Finding running water around here is getting tougher, but there are some places that always come through. A normal water level here would be covering most of those rocks, and the algae has dried to leave a crusty white cap. I’m learning to make the best of cloudless skies, as that appears to be the trend this winter.
Every once in a while, I’ve come across a place where the seasons didn’t seem to be in alignment with the rest of the world. Sycamore Canyon was one of those places for me. It was late in the year and I was expecting all the trees to be leafless and the general mood to be winterish. To my surprise, all the trees were still holding on to green leaves and the mood was very energetic. The original of this photo is on color film, but with a new “scan”, the details in black and white make it difficult to favor the original.
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.
On my last springtime hike into Red Rock Canyon, things had changed dramatically in just two to three weeks from the previous journey into the same canyon. The plants had taken over, making the trip more obstacle course-like than before, and water levels in the creek had dropped with even some pools completely gone. There was plenty of life around, including these butterflies feeling spring in the air. This shot was somewhat challenging, as I had to use my body and hat to shade sun hotspots that were dotting the frame otherwise, while autofocus was not seeing things as I did.
All this hot weather has me reminiscing about a couple months ago. This photo was from behind one of the waterfalls in Red Rock Canyon. It was late into springtime, and the flow was diminished from earlier in the year, but refreshing nonetheless.
The desert seems so magical in springtime because in most years, there is an abundance of water flowing through the creek beds. The normal lack of rain through late spring and the inevitable rise in temperatures deliver a one-two punch that just makes it tough to want to get back out there. I couldn’t choose one photo from this hike in April, so this week I have two.
Hard to believe this was just three weeks ago. Snow flurries were on the mountain, thunderstorms were rolling through town. Now the spring/summer temperature yo-yo has begun. Not for long, I’m sure, as summer is inevitable.
Red Rock Canyon has a bit of a deceiving name. Unlike Zion or Grand Canyon, there is not one distinct canyon running through the middle of the park. Instead, it is a long linear steep cliff with canyons that disect the cliff in several places. From the road, the geology gives the impression that these canyons would be much the same. Venture in, however, and all the differences become apparent. Some have water beyond the mouth of the canyon, but can be dry well into the canyon. Year round water in some, but dry creek bottoms are more common. Waterfalls can be found in most canyons, seasonally, but there are no real similarities between them. Brothers, not twins.
The trails into the canyons are similar – hike about a mile or so in open desert until you reach the mouth of the canyon, then follow the path of least resistance. The official trails don’t really go into the canyons, so following the wash bottoms is the route further in. Eventually, there is a bunch of rock hopping, tree branch ducking, and sliding between boulders. Just the kind of workout someone on the mend needs. Like me! Even with restrictions in place, getting out for exercise has been allowed here. The road to many of these canyons has been closed to vehicles, making it more work for people to access, thus keeping the crowds down. A demanding workout with fresh air, beautiful scenery, and almost no people has been a win-win-win scenario. For me, healthy legs means healthy heart and lungs, and less chance of getting sick.
All the images here are from my two recent hikes into neighboring canyons. On one, I had cloudy conditions most of the day, and the soft light was essential for getting the photos I did. On the other, clouds were predicted for most of the day, but soon vanished. Temperatures down in the desert were pushing triple digits, but a breeze was coming through and it was very comfortable here.
One of the things I’ve noticed through the years is the change in the water into springtime. After the snow has melted, and the creek flows decrease, algae forms in the pools, and as these pools dry up, green tinted rocks remain. I even found algae forming on a waterfall.
On the second hike, I started getting photos of something I don’t normally come across – tiny critters. I was sitting in the shade of a large tree cooling my feet in the water when I observed a brightly colored dragonfly. It had chosen a tiny exposed root as its perch, and after ten minutes, it was still there. It would fly away occasionally, but always return within three seconds. After clearing away some larger rocks so I could lay on my stomach somewhat comfortably, I inched closer with my favorite macro lens. By the time I finished, I was about 3 inches away and could now observe that the dragonfly was in the middle of lunch. Every time it jumped away and returned, it had some tiny insect in its mouth. He could have cared less about me. Shortly after leaving that area, I came across a lizard on a rock. I knew it wasn’t going to have the same tolerance for me as the dragonfly, but I managed a few close-ups without it moving a millimeter. It has also been frog hatching season, and I managed to capture this tiniest of frogs. I could have picked up any one of these rocks with one hand, but the pine needle in the back really gives it a frame of reference.
For now, the creeks still have water but the levels have been diminishing with each passing week. My favorite part of spring has to be the redbud trees in bloom. I wanted to capture them with partly cloudy skies, but the full sunshine actually worked well.
Stay healthy everyone!
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.
A wetter than usual winter has been a welcome sight for the southwestern US. Although many flocked to California to trample the flowers there, the bouquet has been continuing through the higher elevations. Red Rock Canyon has seen some small plants flowering, but I was amazed at all the redbud trees in bloom, and consider that the main attraction around here.
I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve had a backlog of projects that needed to be taken care of, and additional time sitting at a computer has been counterproductive to that. I’ll have a little more time for this now.