Dragon Backs Picture of the Week

Dragon Backs - A pair of peaks in the Dome Rock Mountains that look like spiny back dragons.
Dragon Backs – A pair of peaks in the Dome Rock Mountains that look like spiny back dragons.

The drive between Quartzsite and Yuma on Highway US 95 has two parts. Driving in either direction, it’s thirty miles of gentle uphill grade and then downhill for the other thirty. The mid-point is at Stone Cabin (now an empty building shell), where the Border Patrol checkpoint is.

From Quartzsite, the road is dead straight, and your line of sight is limited only by the whoop-de-woos (wash dips) and the earth’s curvature. The 800-foot climb is barely noticeable, and the road is flanked on the east by the KofA Mountains (named for the King of Arizona mine), and to the west are the Dome Rock Mountains (the dome you see west of downtown Quartzsite).

The south half of the trip has a steeper grade—most of which is in the first mile, where the highway drops off a hill. The scenery changes too. There’s a different mountain range far off to the east—the Castle Dome Mountains, but you’re surrounded by the Yuma Proving Grounds, where the military plays with its new toys. Instead of a pleasant drive through the wilderness, you begin searching for things like the down-looking radar dirigible, a Bradley tank using your car for target practice, or the C-130 that just took off and climbed to 10,000 feet before troopers shove something big out of the back—I sure hope that chute opens.

Whenever Queen Anne and I travel this road, I look for these landmarks to help pass the time. I’d rather have a stimulating conversation about physics with her, but she usually has her head pressed against the headrest, her eyes closed, and her mouth open. She stays that way until one of her snorts wakes her.

On the drive home, one of the landmarks I look for is a pair of unnamed mountains in the Dome Rock Range. When I pass them, we’re nearing the Quartzsite city limits. The twin peaks look like a pair of dragons sunning themselves on a rock. I’ve often thought I’d like to get their portrait, but no matter how much map scouring I do, I’m unable to find a way to get closer—short of hiking two and a half miles across the open Mohave Desert.

The spiny back of the dragons climbs from the desert to their west-facing heads—where they watch the Colorado River flow south. As with last week’s shot, we always drive by them right after lunch. That’s the absolute worst light in the desert. I keep swearing on a stack of Ansel Adams books that I will shoot them when the light is correct, but it’s yet to happen.

On our last drug run—when last week’s photo was taken—clouds were gathering over the Dome Rock Range, so instead of a uniform blue sky, there was texture over the mountains. After I took the KofA Thunderhead shot, I walked across the highway and pointed my camera at the dragons. This time I twisted the zoom to telephoto and framed the monsoon clouds. The result is this week’s featured image, which I call Dragon Backs.

You can see a larger version of Dragon Backs on its Webpage by clicking here. Next week, I have pictures to show from a different place for show-and-tell. I hope you can take a break from your Christmas shopping and take a look. We’ll see you then.

Till next time


Flagstaff Book - A collection of photographs and musings from our summer trip to Flagstaff.
Flagstaff Book – A collection of photographs and musings from our summer trip to Flagstaff.

Oops, I Did It Again (Britney Spears song written by Richard Thompson). I published another book. This one covers all of the places we visited in and around Flagstaff. As usual, it’s available in two versions. You can see and buy the hardback on Blurb.com—which you won’t do because it’s too expensive—and the free PDF version you can download, view, and print from your computer. There are additional photos in each of the four chapters, so I’m hoping you take a look. You can get to its Web Page by clicking here.

Bat Ears Picture of the Week

A couple of weeks ago, I drove to a part of Arizona that I hadn’t seen before. I knew about Alamo Lake as a fisherman but never went there because it wasn’t stocked with trout, and the fishing reports always warned about rattlesnakes. That was enough to put me off. But, during our club’s spring classes, one of the students brought in photos from the Alamo area that I found so interesting that I changed my opinion about visiting the La Paz County lake.

She took photos east of the lake, where Date Creek cuts through an ancient mud deposit. Because of how the intermittent water has eroded the soil, the place is known as Mud Cliffs. It’s not shown on any maps I have, but I knew it was the general area, so I left the house with enough time to explore and still have a couple of hours to shoot before sunset.

From Wenden, the paved road to Alamo State Park runs due north. It has little or no traffic, and it only took me an hour to get to the park store. When I asked the friendly staff inside about the cliffs, the host handed me a hand-drawn map. “Head toward Wenden to the Wayside Road, then jog over to Palmerita Road and follow it north.”

“Thanks,” I said as I took the map and paid too much for a Butterfingers candy bar and the park’s day fee—even though I was leaving.

During the classes, my student said her group was out on ATVs, but she believed you could get there by car. She was right. All the roads were wide and well-graded, and when I drove them, they didn’t have a lot of washboards. After I reached the spot on the map, I searched for the canyon shown in her pictures, and when I found it, I spent an hour or so hiking and shooting the photos that I’ll be sharing this month—I guess it’s Alamo Lake Month.

Bat Ears
An erosion formation at the head of the slot canyon glows in the late afternoon sun. The pair of points on top reminded me of a bat or maybe even Batman.

This week’s image is called Bat Ears, and I took it at the slot canyon’s mouth towards the end of the day. I passed it going in, but the sun didn’t have the same warmth as in this image, so it wasn’t interesting enough to shoot. The name comes from the pair of points at the top. This cliff doesn’t have a name—none of them do. Because the soil is so soft, it quickly erodes. A good flood will wipe out the existing landscape and replace it with new formations. The ears may not last another year, so I got to name a geological feature that—maybe—no one else will see. My chest swells with pride.

You can see a larger version of Bat Ears on its Web page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing my new entry, and I hope you’ll tag along as I work my way up the canyon. It’s a pretty exciting hike.

Until next time — jw