Thursday, June 28, 2012

Northern Arizona Monsoon Season Approaches

Thunderhead cloud and Ponderosa pines, Flagstaff, Arizona
It's monsoon thunderstorm season here in northern Arizona, but with it being a La Nina weather pattern year, it's still dry. Far too dry. Extreme forest fires danger, but so far nothing like what's happened recently on the Colorado Front Range. 

This week there has at least been enough moisture inland from the Pacific Ocean to return some cumulus clouds, thunderheads, and very widely scattered showers. I love the clear blue Arizona sky, but cumulus clouds and t-heads accent it so beautifully.

Flagstaff, Arizona (where 85F is "hot"). 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

River Rafts at Lees Ferry

Lees Ferry, Colorado River, Arizona
Professional river guides for Canyoneers finish rigging their river rafts at Lees Ferry on the Colorado River in northern Arizona. In the morning they will take passengers on another run down the river through Grand Canyon.

Lees Ferry is one of the most scenic locations in the American Southwest. As sunset time nears, the light gets even better, the colors more saturated. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Red Rocks and Mountain Tops, Utah

Arches National Park and La Sal Mountain Range, Utah
Red rock sandstone spire, compressed across the distance to the snowy La Sal Mountains. From west of Moab, Utah, to east of it.

Arches National Park, Utah.

Footprints in the Red Sand, Arches

Red sand footprints, Arches National Park
Lots of footprints in the sand between the fins. Sandals and tennis shoes. 

How much do you want to bet that most, if not all, wanted to go barefoot here?

Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah.

Fins "L" Sunlight, Arches National Park

"L" sunlight, Arches
Into the fins, the vertical, highly eroded, mesmerizing walls and spires of red sandstone in Arches.

In this photo, I had a tough time balancing the extreme contrast between the deep, soft shadows and the gash of sunlight tearing through a gap in the fins to the right. The "L" of sunlight seemed to reflect off the sandstone at the base of the fin.

Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah

Into the Fins, Arches

Arches National Park, Utah
On the trail to Sandstone Arch, I enter a tiny portion of the vast sandstone fins. 

Cool in the vertical stone shadows, with soft diffused light and bright blue sky and sunlight streaks above. Peaceful, mesmerizing. 

All but impossible to portray photographically. Thus, especially intriguing.

Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah.

Edge of the Furnace, Arches

Arches National Park, Utah
The Fiery Furnace area of Arches National Park is an uplifted, eroded seam of red sandstone. 

The "fiery" part of its name comes from warm, low sunlight glowing off the red sandstone cliffs, hoodoos and pillars at sunset. Meanwhile, through the day, the innumerable vertical fins of red stone create deep, cool shadows. And, apparently, a maze of places to walk and become lost. Literally. So the area is restricted to exploration in the presence of one of the park rangers. 

In this photo, the sandstone fins form an exquisite foreground for the expansive sweep of the high desert valleys, on to the snowy La Sal mountain range on the far horizon.

Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Prickly Pear Blossoms

Prickly Pear Cactus Blossoms, Coconino National Forest, northern Arizona
You know it's finally summer at 7,000 feet in the cool mountain pine forests of northern Arizona when the prickly pear cactus plants blossom.

There aren't many of them up here in the Ponderosa forest. It must be at the very upper edge of their natural range. So, when I found these few, it was all the more special. I visit them at this time each year. Mid June. 

Coconino National Forest, north of Flagstaff, Arizona

Monday, June 11, 2012

Edge of the Mogollon Rim, Northern Arizona

View from the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center on the Sitgreaves National Forest in Northern Arizona.

The Mogollon Rim is a massive 250-mile long escarpment that forms the southern end of the Coconino Plateau south of Flagstaff and north of Payson and Sedona. 

The highway below is State Route 260, coming up from Payson. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Forest Fern, Evening Light

Fern, evening light, Coconino National Forest, Arizona [click on photo for larger version]
Nature is my cathedral, my church. Appreciation, respect, and humility are my religion.

This is from my campsite last evening on the Coconino National Forest and the Coconino Plateau, at about 7,500 feet in northern Arizona. A fern lit up by the low afternoon sunlight slipping between the Ponderosa pine trees. 

No neighbors except the birds and whatever four legged animals were around but did not make themselves apparent. 

No visitors except two Forest Service guys making sure I was not going to violate the ban on campfires, because the springtime woods have been so typically dry. "And don't leave any food outside the vehicle. There are bears here, and they're always hungry." That much I knew, but I appreciated the reminder. 

Followed by a peaceful night of the breeze whispering in the pines and aspens, then the rising half moon and the stars. Peaceful, soothing night. In the cathedral.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Real Cow Riding Cowboy

Rancher training cow for parade riding, western Colorado

While browsing through some of my favorite old black and white photos, I came across this one and have decided to tell the interesting and fun story behind it.

It was 1978 or 1979 and I was working for the Colorado State Forest Service as a forester on a Dutch Elm Disease control demonstration project. That effort took me to several far corners of the state, one of them being Grand Junction, not far from the Utah border.

One hot summer day as I was driving on Interstate 70 across arid western Colorado toward Grand Junction, I became very drowsy with the length of the drive and the heat, so decided to exit the freeway so I could get some ice cream or coffee or something to perk me up.

It was at this little backwater town (I mean that in the best way, I'm a country boy, after all), and on the corner was this rancher sitting on a cow. Not on a horse, a cow. I said to my co-worker, "I've got to get a photo of this." I'm not much of a people photographer, but this was too good to pass up. My curiosity was killing me.

So I walked over and asked the smiling old man if I could take his picture. "Sure", he said. I did. 

Then I asked him, "What are you doing?" He said, "I ride cows in parades." You do? "Everybody rides horses, so instead I ride cows. People get a real kick out of it. This one is young, so I'm breaking her in by sitting here with the traffic going by, so she gets used to it."

I still love this photo because of the composition, with the cow looking off sleepily to the side, the shadows, (even the pattern of the cow's urine on the ground), the handsome, kindly face of the rancher, the old car, highway, hills and clouds in the distance.

It's also my hope that in this day of Internet connectedness somebody who knew this wonderful man will contact me about it. It could turn out to become a treasured family memento, from out of the blue.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sandstone Patterns, Zion National Park

Hiking up the switchbacks of the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park, I was taken by the patterns of these red-gold sandstone layers, the curving vertical cracks, and the soft reflected light. 

Zion National Park is located in Southwest Utah, near the edge of the Colorado Plateau.