Tumamoc Hill

Tumamoc Hill is a natural preserve that is maintained by the University of Arizona and Pima County.

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The paved, sloping road rises 600 feet in just 1.5 miles. It was quite a workout walking to the top of the hill and amazing to see so many people out participating in the hike. The University of Arizona (UA) owns a 340-acre preserve and leases another 509 acres as a research and education facility.  Besides being a prominent landmark, Tumamoc Hill has a long and varied history, and is currently an important site for ecological and anthropological research as well as a refuge and an opportunity for the people of Tucson.

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Cars line the road east and west waiting for the walkers to come back.

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This view is from A mountain the smaller of the two hills in Tucson. We watched as the lights of Tucson come on and followed the international space station fly overhead. As we drove down we could hear the coyotes howling.

Historical Walk

Derek and I drove to the National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission today. It was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797, when Southern Arizona was part of New Spain. In 1783, Franciscan missionary Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain was able to begin construction on the present structure using money borrowed from a Sonoran rancher. He hired an architect, and a large workforce of O’odham to build the present church. We noticed that here was a dome at the top of the church on the left side but not a mirrored dome on the right. We asked one of the docents and the suggested answer was simply they ran out of money and there was no thoughts of finishing it.

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The mission is constructed of low-fire clay brick, stone and lime mortar. The sculptures were created in guild workshops in Mexico and carried by donkeys through the mountains to the Mission.

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Church services are held here regularly every sunday.

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These two very different and wonderful prickly pear pads in the mission garden caught my eye.

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It was exciting to see all of the new growth starting on the cactus. This little garden had the furthest along spring growth that we have seen so far.

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The rains that were here today should help the spring growth move along a little further.

Derek’s has been watching this little guy out sunning itself for the past few days.

Tohono Chul Park

Last Saturday we saw a sign for a pottery sale at the Tohono Chul park so we went. The sale gave us free admission to the park, we’re all about the free stuff, so we went in and admired the pottery. The pottery was set up in a lovely area under a ramada which gave a dapple light and a bit of a reprieve from the sun. Tables had been set up with table cloths, a few stands and the potter’s work. Much of it was, as Roger, Derek’s pottery teacher used to say, early days. Meaning they are trying hard but it is still beginner’s work. We talked to several of the smiling, name tagged potters about where they got their clay, what temperature they fire to and other pottery related stuff but unfortunately for them we did not buy anything. There were people buying some things but pottery just wasn’t in our budget. I still have some at home in boxes and Derek has been talking about maybe producing some raku work for our shop.

According to the brochure: The mission of Tohono Chul Park is to enrich people’s lives by connecting them with the wonders of nature, art and culture in the Sonoran Desert region and inspiring wise stewardship of the natural world.

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It all began in 1966 when its benefactors, Richard and Jean Wilson, started piecing together patches of the desert that would form its core. During the 1970s the Wilsons were approached several times by developers seeking to purchase the land for commercial development. They always refused. When Pima County condemned a strip along the southern boundary of the property in order to widen Ina Road, Mr. Wilson demanded that they move every saguaro and replant it on their adjacent property. That would have been quite a feat since the saguaro is tall, prickly and extremely heavy. Above is a crested Saguaro, somewhat rare.

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The staff at the park have created many distinct gardens within it’s borders. The hummingbird garden has many hummingbird friendly plants including salvia and desert honeysuckle. Hummingbirds are drawn to sweet, flute-shaped flowers, which are perfect for the birds’ long, narrow beaks. The Sonoran Seasons Garden space reflects the seasonal variations of the Arizona Upland. This part of the Sonoran Desert actually boasts five seasons – winter, spring, dry summer, monsoon summer and fall. When we were walking through it California poppies were blooming.

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One of the more interesting gardens was the Ethnobotanical. It displays the types of plants the Tohono O’odham used for food, basket making, medicine, and cultural ceremonies. The summer garden features native plants flood farmed by the Tohono O’odham and the winter garden shows plants the Spanish and other Europeans brought with them to the New World. These plants couldn’t tolerate the hot summer weather so were grown over the winter months when native plants were sitting dormant.

