We’ve spent March exploring the Black Hills—an interesting group of low mountains on Wickenburg’s north side that gets their name from the dark surface crust on their top. I was able to shoot them from different perspectives by driving the old mine roads that my SUV—Archie—could navigate easily. While I’m out jaunting about and looking for different angles of my subject, I try to keep an eye out for other good scenes—and that’s the case with this week’s featured image.
When I drove out Rincon Road a couple of weeks ago, I intended to get the shot Black Hills—last week’s featured image. While I was there, I discovered a hill covered with saguaro. As I’ve written before, saguaro does well on a south-facing well-drained slope, and when I see a stand like this, it makes me happy. This is a healthy forest. Since I’d already invested the time driving out there, I also took this shot.
I named this week’s image Saguaro Bouquet jokingly because—although they each weigh a couple of tons—it looks like you could pick them for a Mother’s Day bouquet (hey, no one said I was normal). Although this grove is small, it’s densely packed along the hillside.
There are some other things I see in the photo. It was still winter when I took it, but the scene will change dramatically as the weather warms next month. For example, the little gray bushes covering the ground are brittlebush. In a couple of weeks, they will sprout yellow daisy-like flowers. Shortly after that, the palo verde trees will start flowering, adding more yellow. Finally, in May, the saguaro will be adorned with large white blossoms. That’s an Arizona Highways kind of picture. If you’d like to see it yourself, ask me, and I’ll give you the map coordinates.
I am happy you took the time to view my new photo. You can see a larger version on its Web Page by clicking here. Be sure to come back next week for a complete change of pace. I promise that for April, there won’t be a single saguaro.
Queen Anne and I spent a couple of days last week visiting our favorite foreign city. That’s right; we went to Algodones, Baja California. I had to see my dentist and have a couple of holes in my head filled. Instead, she worked on my teeth.
Algodones (it means cotton in English) is famous for liquor stores, pharmacies, and dentists. The little town has over 350 dental offices within a 10-minute walk from the crossing. It’s straightforward for visiting Snow-Birds to park in the lot, walk across, hit the liquor store for liquid courage, get a tooth fixed, and buy pain relief on the way out.
During the pandemic, the Mexican border is closed, but there are exceptions for medical, educational, and commerce visits. The big restriction placed for Algodones was closing the crossing at 2:00 pm instead of 10:00 pm. Early on, many people didn’t know that, so the wait times at the customs house were nil. Well, the secret’s out. The line of people going through customs was over a mile long. There’s a break in the gate where our dentist is, and when we can join the crowd there, it’s a half-hour wait. On Tuesday, the end of the line was three times that distance. It was 12:40 pm when we started. At 2:00, when the siren blew, we were only half-way to where our usual starting place.
The way customs close the border is interesting. If you’re in a car, you’re out of luck. You have to drive an hour to San Luis or Mexicali, where the crossings are open 24 hours. But if you’re a pedestrian in line, they stay open until the end of the line. That’s good because I thought we were going to sleep in a cardboard box like homeless people. It was 3:30 by the time we stopped at the Yuma Carl’s Jr. for lunch/dinner.
There was something weird on this trip that has never happened to us before. When we made it to the line’s the halfway point, an American guy jumps out of his car—taps on my shoulder—and asks if we want a ride in his car. “You’ll be in line for another couple of hours, but the cars are crossing in a half-hour.” His car had four people in it already. Anne and I glanced at each other and declined. I’m of the generation that said, “Gas, grass, or ass. Nobody rides for free.” What if we got in the car and he demanded cash that we didn’t have. We’d be back on the street and at the back of the line again. Everyone around us also turned him down. What would you do?
Get to the Picture
Speaking of this week’s picture . . . (I know it’s a lame segue, so I won’t charge you for this issue.) This is another view of the Mountains/Hills that we’ve been photographing in March. I found that they’re called the Black Hills because of the dark crust along their tops, hence the photo’s title. This version was taken on their other side, looking back to Wickenburg.
If you own one of my 2021 calendars, these rocks are the same subject as the March photo. This time I wanted to get a closer look at the interesting fault thrust in the foreground, but when I processed it, I realized I had captured more.
You can see the Hassayampa River as it flows down from the Bradshaw Mountains on the mountain’s left side. But here, it turns right—behind the foreground rocks—and it cut a gorge through these hills. It’s a local attraction called the Hassayampa Box Canyon. Unfortunately, it’s hidden in this shot, but there is a glimpse of the river after it hits the Hassayampa Plain on the right side. Here it turns into a wide, sandy, and the water flows beneath the sand. That’s why the native tribes call it Hassayampa—upside-down river.
