Saturday, January 21, 2012

From Picture Rocks to Barrio Pictures

When traveling I try to make the most of my visits by researching and visiting as many points of interest as possible.  But, like most of us, I tend to neglect some of the interesting places closest to home, thinking there will always be time to go there.  Arriving visitors are often the impetus to so see these sites, and  such was the case this week when friends stopped to visit on their way from California to Texas.  My friend, Nancy, who is an artist with a strong interest in rock art, suggested that we go find some petroglyphs in the nearby Tucson Mountains.  She even had a book on rock art locations all over the west.  I had actually already visited one of the listed sites on my hikes, but another, closer one, sounded intriguing and I never would have known about it without Nancy and her book.  The book explained that the rock art was on the grounds of the "Picture Rocks Retreat", whose location I was pretty sure I knew.  But, I looked it up on Google Earth just to be certain.

The Redemptortist Renewal Center
The actual name of the facility turned out to be the Redemptorist Renewal Center, on, fittingly, Picture Rocks Road.  Driving just west of the city into the foothills of the Tucson Mountains, we easily found the office and asked the man at the reception desk if we could see the petroglyphs.  He gave us the easy directions and pointed out a brochure that would give us more information.

 Apparently, the Center owns a large parcel of land here in the lushly vegetated desert, where people come from all over for spiritual retreats.    A trail took us past this shrine, through the desert, to a rock maze, and then on to the far side of the rock mound where the first carvings came into view.

Petroglyphs are designs chiseled or carved into rock by ancient peoples.  These particular carvings are believed to have been made by Arizona's Hohokam Indians between about A.D. 800 and 1300.  You can see human figures as well as various animals.  The humans could be herders or hunters.  

One panel contains a large, and well-worn spiral design above a group of human figures holding hands.  Some archaeologists believe these art works were a way to commemorate the solstices and equinoxes.

The ironwood trees grew atop the rock mound, where nature's artful patterns rivaled those the humans had created.

Nancy's photographs may turn into a painting or lovely notecards, preserving and commemorating the art of ancient people.  Mine will only tell you of this beautiful spot.

As we made our way back to the car, around the north side of the hill, rocks were covered with colorful lichen and plush moss, the moss seemingly so out of place in this arid land.

Next up on our tour was a bit of more modern history - Tucson's Barrio Viejo, a colorful mix of old and new, dilapidated and gentrified, whimsical and classy, funky and posh.  In other words, a photographer's delight!

The light wasn't ideal, with the low winter sun casting long shadows, but it was a glorious day, with clear blue skies and temperatures in the low 70's, so perfect for walking and exploring this part of Tucson's past.

This mural commemorates the history of this unique neighborhood, and thankfully, there are those who are recognizing its value before it has been completely destroyed, paved over for another urban renewal project.

And another mural, not quite as polished, but perhaps more representative.

Vibrant colors and fanciful metalwork delight the eye and the camera.

A shrine and a well-manicured pocket park commemorated the death on this street of two young boys, killed by a drunk driver.  Plaques and signs told of the history of this corner and the buildings that once stood here and all along the street.

Lunch was calling, so we made our way to a lovely little restaurant in the courtyard of the Tucson Museum of Art, where we sat outside in the sunshine, sipped berry lemonade and  munched on creamy vegetable soup,a salad of tender baby greens and a delicious cheesy cracker bread.

Being a tourist in your own home town is the perfect way to spend a day with a friend!

When Pigs Fly
Try it and I'm sure you'll find something that will make you smile!


  1. Lovely day you had -- thanks for sharing it!

  2. I love the shadows on that third to last picture.

  3. I love your new pictures! Thanks, Carole, for sharing these interesting places! Some photos are souvenirs for us! Have a nice weekend! Kaethi

  4. So true that we often miss amazing sites in our own backyards to travel far afield. Maybe entertaining more visitors would help. Sounds like a delightful day of art and nature.

  5. Enjoyed taking the petroglyph tour with you and Nancy. Did you walk the maze? It looks inviting. Tuscan appears so charming through your lens.

  6. This is fun!!! I always love finding someone else from Tucson. The Old Barrio is one of my favorite places to visit. And that walk looks like fun. I've heard of it once but have never had the chance to visit.

  7. Very interesting, I didn't know there were petroglyphs so nearby and Barrio Viejo looks fascinating with all the beautiful colors and artwork!

  8. Hi Carole :-) Thank you so much for visiting my blog, I am so glad you did as it means I have discovered yours. What an amazing place you live in, so very different from mine. I can't imagine having cacti grow wild, we only ever have them in pots indoors here! What a nice day you had with your friend. I think it is very true that we tend to overlook our own familiar surroundings, a fresh eye can open up all sorts of wonders.

    I loved the Black-tailed Prairie Dogs on the previous post, I confess I had never heard of them before, they look so sweet. It was also nice to see the Painted Lady Butterfly too something we do have in common although sometimes only an occasional visitor here and only in the Summer of course ;-)

    How incredible to get temperatures in the 70s in Winter. I suspect your Summer temperatures would be far too hot for me though!!

  9. Carole, Those are beautiful and so informative. I know what you mean by not seeing things in our own backyard. Just before we left the ranch we finally went to Glass Mountain.

  10. What a great day!! I really, really, really want to visit that area and see for myself!!

  11. This sounds like a perfectly delightful day! I never visited picture rocks or the Barrio when I lived there, so this is just another incentive to try to move back! I always like to visit places nearby to where I live because I never know when I will be moving on again!


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