Arizona Summits: Trifecta at Picacho Peak

Desert Sky, #1. Near Tucson, Arizona, 2016
Desert Sky, #1. Near Tucson, Arizona, 2016 (Back in the desert again!)

 

So, you have hiked Picacho Peak a few times, you enjoyed it, and now you want to do something different the next time the family heads out that way for a potato salad picnic.

Why not try the “Triple” next time!?

What is that, you ask? Well, instead of simply going up to the summit and back, via the wonderful, exciting, pseudo-via ferrata, Hunter Trail, you add on two more Picacho sub-peaks.

So, your tick list for the day would be:

  1. Picacho Peak main summit.
  2. North Picacho Peak (on the same “plateau” as the main summit).
  3. The Far North Picacho summit (north, along the ridge from the main saddle on the Hunter Trail).

[NOTE: For a fourth bonus summit, you could climb the minor mount just east of the main Picacho massif. The best approach to this pointy thing appears to be made by bushwhacking up from the southeast from near the park entrance. I’ll write this one up in another blog post once I actually get to it!]

If you are fast, you might do this trifecta in 2-3 hours (with some jogging, perhaps), but 4 to 5 hours would make for a more comfortable trip for the average hiker wanting to savor the views.

Be sure to take plenty of water, especially if you aren’t going in the very dead of winter. It was an unusual 102 degrees when I set out to do this just a couple of days ago (late October, 2:15p.m. start) and I drank nearly three liters of water. The sun in the afternoon really bakes that western side of the mountain, even if the eastern side might be nice and slim-shady.

Here are some beta photographs for you, all from a hand-held Sony RX-100iv

A view of the main summit of Picacho Peak, looking south toward Tucson and Mt. Lemmon, from what could be called the “North Summit”. The white paint-like stuff is actually buzzard and raptor excrement–they obviously love a poop-with-a-view just like us human beans. Don’t let the big birds carry you or your boyfriend away:

Picacho Portrait. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016
Picacho Portrait. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016

 

The Picacho Peak summit offers the intrepid hiker one of the best desert views within earshot of big trucks rolling along a major interstate highway. On the far left, and close at hand, is the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch (no, I’m not kidding, take the kiddies for a visit). Also on the left, but in the distance, are the Santa Catalina Mountains (Mt. Lemmon, 9,157′). The long straight line is Interstate 10. On the right, in the distance, you first see the start of the Tucson Mountain chain with Mt. Wrightson (9,456′) and the Santa Rita Mountains in the haze beyond that. That plowed out area with the white structures on the right and on the desert floor is the Pinal Air Park with its hundreds of used-up airliners awaiting cannibalization, mothball treatment, or possible refurbishment:

View South. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016
View South. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016

 

Here, you are looking back toward the smoggy glob of Phoenix, some 75 miles to the north. In previous blog posts, I have referred to the “Far North Summit” as the “North Summit”. I’m not sure any of those secondary high points have official names. Anyway, counting the main Picacho Peak–where I stood for this photo–those are the other two goals in your trifecta challenge. What I am calling simply the North Summit is a great spot to photograph your friends as they reach this main summit:

View North. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016
View North. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016

 

From the previously mentioned “North Summit”, you can peer over the abyss to the north (but don’t let the abyss gaze into thee!) and the route to the Far North Summit becomes apparent. In a previous blog post, I called this route Class 2 or 2+; here I label it Class 3…whatever, there is a very minor bit of scrambling involved. Psychologically, that little knife-edged section might be the area that will give your climbing paws the most pause as it is a bit exposed on both sides. Luckily, the rock is reasonably solid there and you can grab the ridge with your sweaty palms for stability–braver souls can simply walk across. At the Hunter Trail Saddle, the smaller arrow indicates the route leading first down, then up, to the main peak:

Far North Picacho View. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016
Far North Picacho View. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016

 

The desert sky starts to get interesting as the afternoon wanes. In the middle of the picture, on the very farthest horizon, is the thumb-like head of Baboquivari Peak (7,730′), a worthy climbing goal for your list. Along that same horizon to the right of it is the big mound of Kitt Peak, of observatory fame (one of the domes is barely visible on top):

Toward Babo. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016
Toward Babo. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016

 

Something of what you might see along the ridge leading to and from that “Far North Summit”. The big prow on the left would be the “North Summit” with the main Picacho Peak just out of view on the left margin. Can you spot Mt. Wrightson, Baboquivari Peak, Kitt Peak, and the Pinal Air Park?

