Ancient Door Picture of the Week

Ancient Door - A mysterious door between Lomaki rooms beckons you to see what's on the other side.
Ancient Door – A mysterious door between Lomaki rooms beckons you to see what’s on the other side.

When I photograph a place like Lomaki (the Hopi word meaning Beautiful House), I try to walk its perimeter, looking at how the light falls on it. Then I look at details that help fill in its story. As I move around, I’ll stop and take shots of things that intrigue me. My photos are more intuitive than systematic. I look for contrasts and shadow patterns that place the subject in a specific moment.

I was doing that when I entered the Lomaki ruin and came across the door in this week’s picture. I saw the door and thought, “This looks interesting.” I framed the shot and snapped the shutter. Typically, an image with a busy pattern in a uniform light doesn’t work because it looks like a Where’s-Waldo puzzle. However, the dagger of light on the room floor commands your eye to go through the opening. It’s a walk-towards-the-light moment.

As a younger man, I was six-foot tall, but gravity has taken its toll, and now my diminished stature is only 5 foot 11½ inches. Even in my current dwarf state, I had to do a full Asian bow to fit through the doorway. That means that the Pueblo people that built this structure were short. Otherwise, they would constantly bang their heads on the lentil when they came home Saturday nights drunk from the bar. Believe me, that gets old fast.

As I walked through the complex, I got to another room with a low window. Through it, I saw a creature with five legs. It gave me a fright. Was it a centaur with an extra appendage or a giant arachnid with three legs missing? On closer inspection, I saw three legs were carbon fiber, and the other pair wore shorts. The creature turned out to be a fellow photographer. She was a coed from ASU working on a YouTube video about Wupatki.

It’s funny how photographers behave when they bump into one another out in the field. After seeing another camera, they let down any guards. They stop being solitary wanderers and suddenly become highly social as they compare notes. “Did you see this?” You should go there.” In the age of digital photography, it’s gotten worse because now they can compare their shots on the back of their cameras and go into full chimpanzee mode, “Look at this one—ooh ooh ooh ah.”

After our pleasantry exchanges, we parted ways, and she returned to the parking lot. Of course, I didn’t ask for her name or YouTube channel. Queen Anne would kill me on the spot if she knew I talked to a college-aged woman in the field without her chaperoning. After I finished shooting, I hiked back to the parking lot, where Her Majesty was waiting in the car. If I was lucky, her nose was buried in her Kindle reader, and she didn’t notice anything. Before I could say a thing, she blurted out, “I asked that girl if I had to go rescue you.”

“What did she say?”

“She said you were happily wandering around snapping pictures, and you’d be there until you ran out of film.”

It was only then that I realized I was a bit hot, so I started the Jeep and guzzled some water in the cool air conditioning before driving back to Flagstaff. So far, there are no new YouTube Wupatki videos, but I’ll keep looking while I dream of mermaids.

You can see a larger version of Ancient Door on its Webpage by clicking here. Next week, I’ll show my last shot from Lomaki, so be sure to come back and see what we find.

Till next time
Jw

BTW:

It’s Thanksgiving week, so Queen Anne and I wish you a happy and safe turkey day.

Lomaki Picuter of the Week

Lomaki - The crooked walls look as if the fierce Northern Arizona winds will blow them over.
Lomaki – The crooked walls look like the fierce Northern Arizona winds will blow them over.

In the half-century that I’ve called Arizona home, I can’t count the times that I’ve traveled thru Flagstaff and then north on Highway U.S. 89. I travel that route to get to the Grand Canyon, Lee’s Ferry, Lake Powell, Monument Valley, Utah, or Colorado. My best guess would be once a year on average. Sometimes I even stop to take pictures along the way.

With that many trips, you’d think I’d pay no mind to the scenery, but that’s not true. There’s always something new. There’s one location that makes my jaw drop, no matter how many times I see it. I’m talking about the view at Sunset Crater Pass I wrote about last month. It’s an in-your-face example of something I learned in a college geography course: mountains affect climate.

