Eagletail Mountains Picture of the Week


Eagletail Mountains - The Eagletail Mountain Wilderness Area is an hour west of Phoenix, and south of Interstate 10. Since you have to hike to see the good stuff, it's challenging for me to photograph properly.
Eagletail Mountains – The Eagletail Mountain Wilderness Area is west of Phoenix and south of Interstate 10. Since you have to hike to see the good stuff, it’s challenging to photograph correctly.

I find some places where it is difficult to photograph properly. Most of those are wilderness areas. Because they’re not accessible by road, you have to hike to get to the good stuff; that’s exciting visually. You know by now how I feel about hiking—I’m vehemently against it. However, sometimes you have to do things that make you uncomfortable.

The Eagletail Mountains are one of those places. Plenty of old jeep trails are running through the area, but since it was declared a wilderness and set aside in 1990, you can’t drive on them. Instead, you have to hike anywhere within its boundaries.

I last visited the Eagletails in 2003—when I first created my Website. Since I routinely update the site with newer and better photos, I discarded those shots long ago. I needed a new project, so I decided to revisit the Eagletail Wilderness and try my luck again.

There are two mountain ranges in the Eagletail Wilderness. Foremost is the Eagletail Range that runs north-south. If it were a hand on a clock, they would be in the 11:00 position. The other range is Cemetery Ridge (hmm, there’s got to be a story behind that name), a line of mountains that run northwest-southeast, or 9:30-10:00. Most of this wilderness fits within this triangle between the two ranges. That’s the justification that Congress used to preserve it. It is a complete example of two mountain ranges separated by a flat Sonoran Desert basin.

This week’s picture is of the western slope of the Eagletails. It’s an aerial shot taken with my drone. Since I can’t fly into a wilderness, it’s as close as I could get from the east side. It shows the jagged ridgeline with Eagletail Peak—the high point—at center-right. If you got closer, you’d see its top has several granite spires resembling feathers—so its name is descriptive.

The trouble is that the interesting geologic formations and petroglyphs are on the other side. For February, my challenge is to see how far I can walk in and show you what’s there. It’s been several years since I last twisted my ankle, so I’m about due.

You can see a larger version of Eagletail Mountains on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, we move south and get a shot, including Cemetery Ridge. I promise to see how it got that name. Come back then and see what we found.

Until next time — jw

Date Creek and Tres Alamos Picture of the Week

Working during the summer is challenging, whether in house chores or photography. That’s why my favorite pastime during these months is procrastination. Face it; I’m allergic to heat. Thinking about going outside is worse than actually doing so. After all, in today’s southwest, we’ve learned to minimize our heat exposure. We move about in a succession of air-conditioned cocoons.

Heat is why I had difficulty coming up with a theme for  July. The monsoons haven’t kicked in yet, so most pleasant campsites are on fire or closed. I must stay close to home, venturing early or after dinner, find a shot, and then hurry home.

I decided that July’s theme will be U.S. Highway 93. That’s the main thoroughfare near my house that Phoenicians (and Tucsonans) use to commute to Las Vegas. The route goes to Canada, but I’m only concerned about day trips. Because I’ve often traveled the section between here and Kingman, I know a few vistas I wanted to capture on film but never had time to stop. This week’s image is an example.

Date Creek and Tres Alamos - Date Creek as it flows by the Tres Alamos Wilderness Area near Congress, Arizona.
Date Creek and Tres Alamos – Date Creek flows by the Tres Alamos Wilderness Area near Congress, Arizona.

North of the SR 71 – 93 junction, the Alamo-Congress Rod is a lousy shortcut to Alamo Lake. It’s a broad dirt road that gets graded annually at best. It passes the Tres Alamos Wilderness Area about 10 miles west of the paved highway. It’s a small nature preserve (83,000 acres) compared to the neighboring Arrastra Mountain Wilderness (129,800 acres). The high point on which Tres Alamos is centered is the 4257-foot Sawyer Peak. To reach the spot where I took this shot, I had to slowly travel a couple of miles on a Jeep trail that left Archie with some Arizona Pinstripes—a badge of honor for a Luxo-SUV.

The wash in this shot is Date Creek, which should be familiar to regular readers because Congress—and the old Congress Gold Mine—are located next to the mountains of the same name. As it were, the creek flows from the Weavers, along the north side of the Date Creeks, to where it merges with the Santa Maria River upstream from Alamo Lake.

An interesting thing in the photo is the tire tracks in the sand. With the rising popularity of those all-terrain buggies, it’s easier for off-roaders to drive through the washes. Most of the time, the ride is smoother than the so-called mine roads. However, in the past, you could see tracks of the animals crossing the river bottoms. It was a visitor guest book. Now that natural history is erased each time they drive over it.