Skeleton View. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016
Skeleton View. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016

 

The rangers say you need to be off the trails by sunset. Too bad, as I would have preferred to have been on the summit at sunset for the grand photo op. Here, the shadows on the east side of the mountain start to deepen as I head back down to un-civilization. The main Picacho Peak summit is seen in sunlight:

Cirrus View. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016
Cirrus View. Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona, 2016

 

Here are some additional links from previous trips I have made to Picacho Peak, all with nice, illustrative photographs:

February 13, 2016: Arizona Summits: Picacho Peak North Summit (Winter)

December 19, 2014: Arizona Summits: Picacho Peak (3,374′)

Sawhill Ponds Reveals Yet Again

This place never ceases to astound me as a photographer. On the face of it, it is really nothing more than an old, somewhat dumpy, quarry area with a collection of shallow, swampy, ponds–but time has started to smooth out the scars and I almost never seem to go away from a photo visit without creating at least one good image, no matter the hour or the light.

A few days ago, we went for an afternoon walk around the ponds. The sun was still rather high…the light harsh. I had few expectations so didn’t bother with hauling the tripod along.

Still, Sawhill Ponds managed to rise once again to the occasion and show me something I had never seen before in my many, many trips out there.

Or is it that my creative eye is slowly maturing and is beginning to pick up on more sophisticated scenes?

…Landscapes that push beyond the boundaries of the traditional and the cliché, and on into the realm of the abstract…

 

First, here is a composition that appears quite busy at first glance, but is actually reasonably simple in terms of line, texture, and even form. Squint and blur your eyes and you might see what I mean. What caught my hairy eyeball was the way the winds were painting their way across the leaves and branches of a giant cottonwood tree–a tree with wonderful diagonals. The effect was almost surreal:

Autumn Wind. Sawhill Ponds, Colorado, 2016
Autumn Wind. Sawhill Ponds, Colorado, 2016

 

Second, here is a reflection I had never before seen nor captured in quite the same way, a nearby power pole supplying a sort of vertical focal point. The unusually low water level certainly helped by adding the many textured layers:

Tower Reflection. Sawhill Ponds, Colorado, 2016
Tower Reflection. Sawhill Ponds, Colorado, 2016

 

As Forrest Gump once famously said…”ya never know what yer gunna get…

 

POSTSCRIPT: For those who are fans of the added element of color, here are the original versions of the above two photographs. I think I like them just as much as their monochrome clones. They are just different–the eye tends to move over the picture differently…notice different things. Which is better? I’m not sure…

Autumn Wind. Sawhill Ponds, Colorado, 2016
Autumn Wind. Sawhill Ponds, Colorado, 2016

 

Tower Reflection. Sawhill Ponds, Colorado, 2016
Tower Reflection. Sawhill Ponds, Colorado, 2016

New Show at The Darkroom: “Winter Light” (Opens December 9, 2016)

Great news! I just had four pieces juried in to an upcoming show at The Darkroom Gallery in Longmont, Colorado–so come on out and take a gander.

Here is the information for your planning purposes:

WHAT: Winter Light Photography Show with some 50+ photographs by 40+ different photographers…”revealing the hidden beauty of winter”…

WHERE: The Darkroom Gallery, 515 Main Street, Longmont, Colorado, 80501 (right next door to the Longmont Theater); 303-485-7191

WHEN: The Opening is Friday, December 9, 2016, 6-9p.m., and the art will be hanging at The Darkroom until December 31st. After the first of the New Year through February 23, 2017, the entire show will be moved to Bin 46 Food and Wine Bar just a couple of blocks to the north (600 Longs Peak Avenue).

WHO: The jurors…Wesley Jessup, – Executive Director, Longmont Museum and Cultural Center; Kevin Holliday, – Owner, Kevin Holliday Photography and internationally recognized/ awarded fine-art photographer; Julie Cardinal, – Executive Director/Curator – The DARKROOM Longmont.

Here are the four images you will be able to see as large prints…

This one, “Radiance”, will be displayed at 27 x 40 inches and will look much nicer “live” than what you currently see on your tiny mobile phone or computer screen:

Ice, #304 (Radiance). Eldorado Springs Canyon, Colorado, 2016
Ice, #304 (Radiance). Eldorado Springs Canyon, Colorado, 2016

 

The following three will be printed at 16 x 24 inches on plexiglass to enhance the glow:

Sawhill Ice, #4. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Sawhill Ice, #4. Boulder, Colorado, 2015

 

Ice, #225 (Frozen Heart). Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2016
Ice, #225 (Frozen Heart). Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2016

 

Ice, #282 (Alpine Peaks). Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2016
Ice, #282 (Alpine Peaks). Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2016

Clifford G. Colgin (1891-1986)

Clifford G. Colgin, 1907. Natural Fort, Colorado, 2016
Clifford G. Colgin, 1907. Natural Fort, Colorado, 2016

 

Cliff was my maternal grandfather.

