Friday, January 3, 2014

Tucson and Phoenix pix

S and E flew to Germany to visit S's mom over winter break. I could have flown to frigid Illinois to visit my mom, but instead she and I both flew to Tucson to enjoy a week of warmth and sunshine.

I was a student at the University of Arizona 26-22 years ago, beginning as a grad student in Astronomy before quitting to become a pianist instead. I met S in Tucson right after the switch in programs, so it was a particularly happy time. Tucson and the university have both grown a lot since then; apart from the mountains and street layout, there was little I recognized from half a life ago.

On our first full day in Tucson, my mom and I met up with friends H-W and MB and went to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum--one of my favorite places on the planet.

I heart prickly pear
A ceiling of saguaro bones
Saguaros in the Tucson mountains
Spiky spines
It had rained a lot the week before we arrived, and the
cacti were all looking happily plump
Metal vulture
Tree branch
The next day, we went back to the airport to exchange the rental car, because one of the ways Cheapo Rentals passes savings on to its customers is by forgetting to keep its car registrations current. Then we visited San Xavier del Bac and Saguaro National Park (West) before meeting up with old friends T and D for dinner.

18th-c. cherub all decked out for Christmas
The Mission, constructed 1783-1797
Brilliantly white scroll detail
Saguaros are tall; they start growing branches
at about 50-100 years, and can live to be over 200
Looking west over the Tucson mountains
On day 3, we hiked up Bear Canyon toward Seven Falls.

Back-lit saguaros have silver linings
We crossed the river multiple times
After we got our feet wet, the crossings got easier
The smooth rocks shortly before the end made a good resting spot
On the way out, looking back at the canyon
Black pearls instead of spines...
Many photo ops...
On day 4, we went clothing shopping. I do not enjoy clothing shopping, but every few years, it has to happen. We went to the swanky mall in the foothills and discovered that seasonal sales make swank relatively affordable. No photos, because clothing shopping is not photo worthy.

The next day we drove up Mt. Lemmon for some purty mountain views.

Look both ways, at the same time please
There was snow on the north-facing sides of the mountains
That must have been a pretty unpleasant final ride...
View from Windy Point toward Tucson
On New Year's Eve, we drove up to Phoenix to see the Heard Museum.

A section of "Art Fence" by Tony Jojola and Rosemary Lonewolf
Dorothy Torivio (Acoma) eyeballed the layout for this 1984 prize-winning pot

Ancestral Pueblo, St. John's black-on-red jar, A.D. 1275-1325
Ancestral Pueblo, Escavada black-on-white pitcher, A.D. 925-1125
We were super duper lucky to get last-minute tickets to the Desert Botanical Garden's final Las Noches de las Luminarias event of the year. Gates opened at 5:30, just past sunset.

This prickly pear must be the tastiest, tenderest variety ever, given the 3-inch spines

The garden currently has a Chihuly installation that will continue through May. It was beautifully lit up, and made New Year's Eve in the garden the highlight of our trip.

The Solstice Elk had brought me a new point-and-shoot camera the week before the trip, and I used the camera for all of these photos. When I took this picture...

The cardón cactus is the world's largest type of cactus
...I noticed the camera was picking up stars in the night sky. Yep, picking up stars behind a brightly lit cactus, with lots of additional foreground light. So I aimed the camera straight up, and got this:

and this:
Orion and Taurus
The last magical gifts of the evening included finally finding a gasoline station before our rental car ran out of fumes; being pulled over by a cheerful police officer who simply asked me to turn on the headlights; and being pulled over again by the same officer, who had forgotten to record my driver's license info but who said not to worry that the license was in my backpack back in the hotel room, since he was confident I wasn't drunk. Thanks, nice Mr. Arizona police officer!

Happy 2014, y'all!