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Vermillion Cliffs

WPC: Graceful

A 2000 pound animal graceful?  Are you kidding?

There are 2 places in Arizona where you can find buffalo.  One of them, House Rock Valley Ranch, has no fences.  The Grand Canyon, Kaibab Plateau, and Vermillion Cliffs all form a natural perimeter.  With that much land to cover, don’t expect coming here for animal sightings.

On my first visit to House Rock Valley, I had my brother and his daughter along.  She got excited when she saw the sign about the buffalo ranch, but we let her know about the vastness of the property so her hopes were not too high.  We drove many miles out to where we set up camp overlooking Marble Canyon, then drove back slightly for another overlook.  When we came across a road junction which we had crossed not more than an hour before, there were 5 buffalo standing in the road.  Collectively, they easily outweighed my vehicle, so we just sat and watched.  After a minute or so, they got bored with the standoff, and started to move along the side of the road.  We drove slowly beside them, and then they picked up their pace.  We matched them.  They continued to pick up their pace, at which point I noticed we were driving 35mph.  We were on a fairly smooth road, they weren’t!  After about a minute of running with the herd, they peeled away until we lost sight of them.

A few years later I returned to House Rock Valley.  This time was specifically to cover the buffalo, and unfortunately, it was hunting season.  The herd’s numbers are maintained, and only a handful of permits are issued each year.  These buffalo know when it’s hunting season, and become scarce.  Rising from the valley at about a 45 degree angle, the Kaibab Plateau has some twisting, sheer walled canyons.  The buffalo traverse these canyons like bighorn sheep, and the hunters can’t follow. I met with the manager of the ranch, and he was full of information about these animals.  One story he relayed was about the animals’ ability to leave no trace.  There are no reliable water sources here, so they have placed water tanks about in several spots.  In hunting season, the buffalo will enter from one side, then step on a rock or clump of grass, get their drink, walk around to the other side of the tank, all the while being selective as to where they step, and not leave a track within ten feet.  Is it any wonder these animals were so revered by Native Americans?

WPC: Beneath Your Feet

For this week’s challenge, I thought it would be easy to come across many photos fitting the category.  Emphasizing the foreground in landscape photography is one of the standard rules.  Moving in close doesn’t necessarily equate to showing what’s beneath your feet, however.
The featured image, taken in Yosemite National Park, is a location where everything was below my feet.  I had a great vantage point where three creeks came together, providing a different perspective on tumbling water.
At Bryce Canyon National Park, I usually prefer to hike down amongst the formations, but this has been a favorite from the rims.  I have often been asked where I was standing to get this one.  Since then, I think erosion has made this spot off limits.

Overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah by Steve Bruno
Overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah by Steve Bruno

Not far from Bryce, in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, I encountered these sandstone discs embedded in the ground, on edge.  This repetitive pattern was under my feet for some distance.

Sandstone discs line the hills of Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, northern Arizona by Steve Bruno
Sandstone discs line the hills of Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, northern Arizona by Steve Bruno

The Painted Desert was a well chosen name, which becomes more obvious when you see it after a rain.  These patterns were in a wash where the water was still standing in limited pockets.  A polarizer was used to remove the glare and allowed the color come through.

Wash patterns after a rain in Petrified Forest National Park by Steve Bruno
Wash patterns after a rain in Petrified Forest National Park by Steve Bruno

Getting down close to the ground was the best way to get photos of these little goslings, seen on one of my trips to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

young goslings near the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, Canada by Steve Bruno
young goslings near the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, Canada by Steve Bruno

Most people are in disbelief when you tell them there is a great hiking trail right next to Interstate 10, which is arguably the most boring drive in the US.  Picacho Peak rises about 1500 feet above the surrounding desert, and on the back side there’s a stretch with very little earth beneath your feet.  Posts, cables and planks assist hikers in this steep section.  Thrillseekers expecting something along the lines of Spain’s El Caminito del Rey will be disappointed.

Hiker on the built-up portion of the summit trail to Picacho Peak, Arizona by Steve Bruno
Hiker on the built-up portion of the summit trail to Picacho Peak, Arizona by Steve Bruno

I know some people are big on taking foot-selfie’s wherever they go, but this is the only one I have.  From under one of Valley of Fire State Park’s largest arches, where I brought my friend and accomplished hiker, Dave.

Valley Of Fire Overlook-Steve Bruno
After the arch, Dave and I explored the large sandstone mass in the middle of the park, which I refer to as the park’s summit.  Along the way, we came across some interesting potholes and pools.  This one went down a short distance, then ejected from the small side canyon in the shaded area, upper left.  Nothing under his feet there, and as we walked this area, we could hear some areas that had a hollow sound underneath.

Hiker swallowed up by sandstone manhole, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada by Steve Bruno
Hiker swallowed up by sandstone manhole, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada by Steve Bruno

Another great place to check out what’s beneath your feet is Mount Charleston, just west of Las Vegas.  The red flowers are called Indian Paintbrush, and this is a squirrel’s perspective on them.

Indian Paintbrush flowers in early summer on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno
Indian Paintbrush flowers in early summer on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno

Also on the mountain you will come across both of Nevada’s state trees.  This one, the bristlecone pine, is characterized by distinct coloring and patterns, and can live to be 5000 years old.

The base of a bristlecone pine tree on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno.
The base of a bristlecone pine tree on Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno.

At the base of Mount Charleston, there are thousands of joshua trees.  I wasn’t quite sure what was lurking under all that snow, however.  Rocks?  Bushes?  Frozen bunnies?

Winter buries the desert at the base of Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno
Winter buries the desert at the base of Mount Charleston, Nevada by Steve Bruno

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