Note the birth date in the blog title and think about this: If he were still alive today he would be 125 years young. So, when Cliff was a child, there were Civil War veterans sitting around the dinner table telling stories about Yanks and Rebs–and those old, crusty, 19th century vets would have been about the same age as today’s Vietnam veterans.

It’s amazing how far, far away things in history might seem. But they aren’t really that remote when you look creatively at certain personal connections.

Cliff and his wife, my grandmother Helen, used to take me out arrowhead hunting on the plains around Cheyenne. They knew where the old tipi circles were and, by golly, we found real arrowheads there! Young and impressionable, this was all so exciting and I could sense in my bones the ghosts of the Arapaho, Arikara, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Sheep Eater, Sioux, Shoshone and Ute tribes as we scoured the rocky ground…their apparitions seemed to me to be very much present on what has since become national forest or private cattle and sheep ranches. (Another sad chapter for another day.)

He would take me fishing, too, and show me how to sneak up on the trout in the little prairie streams.

The one and only (and last!) time I went hunting was with him–when he was 85 years old! On that day, I actually killed an antelope with one shot, while standing, with the antelope jogging along a good 100 yards away–I couldn’t believe it. Fantastic luck or horrible luck, depending on your number of legs. I had no idea what to do next, so it was my grandfather–yes, at his age–who did all the dirty work with the knife to get the animal in the trunk of the car and ready for the butcher. He always ate the meat he hunted.

I like to think that today, if he were my age, instead of hunting we would be hiking Colorado 14ers together, or rock climbing, or cycling, or photographing (he was a very avid amateur photographer and especially loved his various Polaroid Land Cameras).

Cliff was called up for World War I and told to report on his birthday–November 11th (note that date). He reported and was literally standing in line for his physical when someone came in and shouted, “The war is over! Everyone can go home!” Imagine that!. By 1941, he was considered too old for World War II, so missed out on that one. He scraped and scrapped through the Great Depression like millions of others were forced to do, so always cleaned up his plate at dinner and told us to do the same–and, of course, he was a big fan of FDR.

Cliff raised chinchillas for fur (pre-Depression, pre-animal rights!), sold cars and calendars, traveled around and set up movie projectors for shows, owned and operated several grocery/sundry-type stores…he basically did whatever he needed to do to make a living. He also wrote stories and poetry, collected rocks, even building a house, fountains, and flower beds out of all the unusual rocks he found. (You can still see some bits of his handiwork at 711 E. 18th Street in Cheyenne, Wyoming.)

And he always had stories…

One of his best was about the first automobile he ever saw (circa 1901-1905, I would guess). The primitive and strangely horseless “vehicle” was on its way, very slooowly, from Colorado Springs to Denver and the driver had to spend the night in Larkspur (Grandpa’s birthplace) at mid-journey. Cliff and his excited young buddies helped push the very under-powered and novel contraction up a sandy hill. The rest o’ the story? Some 20-30 years later, Cliff just happened to run in to that very same driver (now much older) in the Colgin and Son store in Carr, Colorado, some 100 miles to the north. It all came up in a casual conversation between the two of them about the incredible progress in automobile design. Such was the intimate nature of the population of Colorado back then.

Another nice memory of mine: I watched the 1969 Apollo Moon Landing on my grandparents’ huge black and white console television in Cheyenne. (When Neil Armstrong apparently forgot to say “a man” instead of just “man”.)

About the photograph above…

As you drive north on I-25, just before you hit the Wyoming State line, you’ll see some unusually sculptured gray sandstone formations on both sides of the interstate highway. This, at one time, was a wonderful rest stop maintained by the State of Colorado called “Natural Fort”, and we picnicked and played here several times as kids. It was definitely a kid paradise. The rumor was that a skirmish between Indian tribes (or was it between the Indians and the settlers?) took place here, so that’s what we re-enacted. Today, as evidenced by the many broken bottles and spray-painted graffiti, the place seems to be the big party spot for high school and college types from Cheyenne, Fort Collins, and the few surrounding rural communities.

Anyway…One day, when Cliff was 16 years old, he stopped by a section of those rocks (likely on horseback and perhaps while out hunting rabbits for the home kettle) and carved his name and the date–“1907”–in the soft stone. Then, some 90 years later, my brothers stopped by and dug the thing a bit deeper as erosion was taking its toll (they considered it sort of an historical artifact–or was it merely “older” graffiti?).