When I first moved to Congress, I coveted owning an ATV. I thought it would help me get into the backcountry and get some unique landscapes. After a couple of rides in Fred’s, I found them uncomfortable because you’re exposed to the elements, and riding in his air-conditioned FJ is more my style of roughing it. Earlier this year, I got hooked on watching Matt’s Off-Road Recovery. He’s a towing company in Hurricane, Utah, and he documents his crew on YouTube as they drag 4-wheelers back to civilization. The best part is that he uses a modified Corvair Lakewood—the station wagon version. Watching him drag ATVs off mountains and dunes convinced me I was better off without one.

Click here to see a larger version of Date Creek and Tres Alamos on its Web Page. Next week, we’ll travel further down the highway and see what’s around the next bend.

Until next time — jw

Evening in the Hills Picture of the Week

Optimism comes at a price. If you remember, last week’s post was upbeat. The world was peaches and cream. I should have known better because, on Monday, karma smacked me in the face. Life never goes smoothly. It’s one big game of Wack-A-Mole. You have to solve one problem after another.

Here’s what happened. Last Monday, Fred was helping me with some upholstery in the living room. To use my pneumatic staple gun, I dragged my compressor inside and plugged it into the same electrical circuit that my computer is on. We only had a half day’s work, so I went into the office and checked my email when he left. The monitor was black—you know, in sleep mode (or so I thought). But when I touched the keyboard, it never woke up. I spent the next quarter-hour flipping switches, moving wall plugs, and I even moved the monitor to a different room with no luck. It was dead—D-E-D, dead. I’m not sure if the compressor sent a surge into the line or the monitor was already on its deathbed.

It was expensive when I bought it 10-13 years ago. I still have marks on my neck to prove it, where Anne tried to strangle me when she found out how much I paid for it. It was a 30”, it could display 90% of Adobe RGB colors, and it had a native resolution of 2560×1440. Those things are important to me as a photographer and the reason the price was high. I had to find a replacement, so I logged on to Anne’s laptop and started shopping Amazon.

I found two displays that would meet my criteria. They both were 4K models, 32” wide, and had wide color capabilities. They were better than what I had, and they cost less than a quarter of my original unit. I liked the one that wouldn’t be delivered until next week—what, no news this Sunday; I can’t let my loyal fans down. So I settled on the other one, and it arrived Thursday afternoon. It was in a box big enough that we’re going to use it as a guest bedroom for when you visit.

My new monitor works great. I’m using it now to write this post. I’m not too fond of the fact that it’s too low, and there’s no vertical adjustment. I’m probably going to build a box for it to sit on—some exotic wood would be handsome, and a drawer would be nice. Someplace to squirrel away some of the clutter on my desk.

Evening in the Hills - The low evening sun throws long shadows on the desert.
Evening in the Hills – The low evening sun throws long shadows on the desert.

The new monitor also helps my photo editing—like this week’s featured image that I call Evening in the Hills. As with my other March images, this one was taken in the mountains above Wickenburg. This one isn’t about mountains; it’s all about the light. With the sun going down, it began throwing long shadows on the desert, so I turned the camera and captured a group of nearby hills. This was one of those quiet moments when the air was still, and I felt alone in the world.

I hope you like it. You can see a larger version on its Web Page by clicking here. I like reading your comments, so feel free to add your two cents below. Be sure to come back next week for another image from the Wickenburg area.

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

Kirkland Junction Picture of the Week

A couple of decades ago, there was a TV ad where a sleepy-eyed baker got out of bed and made his way to his Dunkin Donuts store, and as he made his way, he mumbled, “Time to Make the Doughnuts.” I felt sorry for the poor guy and wished he could crawl back in bed. But, if your business is selling coffee and deep-fried cake to a morning crowd, you gotta’ make some product. You’ve got to work your schedule.

In photography, the quality of light is vital for making memorable images. Pictures that stand apart from the millions posted daily on Instagram. This topic is one that I’ve covered in my writings several times. Any subject looks better when you capture it when the light is warmer, and the shadows are longer—known as the golden hours. Those happen after sunrise when healthy people are still in bed, and before sunset when smart people have sunset cocktails. When I go out on a photo shoot, I try to time my sessions using that light.

The light is even more complicated in Arizona. Because we live in a longitude closer to the equator, that golden hour dramatically shrinks in summers. To further complicate things,  the desert afternoons are too hot for scouting subjects. That’s why I chose the early morning when Fred and I went to Placerita. To get there at the right time, we left before sunrise. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the clouds moved in and took away the color, so I made a second trip last week. This time I was on my own because Fred was nursing an old war wound, and Queen Anne doesn’t get out of bed unless there’s a jewelry store involved.