The climate on the south side of the San Francisco Peaks is the polar opposite of that on the north. As you travel to Flagstaff from Phoenix, you climb into the pines, and the temperature can drop as much as 30° along the way. As fronts move north from the Gulf in the summer or west from the coast in winter, the mountains wring moisture from the air as it climbs the slopes. After passing over the mountains, the air is dry and picks up pressure on the way down. Dry air heats faster than humid air. The phenomenon creates a rain shadow on the mountain’s leeward side. The next time you travel north of Flagstaff, stop your car at the pass and take a look back—trees. Then turn to the north again—trees kept away.

Now that you know how mountains work, it’s easy to understand why the early Pueblo Tribes living at Wupatki lived in rock dwellings instead of log cabins. Amazingly, the Indians still used timbers to span the walls and hold up a roof. That means they had to drag lumber off the mountains by hand. They built their structures before the Spanish arrived, so they didn’t have horses.

This week we’re looking at one of the bigger pueblos in the National Monument—Lomaki. That’s a Hopi word that translates into English as “Beautiful House.” Anthropologists have partially restored its two-story walls. As you walk through the ruins, you begin to appreciate the ancient people’s masonry skills and tenacity. They must have had to rent scaffolding for walls that size at A-Z Rentals in town. It was either that or standing on one another’s shoulders. You’d do the same thing.

In this week’s picture, titled Lomaki, you get a good idea of the wall height. The windows are at eye level. A peculiar thing you notice in this shot is the walls are leaning. I’m not sure if the scientist put that feature in on purpose or if they weren’t as skilled as the original Pueblo builders. As a photographer, I have a thing about lines that aren’t level or square. Oceans don’t run downhill, so I wince whenever I see a seascape with a crooked horizon. On my first visit to Lomaki decades ago, its tilted walls jumped out at me. They look like a good wind will blow them over—and this area of Arizona is exceptionally windy. However, on this year’s visit, the walls were still standing and didn’t seem any worse, so maybe they’ll remain long after I’ve gone.

You can see a larger version of Lomaki on its Webpage by clicking here. Next week, we’ll walk around Lomaki and see its details. Come back then and see what we find.

Till next time
Jw

BTW:

The calendar cut-off day is Tuesday, so if you are interested, place your order.

Box Canyon Picture of the Week

A pair of Pueblo ruins adorn the cliff tops on either side of Box Canyon in Wupatki National Monument.
A pair of Pueblo ruins adorn the cliff tops on either side of Box Canyon in Wupatki National Monument.

It’s November already. Time passes so fast that the remaining hair on my head flutters behind me like a streamer in the wind. To make things worse, the landlord turned off the heat. Here in the foothills, we had a couple of mornings in the high 30s, and Queen Anne insisted on sleeping with the bedroom window open. When I got up, I was invisible, standing in front of the blue accent wall—nothing but a pair of whitey tighties and chattering teeth floating through space. This cold front is supposed to move out later this week, so I’ve resisted turning on the heater. Instead, we throw back the curtains, put on heavier sweaters, and shiver till noon.

With the new month, we started a new project and didn’t have to travel far to get to it. It’s the housing development across the street. The street is Highway U.S. 89, and the development is Wupatki National Monument. Wupatki shares the access road and visitor’s center with Sunset Crater National Monument—they’re conjoined twins. During this year’s fire season, the fires closed the 35-mile park road at the crater, but Wupatki remained open because it’s north and out of danger.

Wupatki is at the base of one of the Navajo’s four sacred mountains: Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks, Mount Taylor in New Mexico, Hesperus Mountain near Durango, and Blanca Peak outside of Alamosa. The Dine’ considers the area with these mountains their home. But, long before the tribe moved from central Canada, Pueblo Indians lived here. They left behind stone homes along the Colorado Plateau: from Wupatki to Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde south to Walnut Canyon.

Most Americans consider Mesa Verde National Park the most extensive collection of pueblo ruins, but Wupatki is its match. In some areas, our National Monument exceeds the Colorado Park in the number of dwellings per square mile. When you visit the monument, the maps direct you to displays unearthed and restored by archeologists that you can walk through and hear thousand-year-old ghosts. As you drive to these exhibits, keep your eyes peeled because you’ll see piles of rocks in the fields and on hilltops. These are not natural clumps of stones but more ruins that the scientists haven’t yet examined. These areas are set aside for future paleontologists to examine using more advanced tools.

