An Artist Colony, A White Dove, and Friendship ~ Tubac, AZ

welcome to TubacCombine a growing artist colony, a White Dove of the Desert, and friendship and what you get is a nice day trip from Catalina State Park in Oro Valley, where we are camped, to Tubac, AZ.  I have been mute on our time at Catalina State Park, not because we are not enjoying looking out over and hiking into the Santa Catalina Mountains, but because this is our second visit (here is our first).  We have chosen to lazily pass the time in the company of good friends Stan and Marilyn (also camped here) over posting again about this great state park.

Mission San Xavier del Bac
Mission San Xavier del Bac

Stan, Marilyn, Terry and I began our trip to Tubac with a stop just 10 miles south of downtown Tucson to a place I hadn’t visited in many years, Mission San Xavier del Bac, the “White Dove of the Desert”.  This historic Spanish Catholic mission was founded in 1692 by Father Eusebio Kino.

In the late 1600’s, a stranger in dark flowing robes on horseback, a Jesuit missionary, ambled into the village of Wa:k.  The desert people who resided there, the Tohono O’odham, welcomed him with open arms, thus beginning the tenure of Father Kino’s mission work.

Present-day church construction began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. Following Mexico’s independence in 1821, Mission San Xavier became part of Mexico, but with the Gadsden Purchase in 1854, ownership changed to the US.  It is said to be the oldest intact European structure in Arizona, still containing the original mural paintings and statuary within its chapel, the frescoes and back altar quite striking.  It is very much an active mission today, with services being held daily.  A separate, smaller chapel to the side of the church is available for special prayer offerings.

Mission San Jose de Tumacacori
Mission San José de Tumacacori

Mission San José de Tumacácori (Too-muh-ká-ko-ree) was our next stop, four miles outside the town of Tubac.  This historic mission was also founded by Father Kino, one year earlier than that of Mission San Xavier.  No one knows the meaning of the word Tumacácori but it is believed to be an O’odham word.

In January, 1691, on the east bank of the Santa Cruz River, the oldest mission site in what is now Arizona was built, a very modest structure compared to Mission San Xavier to its north.  It’s original name was Mission San Cayetano de Tumacácori and was renamed to Mission San José in 1751 when the mission was moved to its present location on the west side of the river.  The structure was never completed, due to many woes:  Apache hostility, lack of government support, and disease, to name a few.  When Tumacácori lost its last resident priest, scaffolding still hung from the bell tower.  The mission is unfinished yet today, although restoration work has begun on what remains.

Having had our spirits rejuvenated and broadened our knowledge of Arizona history, we headed to the growing artist colony known as Tubac “where art and history meet”.   Established in 1752 as a Spanish Presidio, it houses Arizona’s first state park and European settlement, the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. There is a museum that is open to the public, but quite frankly, a girl can only fill her head with so many facts and figures in one day.  We chose instead to wander among the roughly 100 eclectic shops and world-class galleries, a very nice way to wind down our day.

But wait, there’s more!  Our exciting finish to the day took us to Elvira’s to dine at what is probably one of the most popular and funkiest restaurants in Tubac, featuring gourmet Mexican fare.  The is the second Elvira’s restaurant to open, the first being in Nogales, Mexico.  We were thrilled to have friends Stan and Marilyn with us, along with new friends Gary and Christine, who we were fortunate to meet up with while camphosting in San Elijo State Beach in CA.  The food and drinks were yummy, the restaurant interior delightful (so sparkly) due to the hundreds of teardrops and colored balls hanging from the ceiling reflecting the light, and the company superb.

L-R:  Marilyn, Stan, Christine, Gary & Terry
L-R: Marilyn, Stan, Christine, Gary & Terry

We could not have asked for a better ending to our day and with the knowledge that we would see all four of these great folks again next winter in CA, we said goodbye to Gary and Christine.  Tomorrow will be a sad day for us as we part ways with Stan and Marilyn, two amazing friends who have crept into our hearts and will definitely remain there.

I must share one final photo of this area, as it speaks to the gentle spirit of this man.  He is not near old enough to be my poppy (papa) but I’m certain he was a sweet and gentle poppy to his children.  Sorry Stan, I couldn’t resist!

Stan, one sweet man and our dear friend
Stan, one sweet man and our dear friend

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Wishing on a Star for a Hot Tub

This was my initial thought after the effects of our hike today settled in.  Given the clouds moving into the Tucson area, seeing any stars tonight did not look promising and finding a hot tub in Catalina State Park was not going to happen. Settling for a nice hot shower seemed the most appealing alternative.

We enjoy staying at state parks when possible as they usually provide more wide open spaces and great views.  Catalina State Park, located within Coronado National Forest, sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains.

Sitting at an elevation of 3000 feet, this 5500 acre park is a haven for desert plants,  wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros.  Miles of equestrian, birding, hiking, and biking trails wind through the park and on into the Coronado National Forest.  Mount Lemmon is the highest peak in the Santa Catalinas, standing at 9157 feet.

We opted for the Romero Canyon Trail hike today, a moderately difficult hike. We did not make it out to Romero Pass at 7.2 miles, choosing instead to turn around at 5.5 miles.  This round-trip 11 mile hike, with elevation gains of 2000 feet was enough for us.

Two happy hikers at the turn-around mark

It offered some stunning views, with lots of running water in the canyon.  It would be interesting to see how fast the water is moving through the canyon after the spring run-offs.

Most of the hike out was up, so the good news was we could cruise downhill on the return trip, but admittedly a little harder on the knees, as I watch my husband gingerly walking around the rig tonight.  If I am honest, my legs are protesting a bit tonight as well.

View towards Tucson hiking down off the Romero Canyon Trail

About 3/4 of the way back, we started to see paramedics and other rescue personnel hiking up past us.  There were a total of eleven rescue workers pushing up the mountain, and two staged with a bucket/gurney nearby, as well as seven rescue vehicles standing by to assist.  We never did learn what occurred, and watching the local news tonight did not provide any answers either.  We can only hope that whatever happened in the canyon today, it was not serious.

As we crossed over the stream at the end of our hike, a little boy, clad only in a t-shire and Superman undies, came racing around the corner dragging a toy truck. He stopped abruptly right in front of us, dropped his undies, and proceeded to water the grass along the trail.  Ah, the innocence of children!

Looking into the canyon from the Romero Canyon Trail
First sign of poppies along the trail

With some clouds rolling in, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset over the Santa Catalinas tonight.

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