First of our two columns on Arizona

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            Three things drew us back to Tucson, Arizona this year: an amazing birding guide, Melody Kehl, awesome Mexican restaurants, and easy access to southeast Arizona.

            After our first-ever trip here last year, we couldn’t wait to return. Our travel plans these days always include an overnight stay in a room with a beautiful view of the harbor at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland, where they keep our car while we’re away and shuttle us to and from the airport. Trust me – this is the way to start your vacation.

            This time, we got back into Portland very late at night, so we also stayed that night in the Holiday Inn, allowing us to return home rested and refreshed the next day.

            We spent two nights in Tucson at the Country Inn & Suites, with a very nice suite, friendly staff, and lots of amenities including cookies and fruit at the front desk, lots of books you can borrow, and very good breakfasts.

            We arrived on day one in time to drive up to Catalina State Park and hike the birding trail, a favorite of ours from last year. And we saw a lot of birds, including many stunning Vermillion flycatchers.

            That night we drove to a favorite restaurant on North Oracle Road that we discovered last year, Macaya’s, only to find that it is now Guadalajara Original Grill. And it’s even better! They’ve completely renovated the restaurant, including beautiful art work covering the walls, and their menu is amazing. My Chimichanga, a slow-cooked pulled pork with sour cream and guacamole, was really great, and I enjoyed half of it the next night for supper.

            The next morning we met Melody, our birding guide, at 6:30 am, and spent the day birding Mt. Lemon, spotting 59 species. Linda gave Melody a list of 9 birds we most wanted to see, and she found them all for us, including the redfaced warbler, a gorgeous bird that we had never seen. High up on the mountain, Melody guided us to a place where they were all around us. We didn’t even need our binoculars. It was an absolutely fantastic day, including Melody’s gourmet lunch. Check out Melody’s website:

             The next morning, we headed to Patagonia for 11 days, stopping enroute at Madera Canyon, another favorite where we birded last year with Melody. We saw lots of birds, enjoyed visiting with other birders, and spent some time at Cora’s shop half way up the canyon, where you can sit on her porch and enjoy the birds at her feeders, some just inches from your face!\


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