This summer was again spent in the Tetons, and was delightful, but finding a series of new photos just wasn’t happening. There were a herd of Bighorn sheep in the spring, but they were at some distance. When the weather warmed, they disappeared, presumably for higher elevations.
With the weather turning cold again, two things are happening. First, fall colors are emerging.
Second, I heard that a few Bighorns had been seen to the west. With a sunny day yesterday, I grabbed my camera and got in the car. At the end of the campground driveway, as I am about to turn left, I look up on the hill to the right and saw a pair of young male Bighorns walking east. I decided to follow and turned right.
Moving slowly, I paced them. They were cautious, eyeing me at first. Then, they seemed to relax and got closer to the road. I took full advantage of that opportunity.
They were pretty close to me, 20 to 25 feet away, and seemed quite comfortable, browsing, and not worried about me.
At one point, a 4-wheeler ATV, quite loud, was approaching. Both rams quickly moved into the brush and disappeared.
I was about to move on down the road, when they re-emerged, coming within 20 feet of me.
Thanking them for the opportunity, I continued east. I had avoided this part of the road, because I knew from past explorations that it was miles of washboard road. I had nothing more pressing, so I continued, slowly, for 22 miles, the furthest I had been along the road.
It was worth it. The vegetation was beginning the transition to full fall colors.
After 22 miles of washboard, rutted road, I reached a broad valley with Crystal Creek winding through it. I looked ahead, then turned around and started back.
The rock strata were a mix of pale chalk color, medium greys and reds. Each twist in the road seemed to offer a different palette of color.
After 45 miles of washboard road, I was back at Slide Lake, feeling very thankful for the creatures, the scenery and the light that had given me this delightful day.
Without the hiking, my Teton summer was mostly about critters. I spent most of the time sitting on a rock at String Lake, reading. That quiet time brought a number of critters fairly close. For example, a chipmunk ran over my shoe. They skitter around so much that it was several more days before I was able to get a pic of it.
While this squirrel did not get closer than about 6 or 7 feet, that was close enough, once it sat still.
On the way there, and on the way back, critter sightings became common. A doe had three fawns following her around. This one wandered away a bit.
Wandering fawns are not a good idea. Predators, like this coyote, abound.
Near my boondocking site, Ospreys had a nest and I got to watch the babies grow.
The view at String Lake was different. I’m repeating myself here, but… One day, I heard a mid-air argument between an osprey and an eagle. The osprey had a fish, almost as big as it was. The bald eagle thought it should belong to him, and an aerial duel commenced.
The osprey consistently out-turned the eagle, even burdened with that huge fish.
Eventually the eagle gave up. The osprey flew off to the southeast, right over me, with a meal that would certainly nourish some fledglings.
Deer were pretty common, and pretty accustomed to people, at my spot at String Lake. A few years ago, ons actually stepped across my outstretched legs as it was browsing. This doe first noticed me as it was coming south toward me.
She passed behind me, to the east, then came closer.
Finally, she was within 6 feet of me.
Elk frequent the area. This one was on the far side of the lake, and seemed to be aware but unconcerned about boaters.
A few weeks ago, I was reading when I heard a splash. A large black bear was entering String Lake, perhaps 100 feet south of me. By the time I got to my feet and grabbed my camera, it was moving across and was behind some trees. I moved south and got a few pics of its retreating back.
Bucks, whether deer or elk, are harder to spot. These were shot from the car as I was leaving String Lake.
The Inner Park Road is set in flat prairie, and pronghorns can often be seen, but they rarely are this close to the road.
This half grown one seemed to pose for me. I was on the shoulder of the southbound side and it was on the road edge on the northbound side.
A bit further south, on another day, I saw a lot of parked vehicles, people with cameras, and stopped bicyclists. It turned out, a black bear with three cubs had just crossed the road and was heading off toward the woods.
After I left them, I continued south to the village of Moose. Just after the Park entry gatehouse, at the edge of the village, was a moose.
I only saw the calf with her after she took off.
Seeing a grizzly is rare. Seeing a grizzly with two cubs, well, it has only happened to me once.
But – the biggest critter here, and actually the most dangerous, in part because tourists don’t respect them, is the bison.
All in all, my very sedentary and frequent presence yielded quite a few wildlife encounters. It was a good summer.
