Colton Crater Juniper Picture of the Week

Colton Crater Juniper - A lone juniper surrounded by lava bombs stands before Colton Crater topped with monsoon clouds.
Colton Crater Juniper – A lone juniper surrounded by lava bombs stands before Colton Crater, topped with whipped cream monsoon clouds.

I’m unsure where my head was last week when I wrote that today was the last Sunday in October. It wasn’t until the middle of the week that I realized I was wrong, and another weekend was ahead. Don’t worry; I have one more photo from the San Francisco Lava Field that I’d like to show you. You’re so lucky.

Queen Anne and I didn’t have to travel far from S.P. Crater to find this week’s scene. She didn’t move at all. She sat in the Jeep and continued to read her Kendal while I walked due south across the dirt road to a tree that I found interesting. I composed my shot as I walked toward the juniper. I wanted to include the monsoon clouds building over the San Francisco Peaks and some of the lava bombs surrounding the tree; otherwise, I would have moved closer to capture its twisted trunk. When I finally processed the photo this week, I realized that I had grabbed another volcanic crater—it’s a twofer. I’d rather be lucky than good—it takes up less time.

The cone in this week’s shot is Colton Crater. It looks like a fallen birthday cake. No amount of icing will cover that mess up. Compared to the mountain I featured last week, this one doesn’t seem impressive. It doesn’t look tall and well-formed like S.P. Crater. That’s only an optical conclusion. Colton has more height and width, and the caldera is deeper. And there is another smaller cone inside Colton’s caldera. You’ll have to look on Google Earth or hike its rough grade to see it. Incidentally, along the horizon, the small pyramid-shaped peak is Mt. Humphreys—Arizona’s highest mountain peak.

The reason that Colton looks old and saggy is the same as why I do; it’s an old fart. While S.P. Crater’s last eruption was only 55,000 years ago (a baby), Colton Crater hasn’t seen any action in 200k – 800k years. That’s plenty of time for gravity and erosion to bring a mountain to its knees. For example, the interior of Colton’s crater has been swept clean of residual ash and pumice from its eruption.

Scientists don’t name things very creatively. They tend to give out codes instead of names. For most of the time that geologist has been studying the San Francisco Peaks, this crater was called V160. It was the 160th volcanic flow in the lava field. See what I mean—where’s the romance in that? Dr. Harold Sellers Colton was the founder and director of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, and after he died in 1970, the local academia renamed Volcano 160 in his honor. That was nice.

You can see a larger version of Colton Crater Juniper on its Webpage by clicking here. Come back next week when we finish our tour of the San Francisco Lava Field with one last photo. This time I’m sure—I looked it up on my calendar. We’ll see you then.

Till next time
Jw

BTW:

I have an old friend from my California racing days named Gary Wheeler. You might have read some of his comments in this journal. Since his retirement, he has been taking some fantastic bird photographs. I don’t know; maybe old racers turn to photography when they’re too old to do anything useful. After much urging, Gary has put his collection online for people to enjoy. If you enjoy birds, you should pay a visit at: https://gowheeler.smugmug.com/. Don’t worry; he didn’t pay me for this advertising.

Thumb Flat   Picture of the Week

With a basic knowledge of native Arizona plants and observational skills, it’s easy to tell what elevation you’re at in our state. Maybe only Florida is easier because the entire state is below 350′. I’ve written before about how State 48 has all but two of the world’s climate zones; sub-tropic and tundra permafrost. So all you have to do is look at the bush you’re standing next to you for a clue.

For example, compare last week’s picture to the one that I posted today. The tall ponderosa pines you see in Yellow Field thrive at altitudes over 6,500 feet. While the pinion pine in this week’s image—Thumb Flat—is the dominant plant between 5,000 and the appearance of tall pines. My rule is only a rough generalization because there are microclimate pockets all across the state. I can name two places off the top of my head as examples; Palm Canyon in the KOFA Range south of Quartzite and the east slope of the Poachie Range south of Wikiup. The state’s only native palms grow in a mountainside crevice at the first location, and the latter has saguaro and pinion pine intermingling on its slopes.

When Queen Anne and I visited Williams, it was only natural as we drove down the south slope of the dormant volcano to see ponderosa pine replaced with stands of juniper. As the White Horse Lake Road descended even lower, the juniper became sparser. By the time we reached Thumb Flat—as it’s called on the map—individual trees had stood alone in the wildflower-covered fields.

Thumb Flat - A beautiful alligator juniper stands in a wildflower covered field.
Thumb Flat – A beautiful alligator juniper stands in a wildflower-covered field.

Here I spotted this beautiful alligator juniper, which made me stop Archie and get its portrait. I think this specimen would be a prized possession in anyone’s garden. Probably the only reason this tree isn’t already in somebody’s front yard is that it’s in the middle of the Kaibab National Forest.

In this week’s featured image that I call Thumb Flat, I like how the foreground is darker in color from being in the shade of a cloud. It contrasts nicely against the bright white background cumulus clouds. The wildflowers are the same as in last week’s image, but you can see how much more dull they are when they’re not in direct sunlight. In this case that’s OK because they’re not the subject here—this week, they’re only playing a ‘walk-on’ part.

You can see a larger version of Thumb Flat on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, we turn onto another side road, so come back and see where that road ends.

Until next time — jw

P.S. If the picture is not showing up in your email version of this post, you can click on the article title (Thumb Flat) to open the Web version of this post.

Prickly Juniper Picture of the Week

In a place like Sedona, with its canyons and red-rock buttes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by abundant beauty. I can imagine a project where I simply recorded a catalog of the natural formations along Oak Creek, but that would make for a boring story. A good story changes pace and adds contrast. That’s why, as I scurry about hither and yon at a new site, I keep my eyes open for interesting things below my nose.

Prickly Juniper
Prickly Juniper – A prickly pear cactus grows in the sun beneath a dead juniper tree in Sedona Arizona.

This week’s featured image—called Prickly Juniper—is an example of looking for intimate subjects amidst spectacular scenery. I saw this prickly pear along the trail that I wrote about last week. If it were on its own, I probably would have ignored it, but it nestled under the bare branches of a dead juniper tree and together they caught my attention. I liked the light against the dark, the living against the dead, and the prickly pear’s circular pads against the tree’s linear branches. The late afternoon sun was showing off the tree’s texture and the cactus’ lethal thorns. I took a couple of variations of this image and I felt this version was the best.

You can see a larger version of Prickly Juniper on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we’ll present another featured image from Sedona.

Until next time — jw

%d bloggers like this: