As with last week’s post, I’m sharing an image of some place cool and wet until summer goes away. The weather people have put some obscenely low numbers in the long-range forecast, but then they tried that a couple weeks ago. As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…..not gonna happen.
A few years back, I went to Colorado over Memorial Day Weekend. I awoke to fresh snowfall one morning near Wolf Creek Pass. I spent the entire morning wandering through the deep snow and taking lots of photos. I finished the day north of Durango with more of the same conditions, and it was a truly awesome day. I’m going to be thinking cool, wet thoughts to get me through the rest of this summer, as I’ve given up trying to go out in this heat.
As with most people, I’ve had some time to catch up on a few things lately. I came across this photo in my files and thought it was perfect for a b&w conversion. This is a glimpse of some of the many pinnacles that decorate the summit of the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix, Arizona.
Around this time last year, I managed to get away to the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. I was in the vicinity of the Blue River, and trying to locate a section I had visited about 20 years before. Nothing looked familiar, so I just went exploring to see what else was out there. A small side canyon had some intriguing shapes and kept me hiking and photographing until the sun moved higher in the sky and shade was no longer an option. Here is one photo from that morning.
September 23rd marks the first day of autumn this year, but that is normally an irrelevant day in this part of the US. This morning I had the air-conditioning turned off and the doors open for the first time in a while, so perhaps this season will be different. I read a few months ago that the El Nino currents were still in place, which would account for a lack of a summer monsoon season. Another wet winter and spring would certainly be welcome, especially if followed by another spectacular wildflower season.
The cooler air also means we’ve made it through the worst of forest fire season. Our forests have been spared from significant sized fires. Surprisingly, of all places, the worst one this season was in southern Arizona. The Woodbury Fire lasted for about a month and consumed over 120,000 acres. Rugged terrain, inaccessibility, and summer heat were the contributing factors keeping that one from being extinguished quickly.
My closest mountain retreat, pictured above, did not have to deal with closures or fires this summer. Every autumn, I keep feeling like we just made it through another round of Russian Roulette. So many dry years, and just enough careless people visiting the forests push the odds in favor of the fires. Let’s hope for a few more El Nino winters.
I find that many photogenic boulder locations tend to be in lower deserts here in the southwest. Joshua Tree National Park comes to mind when I see what other photographers like to cover. The boulders there may receive more attention than the tree the park is named for. There are much better Joshua Trees to see than the ones there, so I completely get this one.
The subjects of my photo come from the cooler, higher elevations of Prescott National Forest in central Arizona. The tree at the back is what caught my attention here. It provides a nice contrast and an element of scale for these massive rocks. The clouds drifting into the frame completed the scene for me.
Recently, I had a chance to get out to our closest high elevation hiking spot. A friend had wanted to get away from the heat, and as with most people I know, didn’t want to to a hike on ‘photographer’s hours’. With that in mind, I wasn’t going to bring a camera, just my phone. Then I remembered the last time I did that, and we encountered butterflies and tiny flowers, so I packed my older smaller sensor camera and macro lens. That’s my idea of keeping it light.
The trail started around 8000 feet, and some of the trees down there had something I had never noticed before. Coming off the leaves was a thread-like material, covered with fine hairs. Most of these had a pigtail kind of curve to them, and their lighter color glowed in the backlight. My first shot of the day is actually one of my favorites.
Even though these trees were present further up, the threads were not as abundant on those trees. I think I need to spend more time in this forest to notice the details of seasonal changes.
The photo at the top of this post was taken near the top of the trail. With my smaller sensor camera I don’t have an extreme wide angle lens, so this was a composite of 10 frames. We had started out with clear skies, but these timely clouds came passing through, looking more like fall than summer.
We arrived at the end point of one trail, then continued partway on another. I was wanting to see if the springs were still there after so many dry years. Just before the springs we found ourselves in the midst of the forest affected by the Carpenter 1 fire which happened in 2013. Although signs of recovery were evident, these trees will not be coming back, and the eerie feeling remains.
If there’s a positive side to not being in great shape anymore, it’s that the hike took long enough so that we finished with late afternoon light. Often this is the time of day i would start a hike with photos in mind. The young aspens were a stark contrast to the trees consumed by fire higher up.
The cliffs in the lower part of the trail were beginning to get the glow of reflected light. The trees here are generally tall, but I couldn’t help but notice there was a giant amongst them.
In addition to better quality of light, late afternoon usually brings out the wildlife. This young deer showed up trailside in the last half mile, but really wanted nothing to do with me. There was a significant barrier of shrubs between us, and the one moment I had a clear view, it moved out quickly, so I only got a parting shot.
It’s been a busy summer, and when work has slowed down, I’ve been catching up on lots of backlogged projects. We’ve had some of the worst looking skies I can ever remember here in southern Nevada, and we haven’t had any fires to speak of. We’ve had dust blowing in from storms in Arizona, but mostly the smoke from California’s fires. Most of the big fires throughout the west in the last few years have been human caused. I’d like to believe that Nevadans are smarter and more respectful of the environment, but the law of averages tells me that stupid people show up everywhere. I think because we are not a glamorous outdoor destination like our surrounding states, we luck out by getting less people overall. That’s OK…..more for us to enjoy!