A few days ago, I walked to “my” rock at String Lake to sit and read a while. On arrival, I heard a lot of raptor chatter in the sky above. I doffed my pack and turned my camera on. Above me, a battle was taking place. Apparently, an osprey had caught a fish almost as big as it was, and a bald eagle decided such a feast ought to be shared – or surrendered. At any rate, the eagle was pursuing the osprey in loops, dives and climbs above String Lake.
Eventually, the osprey outflew the eagle, and it gave up, heading to the west, I guess to look for something easier to steal. The osprey departed to the southeast, flying right over my head.
Later, a pair of sand hill cranes squawked to get my attention, as if they didn’t want to be slighted.
That day clearly was going to the birds. (Sorry… 🙂 )
After my flurry of Christmas woodworking projects last summer and fall, I was chatting with my cousin and she admired the boxes I had made for her grandchildren. The conversation led to her saying she would love something like that. So, I made her a jewelry box with a walnut case and cedar trays.
Then, in April, my sister-in-law reached out to me. She had a mahogany salad bowl. On the bottom, it said, “To clean, use damp cloth only.” She forgot and washed it in warm, soapy water. The result was a finish that was destroyed and a seam that opened for several inches. She wondered if I thought I could repair it.
I asked for pictures, and got them.
I wanted to try.
The bowl had a silver base and the utensils had silver handles. I could work around the handles, but not the base. My brother has some experience working with silver, so I had him remove the base. She sent the bowl and its fork and spoon to me, and I began by sanding off the old finish and examining the failed seam. I cleaned it as best I could, then set up blocks so I could use my clamp to pull it closed.
I mixed up some epoxy, worked it into the seam and a crack at the end that I found with the finish off. I got a reasonably good closure of the seam and crack – not perfect, but what in this world is? (The black markings are on the photo, not the bowl.)
I sanded it “smooth”, with 120 grit paper. I was surprised that the fork was a much lighter tone than the spoon or the bowl. I thought about a stain, but I wanted to keep all finishing materials “food-safe”, so I decided not to try to match the fork’s color. I was ready to start applying the finish, a General Finishes Oil-based Salad Bowl finish, food-safe when dried, and safe to wash.
The bowl finish directions said not to go finer lest it reduce the finish penetration. The first coat came out REALLY rough, so I sanded the surface until I was just getting to bare wood again, then worked up to 220 grit. Another coat, much better. I sanded with 320 and did a third coat. It was not smooth. The finish had a tendency to go on unevenly unless the brush was pretty wet, and a wet brush caused sags and runs in the finish. So I gave it some thought. I used 320 again. I then used VHB tape to attach a wood block with a dowel in it to the base, chocked the dowel into my drill, and used the drill to rotate the bowl smoothly as I added the fourth coat with a wet brush. With the drill, I kept the bowl turning slowly so there would be no drips or sags. It worked.
Its colors change with the light and the angle of view. The grain shows nicely, but was hidden before. The opened seam and crack are all but invisible. I’m pleased.
It is on its way back to her. She does not have to worry about washing this finish, and it is safe for food contact.
In late April, I was browsing the internet. On Wimp.com I found an interesting clip.
I thought it looked like something fun to do, which I could give as a Christmas present to a few people. I headed to a place that sold hardwood, and spent a pile of $$ to get a pile of wood, including American Walnut, Maple, Birch, Alder, Monkey Pod, Peruvian Walnut, and a few others. I planned the project and, in late May, I began cutting the first box, using American Walnut for the top and Monkey Pod for the base.
Almost a month later, I was finally able to slide the top onto the base. The joint was terrible, with gaps of up to 1/8” in width. The problem was that I was unable to see where the piece was jamming.
I have done a fair amount of hand cut dovetail work. When I do one of those, I cut the joint too tight, then shave away the pieces that overlap, until the joint closes. On the puzzle box, the points of contact were buried inside the box. I could not tell if the jam was happening on the left or the right, at the end or in the middle. So, I shaved and sanded, shaved and sanded, until I got it together.
It was so bad that I was going to throw it out, but I set it aside to think about it. With a little inspiration, I went out and got a bunch of paper type nail files. I put one in one of the 4 slot sides and closed the box until the box began to press on the nail file, then I worked the nail file back and forth, sanding the pieces where they were binding. I also cut a long piece of wood at the same side slope as the slots. I laminated some sandpaper to it and used it like a file to make the surface cut by the nail file more uniform. I worked all four sides this way until I had a joint that seemed nearly uniform in its 1/8” gap. I then took a piece of the Peruvian Walnut and planed it down to a 1/8” thickness and glued it in place as a shim.
