The Navajo Nation has imposed more restrictions on travel, so it might be another six months before anyone can visit here the way Covid cases are going. I’m glad I’ve had opportunities to see many places on the reservation, including some not available to most. This is one of those photos that I think most people would show in color (with the saturation boosted as well), but the details are perfectly suited to black and white.
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!
I remember the first Earth Day in 1970. At our school, each of the students was given a small tree to plant. We planted ours in the front yard, and it remained a small tree for what seemed an eternity. Although I have not lived in that house for many years now, I can go on Google Earth for a peek and see how much it has grown. Although that is just one simple act, I cannot get a visual progress reminder how my daily efforts to be as green as possible are working.
When I planted that tree, I was still young, and didn’t realize that an environmental movement was needed. I do remember public service ads against littering, and that it wasn’t uncommon to see a bag or a can flying out of the window of the car in front while driving down the highway. I don’t think I began to comprehend the magnitude of mankind’s waste until the first time I heard the expression acid rain. As our numbers grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy planet, especially with consumer products becoming cheaper, and in the minds of many, more disposable.
Somewhere near the top of our environmental problems list would have to be our use of plastics. Once they find their way to major rivers and oceans, they mostly end up in one of 5 garbage patches currently circulating our planet’s oceans. Fortunately, there is an effort underway called The Ocean Cleanup, whose goal is to eliminate these vast floating debris piles. You can go to their website to read more about it, or possibly donate to their cause. This is, of course, just a large band-aid to a large problem. The real solution is to curb our use of plastics and make sure they end up being recycled.
Here in the US, one of the more prominent issues in recent times was the reduction of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. If ever there was a case to show that politicians work for special interests, and not the people, this would be it. In the public input phase of this reduction, 99% of the respondents favored keeping the monument as it was. In the redistricting map of the GSENM, they have created three separate national monuments. Inside the former GSENM lies the highest concentration of well-preserved fossils ever discovered. It also contains the richest and most accessible coal deposit in the state of Utah, which is no longer under protected status on the new map. Coal consumption is on the decline in this country, so any coal mined here would most likely be sold to China.
Several lawsuits were filed to block the reduction of the national monuments, and Utah politicians immediately introduced a bill to manage the new property and see to it no further changes could ever be made. Proposed management of the new national monuments would consist of a seven member panel, of which, a majority would be local county officials. One of the members would also be appointed by the President, so a real public voice would be lost there as well. These are still federal lands, not designated as Utah state parks. Yes, our public lands in the hands of local politicians. This is a precedence we cannot establish. You can blame Trump all you want, but this ordeal was promoted and encouraged by Utah politicians. We can all follow suit from the Outdoor Retailers Association, and some of its vendors, who have boycotted the state of Utah for its policies about the environment and how it should be overseen. Although unlikely, a boycott by all potential visitors would send a message to the cronies in Salt Lake City that people coming to see the special lands in the southern part of the state provide a viable and profitable tourism economy. Once this land is tarnished it will remain that way.
On a more positive note, a project I wrote about previously has been killed off. The Grand Canyon Escalade, was voted down by Navajo Nation Council late last year. Efforts by the tribe are underway to designate this area as a sacred site, and prevent any future blemishes on this special region from rearing their ugly heads again. Perhaps a long legacy of Native Americans being offered roses, only to discover that they were just getting the fertilizer, has provided Navajos and other tribes a better insight to what is truly best for them and their land. A special thank you goes out to the Navajo Nation Council and their wisdom for a long-term vision.
Antelope Canyon is one of the most photographed spots in the southwestern US. As you wander through this tight canyon, you can’t help but eventually look towards the sky which is no longer visible. Light tries to find its way to the bottom, and as it does, highlights the textures of the smooth, twisted, sculpted walls.
This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week. Being the first one of the month, there was a theme of From Under. To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit Leanne’s website.