Granite Mountain Picture of the Week

Fall on the Humphrey Wash- Usually the high-country aspen trees get all of the attention for their fall colors, but every so often, you can find some subtle color along the road.
Fall on the Humphrey Wash- Usually, the high-country aspen trees get all of the attention for their fall colors, but every so often, you can find some subtle colors along low-land roads.

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.

Granite Mountain
Granite Mountain – Under a vast sky filled with broken clouds, Granite Mountain – with lingering smoke over it – dominates the southern horizon from the Las Vegas Ranch in Williamson Valley.

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.

Until next time — jw

Camp Wood Boulders Picture of the Week

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.

Yolo Cows - Cows stand between their calves and a perceived threat.
Yolo Cows – Cows stand between their calves and a perceived threat.

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.

Yolo Cows - Cows stand between their calves and a perceived threat.
Camp Wood Boulders – In the late afternoon sun, granite boulders seem to glow against a clear blue sky.

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.

Until next time — jw

Tin Shed Picture of the Week

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.

Tin Shed - An old corrugated tool shed along the Camp Wood Road.
Tin Shed – An old corrugated tool shed seen along the Camp Wood Road.

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.

Until next time — jw

%d bloggers like this: