Foothill Uplift Picture of the Week

It’s already the last day of January. Where does the time go? After looking at this month’s photos, it seems that I spent a lot of my time around Aguila—with good reason. That’s the route that Queen Anne and I take when we travel west, so I knew there was stuff to shoot, and it’s close by—well if you consider an hour close.

Foothill Uplift - A pair of hills thrust into the air by plate tectonics.
Foothill Uplift – A pair of hills thrust into the air by plate tectonics.

This week’s featured image comes from the same area. I didn’t have to travel far after I captured last week’s picture—Harcuvar Forest. In fact, all that I needed to do was turn around. OK, let me explain. I wanted to shoot the saguaro forest ever since I first saw it on a trip to Robson’s Mining World, but it’s miles north of the highway and tucked under the cliffs of the  Harcuvar Mountains. My topo map shows a jeep road that runs behind a couple of hills situated between the highway and the forest. The hills screen the cactus patch from the highway. So, me and Archie did a little four-wheelin’.

After I had finished shooting the saguaros, I noticed that the north side of the hilltops behind me weren’t rounded as they appear on the south. Instead, they had a ridge of broken rocks—plate tectonics fractured them and pushed them towards the sky. Since I find edges like these interesting, I decided to waste some time photographing them.

This week’s featured image is the result of my curiosity. I call this photo Foothill Uplift. There are a couple of things that I like about this image. I like how the second hill repeats the pattern of the foreground one. It’s like they’re lined up for presentation. The same wedge shape shows up again on the photo’s right side. Along the horizon and on the far side of the Aguila Valley is our old friend Black Mesa. It’s the western high peak of the Vulture Mountain Range that stretches all of the ways back to Wickenburg. Finally, I love the double-headed saguaro, which I couldn’t see from the trail. It’s the garnish that completes the cocktail.

You can see a larger version of Foothill Uplift on its Web Page by clicking here. Be sure to come back next week, and I’ll see what I can scrounge up from around the neighborhood.

Until next time — jw

Harcuvar Forest Picture of the Week

Our little town is not so different from yours. We have crime here too. That’s why the county sends a couple of deputies down from Prescott to patrol our streets and keep us safe. Most of the time, they drive around the empty streets, but there are moments where a rush of adrenalin flows through their veins—like last Friday night.

As most cops do, deputies Starsky and Hutch parked their cruisers on the dead-end street between the Dollar Store and the Quickie-Mart in such a way that they could drink coffee, chat across their door windows while keeping an eye on the only traffic control sign in southern Yavapai County. The night had been rainy but peaceful up till then.

Shortly after Congress’s only cowboy gay-bar closed, a pair of suspicious cars rolled up to the stop sign before turning south on Highway 89. Starsky noticed that a woman with long blond hair was driving the lead exotic Italian sports car (Around these parts, a Fiat 500 stretch limo is considered exotic) in the din of the sodium-vapor street lights. “I have to check this out,” Starsky yelled out his window, stowed the coffee in a cup-holder, put his cruiser in gear, and drove off in chase.

As he perused the little import through downtown Congress, he crossed over the double yellow lines, raced around the second vehicle before cutting in front of it. Then he lit up his lights and pulled the Fiat over. As he called in the plates for wants-and-warrants, he noticed that the sinister black Buick had pulled in behind. Sensing a threat, he radioed Hutch for back up. When he finally saw the second set of emergency lights in his mirror, he felt that he could safely get out of his cruiser.

Hutch had already climbed out of his truck behind him with a Maglite in his left hand while resting his right hand on his holster. He walked up to the second suspect’s vehicle and heard the last remaining Jennifer Rush Disco CD blaring through the stereo. The woman behind the wheel sat motionless with her hands in the air. “Mam, can you tell me why you pulled off the road behind my partner?” (OK, to protect the innocent, I have to change some names. Donna is the floozy driving the Fiat because Donnas always drive convertible sports cars. The gangsta-girl in the second car I’ll call Princess Margaret. Yeah, that works. No one will ever guess their real names.)

“That’s my friend, Donna,” Margaret replies. “I just want to make sure she gets home alright.”

“Well, this is a dangerous place to park. You’ll be safer if you pull in front of the other vehicles.”

With that, Margaret put her hands down, put on the left blinker to signal the empty highway that she was pulling out. Slowly she drove around the other cars, signaled that she was pulling back off the road, she put the car into park, and—once again—raised her hands over her head.

As Starsky strutted toward the hottie in the little white Italian Job, he practiced his best, “So, how you doin?” But when he got to her open window, the flashlight glare revealed far more lines of wisdom on her face than he expected, and her long tresses weren’t blond; they were pewter. His training and quick thinking let him instantly change tact. Instead, he asked, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“No, I don’t.”

“You didn’t come to a complete stop at the sign on 71.”

“Yes. I believe that I did.”

