Big Horn Tank Picture of the Week

We’re down to the final month of this gawd awful year. For one, I will be happy to get my vaccination and venture back out into the world again—well, right after you get yours, and I see that you don’t get sick and die from it. I’m afraid that it’ll be months before it’s my turn because I’m too young and pretty. So, because it’s a short month, and Queen Anne has abandoned me, we’re going to explore a road that’s both close by but too expansive to cover in one day.

This month’s focus will be on a road, unlike what we’ve covered on this platform before. It’s not even dirt. It’s a road that stretches from Jacksonville, Florida to Santa Monica, California. It’s also the longest possible way to cross Texas. When Anne and I visited Deb and Fred in Austin several years ago, I was dismayed to see a highway sign that said our destination was further off than the two states through which we’d already driven. I’m, of course, talking about Interstate 10.

Calm down, we’re not going to do the whole thing in one month, and I’m not ready for a lifetime commitment (ask Anne). For December, we’re going to point out the landmarks that I enjoy seeing between Phoenix and the Colorado River. Even with that limitation, there are too many to fit into four Sundays. We’re not even heading in a particular direction; we’ll talk about each place as I get to it.

If you’re like me, you loath driving cross country on the Interstates, but they are the most efficient route when your time is limited. I’ve made countless trips between Los Angeles and Phoenix since moving here a half-century ago, and the flat desert always was the worst grind—river, flat, mountain, flat, mountain, flat, town. After I learned some about the mountain ranges, it was more enjoyable to know that Courthouse Rock was coming up on the south side or that I could spot the abandoned solar observatory on top of Harquahala Mountain. It was like saying, “Hi” to old friends as we passed.

This week’s featured image was taken in the Tonopah area. From east to west, you’ll pass the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, stop at Tonopah Joe’s for gas and heartburn, then on the north side of the highway—where Salome Road crosses—there’s a prominent horn mountain, called Big Horn Mountain. It’s the centerpiece of a wilderness area that’s the same name. Actually, there are two wilderness areas separated by a dirt road that I’ve yet to discover. These are the Big Horn Mountains Wilderness and the Hummingbird Springs Wilderness across the street. You can do backflips across the road from one to the other.

On the plains south of Big Horn Mountain Wilderness Area, is a rusty tank meant to provide water to cattle on the open range.
Big Horn Tank – On the plains south of Big Horn Mountain Wilderness Area is a rusty tank meant to provide water to cattle on the open range.

This week’s featured image that I called Big Horn Tank was taken from the Harquahala Plain off of the Salome Road. There on the open range, I found a rusty water tank for an interesting foreground. I think that rust is a photographer’s favorite color, and I like how the white PVC pipe accents the tank. The other thing I see is how little vegetation cattle have for grazing. They don’t eat creosote (would you), so they only munch on the yellow grass.

You can see a larger version of Big Horn Tank on its Web Page by clicking here. Be sure to come back next week for another roadside landmark from Interstate 10. Tomorrow, I have to phone the Queen to see where I’m allowed to go. Wait till I tell her what happened to me as I was leaving Algodones yesterday—she’ll never let me out of the house again.

Until next time — jw

Harquahala Sunset Picture of the Week

Oh my, it’s another Sunday already. It’s the last Sunday of our Harquahala trip, of the month, the year, and the decade. I should have thought of something profound to memorialize this moment. Alas, I’ve been too busy staring at all of these trees to notice a passing forest. I’ll try to do better ten years from now.

For this week’s episode, we’ve turned the corner, literally. Anne and I had been traveling southwest on the Eagle Eye Road, and to continue, we turned right on the Salome Highway, which runs northwest from Buckeye to Salome. At one time, the highway was a detour while they built Interstate 10. Now, both roads are free of traffic. As when we made stops along the way, I pulled off on the broad shoulders, but I didn’t need to. There was no traffic to block, so I could’ve parked in the middle of the road.

As we drove toward Salome (“Where she danced” Dick Wick Hall; one of Arizona’s famous humorist and former Salome resident), the day grew late. The long shadows on the mountain began to look like a minimalist graphic in the style of an Ivan Earl painting, or a Scotty Mitchell pastel. So, I searched for a spot where I could take a picture of the mountain behind a sea of creosote. I found such a place near a large ranch. So I got a chance to shoot this image with and without buildings in the distance. I preferred this version, and I called it Harquahala Sunset.

Harquahala Sunset - With the deep shadows and minimalist styling, this photo reminds me of the style of some artists that I admire.
Harquahala Sunset – With the deep shadows and minimalist styling, this photo reminds me of the style of some artists that I admire.

The part about “without buildings” is a lie. As I processed this picture, I combed through it, looking for dust spots—a regular part of my routine. That’s when I discovered the ruins of the 1930s solar observatory. At the top of the highest center peak is a white tower and utility building. They’re abandoned now, but a few miles behind us, there’s a ten-mile road that goes to the mountain’s top. It’s a challenge that is too much for Archie, but I’d like to take that trip someday.

You can see a larger version of Harquahala Sunset on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing it. Next week, we’ll be talking about a new back-road trip somewhere in Arizona.

Until next time — jw

Mud Arch Picture of the Week

Continuing last week’s adventure to the mud cliffs at Alamo Lake, I took this week’s picture at the other end of the slot canyon. It’s not a very long hike—maybe fifteen minutes if you don’t dawdle—but I was exploring with a camera and stopped to take pictures often along the route. The reward waiting for you at the canyon’s head is this mudstone arch carved by rushing water draining from the surrounding mesa. If you hike a few yards beyond the arc, the canyon ends, and you’re on the mud flats between Date Creek and the Santa Maria River. The water is runoff from the Black Mountains in the north that has carved the canyon from the flats.

Mud Arch
Mud Arch – At the end of a short hike up the slot canyon is a mud arch as a reward for your effort.

Since I’m not a geologist, I can’t tell you how old the arch is, but because the surrounding soil quickly erodes and because I slept in a Holiday Inn Express once, I assume that it hasn’t been there for very long—geologically speaking—and it may soon crumble. You’ll notice that the arch’s shape isn’t smooth and rounded like the sandstone arches in Utah, which tells me it hasn’t been polished by blowing wind. That’s another clue to its relatively young age. I won’t be surprised if it disappears in less than a decade.

When I arrived on this scene, the sun was low enough that it didn’t shine onto the canyon walls, but it did add that late afternoon glow to the mound behind it and separated the arch from the background—sort of a spotlight, as it were. With streaky clouds in the sky … what more could a photographer ask for?

You can see a larger version of Mud Arch on its Web page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing my newest entry and tagging along for the other canyon shots I’m revealing this month.

Until next time — jw