The fit still was not good, certainly not to my usual standard, but it was better, maybe acceptable. I cut out the interior, put on the base, and began sanding, 5 full weeks after starting the work.
I decided not to do any more puzzle boxes.
BUT – I had all this wood. So, I made another, more conventional box, with standard dovetail corners. Joinery time, 2 days. That was fast enough that the two pieces could be varnished at the same time.
About this time, I saw some pics of turquoise being used as a filler for cracks in walnut. I liked the look, so I did initials filled with turquoise for the recipients.
A word about the finish… I did a hand rubbed varnish finish. The way this is done is a thin coat of varnish is applied and allowed to dry. Sand most of it off, then do another coat. Repeat until the pores and grain in the wood is completely filled. You know this when the sanded surface no longer has any shiny spots showing. On the walnut, that took about 4 coats. On the maple used in the second box, it took 3 coats. The monkey pod was at 7 coats before it came up uniform.
When the finish is filled and completely smooth, do a final coat. Let it dry thoroughly, then sand using progressively finer wet/dry sandpaper, starting with 600 grit and working down to 7000 grit. Finally, using a wet felt pad and rottenstone, do the final rubbing to bring up the shine.
Yep – the finish takes a lot of time and effort, but the result is so far beyond a brushed or sprayed finish that it simply is not comparable. It would be like comparing the coarsest burlap to the finest silk. The surface feels like glass to the touch.
By the time I was completing the finish, I was planning a box for my niece. I had gotten some wood from another woodworker that he called zemboli (that’s phonetic – I have no idea of the actual spelling, and was not able to find it on the internet). To me, it looks sort of like zebrawood. I decided to use it to make a box with a bookfold joint. This is done by splitting a board in two, making the edges perfect, and gluing the two pieces together so it looks as if you have opened the board like you open a book.
So, I started with a board.
I cut pieces to the length I needed and split them.
It worked. I did two of those, one for the top and one for the bottom. I added maple and walnut trim on the top to create a flange and to dress it up a bit. I then did the sides with a traditional dovetail and put the sides and bottom together.
Time for the finish.
Next piece – I did a Yin and Yang symbol for a couple for whom it would have some meaning.
I then did a plaque with an inlay of Kokopele, the southwestern native American god often called the flute player or the giver of life, as a gift for my nephew.
I did a Christmas tree ornament for another friend, and had leftover wood but no ideas.
By now, it was the latter part of August. I interrupted my woodworking efforts long enough to see something special.
I still needed ideas, and had none. I wanted to give my sister-in-law something using a remarkable wood called purple heart. It was given to me by that woodworker in Wyoming. It is beautiful, a rich, natural purple in color, is very hard wood, is hard to work, and is hard to finish. I finally got a suggestion to make a USB charging station for her, and realized this was it – it would be something both attractive and useful, and I had the skills and tools to make it happen.
I cut the wood and did the joinery – some of the best dovetailing I have ever done. I began the finish. For some unknown reason, something about the varnish, the wood or the brushes, on coat number three, the varnish would curdle.
I would sand it off and start again, only to have it happen again and again. After about 4 tries, I finally got the sides and top to be not perfect, but acceptable. The bottom was another story. As a sizable flat surface, any flaws really stood out. I was running out of time, and what I was getting was simply not acceptable. I sanded the bottom down to raw wood and began applying coats of lacquer spray finish. I did three coats and let them dry for two days, then sanded and did two more coats. After fine sanding, the result was pretty good, but there were five small spots, either from bubbles or dust, that I was not happy with.
You can’t apply lacquer over varnish. The solvents will cause the varnish to wrinkle. BUT – you can put varnish over lacquer. I brushed on a coat of varnish to fill and hide those air bubbles.
In desperation, I scrubbed the varnish onto the surface, rather than doing slow, smooth strokes. I then finished with the long smooth strokes to remove the thousands of tiny air bubbles I had created with the scrubbing. It worked.
For a while. I began rubbing out the finish. It looked great. A few days later, wrinkles began to appear in the varnish.