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The last prickly pear cactus picture shows nibble marks courtesy of the resident javelina. The first cactus has very long needles, the second non that I could see and the third cactus was dead. What I found out though was that the fuzzy white stuff on the prickly pear is a web created by the cochineal bug which makes a great red dye. It was prized by the early Europeans because there was nothing in Europe that dyed fabric quite as vibrant a red. I learned all this back in College in my natural dyes and spinning class but had no idea where the cochineal bug came from.

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These are the three pictures that I have been looking at as fashion inspiration today. The first has a great colour combination and a beautiful star or flower pattern. The second and third picture is making think a lot about pleats. I love pleats, so does Issey Miyake (big name Japanese designer). Last picture, my buckle dress with pleats in the flounce.

Getting Some Work Done

When you find something you love to do and then have the ability to make it your living you’re a lucky soul. To sit there for hours and have it feel like minutes, it’s the best. And then if you get to do this in a wonderful setting, if only for a few weeks, well it can carry you through until summer comes back to our neighbourhood.

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I am making more sizes of this vest in grey as well as red. It is one of my most popular pieces.

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Tomorrow I am going to try to get Derek to cut out and iron on some interfacing for me.

Saguaro Park West

Walking in the desert has been a real highlight for Derek. He talked about wanting to do just that for about 2 years. Exactly the length of time it has been since we were last here in Tucson. Just like the Provincial parks at home the National parks here charge an entrance fee, except for about 6 days a year. Lucky for us yesterday was one of those days, so we took advantage and went for a hike.

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We are in Arizona, that hole is a gun shot.

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Off I go only to stop to photograph the clouds. Something I do all the time. Especially heading down the 400 but only as a passenger.

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These guys are BIG and old. These ones are 150 to 200 years old.

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Up close these saguaros like like soft sculptures with a lot of pins. They actually feel hard and a little waxy. As the summer progresses and the really hot weather gets here the accordion shaped sides will look more pronounced as the saguaro uses up its water supply. These big guys when fully grown and full of water can weight up to 6 tons.

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Javelinas think these prickly pear taste yummy. Javelina (Tayassu tajacu) also known as collared peccary, are medium-sized animals that look similar to a wild boar. They have mainly short coarse salt and pepper colored hair, short legs, and a pig-like nose. The hair around the neck/shoulder area is lighter in color giving it the look of a collar. Javelina have long, sharp canine teeth which protrude from the jaws about an inch. We did not see these Javelina. I found the picture. Even the little guys are ferocious. 

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Almost back to the car.

Rain in the Desert

Listening to the radio today I heard umpteen reporters talking about the rain. The sky was cloudy all day and a few drops hit my head as I was out for a walk but I didn’t see any rain. I guess when you live in a desert and the meteorologists all talk about the big drought that’s coming you tend to talk about rain. By the end of the day only 1/10th of an inch of rain actually fell. Water resources for this area are drying up so any sign of precipitation is a good thing.

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What Did You Do on Valentine’s Day?

We found three areas in Tucson that were having celebrations today. Uptown at one of the fashionable market areas vendors had set up a farmer’s market with some beautiful wares. We were blown away by some Mexican pottery which was absolutely, extraordinarily beautiful but found it at two different booths and no Mexicans on the premises. Fabulous olive oils, gourmet popcorn, paintings, photos, all out of our snack bracket were being offered up. The place was a little quiet so we looked and then headed to our second destination, 4th Avenue. This has always been the alternative area. If you need a tie-dyed t-shirt, a sign made out of cut up licence plates well this is your stretch of the community. They were trying really hard to entice families to “come on down”. They had singers on several street corners, one crooner, one hard rock and I’m not sure what the third guy was was suppose to be doing. They handed out keys which were to open locks to win a prize but mostly it was the same people whom I saw last week wandering around being asked by street kids if they would like to buy some rocks which I know they had just bought themselves at the gem show last week. Our third stop was downtown were the crowds did come out. One of the side streets had been closed down for the day and a stage was set up, tables and chairs put out and food trucks galore. We saw the Canadian Comfort Food truck, (that’s what it said on the side), and had to partake in the poutine. Congress, the main downtown street, had a variety of vender’s tents set up on either side and two live lanes of traffic. I hope the drivers were all careful. I could just imagine the news cast “Here I am in downtown Tucson where a car took out the candy floss machine, kids were horrified, pictures at 11″.

