Front Yard Trees Picture of the Week

Are you a punctual person, or are you chronically tardy? Our house is split evenly. Queen Anne always manages to be 15 minutes late. Even if I try to compensate by giving her a false time that we should leave to get somewhere, she somehow knows and still isn’t ready on time. One phrase that you will never hear from her is, “Sorry, I’m early.” That is a novel concept to her. It drives me crazy, and she knows it. But then she speaks to me in her low, breathy voice and circles her finger around my remaining chest hair, and then I remember why I love her so much. She’s a good cook—well, she cooks a mean bowl of cereal.

A reason that I’m writing about punctuality is that this year’s monsoons have finally shown up to the party—six-weeks late. One thing that makes Arizona summers bearable is watching majestic thunderheads build up over the mountains in the day and then enjoying the evening thunderstorms from the porch. When the summer rains arrive, they break the extreme June and early July temperatures by about ten degrees. This year, our first rain didn’t come until last week, so it stayed hot through July and August. We had 50 days of temperatures above 115º, a new record. June, July, and probably August will go down as the hottest recorded, and without the refreshing rain, brush fires have plagued the state. The smoke from California and Arizona fires has added to this summer’s miserable conditions.

Things changed last week. Between the gulf flow shifting west and a tropical depression off the coast of Baja, there are pretty clouds in the sky, and the temperatures have dropped—the last couple of days have been under the century mark. As I write and look out my office window, I can see cumulus clouds building towers over the Weaver Range. Maybe we’ll have rain again tonight. I think I’ll go to the car wash and improve our chances.

Front Yard Trees - Tall cottonwood trees grow along the road-side in front of a Ferguson Valley ranch.
Front Yard Trees – Tall cottonwood trees grow along the road-side in front of a Ferguson Valley ranch.

Looking back at the photographs from this month’s portfolio, I wonder how different they might have been, had the skies been more dramatic. Take this week’s featured image; for example—the treetops stand in for clouds. Had the sky been brimming with fluffy cumulus clouds above Baldy Mountain, would I have seen the scene differently? I can visualize that image being less about giant cottonwoods along a rancher’s fence line and more about the mountain in the background. In any case, I have to work within the given conditions, and so I took this week’s photo—called Front Yard Trees—as it was then.

You can see a larger version of Front Yard Trees on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week we’ll begin a new adventure out along another Arizona road, so come back and find out where the trail leads us.

Until next time — jw

Meadow Cottonwood Picture of the Week

The part of Yavapai County where Queen Anne and I live is littered with the names of pioneers that came to Arizona looking for gold after the gold rush in California panned out. These places include the towns of Wickenburg, Yarnell, and Stanton—the Weaver Mountains—and Peeples Valley. I didn’t misspell the valley name. It’s not a great commune up there in the mountains, but a rather a lovely flat valley named after a prospector named A. H. Peeples.

I’ve mentioned him before in previous posts. With a set of initials like that, I was relieved (although disappointed) to find that his full name was Abraham Harlow Peeples. He was on an Army expedition lead by Captain Joseph Walker and guided by Pauline Weaver—who, despite the name, was a man. While camping along a creek, some horses (or mules, depending on which story you read) wandered off during the night. Walker sent a couple of wranglers to fetch the animals. When they returned to camp, they talked about gold on top of the hill and showed pockets full of nuggets. Peeples and the rest of the party went to see for themselves. Arizona Place Names said that Abraham picked up $7,000 in gold before breakfast—and that’s in 1863 money. Anyway, he used his new wealth to build a ranch in the valley that bears his name.

Before Anne and I settled in Congress, we looked at several homes up there. It has advantages. With a higher altitude, it has milder summers but doesn’t get snowed in during winter. The valley has beautiful mountain views with the Bradshaw’s to the east the Weaver Range on the south. The little town has a bar and convenience store. What more could you want? However, the closest grocery store is the Safeway in Wickenburg, and that’s where we buy groceries now—fifteen miles in the other direction.

The Maughan Ranch owns most of the land in the valley, and they keep adding to their property. Along Az. 89, there are painted white fences, with black cattle grazing behind them. Our real estate agent joked that the painters are full-time staff because they’ll never finish.