I hope my photo brings completeness into your life. You can see a larger version on its Web Page by clicking here. I like reading your comments, so feel free to add your two cents below. Be sure to come back next week for another image from the Wickenburg area.
Optimism comes at a price. If you remember, last week’s post was upbeat. The world was peaches and cream. I should have known better because, on Monday, karma smacked me in the face. Life never goes smoothly. It’s one big game of Wack-A-Mole. You have to solve one problem after another.
Here’s what happened. Last Monday, Fred was helping me with some upholstery in the living room. To use my pneumatic staple gun, I dragged my compressor inside and plugged it into the same electrical circuit that my computer is on. We only had a half day’s work, so I went into the office and checked my email when he left. The monitor was black—you know, in sleep mode (or so I thought). But when I touched the keyboard, it never woke up. I spent the next quarter-hour flipping switches, moving wall plugs, and I even moved the monitor to a different room with no luck. It was dead—D-E-D, dead. I’m not sure if the compressor sent a surge into the line or the monitor was already on its deathbed.
It was expensive when I bought it 10-13 years ago. I still have marks on my neck to prove it, where Anne tried to strangle me when she found out how much I paid for it. It was a 30”, it could display 90% of Adobe RGB colors, and it had a native resolution of 2560×1440. Those things are important to me as a photographer and the reason the price was high. I had to find a replacement, so I logged on to Anne’s laptop and started shopping Amazon.
I found two displays that would meet my criteria. They both were 4K models, 32” wide, and had wide color capabilities. They were better than what I had, and they cost less than a quarter of my original unit. I liked the one that wouldn’t be delivered until next week—what, no news this Sunday; I can’t let my loyal fans down. So I settled on the other one, and it arrived Thursday afternoon. It was in a box big enough that we’re going to use it as a guest bedroom for when you visit.
My new monitor works great. I’m using it now to write this post. I’m not too fond of the fact that it’s too low, and there’s no vertical adjustment. I’m probably going to build a box for it to sit on—some exotic wood would be handsome, and a drawer would be nice. Someplace to squirrel away some of the clutter on my desk.
The new monitor also helps my photo editing—like this week’s featured image that I call Evening in the Hills. As with my other March images, this one was taken in the mountains above Wickenburg. This one isn’t about mountains; it’s all about the light. With the sun going down, it began throwing long shadows on the desert, so I turned the camera and captured a group of nearby hills. This was one of those quiet moments when the air was still, and I felt alone in the world.
I hope you like it. You can see a larger version on its Web Page by clicking here. I like reading your comments, so feel free to add your two cents below. Be sure to come back next week for another image from the Wickenburg area.
It’s only the third month of 2021, and already I can tell it’s a much better year than the last one. If you remember, this time a year ago, I was comforting my dear wife, who was convalescing from knee surgery, we had growing concerns about a new virus that threatened our existence, and we faced travel restrictions to slow its spread. In contrast, this week, I feel like a kid at the end of a time-out, no longer grounded or released from juvy (of course, I was such an exemplary child that I never experienced any of those feelings—my parents just spanked us).
I have this exhilaration of freedom because we got our second vaccination shot this week—and we have passports to prove it. If you’re debating on getting your shots, you shouldn’t be. Queen Anne and I didn’t experience any abnormal side effects. Like any flu shot, your arm is sore for a couple of days, but other than that, our lives went on normally. And as an extra benefit—like a putty knife—the Microsoft chip they snuck into the vaccine scrapes off any plaque in your arteries (but I do have an incredible desire to buy a new version of Windows).
We’re still cautious about our movements—we wear masks and keep our distance, but now we can plan to go on vacation later this summer. In our laundry room, I have a huge wall map of the Colorado Plateau. Whenever Anne gets out of bed this afternoon, I’m going to have her toss a spit-ball at it. Wherever it lands is the place we’ll drag our trailer—The Ritz—this August.
I’m so giddy this morning; I almost forgot this week’s new picture. If it looks familiar, it should. That’s because it’s a variation of last week’s featured image. They both show the mountains on the Hassayampa River’s far side, and they both feature saguaro cactus. The difference is that last week’s photo was of the mountains with cactus in the foreground, and this one is a saguaro with the mountains in the background. Who said you couldn’t get two good variations of the same scene by working-the-shot? I called this shot Blue Tank Saguaro for obvious reasons.
I’m interested in hearing what you think. Both images can be seen on their Web Pages, and you can flip between them using the Previous/Next links. You can get to this week’s image by clicking here. Which of the two do you like better? Let me know by leaving your comment at the bottom of this page. Be sure to come back next week for another of my images from the mountains surrounding Wickenburg.
Until next time — jw
UPDATE 4:30 pm: Anne got up and threw her spit-ball at the map, so I guess in August we’re going to . . . the laundry room.