Back when I was younger, my best friend from high school years would come to visit me in Arizona. We were always looking for a camping adventure that was a little bit different, and I think I was the one who suggested going atop Arizona’s highest mountain, the San Francisco Peaks…..in early January.
The weather forecast called for typical sunny Arizona weather, with no storms predicted, so it seemed like a great idea. I was lugging the bulky heavy camera gear and tripod in addition to camping supplies, while my friend travelled relatively light. At least we didn’t have to carry much water!
As we found our way to the top and picked out a good spot for setting up the tent, we couldn’t help but notice that the rocks were exposed and there didn’t seem to be a lot of snow on the western slope. We weren’t on the absolute summit, but we were still above 12,000 feet, and above treeline, and above the people skiing on the mountain below us.
I managed to take a few photographs before the sun went down, and as we enjoyed our dinner the conditions were very calm. Shortly after getting into our sleeping bags, however, the breeze started to pick up. During the course of the night it continued to pick up, and by morning it was probably close to level 1 hurricane force winds. We had very lengthy ice stakes holding down the tent, but within minutes of us being out of the tent, the winds were removing the stakes and attempting to send the tent to the bottom of the eastern side of the mountain.
Although there were some high thin clouds, there was no moisture falling from them. This was just the result of the pressure difference from the front passing far to the north, and being exposed on a summit 5000′ above the surrounding plateau. I managed to take one photograph that morning. If you look closely in the lower right, you can see the snow being blown over the ridge. What you can’t see is me huddled over the camera and tripod in an effort to keep the camera steady (and within reach!)
Now that my camera gear no longer exceeds the weight of all my camping gear, this is an adventure I might consider again. I know what to expect when I see exposed rocks in a snowy landscape.
Not my backyard. More like backyard to the city of Las Vegas. But close enough that I refer to it as my backyard, and a favorite spot to get out and take photos, even if I don’t manage to get very far from the car.
Earlier this month I had a morning that I was able to get away. A storm had dusted the higher elevations with some snow, and as I waited for the sunrise to give the cliffs a red glow, I watched the clouds dropping onto the cliffs behind me and moving in.
After I took the above shot, I was feeling many semi-frozen drops of water, so I headed down the road a short stretch, in between bands of lowering clouds. I missed one very exquisite lighting opportunity, as the slush drops started hitting the ground before I could get to my location. That brief bit of weather passed, and it remained mostly dry long enough for me to find a couple more settings for photos.
I then returned to where I started the morning, as the clouds seemed to have hit a barrier there, and just lingered on the cliffs without lowering any further.
Clouds drop their moisture as a little bit of sunlight streams through on Red Rock Canyon Nevada. Photo by Steve Bruno.
One window in the clouds allows a burst of sunlight to hit the snow dusted mountains of Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Photo by Steve Bruno.
Sun lights the lower cliffs as clouds still linger in the higher cliffs of Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Photo by Steve Bruno.
Powerball fever has been sweeping the nation with its unprecedented $1.6 Billion jackpot. Here in Nevada, people have to drive to California or Arizona to purchase tickets. The gaming lobby will probably see to it that remains that way.
The closest place for Nevadans to buy tickets is the California state line on Interstate 15, at a gas station with ticket sales. Similarly, Arizona has a store in the middle of nowhere about twenty miles after crossing Hoover Dam. News footage for the last couple drawings has shown tremendous lines for the people in the Cali location. I doubt Arizona has been much different.
I succumbed to the madness and headed down to Arizona yesterday. Not to the forementioned location, but down to Bullhead City. With those ridiculous odds against me purchasing a winning ticket, I wanted to make sure I had something to photograph along the way. Not too long ago, the road through Bullhead City used to be the way between Nevada and Arizona. The post 9/11 security checkpoints for those crossing Hoover Dam made for backups several miles long most of the day. Sitting in a parked or idling car for 2 or more hours was not uncommon. The only time you could guarantee a timely crossing was between 1am and 7am.
One time I guessed wrong, and headed towards the dam on my return trip. It was late at night, on a weekday, with light traffic. About 3 or 4 miles before the dam, all traffic came to a stop. We were there almost 20-30 minutes without moving an inch. A passenger in the car in front of me decided he had to use the restroom, so he got out of the car and crossed over the guardrail, and away from view. About the same time, we started moving. Not just a little bit. Strangely, traffic got up to about 25 mph and didn’t come to a stop for about a mile-and-a-half. The driver of the car in front of me, afraid to lose his place in line, never pulled over to wait for his passenger. I’ll bet that was the last time those two ever rode together!
