Morning in Catalina State Park
A few old favorites and new finds this trip. Catalina State Park did not disappoint. I never feel like I am really in Tucson without walking the Canyon Loop Trail, which this time had no water anywhere. Word has it, no rain since September. We had good street tacos at Seis Kitchen on River Road (al pastor and avocado good in particular).
I met my friend Mary across the street from the U of Arizona (Professor Mary) at The Dutch, where we ate salads and caught up at a pleasant outdoor table.
near the U of Arizona
Along S. Stone
I dropped by two places I wanted to try last trip— Bon Boutique, (beautiful, pricey French housewares) and 5 Points Market and Restaurant, which had a funky coffee house vibe and what looked like excellent sandwiches and pastries. Next time (if there is one). I drove down nearby Convent Street to see some lovely revived, brightly painted adobe houses.
This was my first time renting from Advantage, which cost as much as the Arizona Shuttle round trip to Tucson. (And gas was cheap – $3.17 compared to $3.6 3 here.) I ordered a compact car and ended up with a minivan. Not the newest or cleanest but it drove fine. Now trying Frontier Airlines direct Phoenix to Des Moines. So far so good (which is more than I can say for the last flight I tried to take on Frontier). I bought water and a sandwich before boarding since there is no free anything on board. The seats are hard and thin with a tiny tray but not too cramped. I had to pay for my seat ($9, i.e. way in the rear) and carry-on bag ($35) but c’est la vie. I flew out on Southwest (which I prefer for many reasons to Frontier) — one of the first new direct Des Moines to Phoenix flights, on what seemed like a brand new plane!
Hiked on a perfect morning on Pima Canyon Trail yesterday (Oracle Rd. to Magee Rd east until the road ends), with my neighbor from Iowa who is on sabbatical in Tucson, then had a really nice lunch at La Cocina with Dad in the courtyard at Old Town Artsans downtown, near the art museum and EL Charro (the famous Mexican restaurant serving carne secca). We had delicious small grilled artichokes at La Cocina and I bought a 1960s (we think) suit (jacket and skirt) for $23 (yes $23) at a vintage clothing store on the courtyard. Also restocked my girl-gift supply with some Thai silver rings.
We also drove by a store called Bon and next door Five Pointe marketplace and cafe, which I need to check out next visit, and mid-century architecture near Broadway and Country Club/ Euclid. Next trip!
For future reference (and to prevent a repeat of today’s long search), the stretch of the Rillito Wash bike trail in west Tucson that we rode started at the Ted Walker park trailhead just south and a little west of the Ina exit of Interstate 10. Dad and I rode 9 miles (which is great considering that dad is rebounding after some major health issues) north from the small park on a trail that began somewhat unpromisingly, with quasi industrial scenery but quickly became more scenic, bordering a small creek lined with palo verde and other desert trees, with the mountains off on in the distance to the east and west. I was impressed by how well tended the trail was and the artwork adorning it including several mosaic panels.
Dad was a good sport to go with me for Mexican food, which he doesn’t like. We tried Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe in west Tucson off grant road west of I 10. It’s a peculiar looking place, a round greenish-blue building behind a McDonald’s that looks a bit like a spaceship or an import from the Jetsons. Inside the restaurant is more traditional festive Mexican with colorful paper banners, ceramics and paintings and a nice mountain view out the curved window. The food was pretty good although to be honest I think my carnitas are better. Their’s were big chunks with considerable fat (and not the promised crispiness). They were in light green sauce that was tasty. The homemade tortillas were as soft and fresh as advertised (we didn’t get to see them being made in the open oven area in the middle of the big curved dining room.) We were also impressed with the guacamole. The horchata (my new drink – a milky looking sweet rice and nutmeg drink) wasn’t as good as the one I had at the barrio cafe in Phoenix. (Nor was the pork, come to think of it.) but I would give this place another chance because it is colorful and has potential. Their huevos rancheros is supposed to be good.
Always nice to have a hiking buddy and because my dad’s bum knee rules him out for this trip, I was especially pleased to hike with my neighbor Amahia from Des Moines who happens to be here on sabbatical. She hadn’t been to Catalina State Park about a mile from my dad’s house in Oro Valley so I showed her the Loop Trail, an easy and lovely scenic hike into the valley dotted with saguaros and bordered by high jagged mountains.
We had a really nice lunch outside in the garden at Tohono Chul, the lovely estate and desert garden nearby. For the first time ever, in my experience, we waltzed right in and were seated — perhaps a benefit of being here in January rather than our usual February or March. The weather was perfect, high 60s and low 70s, although quite cool at night.
Lunch yesterday with my old friend from London, Mary, who is a longtime U of Arizona professor, at a good Italian place called North in the ritzy Encantado shopping center. Excellent grilled artichoke, bruschetta with asparagus, cheese and proscuitto and even better company!
Now in vegas, awaiting my connecting flight home after a short flight from Tucson marred only by a raucous crowd of fellow fliers who were in very high spirits and laughing and shouting so loudly that I finally remembered I had my iPod and could effectively block out the noise.
Yesterday in Tucson, dad and I ate poke Arizona style, which was listed at RA sushi, in a ritzy outdoor shopping mall, as a “sashimi bowl salad with poke sauce.” iT was a delicious mix of raw tuna and salmon, cooked shrimp, greens, sliced avocado and a tangy soy sauce-based poke sauce. gOod strawberry lemonade too and it felt healthy enough to almost justify eating for dinner a “convertible” burger (served on half a bun, as if…) with carmelized onions at Zinnburger. a few days earlier, we also had good pizza at skordatos in the shopping center at Campbell and river (I think) that is moving soon, nearby we are told.