Meadow Cottonwood - a single tree grows in a meadow ravine ensuring a good water supply.
Meadow Cottonwood – a single tree grows in a meadow ravine, ensuring a plentiful water supply.

Lucky for me, the fences don’t block the view of the trees featured in this month’s set of photographs. For this week’s featured image—called Meadow Cottonwood—I leaned against the fence to brace myself when I snapped the photo. This dormant cottonwood is a middle-aged tree that found a meadow ravine to grow in. Backlit by the sun, I’m happy how the delicate branches contrast against the white sky.

You can see a larger version of Meadow Cottonwood on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you like it. Be sure to come back next week for another cottonwood portrait from Peeples Valley.

Until next time — jw

Cottonwood Grove Picture of the Week

I want to begin this week’s post by thanking Deb Poteet for her advice about wearing fish-net stockings. If you missed what she said, it was a helpful comment to last week’s post. She said that she got her information straight from the Candy Store dancers—the gentlemen’s club on Cave Creek Road near Costco. It made both Queen Anne and me wonder what she was doing hanging around old strip clubs. Deb really does surprise us sometimes.

On another subject, Her Majesty is improving with each day. She goes to physical therapy three times a week and limps around the house without her walker or a cane. When I remind her that she doesn’t need to do that, she drops the Chester impersonation. It’s interesting to see how fast a woman can recover when you walk up to her death bed with a bottle of Dawn dish detergent and ask, “How much of this do I put in the dryer?”

Cottonwood Grove - A small grove of cottonwood grow along a dry brook in Peeples Valley, Arizona.
Cottonwood Grove – A small grove of cottonwood grows along a dry brook in Peeples Valley, Arizona.

Meanwhile, back up the mountain in Peeples Valley, and the second in my series of cottonwood tree images. This week’s featured image that I call Cottonwood Grove was another image taken on the Maughan Ranch north of town. Like other members of the Poplar family, these large fast-growing trees only grow where there’s a good water supply. In this image, there’s about a half dozen growing along the banks of a dry brook, which eventually feeds Kirkland Creek. Scenes like this one are familiar throughout the west.

In an Arizona Geography class that I took at Arizona State University, the professor told us how the trees filled the length of the Salt River bed. A family of beavers dammed the river under the Mill Avenue Bridge while the river still flowed. When the Corps of Engineers built the dams east of town, the Salt River stopped flowing, and the trees died, rotted, and eventually, a summer monsoon storm blew them over. That would have been a swell topic for a photo essay, but I wasn’t here then.

You can see a larger version of Cottonwood Grove on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you like it. Be sure to come back next week for another cottonwood portrait from Peeples Valley.

Until next time — jw

Broken Cottonwood Picture of the Week

Well, I might as well tell you right off, because you’re going to find out anyway. I’m cheating on this month’s project. I didn’t search out a new back road for us to explore. Instead, I just drove up the highway to Peeples Valley and photographed old cottonwood trees that I’ve meant to shoot for the last couple of years. I guess you could consider Arizona 89 off the beaten path if you’re used to driving I-17 to Prescott, but it’s the way we go to Costco all of the time, and it’s the official route for every car and motorcycle club tour every weekend.

The reason I shirked my responsibility this month is that I had to put Queen Anne down—wait, that’s not right—oh yeah, she had knee replacement surgery, and I’ve been wearing two extra uniforms since. I’ve been her nurse and maid, and quite frankly, I prefer the white stockings because my toes keep getting caught in the fishnets.

When she first came home from the hospital, her knee looked like a sewed up bag of haggis—that’s the Scottish delicacy of oats and various animal parts boiled in a sheep’s stomach. It was black and blue with stitches that could make Frankenstein jealous. She was all doped up on pain medication and spent most of her time in bed. When she did get up, she’d hobble on her walker to the bathroom or eat a cup of food.

In less than two weeks, she’s moving much better and can make her way through the house without assistance. Now she’s going to rehab three times a week where they ask her, “How far can you bend your knee before it hurts?” After she demonstrates, they grab her leg and bend it further. The whole town of Wickenburg knows when that happens—sort of like the Pit of Despair in The Princess Bride. It seems to work though, because she has more movement each day, and she’ll soon be back to normal. I do think shes enjoying being waited on hand and foot because she milks it for all she can get. She even claims the doctor said that ice cream was medicinal.