There are so many ruins in Wupatki to enjoy I can’t cover them all in one month. For November, we’re only covering a half-mile hike called Box Canyon. In that short distance, you pass three ruins along the way to the main exhibit—Lomaki. This week’s picture is of a pair of stone buildings standing on the cliffs of Box Canyon. As I walked along the paved trail on a warm summer afternoon, I stopped at each ruin, photographing what I saw. The path led up a gentle slope from the parking area, past the first ruin. From there, I could see the second dwelling on the other side of the canyon, so I continued along the trail. I could have spent the rest of my time shooting these two, but when I reached this spot, I could see Lomaki, which is more prominent with even more rooms. I quickly framed this scene and moved on to the big show.

I chose this image to start this month’s project because it shows the proximity of the two ruins along the canyon walls and how they rise above the grasslands. I assume different families occupied them. There’s enough space for privacy, but they’re close enough to provide mutual protection and borrow the neighbor’s lawn mower.

You can see a larger version of Box Canyon on its Webpage by clicking here. Next week, we’ll walk up to Lomaki and spend some time there. Come back then for another episode of This Old House. I’ll leave the light on for you.

Till next time
Jw

BTW:

Don’t forget to get your calendar order in before the cut-off on the 15th.

Clouds Over Craters Picture of the Week

Clouds Over Craters - Monsoon clouds fill the sky over a pair of volcanic craters at the San Francisco Lava Field in northern Arizona.
Clouds Over Craters – Monsoon clouds fill the sky over a pair of volcanic craters at the San Francisco Lava Field in northern Arizona.

Tomorrow is Halloween, and the east coast has already had its first dusting of snow. Only last week, I had to switch from my daily summer uniform (t-shirt and shorts) into my winter outfit (t-shirt and jeans). I only wear long pants because my feet get cold with poor blood circulation. Otherwise, I’d wear shorts throughout the year—as men do in New Zealand. The last time we went to their islands, we saw road crews dressed in down parkas, shorts, and flip-flops.

I’m not boasting about our two seasons here in the desert; hot and less hot. Everybody back east already knows about our climate. In a couple of weeks, they’ll be camping in RV Parks throughout our state. This week’s rant is about why good things always come with baggage (this isn’t about Queen Anne either—stop that, you’re nasty). For example, as a kid, do you remember stretching out on a freshly cut lawn on a breezy summer’s eve so you could stare into the black sky and count shooting stars—only to be eaten alive by chiggers? Right there, that’s what I’m talking about.

Sitting at my computer, enjoying my first sweater of the season, and processing this week’s photo, I liked how lovely the monsoon clouds were. In Navajo lore, the gathering of puffy sheep in the sky foretells the coming summer rains. Our summer clouds are dynamic. They form over the mountains in the morning. They build and tower into the stratosphere and then charge into the desert with a triple fury of wind, dust, and frog-choking rain. By midnight, they disappear, and stars come out of hiding. It’s the opposite of the winter clouds that travel down the coast. They’re a homogenized grey sky, hanging around for days like a bowl of lumpy oatmeal. As I closely studied this week’s picture, I realized that the monsoon season might be my favorite time of the year—if it wasn’t so damn hot and muggy.

I named this week’s image Clouds Over Craters, and I took it at the S.P. Crater location I featured a couple of weeks ago. The dark blob on the right side is S.P. Crater, and the lesser volcano in the distance is unnamed. The grass growing on its slopes indicates that it’s rainy season. The crater’s shape and color remind me of Hawaii’s Diamond Head in a mirror. The diagonal scratches are from ATVs digging up the soil as they claw their way to the top. I could have Photoshopped the scars, but I wouldn’t say I like that. Besides, the clouds are the star of this show, both in the sky and the shadows they cast on the craters.

You can see a larger version of Clouds Over Craters on its Webpage by clicking here. It’s the finale of the San Francisco Lava Field project, and next week we’re at a new location. Here’s a clue—it’s across the street. Want to take a guess? We’ll see you when you return next Sunday to find out if you’re right.