I rubbed them out. Again, after a few days, more wrinkles showed up. I figured out that the lacquer was still off-gassing its volatiles which, on reaching the varnish, caused the finish to pucker and wrinkle. The only option was to sand off all the varnish and rub the lacquer. If I sanded too much, I would hit raw wood and have to start over. If I didn’t get the varnish off, it would wrinkle again.
On November 15, with great relief, I finally finished the USB charging station.
It was a satisfying way to spend my summer.
I learned of the Great American Eclipse of 2017 in New Mexico in 2014 from my camp host, an amateur astronomer. He provided me with information including links that helped me plan. Most of all, he urged me to plan ahead for a place to stay, because everything was going to fill up.
I began to plan. Depending on my physical assets, I had a number of locations in mind. Closest to home was a Forest Service campground near Smith Rock in Oregon. My second and third choices were Chickahominey Reservoir and Glass Butte, west of Burns, Oregon. None of them took reservations.
Further to the east, Stanley, Idaho would be a wonderful location but for several things. First, few of the campgrounds took reservations or had power. Most had tree cover, wiping out solar power. Good grocery shopping was over an hour away. A long stay there thus was problematic.
My next area was the Tetons, and I had a number of locations in mind there. On the west side was a fishing access west of Driggs, ID. It had great solar and internet, and very good shopping near by. There was a dump station within reasonable distance but no fresh water source that I felt safe using.
North of Jackson on the east side of the range was Turpin Meadows Campground, as well as several dispersed camping places. That area was a bit north of the center path, but well within totality.
My prime area was either of two campgrounds – Atherton Creek, my first choice, and Gros Ventre, my second choice. I planned my stays in the area so I could get to them 12 days before the event and stay a few days after to avoid traffic. With the campground host’s help, I wound up at Atherton Creek, taking the last designated campsite that was open. I couldn’t get MUCH closer to the center path.
I settled down and waited for the event.
As it drew close, the crowds began to gather. People were allowed to park and either tent or RV camp in the parking area for the beach and dock. That wound up tripling the occupancy of the campground above full. Many more campers were sent 5 miles further up the very rough washboard, winding, narrow road to Crystal Creek and Red Hills Campgrounds. Gros Ventre was full, and it is a huge campground, stretching more than a mile along the Gros Ventre River.
The day of the event, it looked like the weather would be perfect. I had two cameras set up on tripods. My d200 had my 18~200mm lens on it, with no filter. I planned to use it only during totality. My d300 had my 150~500mm lens with a solar filter film taped over the lens. The tape was set up with the ends folded down to make the tape easy to pull off once totality arrived. I had the d300 set to bracket my shots in increments of 0.7, 5 per set, giving me a fairly good range of exposures without having to do a lot of manual stuff.
Then it was time. The partial eclipse was pretty cool, watching that the moon obscure more and more of the sun.
I missed a really cool shot. With he solar filter, it was very hard to see the screen limits. With each shot, I had to carefully change the camera alignment to get the sun near center frame. At about 50% coverage, as I am looking through the viewfinder trying to align the shot, an airliner flew across the face of the sun, leaving a contrail. Had I been 30 seconds faster, I would have had that airliner in the shot. Oh well, I’m not complaining.
Then, the crescent changed to the diamond ring. I had peeled off the filter and covered the lens with my hand, so I was ready, and I got the first diamond ring.
Then it was totality. The corona blazed out, and there were stars in the sky!
Near the end of totality, I had an impulse. In the darkness, I turned the d200 toward the Tetons, 20 miles to the west, hoping to see them in some light while I was still in deep shadow. I set the d300 for the next shot and turned back to the d200. And there it was.
Immediately, I fired off 2 sets of 5 bracketed shots with the d300, as light bloomed around me, then swung my unprotected camera away from the sun. What I got was the start of the diamond ring, with a few solar prominences on the edge of the moon,
and finally, a grand diamond ring.
All my life, I have longed to see a total solar eclipse. On August 21, 2017, my wish came true. So, thank you, John Leffert, for the heads up, years ago. Thank you, David, for getting me into a spot where I could settle down and see this. It was truly thrilling.
Quite a few people have asked me why I made Oregon my home. I note that none of them were Oregonians… The most beautiful places usually require a bit of walking, but not everything. Here are a few of my reasons for calling this home.
First, This is where I am camped at the moment.
In the area, Spring runoff fills the reservoirs.
… and the streams.
… and the springs.
When we talk about Oregon green, this is what we mean.