Enough about her, let’s talk about photography. As I said, we frequently travel through Peeples Valley, where there is a large cattle ranch—Maughan Ranches—with white fences lining each side of the highway. In the green pastures, there are some very old cottonwood trees that I find appealing, so on a Saturday, when I was able to escape, I drove up and spent a moment behind the camera. After looking at images on my screen, I decided that since it’s winter and there’s no leaves or color, I would process them in black-and-white. In all, I think it shows the subjects off much stronger.

Broken Cottonwood - A pair of cottonwood trees, where one has fallen leaving the survivor leaning precariously in Peeples Valley, Arizona
Broken Cottonwood – A pair of cottonwood trees, where one has fallen leaving the survivor leaning precariously in Peeples Valley, Arizona

This week’s featured image is called Broken Cottonwood. It shows half a pair of old trees. One of them has fallen from decay or rot whose remains litters the ground. The second tree leans to the left to avoid crowding. Now that it stands alone, it leans precariously, like Grandpa McCoy on his cane. There’s a tension in this shot that the little windmill on the right seems to balance.

You can see a larger version of Broken Cottonwood on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you like it. Be sure to come back next week for another cottonwood portrait from Peeples Valley.

Until next time — jw

Tin Shed Picture of the Week

It was the fourth article about my time shooting pictures in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains when Queen Anne burst into my office—all akimbo—and began scolding me. “Fred and me this, and Fred and me that. I haven’t had press in a month.” I felt like the guy in that Toyota commercial trying to answer his wife’s question. “I’m sure there’s a right answer here.” I quickly flipped through my brain’s Rolodex of apology cards, before I realized she was right. I had to change tactics, “If you want press, you have to put your butt in the truck.” I had her.

Last week, I announced that I was leaving for one of my back-road photoshoots, and I wouldn’t be back until after dark. I packed my gear and went into the house to grab my cooler stuffed with water and snacks. When I got back to the garage and jumped into Archie’s driver’s seat, guess who was sitting shotgun? Yes—it was Her Highness.

Now that her ego is satiated, I can tell you about October’s topic. I picked out a back-road that goes from Bagdad to Williamson Valley—northwest of Prescott. On my Gazetteer map, it’s identified as Behm Mesa Road, but it had several other names as we drove it, like Camp Wood Road, Forest Service 21, or Yavapai County Route 68. The map says it’s broad and well-graded, so a passenger car should make it, but there are sections on Behm Mesa’s shoulder that are rough and rutted, so I’d feel more comfortable driving at least a pickup truck with some ground clearance.

The terrain starts in Bagdad with large boulder fields interspersed with grassy flats on the mesa tops. As the trail gains elevation, the trees change from scrub oak to juniper and ponderosa pine near the Santa Maria Mountains.  After that, the road descends into the open grasslands found around Prescott. There are a couple of cattle gates that you have to open (and close) as you cross private ranches. Most of the route’s middle section runs through the Prescott National Forest, including a part along the edge of last Augusts’ Sheridan Fire. It’s weird/unusual to see a healthy forest on the road’s north side while the south side is black and barren.

Tin Shed - An old corrugated tool shed along the Camp Wood Road.
Tin Shed – An old corrugated tool shed seen along the Camp Wood Road.

I took this week’s featured image near our starting point. As the road leaves Bagdad, you slowly travel on the shoulder of Behm Mesa—where the rough part is. September’s heavy rains may have been the cause of the ruts, and the county hasn’t regraded it. Shortly after it makes its way to the mesa’s top, you reach the first gate at a ranch house, with black cattle hanging around a water tank. Just past the tank was this tin shed in a golden grass field that had a nice contrast against the deep blue sky (opposites on the color wheel). You all know that old buildings—like this one—are a favorite subject of mine, so I had to get out and snap a picture. I call it Tin Shed.

You can see a larger version of Tin Shed on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing it. Next week, we’ll have another image to show from the drive that Queen Anne (she gets make-up press) took on the Camp Wood road.

Until next time — jw

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