This year, in search of our next home in the U.S. West, my partner and I revisited two cities we’d found appealing on earlier travels and took a longer, closer look. In Part I, I wrote about our stay in Eugene, Oregon in cold, rainy March. Part II takes us to a sunny Sonoran Desert clime in high summer.
On the East Coast, they’ve got “The Big Apple,” New York City. Here in the West, we’ve got “The Baked Apple,” Tucson, Arizona. At least that’s what one witty local journalist calls it in its summer season, when temperatures regularly soar to over 100 degrees. If it’s not an established nickname for the city, it should be.
Could we handle the heat and thrive? Finding out was a major goal of our stay in July. At first, it quickly drained our usual energy. Day one was the worst –– like a slow motion prowl through a scenic oven –– but we kept going anyway and got acclimated fairly soon.
Starting the day’s exploring early is a must to beat the most intensive heat. Fortunately, we’re morning people, and it helped us make the most of our time, despite necessary breaks to cool off. It was also great for desert hiking and photography.
Saguaro National Park
On our earlier trips to Tucson, enjoying the beautiful natural environment was our primary focus. We loved Saguaro National Park and couldn’t wait to get back on the trails. That’s the park in the photo above, taken on this year’s morning hike –– lush and green under a fabulous western sky.
The park is named for the iconic Saguaro cactus below, a well-known symbol of Arizona and the American West. These giant cacti grow only in the Sonoran Desert.
Saguaro National Park is comprised of two sections, East and West. Our hike was in Saguaro East, also known as the Rincon Mountain district. It’s the older section, with mature Saguaros that may be more than 200 years old.
Summer is monsoon/rainy season in Tucson, and the desert was blooming. This prickly pear cactus is full of ripe, red-violet fruit growing from the edges of its fleshy green pads. The sweet “pears” are edible as well as the pads (the Mexican vegetable “nopalitos”).
The University of Arizona
Tucson is home to the University of Arizona, with the associated cultural benefits –– another thing we like about the city. Its Center for Creative Photography, co-founder Ansel Adams, was a highlight of our trip.
We also enjoyed touring and photographing the attractive campus with its old red-brick buildings, green, shady lawns and groves of trees.
That’s the Women’s Plaza of Honor in the foreground in this photo.
The first university in Arizona, “Old Main” opened its doors in 1891. In its early days, it stood in the middle of a desert. Now it’s an island of green in the heart of the city.
On a prior trip, we toured Tucson landmark, Mission San Xavier del Bac, on the outskirts of the city. This time, we focused on the historic areas downtown: El Presidio and Barrio Historico.
The oldest neighborhood in Tucson, El Presidio was founded in 1775, when Spanish soldiers and settlers built a walled fort there. Barrio Historico dates from the mid-1850s as settlers spread out from El Presidio.
I especially enjoyed photographing the colorful old houses and buildings in these areas. Here are some of my favorites.
Bright colors and decorative details are a hallmark of the city’s downtown historic districts.
No trip to The Baked Apple would be complete without an escape to Mount Lemmon, a refuge from the heat for locals and visitors alike. The steep, curving road goes up to a 9,000-foot elevation in a diverse outdoor recreation area with pine forests and panoramic views.
We didn’t get to the top on our drive, but we didn’t need to: Starting at 110 degrees in Tucson, the temperature dropped to the 70s as we climbed, with open windows, reveling in the cool, fresh air.
What are some of your favorite travels this year? Will you be off for one more trip before 2019 comes to a close? If so, where will you go?
Copyright M. Vincent 2019. All photos copyright M. Vincent 2019.
3 thoughts on “Food/Photography Friday: A Photographic Tale of Two Cities, Part II”
All the photos are perfectly representative of the variety of scenes and scenery in the Tucson area. I particularly like your photos of the houses of the houses in El Presidio and Barrio Viejo. Since I have inside information, I happen to know that you endured 114-degree heat to capture some of them. Nicely done.
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I’m a sucker for windows and doors, so those old buildings were especially appealing to me — as well as the colors, of course. For some reason, I was surprised to see the poinciana there; I’ve always associated it with tropical heat, but also with tropical rain. Of course, I’ve only seen it in Florida, the Bahamas, and West Africa, and associated it with that sort of climate.
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