Sierra Prieta Afternoon Picture of the Week

I broke down and bought one of those dorky bicycle helmets. Not the pink and white one that Anne picked out. She only liked it because it came with a Hello Kitty backpack, ideal for carrying my Capri Sun juice boxes. Mine’s bright silver with a black visor, and when I wear it, I look like the cartoon character in Pearls Before Swine—Jeff the Cyclist. Women swoon when I ride by.

I didn’t buy a helmet as a riding accouterment; it was a practical choice. A couple of weeks ago, I fell off my bike and landed on my head in a neighbor’s front yard. Don’t worry, nary a scratch, so I got up and finished my ride, but I was all over Amazon the minute I got home.

The bike was an innocent bystander in the crash; the real culprit was my balance. I’ve had dizzy spells recently. They’re caused by the microscopic sand particles in my inner ear balance thingy—the vestibular system. Some of the particles in my ear have escaped, and when I tilt my head, they brush hairs and set off dizzy spells—vertigo.

As I was climbing the hill on my morning route, I looked down at the chain to see which gear I was in, and when I looked back up, my head started spinning. The spells usually only last a short time, so that I thought I could power through, but the bike kept drifting toward the left curb, and I couldn’t control the steering, so I stopped to get off. If I get dizzy at home, all I need is to touch a wall for balance. There was no wall in the street. I was on my way to the ground before I knew it. I landed on my back, and I pounded the gravel with the back of my head. I sat up and checked for anything broken or bleeding. Then, I glanced around to ensure that no one had seen me before continuing my ride when I found none.

I’ve already seen my doctor, and she gave me exercises to round up those little buggers, so I’m doing better. There are a few recalcitrant grains that still run loose in my ear, but we’ll get them back in their cage eventually.

The dizziness was a concern on this month’s hike, but I wasn’t affected on the trail. I guess that the strenuous exercise kept it at bay, but I touched every boulder and tree along the way to be safe. When I reached the top, I was rewarded with views like in this week’s image.

Sierra Prieta Afternoon - From the top of Little Granite Mountain Trail you can see south all of the way to the Weaver Mountains.
Sierra Prieta Afternoon – From the top of Little Granite Mountain Trail, you can see south all of the way to the Weaver Mountains.

I call this picture Sierra Prieta Afternoon, and in it, you’re looking south from the hilltop. Beyond the eroded granite boulders, there are three mountain ranges. The closest peaks—the ones with color—are the Sierra Prieta. The next range—the one that has the large rounded peak—is the mountains around Kirkland and Skull Valley. Finally, along the horizon on the left-center is a glimpse of the Weavers. Our home is down on the desert floor on their far side—four thousand feet below the point I was standing.

You can see a larger version of Sierra Prieta Afternoon on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, I’ll finish with a whimsical thing I found on the Little Granite Mountain Trail, so be sure to come back.

Until next time — jw

Standing Rocks Picture of the Week

Do you remember my buddy, Fred? He’s been an actor in several of my adventures when his wife allows us to go out together. The truth is that his wife—Little Deb—and I have been longtime friends. We first met when we were both decorators at a local curtain shop, and have counseled each other through our serial marriages. I think well enough of her that I asked her to be my best man when Queen Anne and I tied the knot.

Miss Deb—as we call her now that she’s a grandma—has a caring heart, and—unlike me—will drop everything to help people out, sometimes to a fault. She must have been a nun in a past life, and she’s shorter than Sally Field (so, two and two equal Flying Nun). At one point in her life, she went through a goose phase. The art in her home involved all kinds of poultry. I think it influenced her maternal instinct because she fusses about her kids, and now grandkids, like an old mother goose.

She does have one idiosyncrasy—well, maybe more than one, but we’ll talk about those some other time. She collects rocks. Each time we’d go camping, we’d drive home with a backseat floor full of rocks—pretty rocks, interesting rocks. When she got back to the house, she would wash them, label them like an archeologist, and then carefully place them out in the yard. She’s trained Fred well. Each time we go out together, he kicks at the dirt, looking for pretty rocks to bring home. So far, they’re working on their yard’s third layer.

I tried it, and it works for me too. When I’m out on a shoot, sometimes I’ll pick up a hardened piece of dirt and toss it in the truck. When I get home, I’ll present it to Her Majesty and sincerely look her in the eyes and tell her, “I found this pretty rock, and thought of you.” Then I tell Anne that I think there’s a gemstone hidden inside. She always says, “Thank you, honey,” before she rushes to the sink with her Waterpik and tries to erode the stone to expose the jewel. It keeps her busy for hours.

Standing Rocks - A cluster of upended granite boulders that we found at the edge of a field in Ferguson Valley.
Standing Rocks – Here is a cluster of upended granite boulders that we found at the edge of a field in Ferguson Valley.

That’s the story of why—whenever I’m out on a photoshoot—I always wind up with pictures of rock piles—like this week’s featured image that I call Standing Rocks. “I saw these and I thought of you.” On our August outing to Ferguson Valley, we passed a group of granite boulders at the edge of a field. These are the same granite boulders found scattered throughout central Arizona, except some cataclysmic event upended these. They could be the Jolly Green Giant’s headstones in a cemetery overgrown with scrub oak. Anyway, when I saw this scene, I had to stop and snap a picture just for you.