“That’s OK; I’m going to let you off with a warning,” which is what cops do when they can’t prove something in court. It also leaves a paper trail that shows they were working.

Donna—the consummate socialite—tried to get on the deputy’s good side, “I understand. My first husband was a Highway Patrol Officer.”

“When was that,” Starsky asked.

“During the late sixties and seventies,” she replied.

“That was long before I was born,” he gasped.

After Starsky filled out the form, he handed it to Donna and watched her drive off. Margaret finally put her hands down and followed into the darkness. As he walked back to his Tahoe, it finally sunk in that he almost hit on his grandma; he doubled over and blew donut chunks onto the front tire. From the other cruiser, he could hear Hutch’s giggling float across the damp night air.

Harcuvar Forest - A large grove of Saguaro grow along the eastern flank of the Harcuvar Mountain Range.
Harcuvar Forest – A large grove of Saguaro grows along the eastern flank of the Harcuvar Mountain Range.

You may be wondering what this story has to do with this week’s picture. Well, actually, nothing other than our town’s stop sign is on Highway 71, and at the other end of that road—near Aguila—is where Santa rests, and there is a large grove of saguaros growing along the eastern flank of the Harcuvar Mountains. That’s where I took this week’s picture, which I call Harcuvar Forest. When I drove home from that shooting, I stopped at that very intersection—without getting arrested. I guess that I’m not cute enough.

You can see a larger version of Harcuvar Forest on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, I’ll bring you another image from around our house.

Until next time — jw

Kirkland Peak Picture of the Week

Our home in Congress is on a scenic byway. Each weekend, there are lines of exotic sports cars and motorcycles that pass by our trailer park to prove it. There are several roads— like AZ 89—in our state that offer motorsports enthusiasts a venue to stretch the legs of their beloved machines. I’m sure that the other states have roads like ours. I’m surprised that someone hasn’t compiled an encyclopedia of “The World’s Great Weekend Roadtrips.”

The route passing our home is known as the back road to Prescott because it avoids the weekend traffic on Interstate 17. It’s a longer drive, but that’s not the point. I think this passion is best described in Queen’s song; I’m in love with my car. “. . . get a grip on my boy-racer roll bar . . .” (Yes Virginia, Queen recorded songs other than Bohemian Rhapsody). It’s customary to play this anthem at full volume with the top down and the sun flickering through the pines on to your Ray-Bans.

There are actually two ways to get to Prescott from here. The first is to stay on ’89 and drive between the Sierra Prieta and Bradshaw Mountains. The motor-heads like this way because they get to test those big Brembo brakes on their Lamborghinis. This way is challenging to keep up with the speed limit, your up in the pines quicker, and the road dumps you onto Whisky Row, where everyone parks around the courthouse for an impromptu car show.

The second option is better if you’re towing a trailer, hauling a load of eggs from Costco, or you’re trying to keep Queen Anne from throwing up in your lap. To go this way, you turn off at Kirkland Junction and pick up Yavapai County Route 10—Iron Springs Road. This route is more docile, as you travel through Kirkland, Skull Valley, and Iron Springs, although it’s a bit trickier to find your way downtown once you get to Prescott.

Kirkland Peak - The run-off from the granite covered mountain has cut into a layer of limestone deposited on an old lake or sea bed.
Kirkland Peak – The run-off from the granite covered mountain has cut into a limestone layer deposited on an old lake or sea bed.

It’s on this second route that you’ll see the subject of this week’s featured image—Kirkland Peak. It will be the rocky mountain filling your windshield at the Kirkland stop sign. There’s even a better view if you drive straight and cross the tracks. But right now, we’re going to turn right onto Iron Springs Road toward Prescott because there’s something else I want you to see.

Soon after leaving the junction, CR 10 follows the railroad tracks and Skull Valley Wash filled with cottonwood trees. In this section—between Kirkland and Skull Valley—there is a cluster of limestone hoodoos where the granite top layer has been eroded. I’ve tried to photograph the outcrops on several occasions, but telephone lines and private property frustrated me. When I visited last week, a new mine has begun setting up operations, and they’ve scraped the land clean. There are two new five-story silos built beside the road, and I’m afraid that the remaining hoodoos will be gone shortly.

When I drove up to shoot Kirkland Peak this week, I was pleased to find a place where the mountain’s run-off has exposed more limestone, as seen in this week’s picture called Kirkland Peak. There are eons of geology exposed in this photo. The bottom layer is an ancient lake or sea bed, covered by granite (lava cooled slowly), and a mountain thrust above them. The evidence of up-thrust is in the grain of its rocks along the ridgeline (you can’t see that on your phone). As Kelly Bundy said, “The mind wobbles.”

You can see a larger version of Kirkland Peak on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, I’ll bring you another image from our corner of the world.

