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My husband and I just returned from an amazing long weekend in Tucson, AZ. We experienced chilly weather (highs in the low 50s), but it was great for hiking and sitting around a fire pit in the evening with friends.  I adore the desert, having lived there for a lot of years, and always eagerly anticipate my next visit.  This was, however, my first time back in the Sonoran Desert since becoming a plant-based eater and I wondered how easy it would be to accommodate my new diet.

Now Tucson has great grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Sunflower Markets and Trader Joe’s, not to mention a co-op, so I knew I could buy anything I needed.  All that was left to wonder about was restaurant eating.  Come to, I didn’t have much to worry about.  Vegan and/or plant-based dining isn’t abundant in Tucson,  but trust me – I found plenty!  With a little planning and by asking the right questions, I had no problems.  I enjoyed transcendent “New Delhi”vegan tamales at Tucson Tamale Company, complete with yellow curry and coconut milk.  I feasted with friends at the Hare Krishna-run buffet at Govinda’s on Christmas day, sampling veggie croquettes and basmati pilaf, but only after visiting their peacock aviary and koi pond.  I also had a wonderful dinner at Dolce Vita, where the attentive waiter clued me into the fact that the restaurant uses parmesan cheese in their marinara sauce and had the kitchen staff whip me up a delicious, off-menu, spaghetti al’olio with garlic and mushrooms.

The highlight of my trip, however, wasn’t the food.  Our first day in Tucson, my husband and I visited Sabino Canyon – one of our all-time favorite spots.  We normally take the 4 mile round-trip tram ride through the canyon, occasionally getting off at one or two stops to look around.  This time, being 50 pounds thinner and powered by my plant-based diet, we did things differently.  We took the tram to the top of the canyon as usual, but this time, we got off and hiked a couple of miles up into the Santa Catalina mountains, leaving the tourists and tram behind.  We then proceeded to walk down the canyon instead of riding the tram back. There are few times in my life when I have felt so healthy, strong and alive.  I told my husband that if he ever hears me doubt the merits of my new lifestyle, he is to remind me of this moment: