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.
This week’s Daily Post Challenge of Rounded made me think of a river bottom full of smooth rocks. Perhaps that’s because many river bottoms in the desert don’t have rivers in them. Water’s erosive power works on larger boulders, too, and that’s where I searched through my files. These rounded boulders are in southwestern Arizona, in a place called Texas Canyon.
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.