It’s that time of the year when we need to decide on a calendar for next year. I was pleasantly surprised last year when I got a lot of interest, and so I’m asking you if you’d like one for 2020. Like we did last year, the pictures will be from our out of state trip—Colorado in this case. The 12 images won’t all be from the San Juan Mountains, because we visited other places on our journey.
I found a source online that will do the printing and assembly cheaper than I can do in-house. If I can get five or more orders, I can offer them at $10.00 each. So I’m asking if you’d like a 2020 wall calendar with a dozen of this year’s Colorado trip photographs on it. They’re 6 ½ inches high (each half—about the size of a sheet of paper folded in half) and 8 ½ inches wide, so they’re a smaller more convenient, size than my old ones, and they make good stocking stuffers.
If I can get five or more orders, I’ll put them together and place an order, but I need to know by November 6th so I can make a go/no-go decision. If you’d like one, you can leave a comment in this post, use the contact form on my website (https://www.jimwitkowski.com/junk/index.php), or email me directly. Don’t forget to leave your contact information.
This week’s featured image (the one below) is the last from our Camp Wood Road excursion. It was taken a couple of miles from the route’s junction with Williamson Valley Road—also known as Yavapai County Route 5. When you arrive at that intersection, you’re still in the middle of nowhere. Iron Springs is 22 miles south, and Seligman is 30 miles north, and it’s all dirt road. I’ve already made a note of it for a possible future trip.
From the Sheridan Fire area that I talked about last week, the Camp Wood Road descends from the pine-covered hills and mountains, and into the flat grasslands that surround Prescott. It’s a natural location for the sprawling cattle ranches of the past, and now it’s the target of developers selling one-acre Mc-Mansions. When I traveled to this area as a younger man, I could frequently spot grazing antelope. They’re a rare sight these days, and that makes me sad.
When Queen Anne and I set off on this photoshoot, we spent more time getting to Camp Wood than I estimated. It was already after sunset by the time we reached the road’s end. As we drove in the dim light, I knew that I wanted to include the open grassland in the Camp Wood story, so we made a second trip. This time, we drove counter-clockwise—which is more accessible and a much faster way to get there. However, on the second drive, the sky was overcast, and someone had set the Bradshaw Mountains ablaze, which filled the air with smoke. I wasn’t optimistic about getting good shots. As it turns out, the fire was only a controlled burn, and the fire crews had it out by the afternoon.
We found another change when we reached an area called Humphrey Wash on my maps. In the intervening weeks between our visits, the broadleaf trees started turning color. Of course, this is Arizona, so they weren’t the bright colors you’d see in New England, but they were still worth getting out of the truck and getting them on film.
Further east on Camp Wood Road is a ranch so large that it has two driveways. It’s the Las Vegas Ranch, and one of the entrances is along Camp Wood Road, while the other connects to the Williamson Valley Road—a dozen miles away. When we got there, the sun was low, the overcast began breaking, and Granite Mountain was predominant on the southern horizon. I took two versions of that scene, but I think the second was better, because of the cottonwood trees lining an unnamed wash. I called it Granite Mountain, and what I wanted to show was the open space of the Prescott grassland. Just as it is in real life, the sky dominates everything. In this photograph are all of the elements of that visit: the broken clouds, lingering fire smoke, Granite Mountain, and the vast open plain. I hope you enjoy it.
You can see a larger version of Granite Mountain on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing it. It’s the start of a new month next week, so we’re off to explore a different Arizona back road, so be sure to come back and see what we’ve discovered.
East of Camp Wood, the road is wide and smooth as it rolls through the Santa Maria Mountain foothills. There are a few isolated places with washboards, but it’s quiet enough you might think that they paved it, although the plume of dust you see in the rearview mirror proves otherwise.
Queen Anne and I visited here the week after a heavy rain, so it packed down the dust, but the roadside troughs were full of debris. As we drove further, it looked like road crews had hosed the gutters with oil, because they were so black. We questioned if that was to keep the dust down, or were they preparing to pave the east end of Camp Wood Road. As soon as I got those questions out of my mouth, we rounded a bend and found a scene of utter destruction. On the north side of the trail, everything was normal, with pinions, chaparral, and gamble oak covering the landscape, but the south side was black and barren. Only charcoal-colored tree skeletons dotted the hills and valleys.
This road section was the location of the lightning-caused Sheridan Fire—one of those forest fires you watch on the evening news as they bomb the countryside with a fire retardant. The reporters tell you it’s near Prescott—but they’re always near Prescott—and it’s so remote that you don’t pay much attention. The fire started on August 5th, and it burnt through 22 thousand acres until early September rains finally put it out. I’ve never visited such a fresh burn site. Unbroken black ash covered the ground, and the rains washed some of it into the road gutters. The Forest Service blocked all of the side-roads, and hiking trails leading south with signs warning of fire danger.
Because Camp Wood Road is so wide here, it worked as an effectual fire break. The stark contrast between the left and right sides of the road drove home the destructive power of a forest fire. Although it looks like a barren wasteland now, within a few weeks, grasses will begin to sprout, and the fire area will renew itself. That’s how nature works.
When we got to a place where I could see Cottonwood Mountain as a backdrop, I stopped to take a few images. My favorite of the group is this week’s featured image. It shows burnt Manzanita skeletons in front of the flat-top mountain. Manzanita is one of my favorite plants because of its mahogany-colored bark, as you see in the photo. It only grows at higher altitudes in Arizona, and it’s hard to photograph because its dense round green leaves always hide the brightly colored branches. I called this image Sheridan Manzanita, and I hope you enjoy viewing it.
