Off and Running to Sierra Vista, Arizona

RMOWP’s 2017 conference takes place in Sierra Vista, Arizona in April, and a number of fun, exciting, and even educational programs and field trips have been lined up.

Emails with the registration form and tentative schedule attached were sent out last month to members whose email addresses we have, but it’s worth repeating that here.

Dates are Sunday afternoon, April 23 through Wednesday evening, April 26. We expect to be there just as the spring bird migration moves through southeast Arizona, and a lot of activities have been scheduled to take advantage of this colorful airborne parade.

Scott’s Oriole © Linda Martin

Serious bird photographers will want to sign up for the pre- or post-conference Bird Photography Field Trips with RMOWP member Tom Ulrich. (Note: The bird photos you see here were taken in the area you’ll be exploring with Tom.) Participants will carpool from the Sierra Suites parking lot at 7am Sunday, April 23, or Thursday, April 27, and are expected to be back at Sierra Suites by 1 p.m. Tom tells us that hand-held photography works well, especially using cameras with image stabilization and a 300-mm or greater lens. Cost is $25 per person for those shooting hand-held and $40 for those using tripods (the extra $15 charge for tripod use is by the property owner). There is a 12-person limit for each field trip (first-come, first-served), and Tom will provide a light lunch.

Conference activities include a guided nature walk in the Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve, a 380-acre streamside oasis of Arizona sycamore trees known for its diversity of plants and wildlife, including numerous birds, especially hummingbirds, plus a guided field trip to the ghost town of Fairbank with a walk up the hill to its 19th-century cemetery.

A nature walk along the San Pedro River, in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, is also scheduled, and we’ve booked a walking tour with an historian in nearby Tombstone, “The Town Too Tough to Die”.

Planned workshops include Bringing the Stories of the Natural World to Life, by guest speaker Beth Orozco, who will focus on using descriptive language and the elements of creative writing to share the stories and experiences we collect as we explore nature. Beth has published short stories and poems in literary magazines and teaches creative writing and literature for the University of Arizona and Cochise College in southeast Arizona. Beth is also chair of the Cochise Creative Writing Celebration (, planned March 30 to April 1 this year, and contributing editor for Mirage, Cochise College’s literary and arts magazine.

RMOWP’s own Virginia Staat will lead a workshop on Creating a Photo Essay and Fred Lord will present a program on bird photography titled Fred’s Photography is for the Birds. An Introduction to Video presentation by Al Perry is planned, and member Ron Belak will show his images of The Birds and Beasts of Tanzania.

Of course we will also have our usual programs including the Anne Sullivan Writers Forum, Photo Critique, Showcase of Selected Members Photography, the Presentation of Contest Submissions, and, if Jack can find a good location, the Sunrise Photo Shoot with Jack Olson.

See the tentative schedule, on page 8 of this newsletter, for specifics.

Conference headquarters is Sierra Suites motel, 391 E. Fry Blvd. (520-459-4221; When calling for reservations, tell them you’re with RMOWP. Our group rate for one or two people is $59 for a standard king room (one bed) and $69 for an executive double queen room for those that want two beds. ADA rooms are the same price, there are both smoking and non-smoking rooms, and a limited number of pet rooms are available at $10 per pet per night extra. Rates don’t include tax but do include a hot breakfast buffet. Rooms have refrigerators and microwaves, and Sierra Suites also has an outdoor heated pool and an exercise room.

Those considering camping should see the separate camping article on page 4 of this newsletter.

The community of Sierra Vista, with a population of just under 45,000, is south of I-10, about an hour-and-a-half from Tucson International Airport, and most of the areas we’ll be exploring will be below 5,500-feet elevation (slightly higher than Denver and Albuquerque).

Although we can’t guarantee perfect weather, there is usually very little rain in southeastern Arizona in late April, average high temperatures for Sierra Vista at that time are in the low to mid-70s and average lows are in the upper 40s.

Updates will be posted on our website and in the March-April newsletter, and also in that newsletter will be information about other nearby attractions, including Kartchner Caverns, Coronado National Memorial, and Fort Huachuca.