So, in the darkness, I packed my gear into Archie and drove north on State Route 89 with a USB stick full of fresh tunes and a hot mug of coffee in the cupholder. In Yarnell, the sky was bright with a line of clouds leftover from the day before. I watched the color deepen as I passed through Peeples Valley. By the time I arrived at Kirkland Junction, I had to stop so that I could get a shot. After turning onto Wagoner Road—this month’s back road—there was enough light to show color on the ground. I lined up the scene so that some abandoned structures were under the pink clouds.

A set of abandoned buildings at Kirkland Junction underneath beautiful pink clouds.
This week’s photo is of a set of abandoned buildings at Kirkland Junction underneath beautiful pink clouds. The mountain in the background is Kirkland Peak.

That’s how I took the last photo in June’s series. I call this week’s featured image, Kirkland Junction. Interestingly, this month we showed the subject of this month’s journey from the end to the beginning. We began the month at our destination—Placerita-and worked to the road’s start. It’s like that movie Momento.  You knew the protagonist was guilty of the murder right up to the story’s beginning that was at the film’s end. I was so confused by the time the movie was over; I had to think about it for weeks. I hope that I haven’t done that for you.

You can see a larger version of Kirkland Junction on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy it. Next week, we’ll begin a new journey on a different, less-traveled highway. I hope you’ll join our expedition.

Until next time — jw

Grand Wash Cliffs Picture of the Week

I love those DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteers. I have about a dozen of them stashed on my office bookshelf, one for each state that we’ve traveled. Whenever Anne and I go on one of our jaunts, I toss at least one in the truck. I try to be careful with them, so they’ll last, but I’m regularly replacing my Arizona edition because I use it so often.

Last month while looking for new places to explore, I realized that there are four pages in the Arizona Gazetteer where I’ve never been, not in the 48 years that I’ve called Arizona home. The pages are easy to find, as they’re the first two and the last two. The areas covered by these pages are The Arizona Strip—east of Nevada and south of Utah north of the Colorado River—and the southeast corner of the state. I’ve never been to the Chiricahuas. Isn’t that hard to believe? I’ve decided to fix that by making trips to our northwest this year, and the southeast corner next year.

With that in mind, February’s topic will be the trip that her majesty and I made to Pearce Ferry this week. It’s not a difficult trip as you get off Interstate 40 on Kingman’s Stockton Hill Road. You go 40 miles north on that road, then you turn right on the Pearce Ferry Road and continue until the Colorado River stops you at the other end. All but the last nine miles are paved.

What you’ll see along the way is the Great Basin Desert. More like Nevada than the Sonoran Desert that we’re used to. Stockton Hill Road runs along the east side of the Hualapai Valley and Red Lake—one of the four natural lakes in Arizona. In winter, it even comes with water, the rest of the time it’s dry. The Pearce Ferry Road section crosses the valley and runs along the Grand Wash Cliffs to Meadview. That’s where the gravel-dirt road descends to the River.

Grand Wash Cliffs - A storm front moves over the Grand Wash Cliffs at Pearce Ferry.
Grand Wash Cliffs – A storm front moves over the Grand Wash Cliffs at Pearce Ferry.

Besides the towering Grand Wash Cliffs and muddy Colorado emerging from the Grand Canyon, there’s nothing much happening at the Ferry. Until a couple of years ago, it was the place where Grand Canyon rafters hauled out of Lake Mead. Because of the ongoing drought, the lake is so low that the boat ramp is high and dry. Now boaters have to use South Cove. It’s 23 miles away by road, but double that by water.

I took this week’s featured image near the deserted boat ramp. It shows the colorful Grand Wash Cliffs under a brooding sky. The storm front that you see greeted us on our arrival and followed us home, bringing rain to Congress the next day. I call this image Grand Wash Cliffs (At Pearce Ferry).

I’m also including a second image this week at no extra charge. I wanted to show the boat ramp struggling to reach the muddy river. The next launching place is at South Cove around the peninsula in the photo’s background. By the time the river passes South Cove, the river flows into Lake Mead, and most of the silt drops out of the water, so its color is blue (and high white banks because of the low water level). This second photo is for reference, so I called it Dry Ramp.

Pearce Ferry Boat Ramp - Lake Mead's water is low enough that the boat ramp isn't usable.
Pearce Ferry Boat Ramp – Lake Mead’s water is low enough that the boat ramp isn’t usable.

You can see a larger version of Grand Wash Cliffs on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy seeing it. Join us next week as we drive home with stops along the way to photograph more lovely scenery in Hualapai Valley.

Until next time — jw