|(Sorry, couldn't resist)|
This year I compromised and opted for a sketching trip with saguaro cactus and Christmas cholla. Contrary to my high hopes, I didn't escape the cold much, it being 25° several nights as I camped out in my rental Jeep SUV in the desert.
|Saguaros in the Catalina Mts.|
I had come prepared to camp out, with a little cat food can camp stove which I had made myself from an aluminum cat food can and a paper punch after finding instructions on YouTube given by this tattooed dude.
|The stove is sitting in the skillet|
BTW, you only need about half as many holes as he suggests. I also figured out that if you put the stove in a skillet and shape aluminum foil around it as I show in my photo, it makes a fine windbreak and confines the heat to where you want it. In the skillet, the flame is protected and the skillet and foil also protect your surroundings from wayward heat.
The stove here is out of sight UNDER the flattish pan, which is half full of my coffee water heating up, and the uppermost can is full of ravioli which I was warming up in the hot water. It's a super stove in terms of being lightweight and taking up NO space, but you should experiment with it before you go camping to figure out how much fuel you'll need. If you can't find Heet, denatured alcohol will work, but it's much more expensive.
|Ready to sketch|
I sketched and journaled every day. While most of the time, I simply sat to sketch in the sand or perched on a rock, there were times when fallen cactus spines made this unwise. If my canvas chair was handy (I bought it on arrival for $6.95 at a sporting goods store) I'd set it up and draw in comfort. I sat in front of this cactus for a long time, sketching its demise, an astonishing sight.
The people there were super nice ~ both the people who looked after it and the people in RVs and campers whom I met there: Jim, who offered me a heater to use during the cold nights, and made coffee for me in the chilly mornings; the folks who needed an aspirin for a hangover, then invited me for breakfast and admired my sketches...I met a lot of nice people on this trip.
Just across the road from the campground was a series of nature trails with lots more sketching opportunities.
|Don't swing your arms whenwalking oast chollas!|
This Barrel Cactus was one of many along the trail. And walking along a trail through the Cholla was an other-worldly experience!
Daniel had lent me a cellphone for this trip, which meant that I could access my email and explain to people trying to order books that I would take care of it after my return in January..
Since I was spending as many as 14-15 hours in the "camper," I had brought along a tablet upon which I could read ebooks. That proved to be a real sanity saver as I could wrap up in my sleeping bag and fleece blankets to keep warm and read through the many long hours of darkness ~ after I finished sketching, of course.
In the future, I'm determined to choose winter destinations SOUTH of the equator, where it will be summer and there are more daylight hours than dark hours. Fifteen hours is WAY too long to spend cramped up in a car, and at 25°. there aren't a lot of other options when you're 20 miles from town. Like I said, the days were lots better than the nights. Ah but the days!!!!
|Great Horned Owl|
I was able to photograph owls and hawks that you normally would spend months or years (or never) getting this close to.
These photos were taken during the birds' performance. They were all flying free in the desert, under no restraints. But if you'll notice, the Great Horned Owl and the Redtail perched on the same branch.
|Great Horned Owl|
There were other marvels at the Museum, as well. I had a great time sketching the Desert Bighorn Sheep. I suppose I MIGHT have seen Bighorns if I'd hiked to the top of the mountains east of Tucson. But not likely.
Their enclosure is about as real-looking as you're likely to find, and they're apparently contented, the ewe having produced offspring more than once while living there. She's the one with the smaller horns.
There is other wildlife that chooses to live in the museum, as well, it being such a nice place. This lovely cardinal apparently lives on the grounds.
Unfortunately, campers are only allowed to stay at Gilbert Ray for seven days, then they shoo you out to make your way in the world. There are more campgrounds east of Tucson, but before I went I visited Saguaro National Park (West) to see the famous Hohokam Petroglyphs, which perch on a nearby hilltop.
Here are the sketches I managed, peering around others as they came to respectfully examine them.
I wonder what these petroglyphs were meant to convey..........
I ended up with twenty five pages of sketches ~ not bad for about twelve actual sketching days (that doesn't count flying-to-and-fro time or provisioning days spent at the grocery and sporting goods stores).
In order to do as much sketching as possible, I didn't take the time to color ANY of the sketches. Evenings in the cold car didn't lend themselves to artwork because cold fingers don't easily grasp the ballpoint pen, which was my tool of choice here, or watercolor pencils, which I had intended to use for color. I have my photographs from which I can add color here at home if I want. But do I want to? I may leave this sketchbook black-and-white.
Uh oh, I've run out of time. More later! Any comments about color or no color?