Saturday, February 23, 2013

February Foray, Arizona Desert Highlands




[Photo: US 89 from Desert Viewpoint on Yarnell Hill]
I decided to go on a little Saturday drive.

So I headed out of charming Prescott, Arizona's Mile High City*, on US 89. Up over the Ponderosa pine forested mountains south of town, and down the winding switchback highway into tiny Wilhoit. 

Not much there at all, but I liked it anyway, maybe just to be out of the snowy highlands for a while. I sure did like the view from the stone walled roadside overlook on the way down the mountain. There was enough haze to make the blue and purple desert mountain ranges to the west appear even more far off and mystical.

Continuing south and steadily lower in elevation, I enjoyed passing through the beautiful horse heaven of Peeples Valley, and down through quirky little old mining and ranching town of Yarnell, to Congress. I was down in the desert, with prickly pear, cholla, and even some saguaro cacti around. The relative warmth in late February felt and smelled especially spring-like. Sweet and relaxing.

[Photo: US Hwy 93 north of Congress, Arizona]

At that point I swung back north through the desert via US 93. This section of road is named the "Joshua Tree Forest Parkway of Arizona". Properly spelled Joshua-Tree because it's a large member of the yucca family rather than a true tree, there were plenty of these fascinating desert plants along both sides of the road.

[Photo: Moon and Joshua-Tree along US 93]
It was two days before the February Full Moon, which means it would rise over the eastern mountains well before sunset. And it did. 


[Photo: Moon over the desert mountains, about 5:15 PM]

I stopped along the highway to make some compositions with the mountains and the Joshua-Trees, along with an interesting ranch gateway. 

[Photo: Moon and DG Ranch Gate, US 93]


[Photo: Windmill and nearly full moon at sunset, State Route 97]
Leaving Highway 93 north onto State Route 97, I stopped just before the sun dipped behind the western mountains to pair the moon with a windmill pumping water into a water tank for cattle. 


[Photo: Dusk at the Santa Maria River]
Driving east in the dusk on S.R. 96, I crossed the Santa Maria River for the last photo of the day. After driving across the bridge, I parked so I could walk onto the bridge for my intended shot. A heron in silhouette flew south along the river toward wherever its roosting place was for the night.

Finally, it was more desert and canyon driving in the dark, then up over the mountains through the Prescott National Forest via Skull Valley, and back down into Prescott.

So my little drive had turned into a ten hour, 180 mile foray; not unusual for me. Have Camera, Will Travel.

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* That must make Flagstaff, 90 miles to the north and about 2,000 feet higher in elevation, Arizona's "Heck of a Lot Higher Than Prescott" City.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

Locations: Yavapai County, central Arizona.