Best of all, every photo in this post was taken within 50 feet of a road.
I have seen the Tetons from late May to late September, but never in “winter”. I decided to change that on my trip north. My thinking was, I might see some snow on the ground, and this early in the season, it would not be busy, so my chances of seeing bears would improve.
When I got here, the winter look was delightful.
The skies were pretty overcast, though. It wasn’t quite what I wanted. Still, critters were out and about. The elk herd was moving north, out of the elk refuge.
Bison were on the road near the Gros Ventre Campground.
And there it was – a male grizzly, on a hillside near Oxbow Bend.
I continued up to Jackson Lake, where we had been swimming last summer. Well, I wanted snow…
Soon thereafter, a bit of mixed blue sky showed up, and I made the most of it.
Inspired by friend Jan, I played a bit with the last shot above. My engineer’s mind wants to make every photo as accurate and realistic as I can, but Jan urged me to just experiment. So, I took that shot, and adjusted the levels for maximum intensity of white, darkening everything else.
I like it.
Next day, we had a bit of fresh snow,
and the sky turned blue. I know these are repetitive, but without an editor, I couldn’t decide what to cut.
So, the side trip with 4 extra days of driving was worthwhile. I am really glad I did it.
I know – it has been a while since I posted. I have been taking isolated pics here and there, but nothing that I felt belonged here.
Anyway, I am now on my way north from New Mexico. I stopped for a few days at Ken’s Lake near Moab, Utah. With the bike, I was able to get out of the campground. Just east of the campground is a waterfall that can be seen from my site. Riding as close as I could get, I set up my tripod.
The falls seem to just appear, but a bit of rough hiking, which I did years ago, revealed that they come from a drainage tunnel built to divert water to the lake. Sorry – no pics of that this year.
Further up the hill (about 800 vertical feet) is a 4WD trail. I went a short distance up it to a rock wall with petroglyphs.
Below the rock wall, is a nice little waterfall.
For being in the middle of the desert, this is a pretty interesting area.
Wet weather in southern New Mexico is, to me, unusual. We have just passed a storm system that brought first, a cooling, then two days of wet weather, then the storm cleared leaving cooler weather behind.
The clearing of the storm happened at dusk, with the dramatic clouds, moving east, lit by a setting sun.
The next morning I awoke to see the lakebed, mostly dry, blanketed in white, a soft, smooth surface hiding the lowlands but letting prominent formations peek through.
As the sun began to brush the cloud tops, the smoothness began to change, as if threads were pulling bits of cloud upward.
The surface was quiet, almost unmoving, looking like a photo of stormy seas- still, but showing turbulent currents frozen by the lens. The photo below is not of the sky. It is looking down on the sunlit top of the cloud, with the ridge of the background mountain showing in the upper right.
As the sun continued to rise, it pulled the cloud with it, dividing the lakebed from the peaks.
My visit to the Colorado National Monument was about the land, physical features. When I left there, I was searching for color, specifically fall colors. I revisited the Cimarron CO area. It had produced well in the past.
A few days of rain later, I was having my doubts. Then, just at sunrise one morning, with more storm clouds coming in from the west, I woke to see this out my back window.
OK, it wasn’t the color I was looking for, but it was nice, plus, one of the benefits of this lifestyle is that it is easy to be patient. As the stormy weather cleared, it began to look like my wait might be rewarded. That evening, the view to the west looked like this.
The color was definitely coming. The next morning, there was more color in the campground.
Jim, Kathy and I went up to the area east of Owl Creek Pass. We were rewarded for the drive with wonderful color.
I can now head for New Mexico, having seen the golden aspens in full color.
Every hour, the light changes in Colorado National Monument. Yesterday, I did a late morning wandering. Today, I went to the south end in the early afternoon.
The sign said, “Winding Road”…
These look small in the photos, but I assure you – it is grand.
No need to pedal, and no town, but the bike is a lot of fun here. I am at Colorado National Monument. I’m not doing trails with the bike, but the road, in most areas, has no safe place to stop a car for a photo. With the bike, I am able to stop almost anywhere and get the pic I want. So yeah, I’m having fun!
By the way, there are cars in the below pic – above the cliffs, just to the right of center…
It has been dry, dry, dry in the northwest. That is finally starting to change. We had a storm front come through midday today.
In the distance there was some lightning. Up close, some of the peaks looked like volcanoes fuming in anger.