Till next time
jw

BTW:

Since November is next week, it’s time for me to lay out my 2023 calendar. I make at least one for myself each year, but I’ll happily print another copy for you. Because I order them in low numbers, they’re an expensive wall calendar. When hanging, they’re the size of a copy paper sheet—they fit nicely between my desktop and cabinets. VistaPrint has dropped the small-middle-binding option this year so that they will be coil-bound along the top. When I add the shipping cost, they cost me $18.00 each, which is what I charge for them. I want to have them for Christmas, so if you want to be included, let me know by the 15th of November. That way, I’ll expect them after Thanksgiving. You can email me directly, leave a message on my Contact Page, or if I already have your email address (you’re a subscriber), you can order in the comments below (I’ll strip your email address from public comments).

Colton Crater Juniper Picture of the Week

Colton Crater Juniper - A lone juniper surrounded by lava bombs stands before Colton Crater topped with monsoon clouds.
Colton Crater Juniper – A lone juniper surrounded by lava bombs stands before Colton Crater, topped with whipped cream monsoon clouds.

I’m unsure where my head was last week when I wrote that today was the last Sunday in October. It wasn’t until the middle of the week that I realized I was wrong, and another weekend was ahead. Don’t worry; I have one more photo from the San Francisco Lava Field that I’d like to show you. You’re so lucky.

Queen Anne and I didn’t have to travel far from S.P. Crater to find this week’s scene. She didn’t move at all. She sat in the Jeep and continued to read her Kendal while I walked due south across the dirt road to a tree that I found interesting. I composed my shot as I walked toward the juniper. I wanted to include the monsoon clouds building over the San Francisco Peaks and some of the lava bombs surrounding the tree; otherwise, I would have moved closer to capture its twisted trunk. When I finally processed the photo this week, I realized that I had grabbed another volcanic crater—it’s a twofer. I’d rather be lucky than good—it takes up less time.

The cone in this week’s shot is Colton Crater. It looks like a fallen birthday cake. No amount of icing will cover that mess up. Compared to the mountain I featured last week, this one doesn’t seem impressive. It doesn’t look tall and well-formed like S.P. Crater. That’s only an optical conclusion. Colton has more height and width, and the caldera is deeper. And there is another smaller cone inside Colton’s caldera. You’ll have to look on Google Earth or hike its rough grade to see it. Incidentally, along the horizon, the small pyramid-shaped peak is Mt. Humphreys—Arizona’s highest mountain peak.

The reason that Colton looks old and saggy is the same as why I do; it’s an old fart. While S.P. Crater’s last eruption was only 55,000 years ago (a baby), Colton Crater hasn’t seen any action in 200k – 800k years. That’s plenty of time for gravity and erosion to bring a mountain to its knees. For example, the interior of Colton’s crater has been swept clean of residual ash and pumice from its eruption.

Scientists don’t name things very creatively. They tend to give out codes instead of names. For most of the time that geologist has been studying the San Francisco Peaks, this crater was called V160. It was the 160th volcanic flow in the lava field. See what I mean—where’s the romance in that? Dr. Harold Sellers Colton was the founder and director of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, and after he died in 1970, the local academia renamed Volcano 160 in his honor. That was nice.

You can see a larger version of Colton Crater Juniper on its Webpage by clicking here. Come back next week when we finish our tour of the San Francisco Lava Field with one last photo. This time I’m sure—I looked it up on my calendar. We’ll see you then.

Till next time
Jw

BTW:

I have an old friend from my California racing days named Gary Wheeler. You might have read some of his comments in this journal. Since his retirement, he has been taking some fantastic bird photographs. I don’t know; maybe old racers turn to photography when they’re too old to do anything useful. After much urging, Gary has put his collection online for people to enjoy. If you enjoy birds, you should pay a visit at: https://gowheeler.smugmug.com/. Don’t worry; he didn’t pay me for this advertising.

S.P. Mountain Picture of the Week

S.P. Mountain - The cinder cone on the north flank of the San Francisco Peaks was named by C.J. Babbitt because it resembled a shit-pot.
S.P. Mountain – C.J. Babbitt named the cinder cone on the north flank of the San Francisco Peaks because it resembled a shit pot.