A few days ago, I stopped by myself for a look-see and found it still visible (above), although erosion and lichen are both continuing to work in tandem to make it belong to the ages.

The big questions…What will become of my grandfather when the wind and the rain finally smooth over the rock completely? What will happen when there are no longer any grandsons to carve the signature and date more deeply into the disappearing stone? What will happen when the rock itself is completely gone?

Follow the Gold!

With the deciduous leaves freezing into brown, blowing and whipping about, and dropping from the trees in the high country, it’s time to dip down in elevation to follow the gold.

Boulder Canyon and the high plains around Boulder are in their prime right now.

From a photo outing yesterday with my buddy Dana Bove, here are a few images from one of our favorite haunts, Sawhill Ponds

At the last minute, the sun poked out from between the clouds and the mountains for just a few, very short, minutes. You have to work fast when you get the good light:

Autumn Sunset at Sawhill Ponds. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Autumn Sunset at Sawhill Ponds. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Here is a telephoto view to play with the compression of perspective. On the left and above treeline, you can see the Arapaho Glacier (or what remains of it) just below the South and North Arapaho Peaks which are holding up the clouds. Many of the remaining summits of the Indian Peaks Wilderness are spread out to the right along the the Continental Divide. Most of the aspen up high have lost their leaves now (note the recent dusting of snow up there), but Sawhill Ponds, down near 5,000′, seemed to be peaking:

Indian Peaks Sunset at Sawhill Ponds. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Indian Peaks Sunset at Sawhill Ponds. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Often, flipping an image upside down is considered gimmicky. Perhaps in this case also, but I liked the strange, surreal, effect in this particular composition:

Indian Peaks Sunset at Sawhill Ponds. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Strange Skies, #4. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

The nearby electrical lines seemed to be lighting up the clouds:

Powerline Sunset, Sawhill Ponds. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Powerline Sunset, Sawhill Ponds. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

 

Finally, I am always looking for unusual abstracts that work well in monochrome. This one will challenge the viewer for sure–perhaps too much:

Sludge Abstract, Sawhill Ponds. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Sludge Abstract, Sawhill Ponds. Near Boulder, Colorado, 2016

Three Random Pet Peeves, #4

Heaven Or Hell. Near Cheyenne, Wyoming, 2016. Hell is where all manner of per peeves (as in the ones below) await you...to torture you for all eternity.
Heaven Or Hell. Near Cheyenne, Wyoming, 2016. Hell is where all manner of pet peeves (as in the ones below) await you…to torture you for all eternity.

 

And here they are…!

#1 – Those lotion bottles with the squirt tops that malfunction ALL the time–AND, even if they work properly they don’t reach the bottom of the bottle…so, for the last few weeks or even months, you end up banging out the last 1/5th of the total lotion volume by violent hand smacks as if the container were a Heinz ketchup bottle.

#2 – Hard plastic packaging that is molded tightly around the object you purchased (a small battery or a memory stick, say). It seems to be made of some extraterrestrial material and the jaws of life are required to open the damn thing up. You certainly can’t do it by hand. It makes me want to send the package back to the CEO of the company (C.O.D.) and ask HER to open it.

#3 – Pop-up ads. Have I already mentioned this one before? Can’t remember. Even if I did, I definitely wish to say it again…and again…and again. I HATE those things.

Fruita, Colorado (A Sunrise Essay)

This sunrise wasn’t quite a “ten” yesterday, but it still offered up a few nice compositional possibilities thanks to the unusual cloud activity.

Location? Bureau of Land Management’s North Fruita Desert, just a few miles north of Fruita, Colorado. (This is one of those minor mountain biking meccas, if that is your thing.)

I used all of my lenses as the sun came up–the 14-24, the 24-70, and the 70-200, but I seem to always have a special affinity for the latter, even with landscapes–I like how the views are compressed at 200mm.

All but two of the following photographs were made with that longer lens.

 

Fruita Sunrise, #1. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016
Fruita Sunrise, #1. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016

 

Sunrise on the La Sal Mountains. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016
Sunrise on the La Sal Mountains. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016

 

Fruita Sunrise, #3. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016
Fruita Sunrise, #3. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016

 

Fruita Sunrise, #4. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016
Fruita Sunrise, #4. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016

 

Fruita Sunrise, #5. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016
Fruita Sunrise, #5. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016

 

Fruita Sunrise, #6. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016
Fruita Sunrise, #6. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016

 

Fruita Sunrise, #7. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016
Fruita Sunrise, #7. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016

 

Fruita Sunrise, #9. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016
Fruita Sunrise, #9. Near Fruita, Colorado, 2016