Mid-storm, we got some hail. Yep, that’s what those white blurs and streaks are.
It began to pass – all too soon, returning sun to the east face of Mount Moran. We need a LOT more rain.
It left us with the familiar range with a crown of clouds – and a bit of ice on the ground.
For the past week, I have been hanging out at a snow plow turnaround off Buffalo Valley Road, overlooking Buffalo Fork. I have seen lots of haze, but did not do much photography.
Last night, a front came through, preceded by showers. This is what I saw just before going to bed.
And this is what I awoke to this morning, my day of departure.
Nice spot… but it is becoming “discovered”. I had it to myself twice during the week.
I am dry camping a few miles east of the Grand Teton National Park, above the Buffalo Fork, a tributary to the Snake River. Around me are fishing, camping and hunting access roads and wilderness trails. I started out near the campsite, following a two rut path down toward the stream.
You can see my RV and a neighbor, with whom I am sharing the site, in the photo above.
Next, I headed east along the road to a wilderness trail. The north leg headed up, and the south leg headed down. I went north.
About 50 feet later, having almost lost it three times, I turned around. The bike was fine – it wanted to climb, but the trail was perhaps a foot wide, with uneven edges, several inches of dusty, very loose dirt, and underbrush right up to the edge of the trail, which had sharp angles in it. The hoof prints showed it to be used primarily by horses. Maybe with the reflexes and balance I had 40 years ago, I could have done it, but I decided, not now.
I headed further east and found a fishing access “road”. It would be impassable for the Subaru due to deep ruts and sharp dips in places, but the bike enjoyed it.
Finally, the scenery I wanted was beginning to open for me.
OK, now THIS is NICE. This is what I was hoping to find with my new legs. I know, the light isn’t great. I am shooting toward the sun. There is haze in the air from wildfires to the west. The peaks are far away. Still – this put a smile on my face.
OK, it is 4:30. Time for a nap…
Wow – three months since my last post… I haven’t been dragging my feet. Honest. I have been really busy, looking for, and hopefully finding, a new way to get a bit off road for my photography. What I found was an electric moped.
I won’t belabor you with the path I followed, but it was challenging. Finally, at the end of June, I received the bike and licensed it. It will go 20 mph on the flat, but I wanted to see what it would climb. I headed off to Glass Butte in Oregon to try some hills.
This spot is one that was too rough for my car and too far for last year’s legs, so I have never seen this view. It isn’t spectacular, but it was new to me, a proof of concept, as it were, therefore exciting to me.
I learned that the bike will pull me up a 15% grade briskly, will get me up an 18% grade, but presented with a 22% grade, it said, uh uh, not gonna do it.
I took a very short ride along the road in Idaho at a spot I stopped at for the night.
Right now, I am close to West Yellowstone, in a nice little campground, so I took a tour with my camera.
OK, I COULD have reached these spots with my car, but I would have had to park on the campground road for them, which would have been a concern for anyone passing by. I wouldn’t have walked – too far. So, these are pics, again, that I got with the bike but would not have gotten without it.
I think (I hope) this will work for me.
Working my to the northwest, the next stop for me was Capitol Reef. Native Americans called this home long before Europeans saw it.
For two days, I too called this home.
My first day here was beneath grey skies. The sun sneaked out on the afternoon of the second day, so I headed out. I found the Capitol Dome…
Further west, the views were expansive.
This place is full of trails; it was frustrating to not be able to hike them. Still, there is a road, called Scenic Drive, that gives a nice experience.
I visited Monument Valley in 2010, and decided it was time to return. My buddy Jim jokingly urged me to get a sunrise shot, knowing that I tend to sleep in. Well, usually…
While sunrise was ok, the late day colors on the rock really do it for me.
Of course, given the chance, I put myself in the photo.
I opened the new year boon docking east of Las Cruces, near the Organ Mountains. Of course, the one week when I decide to camp off the grid, is the week the biggest snow storm in the memory of most folks down there came through. Before the storm, I was presented with a light show on some incredibly rugged peaks.
After the storm, which dropped at least 12″ of snow on my solar panels and I don’t know how much more on the ground around me, I spent a night at a commercial campground before returning to Caballo.
At Caballo, Jim and I found a new area to explore, the Gila National Forest. Unfortunately, my hiking has come to an end. That means my photos from here on out need to be locations near the car.