Dad and I also took a really pleasant bike ride on a trail along the wash (the dirt gully in the desert that catches water during heavy rain) from near Frys in Oro Valley north and east (I think) to another outdoor shopping area across from Catalina State Park.
i feel really lucky to have had such great weather during what may be my last trip to Tucson for sometime (my father’s house is for sale) and lucky too to have been able to visit this refuge from Midwestern winters for some 20 years. Thanks mom and dad! Xox
Filed under Arizona, Tucson
We got crazy lucky with the weather here. Rather than scorching hot temps, as expected, the highs were in the low 80’s, sunny with a breeze. pretty darn perfect. so we could easily do early morning hikes (our standard loop at Catalina and a trail Just off Magee.
We stayed in a condo we rented from VRBO/Homeaway about 7 minutes drive from my dad’s in Oro Valley, off La Canada, just north of Naranja. Good deal $135 per night for two bedroom two bath, plenty of room to spread out. Not my choice of decor (bachelor pad bad) but good bed, reasonably clean, good backyard with hot tub. My sister found an even nicer place for $100 a night near the el conquistador hotel.
Also did some fine dining to mark my father’s 80th birthday– the reason my siblings and I came here – including Italian food at the new location of Vivace, up the road on Campbell from the previous location, with a stupendous view of the city from in high; excellent birthday brunch in Sunday at Wildflower. Today, we went to Beyond Bread after our hike and were grateful it was open (on Memorial Day). And excellent tuna melt. Tonight we went to Rosa’s Mexican restaurant on fort Lowell. The food wasn’t as good as we remembered but nice ambiance and good service. all good. Happy 80th to my dear dad!!! Xox
perfect weather for a hike at Catalina state park in oro valley where we did the challenging Romero pools trail, 2.2 miles each way and lots of rocks, mountains, glorious views.
We ate a much deserved early dinner (we missed lunch, while out on the trail for 4 hours). I had very good carne seca at rosa’s and good pizza the night before at skordatos.
After finding a long wait for lunch at Tohono Chul, a lovely garden spot in Tucson, we ended up at another favorite, albeit less scenic, lunch spot nearby, Beyond Bread ( where’re I must remember in the future to get the tuna melt). It is hard to go to Beyond Bread without thinking about the horrific shooting that left several people dead and gravely injured then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords a few years ago. The restaurant is right across from the Safeway market where the shooting occurred. As it turns out, several tv trucks were parked outside the Safeway as we were leaving the restaurant and we found out from this morning’s paper that Giffords yesterday returned for the first time to the site, where there is now a memorial outside the market. She and her husband Mark Kelly are working to drum up support for gun control measures. Here is hoping they succeed!
It is 8:25 am and we are waiting for the Arizona shuttle to take us to the Phoenix airport, the first leg of a daylong trek to get home to Iowa. Ridiculous to think we won’t be home until 7:30 pm Arizona time. And irritating that the shuttle folks insisted we be here by 8:15 so the shuttle can leave on the dot at 8:30. (which means of course that my dad got us here at 8:00). When we arrived, we were told the shuttle won’t even arrive until 8:30 – 8:40. So we have 40 minutes to enjoy the view and smell (not) …some sort of industrial site across the road. Grrrr…
Filed under Arizona, Tucson
These are scenes from along the trail to Romero Pools at Catalina State Park in Oro Valley. The hike took us about four hours round trip, with some challenging spots where we had to navigate some uneven jagged rocks but overall it was fairly easy. And lots of classic dessert scenery. Dinner was at vivace, a reliably good Italian restaurant in st. Philips plaza. Good Veal Piccatta, seafood soup, yellow snapper with crabmeat special.
We have tried many Mexican restaurants in Tucson over the years and rarely remember them. Rosa’s (on East Fort Lowell at Campbell) we will remember. There’s a reason it’s been around since 1970 and why it was packed during lunch on a Monday. The food is really good and although I’m no expert, I’m told its quite authentic too. I rarely find carne seca – which I associate with the famous El Charro restaurant here – but Rosa’s made a darned good carne seca. It’s different than El Charro’s – with grilled onions and peppers that gives it a slightly different flavor and makes it a little less dry beef. The refried beans were different than others I’ve had too – starting with the color, a rose-colored red. Creamier. Good flavor. And the guacamole was also creamier, paler, more seasoning. The salsa was runny but packed a punch. Good limeade too. And tacos that have deep-fried shells. We’ll be back.
For years, we have hiked at Catalina State Park (the photo above with my son Noah and sister-in-law Heather is from around 2008, the one below with my husband is from around 2009) which has a very easy, very scenic loop through classic dessert terrain (I can still hear my mom’s voice telling us which plant is saguaro, agave, ocotillo, pale verde or cactus paddles). Sadly, a young guy from Minnesota was missing when we arrived – he hadn’t been seen since the previous morning when he set off on a solo hike. Television trucks were camped out in the parking lot and an occasional police van drove past us on the trail. A helicopter flew low above us. Last year, I hiked at the park on my own for the first time and remember being a bit nervous. I stuck to the main loop trail which has lots of hikers and ended up meeting a woman who I hiked half of the trail with. We woke up this morning to the welcome news that the hiker had surfaced north of the state park and was ok. Today returned to the park and took a four hour hike to Romano pools. Classic dessert scenery.
Filed under Arizona, Tucson