After visiting San Xavier Mission (Part 1), I made the drive across Tucson to Tanque Verde Ranch. I had visited Tanque Verde many years ago…
with my late husband. There was no Internet back than so I had spent several hours at the library and book store researching a “dude” ranch we could afford over an upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. We settled on Tanque Verde Ranch. After our short, memorable, and fun visit I received “Newsletters” from them for many years but eventually, they stopped coming.
So, many years later, when I saw one of my favorite photography instructors, Mike Moats, was teaching a Macro Photography workshop for Madeline Island School of Arts and it was being hosted at Tanque Verde Ranch, I immediately signed up!
I arrived at the ranch and was pleasantly surprised that it had not changed much at first glance. Due to our limited resources back during our first visit we had stayed in the smallest of the rooms they offered then. It was in the main, original building… this time I had a large beautiful suite that was one half of a duplex. It was set back among a bunch of other duplexes and hotel-like buildings behind the main buildings, that had been added since my last visit!
Once I was settled in I went exploring. They have a very large herd of horses for riding.
This trip was strictly for photography so the horses were subjects only this time. I wandered around the main buildings to the areas where they have large gatherings.
Tanque Verde Ranch is an all inclusive resort that includes horseback riding, nature trails, sports facilities, event venues, 3 meals per day (including some fun different type meals) and much more.
I was there this time for a Macro Photography workshop so that evening I joined about 50 other participants for a welcome meeting. There were 2 other workshops (quilting and writing) in addition to the photography group.
The next morning we met for our introductions and the start of the macro instruction. That afternoon, we took our first of many trips out into the area surrounding the ranch to look for great macro and close up subjects.
We did not have to go far… as we spent that afternoon right in the midst of all the ranch buildings shooting cactus, aloe and other desert plants.
We had a wonderful yummy, group dinner in the huge dining room. We got to know each other better and shared some of our photo adventures!
The next morning we drove into Tucson for our first visit to the Botanical Gardens (more on that in Part 3). After another delicious lunch (huge buffet) at Tanque Verde, we caught a ride on one of the many ranch transport buses to the Douglas Spring Trailhead, part of the Saguaro National Park, which is across the road from the entrance of Tanque Verde Ranch.
We hiked in a bit and found that this area was all about saguaro cactus.
The patterns that the spines make were drawing me in… but not too close! Those spines are deadly!
After getting a ride back to the ranch we hiked up into the hills behind the main ranch. There we found a spot that I remembered from my previous visit. Back then we had taken a morning trail ride which brought us to this spot where we had been served a chuck wagon breakfast! That was one of the best breakfasts I had ever had! Today we got to enjoy the view and some history!
This is the stone cabin that was built back in 1868 when the ranch was first established. They had a great view of the desert and mountains!
We headed back to the ranch for another great dinner! Each night we were treated to a display of jewelry and other crafts by vendors that display their wares in the old dining room. This is also the place to find hot coffee, tea, chocolate and sometimes cookies throughout the day and night!
As we had walked back to our rooms before dinner, Mike had suggested that I skip class the next day. I had seen this presentation several times before so he gave me the option to go shoot on my own! I decided I would hike out again in the AM to get the morning light on the ranch! So I wandered in some of the areas I had not checked out previously but ended back up on the hill with the cabin. Since I was by myself I was able to spend some time following some birds so I could get images of them…even though I did not have my “bird” lens with me.
I was so glad I took the shooting option! The morning light was awesome!
After another delicious lunch buffet, we once again drove over to the Tucson Botanical Gardens (Part 3). We had to get back early as one of those special meals was happening…with the sun setting to the west we walked out along a trail and to a cottonwood grove where they have a large event area. There are tables, fire pits, a bar, a large outdoor kitchen, and a stage!
We ate under the stars and were entertained by some awesome country music. The food was even better outside!
The next morning we had our final class and then headed out to follow one of the many nature trails that cross the ranch. This included some dead saguaros that make interesting textures.
And some more live cactus.
We also hiked over to the area around the cottonwood grove where we had eaten the night before!
There is surprisingly a lot of water out here in the desert, even a stream with a small waterfall and a large pond (the namesake of the ranch, Tanque Verde – Green Pond).
Tanque Verde Ranch is a fun, beautiful resort with a big bunch of horses thrown in! I highly recommend a stay at the ranch. You need to stay at least 4-5 days to get the full immersion in the ranch and desert life.
For more details on Mike Moats photography and workshops please check out his website. Mike is a talented photographer and a great teacher.
For photography as well as a long list of other craft and art workshops please check out the Madeline Island School of Arts website. MISA does a fabulous job of staging their workshops even with such divergent subjects as we had in January 2020!
Please visit my website for larger versions of these images and many more.
Next post will be about the beautiful Tucson Botanical Gardens.
That is all for now.