I think I can live with that…
With the snow and ice melting, the streams are flowing nicely. So, while Jim and Sweety go hiking, I find nice spots near the car to enjoy the sight and sound of these clean mountain streams.
And now, spring is just about here. The first signs are showing up.
Before long, it will be time to head northwest again.
Yesterday was a grey day here in the campground. There was not a hint of blue in the sky, the temperature was in the high 20’s and, surprisingly for New Mexico, it felt damp and raw. So, of course, Jim and I went hiking.
Actually, we went west into the Gila National Forest, looking for hiking and snow or ice photo ops. Well, surprise… As we drove west toward the Gila Mountains, we began seeing hints of blue near the horizon, behind the peaks. As we got closer, we began to see trees with a dusting of white. It didn’t look like snow, though.
It wasn’t snow. Clouds had come through the pass, spilled down onto the trees, and the sub-freezing vegetation encouraged the moisture to form tiny feathers of ice on every surface.
Finally, the sun hit the feathers, creating a magical few minutes.
Shortly, the temperature had climbed above freezing and those feathers turned into droplets. Pretty, but it couldn’t compare with what we had been seeing. A few minutes earlier, and there would have been no sun on the crystals. A few minutes later, and the crystals would have been gone. Serendipity.
For seven years, in the winter I have been hiking in the high desert near Elephant Butte and Caballo. I knew, intellectually, that the Gila National Forest was to the west, but I knew little about it. That changed when Jim and I went exploring for something new.
We found a wonderful area. The streams cut passages through the rock walls. With care, one can make their way along the stream bed. Sometimes it is all but impassable.
Sometimes, it is easy.
What we found there were treasures. Some were tiny falls dropping into pools.
Some were more substantial falls.
The REAL surprise, though were the ever-varying ice formations created along the stream. The varicolored rocks in the stream bed are joined by reflections on the frozen crystal forms from the canyon walls.
It seemed like there were new attractions every few feet.
The topper, for me, was this sculpture of a boot in ice. It’s all there – the sole, heel, laces and pants leg.
So, finishing out the year, here is one more unusual image for this area – snow in the mountains.
Happy New Year to all.
Combine the three…
I know it has been a while. I have gotten a few nice pics here and there, but I prefer to post several photos linked by a theme when posting here. Well, yesterday an opportunity presented itself.
It had been raining off and on, all day. Late in the afternoon, clouds darkened the sky to the east. The sun, screened by the edge of a storm cloud, was approaching open sky. The combination meant a rainbow might happen.
I got my camera and two lenses, went outside, and sat at my table, waiting. In a few minutes, the sun cleared that cloud, and my planning was rewarded.
As the sun dropped, the rainbow got more intense, forming a double arc of color.
It grew to form the most intensely colored rainbow I have ever seen.
This morning, I awoke to see another double rainbow, nowhere near as intense as the night before, in the western sky. Ahh, New Mexico light…
After getting service done for my rig, the car and the generator, all in one day, I was free to leave Albuquerque and head for Elephant Butte. While the weather forecast the night before had mentioned that there might be storms to the south the next day, the weather looked clear. Balloons from the Balloon Fiesta were up. I headed south.
Within 50 miles, I had massive, intense-looking clouds to my right, charcoal skies in my rear view mirror, a few towering cumulus formations well to my left, and mostly clear skies in front of me. I was fighting some fairly heavy wind gusts.
I kept thinking I would like to stop and grab a few shots of those skies with the camera and my fisheye lens, but the sky behind was so intimidating that I did not want to delay heading for that clear weather. I pushed on.
By the time I reached Elephant Butte, I had been in some spotty but intense rainfall, some heavy gusting winds, and I was surrounded by dark skies. I pulled onto the point, put down my levelers and hunkered down. The storm hit fairly hard, with wind and rain, and lightning flashes in all directions.
About an hour later, it was dark out, but the rain had stopped. I could see distant lightning flashes outside the windows. I grabbed the camera and tripod.
The storm had passed. Stars were visible overhead. To the north, east, and south, however, there were still some massive clouds. They were being backlit by lightning. I rarely saw a lightning bolt, just the light from them in the clouds.
My posts here usually include several photos. To be complete, I should have had the clouds as they built all around me in the late afternoon, then those massive towers being lit by the setting sun, finishing with this shot of the departing storm. Sorry – this time there is only one shot, but it is a sweet one.