When Queen Anne and I visited the San Francisco Lava Fields this summer, we were there to photograph one cinder cone—S.P. Mountain. I watched several YouTube videos that featured the area, and I thought the cones would make an exciting journal project. I don’t see as many pictures from the lava field as I would expect, so maybe Ansel Adams left something for me, “Here’s a nickel, kid. Don’t spend it all in one place.”

The San Francisco Peaks is the taller of the two major Arizona volcanoes (the other being Mount Baldy/Mount Ord which are southeast in the White Mountains). The Peaks are the remnants of San Francisco Mountain—an active volcano that became dormant 400,000 years ago. Scientists have calculated the volcano was over 16,000 feet tall—4,000 feet above Mt. Humphreys, the highest remaining peak and Arizona’s high point.

Although the mountain has been dormant for a half-million years, there have been newer local eruptions. Geologists date the flow at S.P. Mountain to 55,000 years, and only a thousand years have passed since Sunset Crater erupted. That eruption caused the Sinagua Indians (the people we visited in August) to move 13miles south to Walnut Canyon because their Safeway was severely damaged.

Maybe one of the reasons the lava field doesn’t get more visitors is that much of it is on private land and doesn’t get much press. C. J. Babbitt is credited for the mountain’s name. If you’re young and ambitious, you can climb to the rim, and from that point of view, the crater resembles an overflowing chamber pot—or Shit Pot as he called them (and you thought those pretty flowered bowls and matching pitchers you see in museums was for washing your face). When the cartographers heard what the locals called the crater, they said, “Oh dear. We can’t put that on the maps. We’ll just use the initials.” If you’d like to see the view from the top without leaving your Lazy-Boy, I captured this Google Earth view.

When we drove out to the lava field, I wanted to video the cinder cone. Most of the time we spent at S.P. Crater was with the drone, and I didn’t get a still shot that I liked (if you’re interested in seeing the videos, here’s the Pond5 link). As we started to leave, I stopped to shoot last week’s photo of Split Top, and when I turned back, I saw this image of S.P. Mountain. The clouds were casting shadows on the cone, but a break in them let sunlight spill down on the grass and juniper trees. I’m pleased about how well this photo turned out. It’s only a couple of zebras short of being from an exotic African location. Naturally, I called this image S.P. Mountain because I didn’t want the Internet censors after me.

You can see a larger version of S.P. Mountain on its Webpage by clicking here. Come back next week when we finish our tour of the San Francisco Lava Field with one last photo. We’ll see you then.

Till next time
Jw

BTW:

I’m working on my Website’s Arizona galleries to make them flow better. Unlike the other State groupings, I have too many shots from Arizona to have a single page. So, I have subcategories for deserts, farms, towns, mountains, etc. This week I posted a second Arizona Index page that allows visitors to switch between a slideshow view and a thumbnail view with a button click. Some people like the traditional thumbnail view, while others prefer to see slides. Here’s the link to the page. What do you think?

Split Top Picture of the Week

Split Top--An unnamed cinder cone in the San Francisco Lava Field that looks like a scored loaf of bread when viewed from space.
Split Top–An unnamed cinder cone in the San Francisco Lava Field looks like a scored loaf of bread when viewed from space.

(Note: I sent out a copy of this post earlier this morning, but I don’t think your copy was emailed (at least, I never got a copy in my inbox). I’m resending today’s post to make sure you get your money’s worth. If this is a second copy for you, please forgive me.)

When I was half my current age, and between wives, I didn’t need anyone’s permission to take a road trip. I’d close the blinds, lock the front door, and disappear for a couple of days whenever I had the urge—and an extra $20 for a tank of gas. Like the time, my friend Russ (of ‘Russ-Bus’ fame) and I drove to Lee’s Ferry for a weekend of fishing.

I don’t recall why we got a late start, but it was probably because he had to work on Friday and close up his shop. I guaranteed our room and told the innkeeper that we’d arrive late. She said she would leave a key for us, so there wasn’t a pressure to get there at a specific time. After he showed up at my apartment, we loaded his equipment into one of my $500 wonder wagons and headed north to Flagstaff, where we stopped for gas and a burger.

It was dark and cold when we piled back in the car. Still, at least the car heater worked, so we were cozy as we continued north on U.S. 89. As we started down the long grade north of town, we chattered like a couple of school girls about family, customers, fishing, and photography—the usual guy stuff. About halfway down the hill, I began to have trouble seeing the road, so I asked Russ if the headlights seemed dim.