Enough of the good old days, back to yesterday.
I went to Bullhead because I wanted options. If I got numbers that looked like they had zero chance of ever coming up together, I didn’t want to have to go back in a line. And forget lines. With multiple locations selling tickets, lines weren’t an issue. I was out of there quickly, and headed back to what I really wanted to do.
As one drives back into Nevada and heads up the hill, the Newberry Mountains are one of the first things that come into view. I had driven past these mountains so many times before with the light being wrong. I kept telling myself I would have to come back and camp, because it needed to be a sunrise or sunset shoot. The Hoover Dam bypass opened in 2010, and I forgot about coming back here.
This was my first option for photographing on my return trip, and with soft, mostly overcast light, it was the one I took. There are huge outcrops of whitish granite along this edge of the Newberrys. The road that leads close to the mountains is marked with a sign pointing to Christmas Tree Pass. This is the desert, and that means Junipers, not Douglas Firs. Soon after the junction with 95 north to Vegas, you will see a similar sign where the road comes out. The boulders are in close proximity here, and this is the spot I chose to explore. One of the first things I came across was a rock that looked like it had a petroglyph in the shape of a Christmas tree. Whether man-made or naturally occurring, it made me ponder the origin of the name of the nearby pass. Were there more of these symbols nearby? Not far from there, I came across another symbol which looked more like a discoloration than something pecked into the rock. I took a photo anyway.
As I covered more ground, I was soon amongst some larger boulders. One of them, a rounded balanced rock, caught my attention. Now that’s nature’s Powerball! I managed to take photos from a couple angles, then sat down and enjoyed the sandwich I had purchased down in Bullhead. From here I could see the town, yet everything was so quiet and peaceful. Even the sounds of the highway were completely absorbed into the lower hills. As I finished my sandwich, I could tell the light was changing into the golden hour. I walked some more, and came across another spectacular granite boulder. This one was perched on a ridge, and erosion was taking the hill underneath, leaving small openings below the boulder. In almost no time the sun was breaking through the bottom of the cloud layer and igniting the mountains in Arizona. I didn’t want to be caught out here in the dark, so I packed quickly and headed down to my car. I approached the ridge above my car just as the sun was throwing its last light into the cloud layer. Okay, just one more!
Large boulders with erosion taking place beneath, in the Newberry Mountains, southern Nevada. Photo by Steve Bruno.
Boulders at sunset, with the sun still hitting the mountains in Arizona. From the Newberry Mountains, southern Nevada. Photo by Steve Bruno.
Sunset light lingers over the Newberry Mountains. Photo by Steve Bruno.
I don’t know about my lottery tickets, but I felt like I had a winning afternoon. I finally had a reason to wander into the Newberry Mountains.
My work schedule has been crazy for about the last month, and it’s been amazing that I’ve found any time to check in on this blog. Fortunately, there was one break in the action, Christmas, where most of my family members gathered in Phoenix. Some of them wanted to go for a hike. Their criteria was a trail that was easy to get to, not too demanding, and had something to offer in a short amount of time. No problem, I have it covered!
Boulder Canyon Trail takes off from across the marina at Canyon Lake, east of Phoenix. Our group consisted of people of various ages and hiking abilities, and it was really just an excuse to be out with family and get in a little exercise. The trail doesn’t have any steep sections in its entire length, and we just went to the point where one can see into Boulder Canyon. This was probably less than a mile from the parking lot.
I had taken this trail further a number of years before. After the overlook, the trail descends into Boulder Canyon, and continues in the bottom for a couple miles. There are no steep grades or any boulder hopping, as the name might suggest. It’s probably close to the four mile point where the canyon gets quite photogenic. The Superstition Wilderness is full of spires and odd shaped rocks, but there is one of the most interesting peaks in this range just before the trail heads into the narrowest part of the canyon. In this narrow part, the bottom of the canyon becomes mostly solid rock, and if you time it right – water. The following photos are from my previous trip.
For this week’s Daily Post Challenge, I have another shot from my trip to Silver Falls State Park in Oregon. I chose this shot for two reasons. The water falls, obviously, due to gravity, but that slab of rock that the water flows across is cut very deeply underneath. There is a tremendous amount of weight that is defying gravity by not collapsing here.