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Traveling the Southwest and Tucson Bling!


As much as we love our spot on the Olympic Peninsula, the winters can get a little long and grey. This year Geoff and I decided to head south and hit the big gem and mineral show in Tucson and combine it with some hiking, camping and exploring. The temperatures in Tucson were almost as cold as the northwest for part of our visit, but at least we had sunshine and stayed long enough to get some nice warm days along the Mexico border. [Note: if you don’t like travel log types of things – here’s a good spot to hit the back arrow and then go to my Shop to load up on cool jewelry!!]

We worked our way south in our truck camper near the end of January and took the western route along I-5 due to the cold temps forecast on the arguably more scenic interior route through eastern Oregon, Nevada, and Utah. This first part of the journey allowed us to check out some cool areas in the San Joaquin Valley in California (we even spotted a few (million) nut trees) and to meet up with Geoff’s mom and stepdad at their family cabin near Joshua Tree National Park. We were able to check out Joshua Tree with Geoff’s folks and then headed east to the Tucson area, where we camped for a little over a week.


While camped at a Pima County campground called Gilbert Ray, I made several trips into Tucson to attend the gem and mineral show. This was the third year I have attended the show. It can be a little overwhelming - with literally thousands of vendors from all over the planet in 11 different (huge) shows located in different areas throughout Tucson - and over 65,000 people who attend. I have my favorite vendors and communicate with friends/other jewelers to try to narrow my focus onto particular types of gems that I love - or to work with particular vendors that I have come to trust. For a collector like me - this show is fun. It is also kind of exhausting. I spent pretty much three full days (10 am to 4 or 5 pm) looking at an amazing array of color, texture, and light. Some of my favorites are the rough-cut rubies and opalized wood. I am also pretty excited about my new turquoise, maligano jasper, druzies, tourmaline and some big fun pearls to pair with beach stones.

In the mornings/evenings before and/or after my days at the gem show, we were able to do some nice hikes either right from our campground in Tucson Mountain Park or from nearby trailheads. I never get tired of seeing all the different types of cacti; saguaros, chollas, prickly pears, fishhook, etc... and in all the various stages of life. I seem to be particularly drawn to their ‘skeletons’ as they decay. Geoff would stalk along with his binoculars to look at bird species that were new and exciting to him - while I admired the intricate textures of the desert plants. We also had an amazing hike by accident up a ridge north of town thanks to a glitch in Apple Maps that took us to the end of some dirt (four-wheel-drive) road that happened to have a little trail straight up a hillside to the ridge. We saw one person on this hike on a beautiful sunny Saturday. He was a man about our age who had the upper hand on his cancer thanks to stem cell therapy and the loving donation of his sister. Believe me, he was doing well- that hike was not easy.


Other highlights in and around Tucson were the Desert Museum (close to where we camped), the Botanical Gardens in town, and the (free) drop-in pickleball at a city park with 12 very nice courts and lots of welcoming players of all skill levels.