The Hills Are Alive in the Sonoran Desert

During these times of sheltering in place, when the weather turns nice we are bound to get the urge to take part in an outdoor activity. Luckily, in Maricopa County (Phoenix and surrounds) the weather has been perfect.

Wildflowers generally bloom this time of year and because of the rather abundant winter rains, we were hoping they would be putting on quite a show. We wanted to share the hiking activity with my brother-in-law and his friend and naturally we needed to observe appropriate social distancing.

We decided to visit an area we thought would not be too crowded even though it is beautiful. The plan was that each couple would drive separately and meet up at Lake Pleasant near Wickenburg, AZ.

Once at the parking area, we used the amenities, reviewed the maps and headed out on the Cottonwood Trail.

This is a view of the lake from the parking area.



The Cottonwood Trail was in a direction opposite that of the lake and thus there we only encountered a few other hikers.

Almost immediately, we found a beautiful hedgehog cactus (chinocereus Engelmannii). The colors seem almost too intense to be real like those in an overpriced tropical drink!



Pink and purple were the dominant colors of the day. The hills were covered with owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta).



They found footing in and around rocks and in what appeared to be inhospitable spaces.



Some patches were so dense that the entire hillside was pink!



The combination of the flowers, green bushes and towering saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea) highlighted the natural beauty of the desert.



There were also ample displays of orange globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).



Anecdote: We had a Maricopa County Park pass which allows for an entire car to enter the parks (including Lake Pleasant) on the one pass. Since we drove separately and although we totalled only four in our “group,” we inquired as to whether under the circumstances, we would be allowed to enter under the one pass. The attendant thought for a moment and said: “How about a Coronavirus discount?”… and waived us along.

Everyone is doing the best they can!

 
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Photography: My Shot – Earthen Details

“The devil is in the detail.” — Gustave Flaubert

 

Not only is the devil the the detail or details, as a photographer I find inspiration and beauty in the details. I am not the best photographer and have little hopes of attaining that title. I enjoy photography for many reasons, but let me address just one.

A significant benefit I receive from my photographic hobby is learning to see. We all look at a multitude things every day; perhaps millions of things if we could count them. But how many of us actually “see” those things at which we are looking?

Photography has given me an appreciation for taking my time to look at an object or a scene. I now search for the details; the small things that make the location or item special. The picture below was taken at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada. If you are going through that area, I recommend it as a very picturesque and worthwhile stop.

While at Cathedral Gorge, I hiked among the canyons created by the eroding clay hoodoos. They were very intriguing in their other-worldly appearance.

This specific grouping of hoodoos served as a collection point for a number of tumbleweeds and these earthen structures created a chimney-like opening where they piled one on top of the other to make an amazing composition.



What struck me was the beautiful coloring and the synchronicity of the two natural aspects, i.e. the eroded clay hoodoos and nature’s tumbleweeds. They came together to form a wonderful, natural image – nature as artist!

I love the textures of both the formations and the tumbleweed. The brown tones bind them together to create, what in my opinion, is an artistic rendering.

Seeing the opportunity, however, doesn’t necessarily mean a photograph is going to successfully capture it the way it appeared to the observer and therein lies the beauty, the challenge and the motivation of photography.

I can’t think of a better hobby for people seeking to express their creative souls than that of photography.

 

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Metadata

File Name: 0000199-Tumbleweed plays among the hoodoos – Cathedral Gorge, NV
Capture time: 9:55 AM
Capture date: June 13, 2019
Exposure: 1/30 sec @ f/13
Focal Length: 20mm
ISO: 125
Camera: Nikon D3300
Lens: 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6

Edited in Lightroom

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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged #please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2020 JBRish.com



Photography: My Shot – Taking Glacier by Storm

We are very fond of America’s national park system and each year we try to take at least one major hiking trip to one of the parks. Last year, after much planning, we spent nearly two weeks at Glacier National Park.

Glacier is very remote and very large and we made a point of staying in each of the two major areas, i.e. Lake McDonald and the Many Glacier area. One of the highlighted experiences is to visit the trails in and around Logan Pass.

