mixed feeding stations in different zones, it takes a lot of money to keep the property running. WOW relies on tax deductible donations to keep the habitat alive and flourishing.

For Vincent, starting the rehabilitation of this land was to ensure the sanctity of the wildlife and its indigenous plants. Now, it provides rehabilitation for humans too.

Both Vincent and MaryEllen suffer from chronic health issues and decided to add cannabis onto the property to help with their aches and pains. Vincent has narrow angle glaucoma and rheumatoid arthritis which leaves him with chronic pain as well as constant photophobia, or eye discomfort from bright light. He has been treating his pain with cannabis, which he said allows him to function.

Vincent wanted to impart his experience with cannabis healing onto others through the retreat. Vincent said a daughter once came to the retreat with her dad. 

“The dad was dying from mesothelioma,” Vincent said. “His daughter asked for two cookies and gave them to him. He said ‘I know what these are.’ His daughter told him to ‘just eat them’.”

“He said, ‘I haven’t had this since Vietnam’,” Vincent said. The dad was a Vietnam vet who got mesothelioma from Agent Orange exposure.

Vincent explained the father was told he would die soon and was in and out of hospice. But once he started the cannabis regiment, Vincent said he lived for another seven years.

“We have a garden named after him, Pete’s Garden,” Vincent said.

MaryEllen’s sister experienced healing at the retreat as well. She was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

“We had the first of our ‘Farewell Tours,’” he said. MaryEllen’s sister took part in the cannabis care offered at the retreat during this first farewell tour.

“So she came back on the second Farewell Tour,” he said. “She is still alive! She can now see her grandkids going to college.”

An expert in medicinal cannabis, Vincent gave multiple lectures at doctors’ offices and physical therapy locations in the Tucson area and spoke at a medical symposium at the University of Arizona three years ago.

“Whether a ‘how-to’ cook, extract, grow, a tour, birding or just casually watching the creatures, I am happy to share knowledge, company and our cannabis in our private, nature-filled setting,” Vincent noted on their website.

Participants and guests can go online to register for the Birdz & Budz tours. Two are available, one at daybreak and a second at sunset. Guests must be 21 years or older and have their COVID-19 vaccination cards.

WOW offers lodging along with the Birdz & Budz tours. They have two rooms to rent, or you can book both rooms for a suite.

Participants of the Birdz & Budz tours can expect a coffee or tea infused with cannabis, or canna-lemonade. After the guided tour of the campus, participants will enter the hummingbird patios to partake in Vincent’s solvent-less rosin with a new electronic dab rig.

The oasis has two special gardens, Jeff’s Garden and Pete’s Garden, named after the people they provided cannabis care to along their farewell tours of life.

“We offer world-class birdwatching and photography opportunities. Hiking or mountain biking,” Vincent said.

“True” smoking on the grounds is dependent on monsoon conditions. Smoking is allowed on patios. Guests are welcomed to bring their own consumption device.

Contact Vincent to reserve a bird watching and photography time, or to inquire about lodging availability. A form is required to be filled on the website to participate in the Birdz & Budz tours. Tours also require a donation.

Bird-watching and cannabis sharing tours are scheduled for Aug. 14 and Aug. 28, 2022. Tour times are 6:30 to 8:30am and 5:30pm to sunset for the evening tour.

5494 East Edwin Road, wowarizona.org, (520) 907-8735

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