Saguaro, Sunsets & Stones

 Sunset at Gates Pass, Tucson    Photo: Lynda Churilla

Sunset at Gates Pass, Tucson   Photo: Lynda Churilla

Tucson Treasures

I have dreamed about going to Tucson for years! The landscape, nature and and photographic riches were all calling to me. 

I finally got the opportunity to experience this haven with my life-long friend Anuschka, who was going to the world famous Tucson Gem & Mineral Show (the largest mineral event of its kind in the world!).  She was there on a mission to find treasure for her amazing store in Colorado: the very hip BloomDenver.com

I couldn't wait to shoot the famous giant saguaro cactus, sunsets, and glittering jewels!

 Hudu with Antique African Copal Amber necklaces   Photo: Lynda Churilla

Hudu with Antique African Copal Amber necklaces  Photo: Lynda Churilla

 Anuschka and Lynda surrounded by indigo dyed textiles from Mali

Anuschka and Lynda surrounded by indigo dyed textiles from Mali

The African Village

After a totally relaxing day at the lux JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass & Spa (talk about immersive pampering!) - Anuschka and I headed to the Gem Show.  Our first stop was the amazing African Art Village.

The Tucson gem show has over 40 different mini installations throughout the city.  My favorite by far was the African Art Village.  It's a tent city made up of hundreds of vendors and places to eat....all straight out of Africa.  I loved it!  Glowing gems, monumental sculptures, bronzes from Bénin, antique beads and masks from across the continent!  All of this served up with a heaping helping of traditional African cuisine and treats. Totally natural and real if you ask me!

 Natural freshwater pearls   Photo: Lynda Churilla

Natural freshwater pearls  Photo: Lynda Churilla

 African beads    Photo: Lynda Churilla

African beads   Photo: Lynda Churilla

Heaven on Earth

The next morning I ventured out into the desert at 5AM.  My goal: shoot a stunning sunrise - and the massive Seguaro Cactus!  (Saguaro is the Indian word pronounced “sah-wah-ro.)

My first stop was Saguaro National Park - naturally!  I barely made it there as there were so many spectacular sites along the way.  I ended up pulling over every 10 minutes to photograph several of the monolithic, massive Seguaros (which grow to over 40 feet in stature!).

I can't believe I didn't run off the road along the way.  I was mesmerized by the lunar landscapes and flora around me! 

A photographers dream!

 Sunrise and the Moon, Tucson    Photo: Lynda Churilla

Sunrise and the Moon, Tucson   Photo: Lynda Churilla

Attack

Nature always has a way of biting back and telling you who's boss though!   And my adventure in the desert was no exception.

On my second day I was besieged by one of the Cholla Cacti - the great white sharks of Sonoran Desert!

I didn't even know they could bite!  I was warned though....a fellow hiker, Bob, cautioned me to watch for the "jumping chollas".  I thought he was joking (what the hell was he talking about?) ...but seconds later I brushed up against one of the most feared plants in the desert  - the afore mentioned Cholla!

I was a complete victim of this monster.  A piece of the plant instantly broke off and lodged in my hand!  And it bit deep --the spines are still lodged in my hand three weeks later!

I didn't let any of this stop me from shooting though.  The landscapes were simply too powerful and captivating.

 Jumping Cholla     Photo: Lynda Churilla

Jumping Cholla    Photo: Lynda Churilla

 Almond Cappucinno & Chocolate, Times Market café    Photo: Lynda Churilla

Almond Cappucinno & Chocolate, Times Market café   Photo: Lynda Churilla

Desert Dining

As I recovered from my injuries the next morning - I headed to the hipster café: Times Market. Part restaurant, deli, coffee bar and market - it's a popular spot with the Tucson arts crowd.  

I loved the place.  A great vibe - and fab cappuccinos!  The breakfast menu features a list of imaginative gastronomic treats including: Avocado & Ricotta Toast, Champignon Monsieur, Tamal Breakfast Plate, and Morning Pizzetes.  I can't wait to go back to sample more of this hotspot's delights!

 Joe Pagac Mural, Tucson    Photo: Lynda Churilla

Joe Pagac Mural, Tucson   Photo: Lynda Churilla

Sand Murals

You can't escape visiting Tucson without encountering some of the wonderful wall art installations.  It's all funded by the local municipality.   Local artists are given grants to spice up neighborhoods with massive building murals.  These treasures pop up around every corner - and were a wonder to spot!

 Saguaro Warrior Princess, Anuschka    Photo: Lynda Churilla

Saguaro Warrior Princess, Anuschka   Photo: Lynda Churilla

What a fantastic place to visit:  Tucson.  Breathtaking landscapes, astonishing vistas, great people, and magnificent food!  Who can ask for anything more.  I will be back as soon as my hand heals!

 
Calvin WoodTucson, Gems, Travel