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Me waiting for the poutine and enjoying the music in another one of my favourite outfits which I did get a compliment on today. There were plenty of cowboys downtown enjoying the music.

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Derek spotted this guy out sunning himself.

A Beautiful Day for a Hike

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We headed today to the Pima Canyon trail. If you look in the centre of the photograph where the mountains make a V that’s where we are headed.

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This is what we encountered on the way up the mountain. A great trail to follow and a lot of rocks to climb over.

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Not something you often see in the desert but because of rains early in the month the creek was running. It was a beautiful sight and seeing paw prints on the ground made it obvious animals in the area were enjoying it too. The higher we climbed the denser and greener the vegetation got. The wind was a little breezier and the temperature dropped slightly, from perfect to very pleasant.

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As we climbed, rounded corners and looked up over the next hill I thought of my Mum. When I was young and we as a family were walking somewhere unknown to us and taking much longer than anticipated my Mum would start reciting part of one her favourite poems.

Ever just over the top of the next brown rise I expect some wonderful thing to flatter my eyes. “What’s yonder?” I ask of the first wayfarer I meet. “Nothing” he answers, and looks at my travel-worn feet. “Only more hills and more hills, like the many you’ve passed, with rough country between and a poor enough inn at the last”. But already I am a-move, for I see he is blind, and I hate that old grumble I’ve listened to time out of mind. I’ve tramped it too long not to know there is truth in it still, that lure of the turn of the road, of the crest of the hill. So I breast me the rise with full hope, well assured I shall see some new prospect of joy, some brave venture a tip-toe for me.

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Derek wants to go back again tomorrow. Only if I get some sewing done tonight.

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I’m trying.

Oracle

Yesterday Derek and I went for a drive north of Tucson to Oracle. I’m not sure why Derek wanted to go there, it might have just because he saw it on the map. The population of the place is small, they don’t even put it on their sign but I do know how high above the sea we are. Everyone we talked to, well both Sue and Jerry asked us if we had eaten lunch yet and then recommended the Cafe Patio. They said it had the best pie. It did, we can attest to that because we shared a piece of coconut pie. I’m not sure why they had to recommend though, it was the only place in town to get something to eat. Sue and Jerry have an interesting place. He is a sculptor and she runs the shop. Sue has a little of everything in there. As long as its old and used it will be there. Derek bought a postcard.

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Jerry’s studio was something else. Jerry pictured working. I was glad to see the fire extinguisher.

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This was the third great thing in Oracle. The Chalet Village Motel reminded me of the Cosy Cone Cabins of Radiator Springs. My Grandson a big fan of the movie “Cars” would love to stay there with his Poppy.

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On the way back to Tucson we saw this poor old saguaro that had just been replanted and needed some help.

Stay Here

I’m not sure what the rooms look like but I like the sign.

The Willard Hotel as it was first called was built in 1902. The hotel had both gas and electric up-to-date lighting and forty two rooms. Some even included a private bath! September 1, 1902 was the opening date. On September 24, the dining room was opened then two days later one of the men sold his interest in the hotel to the other partner. Two days after that the remaining partner announced his intentions to close the hotel. The water was turned off which forced the guests out. Not much of a business plan.

The hotel went under various managements until 1944. That year remodelling efforts removed probably most of the interesting elements and reopened under the name Pueblo Hotel and Apartments.  It operated until 1984, when it was vacated. Like so many other buildings in many downtowns it sat empty for years. In 1991,  six Tucson businessman formed the “Willard Partners” and purchased the hotel. It is now law offices and I will never get to see what the rooms looked like. At least they kept the sign.

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