Until next time — jw

Date Creek Clearing Picture of the Week

Sometimes you get lucky. As a photographer, I keep scenes in my head, so I can go back when the light is right when I want to capture them. That’s what happened for last week’s image, Resting Santa. We had a series of dry fronts move through Congress during the month, but the weather forecasts called for an afternoon where the sky would be clear so the evening sun would pleasantly light up the Harcuvars. I left the house at 3:30 and purposely drove out to get that shot. It was practically a product shot.

More often, I pass by beautiful once in a lifetime scenes that will never be replicated, and I chastise myself for not having a camera with me—or worse—not taking the time to stop. That’s almost what happened with this week’s featured image.

Date Creek Clearing - A clearing winter storm hangs over the Date Creek Range in the evening sun.
Date Creek Clearing – A clearing winter storm hangs over the Date Creek Range in the evening sun.

After I was finished shooting Resting Santa, I drove home on State Route 71. I was looking forward to getting back to a warm home, a nice glass of wine, and one of Queen Anne’s famous home-cooked Stouffer’s dinners. The sun was low on the horizon, and outside my window, a golden cloud hung over the Date Creek range. The conversation in my head went something like this.

“Oh my, that’s gorgeous. I should really come back with the camera sometime when the light is like this.”

“You idiot! Your camera is on the passenger seat, and the light is like this right now. Stop the truck, walk across the road, and take the picture.”

I was very convincing, so I did stop and take a shot—several of them to be exact. The version that I like most is called Date Creek Clearing. There are two prominent peaks in the Date Creek Range; both of them are unnamed. On the left is the rocky pinnacle that ate my first drone, so I call it Drone Eater Mountain. On the right side is the Range’s high point. They are only bit-players in this photo. The real stars here are the clouds caught in a moment that can never be duplicated. Those storm leftovers can never be the same.

I know that my work is considered trivial and will never warrant a Pulitzer Prize or other great awards. I shoot mostly meaningless pretty pictures, valued at a dime-a-dozen. But on a week such as the one we’ve experienced, I needed a bit of calmness and serenity. If you feel the same, then this is my gift to you.

You can see a larger version of Date Creek Clearing on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, I’ll bring you another image from our small corner of the world. Stay safe.

Until next time — jw

Resting Santa Picture of the Week

Gather around children because Uncle Jim has some sad news to tell. As you know, my job is to wander the countryside searching for pretty things to photograph, so I’m always on the hunt for interesting subjects along the roadsides. After Christmas, I was out with my camera, and I came across something that shocked me. Out in the desert west of Congress, I found a man—passed out—covered from head to toe in soot. This wasn’t the run of the mill derelict. No, he was our beloved Santa Clause flat on his back among the McMullen Valley creosote.

I don’t know what happened. I rushed to help, but I couldn’t wake him. He smelled of rum-spiked eggnog. There were cookie crumbs in his dirty mustache, and he was heading north judging from the trail of broken candy canes he left behind. I assumed that y’all left him one too many treats, and as he stumbled around in the dark, he tripped over the Harcuvar Mountains, and while he lay there, he slipped into a sugar coma.

A rescue was too daunting for me alone, so I drove home for more help. Queen Anne always knows what to do. As we drove back to the scene, I tried to explain what I’d found. Her typically skeptical response was, “Yeah—right.” (BTW, that’s an example of double positives making a negative. Take that, Mr. Horowitz) When we returned to the field north of Aguila, I pointed and smugly said that I was right, “… as you can see with your own eyes.” She shook her head, gave me one of her patented ESAD looks, and snapped, “Put on your glasses.”

I frowned, then walked back to the truck and grabbed my readers. When I took a second look, I was humiliated—again—and quietly thought, “Oh no, it’s just a big rock pile.” I turned towards she-who-knows-all, and in a voice that would have made Emily Litella proud, I mumbled, “Never mind.”

Resting Santa - After a night of carousing, Santa tripped over the Harcuvar Mountains and passed out in the McMullen Valley.
Resting Santa – After a night of carousing, Santa tripped over the Harcuvar Mountains and passed out in the McMullen Valley.

And so begins the New Year. Santa was obviously too indisposed to bring worldwide immunity from Covid 19. We still have to cope with the virus by ourselves, as we did last year. Since Queen Anne and I aren’t old enough and are not front-line workers, we’re considered part of the Useless Third that Douglas Adams describes in his book, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. So, we have to wait patiently for our turn with that oversized needle. It could be anywhere from two to six months before we get our vaccines.

Until then, we’ll keep on keeping on—as they say—which means staying close to home and away from crowds. I’m ok with that because I’ve seen some things I want to show you from around our neighborhood. For January—at least—I’m going to catch up with some of these odds and ends. As soon as it’s safe, we’ll be exploring new highways with our usual cast of ne’er-do-wells. Here’s hoping that it will be soon.

You can see a larger version of Resting Santa on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, I’ll show you another interesting shot from around the neighborhood.

Until next time — jw