You can see a larger version of Standing Rocks on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy your rocks. I think there may be a jewel hidden in them. Be sure to come back next week for another Ferguson Valley image.

Until next time — jw

Shadows, Boulders, and Cracks Picture of the Week

Queen Anne and I had only ventured into the Bradshaw’s once before this month’s Senator Highway adventure. We borrowed a friend’s 4wd tow truck and wanted to see how well it performed on dirt roads. We decided to drive to Crown King for Sunday brunch. It was a horrible experience—lunch was nice, but the track was one long washboard. The truck bounced so much that it took a week for our eyes to stop vibrating. That was before Google Maps—actually, it was before computers—so we added another unnecessary 50 miles to the trip. Anne swore off dirt roads forever.

That’s too bad because the Bradshaws (named for trailblazer William D. Bradshaw) fascinated me since I moved to Phoenix. From the valley, they’re the high range to the north. When you head Flagstaff, they’re the first pine-covered mountains that you pass. The Sunset Point rest stop, which is at the range’s eastern flank, is where I feel that we’ve at last got past the city limits. Finally, during the summer monsoons, they create the storms that bring rain to the valley (as I look out my window today, I see what could be our first seasonal storm—and it’s moving south from the Bradshaws—if it gets here at all).

Whenever we’ve stopped at Sunset Point, and I had to wait for you-know-who to finish up in the bathroom, I always looked up at the mountains and mistakenly thought that they were dry and deserted. I’d think to myself, “It’s too bad there aren’t any fishing lakes up there.” On our recent trip, I found out that I was wrong because back roads lace through the range leading to former mining towns filled with summer cabins. There are even a couple of small lakes—but they’re so close to Prescott, I’d classify them as town lakes. Perhaps it’s just as well that there’s no destination up there, because if there were a big lake up there, then there’d be freeways and planned communities around it.

Shadows, Boulders, and Cracks - This is the simplest essence of what I found interesting about a pair of granite boulders south of Groom Creek, Arizona.
Shadows, Boulders, and Cracks – This is the purest essence of what I found interesting about a pair of granite boulders south of Groom Creek, Arizona.

As Anne and I continued exploring Senator Highway, we came across a boulder field south of Groom Creek. I find these large lumps of granite interesting, but they’re all over the state, and my rock collection is vast. I hear people say, “Meh. It’s another rock picture.” So, for this week’s featured image, I tried to show just the part that made me raise the camera to my eye. In the case of this week’s featured image, that I call Shadows, Boulders, and Cracks, it was the texture of the massive rocks, the delicate shadows of the deciduous trees, and the fracture that splits the right sphere in half. Even without seeing the entire boulder, you instinctively know that you couldn’t skip one of these pebbles across Goldwater Lake.

You can see a larger version of Shadows, Boulders, and Cracks on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you like it. Be sure to come back next week when we present another image from the Senator Highway going south from Prescott.

Until next time — jw

The Boulders Picture of the Week

As we continue our journey east along the Florence-Kelvin Highway, we leave behind the dry washes and haunted valleys of the Tortilla Mountains. We reach a crest where the land becomes a flat plain of sorts. There are small mountain peaks—big hills really—dotting the countryside here and there, but the view is more open, and it seems less appealing now.

Without the mountains and gulleys, the road has long straight sections, and although it appears to be flat, it’s a long downhill slope into Florence. The elevation drops almost a thousand feet over the next ten miles. Just after passing the Tea Cup cattle ranch on the road’s north side, we spot a field of granite boulders that Google Maps identifies—oddly enough—as The Boulders.

The Boulders-Another outcrop of granite deposit found throughout the state of Arizona.
The Boulders-Another outcrop of granite deposit found throughout the state of Arizona.

The boulders that you find at The Boulders are the same pile of granite rocks found in Prescott, up the hill from here in Yarnell, Kingman, or any other place throughout Arizona. They’re everywhere. Instead of turquoise, the state legislature should have designated these granite deposits as the state gemstone, but, like Ben Franklin’s idea of making the turkey the national bird, granite just lacks pizzazz—except on your kitchen countertops.

Because the rocks stand out like a sore thumb along the road, I had to stop to take some more rock pictures. There are a couple of good campsites here. In fact, on our visit, a motor-house and fifth-wheel were doing just that nearby, so The Boulders is a popular place. As I clambered in, on, and among the rocks, I looked for a composition that distinguished this outcrop. The image that I chose to present this week was one that was covered with graffiti. I’m always flabbergasted how some people love to get out in the wild and are then compelled to mark it up with spray paint.

I call this week’s featured image The Boulders, and I like it for a couple of reasons. One is the contrast of small against the big; the other is the shadow against the light. I’ll throw in the wall-art at no additional charge. Another thing in this image that I find interesting is the Tortilla Mountains barely visible on the horizon. It shows the amount of distance Queen Anne and I have traveled.

You can see a larger version of The Boulders on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing it. Next week, we’ll finish up our trip along the Florence-Kelvin Highway and I have a surprise to show you—something I’ve seen in pictures, but never in person.

Until next time — jw

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