An Arizona Adventure
American Airlines delivered me direct from MCO to Phoenix on the morning of November 2nd, I decided to take a few days in Arizona to explore before my class with the Sedona Arts Center on Nov 7-9. My original plan was to start my trip in Flagstaff. For six years I’ve been teaching in Sedona, and I’ve never visited Flag, as the locals call it. I figured, why not?
Two days before the trip, the folks from Madeline Island School of the Arts asked me if I’d like to check out their winter campus at the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson. I’m interested in potentially teaching there with MISA, so it sounded like a great idea. And, I’m always up for an adventure. And so I headed South, instead of North out of Phoenix in a taupe-ish Hyundai with a full tank of gas and a definite sense of adventure.
Tanque Verde Ranch
It was an easy two hour drive from Phoenix to the Ranch. Upon arrival many of the buildings and the horse corral already looked familiar to me from the Ranch’s wonderful website. I received a warm welcome from the friendly staff who were very familiar with MISA and the winter workshops. They gave me an overview of the campus and pointed me in the direction of the classroom, which I was anxious to check out as a location for a future Paper Paintings Collage Workshop.
The grounds of the Ranch are manicured and beautiful. They are very proud of their front lawn, a large area of lush green grass, in the middle of the desert.
I wanted to roll around on it, do a sleeping tiger pose (I’ve been doing yoga lately) but resisted the temptation.
There are multiple swimming pools, a world-class spa, a horse arena, a kids club, large open areas for horseback riding, a nature trail, horse corral, classroom space filled with natural light, a butterfly garden, gift shop, and a huge dining room that can accommodate up to 300 people!
Bring your friends and your art supplies.
Wednesday Night BBQ
How lucky was I to have arrived on a Wednesday? The Ranch’s Cottonwood Grove offered twinkling lights attached to an overhead tree canopy. The picnic tables were covered with red and white checkered table cloths and candles, with fire pits all around to keep us warm. The guests were serenaded by an amazing cowboy crooner who knew all the standards, and then some. Guests are encouraged to take their meals at community tables at the Ranch in order to meet new people and make new friends.
Oh, and did I mention the food? There was just too much to good stuff to list, something for everyone and ever appetite. Grilled, smoked, slow cooked, sweet, savory, crunchy, melt in your mouth…. No one leaves the BBQ hungry.
I slept well on a belly full of BBQ and enjoyed an amazing view of saguaro cactus from the window of my beautifully Southwest decorated room. Wishing I could stay another day, or a week, or a month… I had to hit the road after an amazing buffet breakfast in the sun-filled dining room.
Flagstaff accommodations and explorations awaited!
Up the Hill to Flagstaff
Tucson was hot, hot, hot, but five hours of driving North and 7000 ft. elevation higher, things cooled off. A lot. Having lived in Florida for over 20 years, I consider anything below 70º to be freezing. We arrived in Flagstaff after dark, and in the rain — both scenarios contributed to my being freezing. What a day, from desert hot to mountain cold; Arizona is a diverse state.
My first experience in town was the Flagstaff Arts Council ArtWalk which is once a month on the first Friday. It was encouraging to see it so well attended! There was live music and snacks in most of the venues, with an easy to follow printed map and guide.
Good stuff. Local color.
Nature and History
My next adventure was a hike into Walnut Canyon National Monument where the weathered and worn cascading canyon walls take your breath away. Among the incredible geological formations of the canyon itself, the former cave dwelling homes of ancient inhabitants are amazing. Along the trails you get a feeling for life within the Canyon, while walking in the steps of those who came before.
Twenty miles long, 400 feet deep and ¼-mile wide, the Canyon was carved by Walnut Creek over a period of 60 million years. For a brief time, from about 1100 to 1250, 100 or more people made their homes here in the walls of the Canyon. Many of the structures are open to the trail and I was able to climb into and crawl through them. Through tiny doorways and into dark spaces, I could get a fleeting feeling of sleeping and waiting out bad weather in these small stone spaces. Many of the ceilings were still dark black with soot from fire used for heat, cooking, or fumigation so very long ago. I sat on the sandy floor and thought about a simpler time.
After Walnut Creek in the morning, the plan was to watch the sun set at the Grand Canyon. A quick return to Flagstaff for warmer jackets and to refill water bottles, and we were off for the grandest of canyons. The South Rim offers some amazing views, any time of day. From having been there last year to see the sunset, I knew where to go and how to get there. Thank goodness, because we were running out of time to beat the clock. Sunset would be at 5:28pm.
Arizona does not practice daylight savings time, and the time will change while I am here… always a complication to keeping up with the folks at home!
What an amazing day. It was incredible being there, on the edge of the Grand Canyon as the sun went down. It was incredible being on the edge of Walnut Canyon earlier in the day. I began to think (yet again) about how grateful I was to be able to be there, to have such an amazing job and to live such a creative and colorful life.
When the sun goes down at Grand Canyon National Park it gets totally and completely black. They have a dark skies initiative there, so that you can experience the stars in a way like no where else. No light pollution means no parking lot lights. If you go, you might pack a flashlight so that you can find your car after the sun goes down.
Back in the Hyundai for an hour drive back to Flagstaff, through complete starry darkness. Lookout for dear, or elk–the illustrations on the road side signs were slightly confusing to me.
Just Around the Bend
Tomorrow will be Sedona, my Happy Place. Sedona merits a blog entry all of its own.
Thank you for being
a part of my