Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Saguaro Nights

Saguaro cactus are fascinating during the day but even more so when silhouetted against the night sky. I loved the experience of wandering through the cacti looking for the "perfect" one to photograph against the sky.  The desert is such a magical place... especially at night with the stars twinkling high above!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Saguaro National Park

I was kind of torn by Saguaro National Park.  On the one hand, it was incredibly beautiful.  And on the other hand, it was way too close to a large population for me to feel fully comfortable enjoying my time there. And on yet another hand, it was cool to see such a wonderful area preserved so close to a large population center.  The park provides close access to nature for a LOT of people and for the most part it seemed really well preserved.  I didn't notice lots of garbage or vandalism or general disregard like I've seen in some other places.  The people in the Tucson area seem to really love the park and thus they seem respect it and use it with care. And yes, I was still able to find some solitude here.  But I could always tell that large numbers of people were not that far away.  I do recommend checking it out if you're ever in the area.  The variety of plant life here is stunning.  These photos were all taken in the Saguaro West - Tucson Mountain District of the park. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Consciousness is Timeless

There's something about storms that makes me feel so... alive. I think it's the rapidly changing conditions that are often occurring during a storm.  Especially storms in the southwest.  The storms I witnessed on my trip were intense and strong but relatively short-lived which for some reason got me thinking about lifespans and age.  It probably had something to do with the audio book I was listening to earlier that day as I drove along the southern edge of Big Bend National Park toward my campsite for the night. That audio book was "Awakening is Real" by Jack Kornfield. 

As living creatures we often contemplate age and the sense of getting older or getting old. I know I get asked every now and then... "do you feel like you're getting old?"  And my answer has always been "No, not really." I think that's because when I think about age, I think about how I feel and when I think about how I feel its more about my mental feeling than my physical feeling. And in that sense, I certainly don't "feel" like I'm soon going to be crossing the threshold of being closer to 50 than to 40.  

In "Awakening is Real", Jack stated "When you look in the mirror, you notice that you've aged, but the weird thing is that you don't feel older. And that's because it's only your body that's aged. And the body does.  It's born and it ages in time. But consciousness is timeless."

I couldn't agree more.  

Friday, April 24, 2020

Rocky Badlands

An interesting mix of terrain in Big Bend National Park.  Erosion-resistant rock dominates the foreground while a formation of highly erodible badlands looms in the background. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Santa Elena Canyon Moonlight

As I drove through Big Bend National Park on the afternoon of my arrival, I knew right away it was going to be one of my favorite parks.  12 hours later that feeling was solidified as I stood gazing up at the massive walls of Santa Elena Canyon in the moonlight. Seeing such places in daylight is one thing but experiencing them under the magical light of the night sky takes the appreciation to a whole other level.  

The feeling of solitude is amplified at night, as pretty much all of the other park visitors are asleep in the campgrounds. It is so peaceful and quiet at night.  More often than not the wind dies down and you can hear things that you would never hear in the same way during the daylight hours.  The muffled sounds of a rabbit rustling in the brush, the ominous echo of an owl hooting across the valley, or the soothing sound of crickets. Night time is my favorite time to sit and enjoy the view, then close my eyes and just listen to the world around me. 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Big Bend Night Sky

I didn't have a place to camp my first night in Big Bend, so I stayed mobile and just wandered around the park roads all night looking for good locations to photograph the night sky.  Pretty much anywhere was a "good spot", but I always try to find something interesting to frame in the foreground and that proved to be a bit of a challenge. I found a stretch of road that was framed nicely by the mountains but my favorite spot was a patch of Ocotillo not far from Santa Elena Canyon.  Big Bend is an International Dark Sky Park and I was blown away at how dark the nights were.  

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Big Bend and the River Road - Rio Grande

Big Bend is such a beautiful place.  The variety in the landscape is stunning. From deep river gorges to high mountaintops, this park seemingly has it all. The part of the park that I enjoyed the most during my visit was along the River Road, a remote backcountry road that requires a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle.  There are several very cool backcountry vehicle campsites that I would love to return and camp at.  

The photos shown here are from the Buenos Aires and Black Dike campsites. The riparian zone here is stunningly beautiful. Even in early March it was amazingly green, and I could heard birds calling everywhere. The temperature was in the mid 80's which felt really nice coming from cold snowy weather just a couple of days before. I can't wait to go back someday and hopefully take a trip down the river. 

The river road is definitely an adventurous drive. In some places the road is somewhat smooth but for the most part its pretty rugged and very rocky.  Due to the rain that fell daily during my visit, there were several spots along the road that were very muddy as well. But what a great way to experience the park!  Big Bend was experiencing record visitation while I was there, but the majority of those visitors are clustered in the more popular parts of the park.  I spent 3 days on the backcountry roads and saw less than 10 other vehicles. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Big Bend Storms

I had a really hard time narrowing this series down. I wanted it to be fewer images but I also wanted it to convey a sense of the weather progression I experienced each day at Big Bend. The most memorable part of my visit was the daily buildup of afternoon thunderstorms. Around 1:00 PM each day I would start noticing clouds building on the horizon.  

All afternoon the clouds would build and build and I would hear thunder rumbling in the distance.  By around 5:00 to 6:00 PM the showers would hit.  Sometimes just a few drops, other times a deluge of rain.  By the time sunset rolled around the storms would be breaking and the color show as the sun dipped below the horizon was simply unforgettable. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Big Bend Mornings

The mornings in Big Bend were unforgettable... I'm already dreaming of going back someday. 

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Nebraska always pulls me in...

Now that I've been back home for a while, it's time to start sharing some images I made with my "real cameras" on my trip.  Everything I've posted thus far were shots taken with my phone but I have a collection of higher-quality images I'd like to share as well, including some night photos which of course are my favorite thing to shoot!  

This first set of photos comes from Nebraska, on day two of my trip.  If its sandhill crane season when I'm traveling through Nebraska, I always have to stop and spend some time watching the cranes.  They are such beautiful birds and one of my absolute favorite of nature's creatures.  I arrived in the Platte River Valley late in the evening in the middle of a snowstorm.  I had been driving for a couple of hours in wet, slushy snow so it really felt good to finally pull in and park for the night.

The next morning was beautiful as I drove around the farm fields watching the birds.  The light layer of snow made everything prettier (in my opinion) than the normal brown that dominates the landscape this time of year.