“Well, we could always drive without them,” he quipped.

“Have you ever done that?” As I asked the question, I reached down and switched the lights off and counted—one thousand one, one thousand two. In that short amount of time, everything outside went topsy-turvy. The countless stars gave the sky a milky white glow, and everything below the horizon was a black hole. We couldn’t see the highway lines, much less the pavement.

Russ screamed and shouted, “DON’T DO THAT,” so I turned the lights back on.

As we drove on, I realized we were running on the battery, and it was getting critically low. The headlights were dim, but no idiot lights glowed on the dash. I wondered if we could make the gas station at Cameron twenty miles away. We swapped ideas and decided to try coasting as much as we could. There was no other traffic, and if we could keep up a minimum speed, maybe we could reach help. I let the Chevy roll to a crawl, fire it up for speed, and coast again. We got through three cycles before the battery was drained completely. Ahead, I saw a single light on at Hank’s Trading Post, so I coasted into the lot and stopped beneath it.

We popped the hood and wiggled a couple of things, poked at something else, looked under a lid, and kicked one of the front tires—all of the things men do when they’re stuck. I slammed the hood and looked around. All we had was the empty highway and an old telephone booth. Both options seemed useless since neither of us had any change in our pockets.

With no other choices, I tried a Hail-Mary pass. I went to the booth, pushed the door open, stepped inside, lifted the handset, and pushed the ‘O’ button. An angel’s voice said, “Operator.”

“Hello. I’m stranded on the highway, and I need to call a tow truck and charge the call to my home phone.”

She politely explained why she couldn’t do that but offered to stay on the line and get help for us. She dialed a few numbers without success, but on the third try, a man answered, “Cecil’s garage.” I think I forced our predicament out of my mouth with one breath.

“I’ll be there shortly,” he reassured.

I started to hang up, but the operator’s voice interrupted, “Don’t hang up. I’ll stay on the line until he arrives.” I thought it could take an hour, but Cecile pulled up ten minutes later. I thanked our operator about a thousand times before saying goodbye.

Cecil only took moments to determine that we needed to drag the old Bel Air wagon back to his shop. Once there, he put a charger on the battery and poked around in the engine compartment. “This is the wrong alternator belt,” he said, pointing to the culprit. I don’t remember if it wasn’t the right length or width, but it wasn’t making complete contact with the pulleys. He quickly took the old one off and held it against the row of dust-covered belts lining the upper wall. After finding one he liked, he pulled it down and muttered, “This one should work.”

After Cecil installed the new belt, I started the car, and it ran like a champ. Even the headlights were bright again. “You should be good to go. It’s charging, so the hour drive to Marble Canyon will fully charge the battery,” with that, he handed me a shocking bill. Before he could change his mind, I wrote him a check for the $15.00 he charged us for the belt.

That’s my most memorable U.S. 89 story, and it explains why I wave and give Cecil a shout-out each time I drive past his shop. You’re asking how does this story relate to this month’s project? Well, you turn onto S.P. Mountain Road—the road out to the lava fields— on the south side of  Hank’s Trading Post. “It’s a small world after all . . .” (Stop. There’ll be no singing dolls in my post).

I took this week’s picture just a short jaunt down S.P. Mountain Road; it’s the first cinder cone along the dirt road. In my search, I didn’t find a name for this peak, but when I viewed it on Google Earth, it looked like a rustic bread loaf where the baker scores the top before putting it into the oven. That’s why I called this week’s picture Split Top.

You can see a larger version of Split Top on its Webpage by clicking here. Come back next week when we continue on the dirt road to another volcanic cone that does have a name and an amusing story. We’ll see you then.

Till next time
Jw

BTW:

Over the past couple of weeks, I built and published a page to make it easier for new people to subscribe to my journal—a subscription page. I think it came out terrific. To protect new subscribers, the system sends an email to confirm that they want to sign up, so you can’t just willy-nilly add strangers to the list. So, if you know someone that would enjoy seeing new pictures and reading my musings, don’t be stingy and share me with your friends and family. Who knows, they may be just as crazy as we are.

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