Our first morning in Arizona we spent playing golf at Sundance Golf course (another fabulous Harvest Host location) in Buckeye (near Phoenix). It was another difficult golf course and it happened to be a cold morning so it was a little bit tough.
We then drove to Tucson and to set up camp at Catalina State Park which is absolutely gorgeous. We arrived as the sun was setting and the light on the mountains was spectacular.
We planned to be there for 5 nights so I was already anticipating getting some painting in, when a woman approached (after seeing the Streaming Artist decal) and told me that she also did plein air painting. We made plans to paint the following morning. I awoke to a beautiful sunrise which unfortunately turned into a cloud cover grey sky with flat light. We went out to paint anyway and started off blocking in the painting and then finally the sun came out. The timing was perfect for painting for finishing the painting.
After a few hours of early morning painting I picked up Ross and Buddy and we went for a hike into the hills to some beautiful vista points.
The following morning was chilly so I decided not to paint, and instead we decided to drive to Mt Lemmon Ski Resort. The drive (once we got through all the suburbs of Tucson) was spectacular. We climbed from 3000 ft to 8000 ft in about 20 miles. What was amazing is that we passed through 6 different vegetation zones. We started off in the Sonoran dessert with lots of cactus, next was the semi-desert grasslands, then into the Oak Woodland and Chaparral up to the Pine Oak Woodlands to the Ponderosa Pine and ultimately up into the Mixed Conifer Forest. The geology also changed significantly from flatlands, to rolling hills, up through rock formations that are known as hoodoos, and eventually up to the peak to a small ski resort. The short drive took a few hours due to all the twist and turns but it was worth it to see the fantastic views and experience the differences in vegetations and geological zones.
We made it back in time for the Magic hour of light for painting. Ross headed off to a golf course and I spent the next few hours painting the spectacular Pusch Ridge rock formations with great lighting.
We spent our few days at the park hiking in the morning, riding bikes on the Loop trail which follows the wash areas (the area designated for water flow), painting and golfing.
We headed a little farther south for a few days because the campground was already full. We spent one day in the Green Valley area at another golf Harvest Host location. We played 9 holes at San Ignacio Golf club and really enjoyed the course. We were graced with the presence of some Javelinas on the course. I’m sure for the locals it is like us seeing deer or geese, but we enjoyed it.
Our next stop was a town called Tubac which was a pleasant surprise. As we drove in, we literally were stopped by the Christmas Dog Walk Parade with the local dogs dressed in Christmas outfits and a golf cart playing Christmas tunes. We pulled over quickly and joined the parade.
After the “big” parade we walked around town, which is filled with art galleries, boutiques and plenty of tourist shops. The architecture of the buildings was primarily the historic old buildings that had been renovated and/or some newer architecture that was tastefully done to fit in. I loved the town although it was a bit touristy.
Tubac is the first town in Arizona that was established by the Europeans in 1752. We did walk part of the Juan Baptista de Anza trail which was part of the historical trail that led the explorers and missionaries from here to San Francisco. 4 miles South of Tubac is the Tumacacori National Historical Park with the original Church that was built in the 1700’s and has been slightly restored and maintained so that it does not fall into further disrepair. It was an interesting spot but I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it.
After the mission we drove further south almost to the border of Mexico to drive a scenic route through Arizona’s wine country. The scenery was beautiful and certainly less filled with cactus, but not exactly wine country in my eyes. Arizona is an a severe drought and it shows. We ultimately pulled into our next Harvest Host location, Sonoita Winery, and we were surprised to feel like we were in a Savannah. We had wide open vistas of golden grasses which led into rolling hills and then into the surrounding mountains. I was able to paint a quick sunrise on the valley.
Unfortunately, the winery was closed because of a death in the family so we were not able to taste the wine. We were also really curious to hear how this family decided that this location was a good location for a winery and what the wine would taste like. I’m not sure where they even get the water for their vines. The sunset was glorious though which made for a great way to end the day.
We got up to watch the sunrise which was beautiful and I did a quick watercolor of the mountains with their shadows and golden grasses.
We made our way to Saguro National Park (the Eastern section since there are 2 sections) which was fantastic. As we were driving in we noticed a lot of cyclists and then quickly realized why. The park has a one way driving loop of 8 miles that goes through beautiful scenery. So we drove in and found a place to park. I unloaded my bike and did the ride which ended up being quite hilly but worth it. I loved every pedal of it. I was humored by a few of the road signs…..
Ross and Buddy stayed at the airstream where Ross played guitar and serenaded the cactus. Once I returned, I pulled out my easel and painted the scene outside the Airstream. There is something about the Saguro Cactus that is very appealing. They all seem to have a personality.
Because I was painting along the side of the road with the Airstream and The Streaming Artist logo we had a few people who stopped to say hi. One of them happened to be a couple that was already following my blog so I was extremely happy to meet them and exchange information.
I packed up the easel just as the sun was setting and finished the driving loop in glorious lighting.
The following day we ended up meeting up with a friend who was in town from Boulder and we hiked Ventana Canyon. It was a hot day, full of sunshine and glorious views of the rocks and cactus. It was fun to hike with a friend from Boulder and catch up on some of our “normal” life. Then we had wonderful early dinner sitting on a patio basking in the sun and looking at the mountains. It is easy to see why people winter in Arizona.
We moved back to Catalina State Park to spend a few more days there. It is nice to have a little familiarity with an area. We hiked, biked and painted and met some other fun campers. Catalina State Park seems to be a very special place that lots of the campers come back to. It was fun to see how many people decorated their campers and their spaces with lights etc. Next year we will need to come more prepared over the holidays.
We moved from Catalina State Park to Kartchner Caverns State Park for a few days. The Caverns are rated as some of the best in the US, unfortunately we could not get in, so we may need to return. We did enjoy the campground, did a little painting and a great hike.
One day while I was painting at Catalina State Park I had a few people stop by. Two of the people were fellow artists so we chatted for awhile, and they invited Ross and I to come to Sedona to paint with them. We decided to change our route home and next stop is the Sedona area.
We hope you all had a great Holiday and are wishing you all a Happy New Year!