You can see a larger version of Sheridan Manzanita on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing it. Next week, we’ll make another stop along the Camp Wood road for yet another change of scenery. I hope you’ll join us.
After stopping to photograph the shed featured last week, Queen Anne and I continued our journey along the Camp Wood Route. From the building and corals, the road is broader, better graded, and so we were able to pick up the pace, and we soon reached the edge of a canyon called Connell Gulch. On the far side of the canyon are the 6400’ Connell Mountains rising from the east bank of a creek below.
From the canyon’s edge, the road descends northward, and at the bottom, the landscape flattens and opens into grassy pastures filled with cattle. It was only another mile or two before we passed the headquarters of the Yolo Ranch—a sprawling 110 thousand acre ranch established in 1885 by Tip Wilder. As it turns out, we had been traveling on ranch property since passing the gate I mentioned last week.
Here we saw an idyllic valley with meadows and ponds, surrounded by ponderosa pine-covered mountains. Behind fences, there were a variety of grazing cattle. We even spotted a heard of deer, which were too skittish to let me get near and take a good photograph. Yolo is a working cattle and guest ranch, but I’m not sure that they still offer accommodations. Authors have used it as a location in books, and the farm was the subject of a film documentary. In 2010, Yolo Ranch was for sale with an asking price of 12 million dollars, and I found the sales brochure online if you want to know more. It must be a peaceful place to live, but I’ll bet the TV reception is lousy.
Back on the road, it didn’t take long to reach Camp Wood. It was only a short distance on the tree-lined trail. This area was initially called Kymo by Paul Wright. According to Arizona Place Names, he was from Kentucky while his wife was from Missouri. A decade later, the U.S. Cavalry—led by a Captain Wood—camped here on a scouting expedition, and the postal service chose Camp Wood for the post office in 1926.
I had a good feeling about this area. I thought that it would make a good campsite in milder weather. The elevation is 5800′, so the temperature would be excellent in spring and fall. Having a cup of coffee in the chilly mornings is always a good thing. There aren’t any facilities, water, or electricity, but that’s why its called roughing-it.
When we got to the Camp Wood area, the sunlight already had a lovely golden glow, and off the road a distance, it highlighted a mound of granite. I hiked to them and captured the moment in this week’s featured image, which I call Camp Wood Boulders. I like the way the afternoon light highlights the granite placed before a clear blue sky. I’m also happy how the red-barked ponderosa frame-in the scene.
You can see a larger version of Camp Wood Boulders on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing it. Next week, we’ll make another stop along the Camp Wood road for an entirely different kind of scene. I hope you’ll join us.
It was the fourth article about my time shooting pictures in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains when Queen Anne burst into my office—all akimbo—and began scolding me. “Fred and me this, and Fred and me that. I haven’t had press in a month.” I felt like the guy in that Toyota commercial trying to answer his wife’s question. “I’m sure there’s a right answer here.” I quickly flipped through my brain’s Rolodex of apology cards, before I realized she was right. I had to change tactics, “If you want press, you have to put your butt in the truck.” I had her.
Last week, I announced that I was leaving for one of my back-road photoshoots, and I wouldn’t be back until after dark. I packed my gear and went into the house to grab my cooler stuffed with water and snacks. When I got back to the garage and jumped into Archie’s driver’s seat, guess who was sitting shotgun? Yes—it was Her Highness.
Now that her ego is satiated, I can tell you about October’s topic. I picked out a back-road that goes from Bagdad to Williamson Valley—northwest of Prescott. On my Gazetteer map, it’s identified as Behm Mesa Road, but it had several other names as we drove it, like Camp Wood Road, Forest Service 21, or Yavapai County Route 68. The map says it’s broad and well-graded, so a passenger car should make it, but there are sections on Behm Mesa’s shoulder that are rough and rutted, so I’d feel more comfortable driving at least a pickup truck with some ground clearance.
The terrain starts in Bagdad with large boulder fields interspersed with grassy flats on the mesa tops. As the trail gains elevation, the trees change from scrub oak to juniper and ponderosa pine near the Santa Maria Mountains. After that, the road descends into the open grasslands found around Prescott. There are a couple of cattle gates that you have to open (and close) as you cross private ranches. Most of the route’s middle section runs through the Prescott National Forest, including a part along the edge of last Augusts’ Sheridan Fire. It’s weird/unusual to see a healthy forest on the road’s north side while the south side is black and barren.
I took this week’s featured image near our starting point. As the road leaves Bagdad, you slowly travel on the shoulder of Behm Mesa—where the rough part is. September’s heavy rains may have been the cause of the ruts, and the county hasn’t regraded it. Shortly after it makes its way to the mesa’s top, you reach the first gate at a ranch house, with black cattle hanging around a water tank. Just past the tank was this tin shed in a golden grass field that had a nice contrast against the deep blue sky (opposites on the color wheel). You all know that old buildings—like this one—are a favorite subject of mine, so I had to get out and snap a picture. I call it Tin Shed.
You can see a larger version of Tin Shed on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing it. Next week, we’ll have another image to show from the drive that Queen Anne (she gets make-up press) took on the Camp Wood road.