Southern Arizona: hiking and making little paintings

In the end of February, I traveled to southern Arizona for some sunshine, hiking, and color inspiration. I have a great friend Trish who lives in Tucson, and for several years I have been meaning to pay her a visit. Back at home, while snow and cold air generally don’t bother me too much, we’ve had an especially brutal Chicago winter in 2014, and this ended up being the perfect timing for some desert views!

Tucson is a sprawling small city, surrounded by several mountain ranges, and there are so many hiking opportunities within a just a 40-minute drive from downtown. These views are from Blackett’s Ridge trail, which runs above the popular Sabino Canyon.

One of my interesting Tucson art visits was DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. It consists of a series of buildings and a large paintings collection by Ted DeGrazia, who created impressionistic works of Native Americans. Pictured below is the chapel building there:

….which then inspired this little painting:

Later, we traveled for some hiking to Chiricahua National Monument. This place is full of amazing, majestic vertical rock formations, which, geologists believe, resulted from a massive violation eruption that took place about 27 million years ago.

The trail we were on ranks amongst some of the beautiful hikes I have ever done. With each turn, a new panorama of rock formations opened up, they were both surreal and playful. Some of them are shaped like people, some – like birds, some – like cartoon characters.

But most amazing and puzzling thing about this park is that it was – pretty much – empty! On a gorgeous 75 degree sunny day, after completing our 9.5 mile loop trai hike, we encountered maybe a total of 6 people (4 of whom were Amish). Could this be the best kept secret of Arizona? …and am I spoiling the magic by broadcasting it?? Nah. I don’t think I am ruining the solitude of future Chiricahua hikers, as most AZ visitors will continue to swarm up North, aiming for Sedona and Grand Canyon.

Meanwhile, colors of the Chiricahua rocks changed to different hues throughout the day, affected by positioning of the sun. At one point, they were all glowing neon green (because of lichen – or fungus-that covers them) – and orange (because of sunset)! What a stunning valley, and photos, of course, hardly do justice.

And I then I followed up my hike with some very small, Chiricahua-inspired paintings:

On the way back to Tucson, we stopped in the old mining town of Bisbee for some locally brewed beer and dinner. This town is so charming, and I so wish I had the opportunity to visit it during the day. Someday, I hope to make it back here, but for now, here is a quick night shot:

Our next trail took us to Wasson Peak in the Tucson Mountain range. Surrounded by Sonora dessert and lush prickly vegetation, it was another hike-winner.

And then, sure enough, came out a cactus-inspired painting:

On the day I drove back to Phoenix to catch my flight home, I managed to squeeze in one last uphill adventure – Hunter Trail to Picacho Peak, which, from the interstate, looks like this:

What a unique mountain this is. This huge rock has eroded into a sharp spire, and trail to the the tip, while only 2 miles long, is so steep that it requires holding on to various steel cables in many places. It was a climb-hike, a perfect way to end my little vacation.

This last little painting was inspired by simply enjoying a sunset on my friend’s balcony. Bye, Arizona. Thank you for another round of gorgeous hikes, well crafted beer, fun company, and yoga. It was great to see you again!

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