The picture below is of Clements Mountain. It towers above the main trail leading to hidden lake just behind the Logan Pass visitors center. During our visit Hidden Lake was off limits because of extreme bear activity.

As you can see, there was a storm brewing and we did have to dig out the parkas and suffer some rain. The sky and lighting were very dramatic. Logan Pass is very popular so we were sure to arrive early and visitor parking was difficult to find even before 8AM!



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Metadata

File Name: 000053_DSC_4820_glacier.NEF
Capture time: 7:59:48 AM
Capture date: July 13, 2019
Exposure: 1/50 sec @ f/16
Focal Length: 20mm
ISO: 100
Camera: Nikon D3300
Lens: 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6

Edited in Lightroom

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©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2020 JBRish.com



Caught by Fire While Hiking

In mid September we traveled to the White Mountains in northeast Arizona near Pinetop/Lakeside for some hiking. After much research, one of of the daily hikes we selected was the Los Burros Trail in the Apache Sitgreaves Forest.

“Killer hike” is how you’d describe Los Burros if you were writing a postcard. Even the historic red barn, which greets hikers at the trailhead, is alluring. Or maybe “mystical” is a better word. It’s the kind of place Django Reinhardt might have hunkered down with a bottle of Château Margaux, despite the “no trespassing” sign.

Source

While the hike was nice, it was somewhat rocky with little else to see except trees and a couple of meadows. There were no distant mountain vistas or breathtaking mountain views. Having said that, it was a typical forest hike with plenty of canopy. It was a good forest hike if that is your goal.

During our hours of hiking we passed one trio of horseback riders and a cyclist; that’s it!

Little did we know what an adventure this would ultimately become. According to our Garmin GPS device, we had hiked a bit over eleven of the 13.8 (+/-) miles and we noticed that the sky was turning dark. Initially we thought a storm was brewing.

We heard helicopters circling the area several times. We saw them and they should have seen us as there were many times they passed overhead and we were in clearings along the path.

We continued along the trail and then we saw this…


XXXXXXXX

There was a tremendous amount of smoke and haze. Part of the forest was on fire. It was nearly four o’clock on what was a sunny day.



Luckily, we were close to a rather wide service road. As we began to walk along the road to get to where the trail continued. At this point, flames were clearly visible.



see detail with flames below



detail from photograph above

We were really in a quandary regarding what would be the “best” strategy; especially when we saw exactly where our trail led…



The trail continued directly behind the sign along that path!

At this point, it was obvious we could not take the trail so we began to walk down the service road in the direction of the trailhead. We knew then and there that this had the potential to be a very long day.

We were prepared with headlamps, extra food, water, etc., but we had no firefighting mechanism and we were breathing smoke from the surrounding fires.

A fire truck came rambling along the road and after being flagged down, the driver was able to shout some vague directions to us, but it still left us guessing. We had a map and to the best of our knowledge of the area, we continued to walk.

After ten minutes or so, we caught a lucky break. A woman on an ATV was approaching along the road. She heard about the fire and wanted to see what was happening. After some conversation, she agreed to drive us back to the trailhead; apparently we were going to be spared an ordeal!

NOTE: We learned that the fire along our trail was set deliberately to prevent a lightning induced fire farther south from ravaging the area.


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The story has a happy ending, but it still leaves me with some interesting thoughts:

    1 – If the firefighters knew they were going to set a backfire, shouldn’t they have considered that there might be hikers along the Los Burros trail?

    2 – Shouldn’t the helicopters have reported that there were hikers on the trail and request help/rescue?

    3 – Wouldn’t it have been nice under the circumstances for the firemen on the truck who offered us “directions” to have given us a ride to the campground? We later saw firetrucks and firefighters at the trailhead just yards from where we parked. I can’t be sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the driver of the truck that stopped was among them.

    4 – Couldn’t the men on the truck call to get someone to help us get safely back to our car?

In the end, it all worked out and I thank that wonderful woman for giving us a ride to the trailhead. She wanted no reward, just to be remembered for a good deed. We thank you Susan! You saved us much anguish and consternation!

 

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©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com



Photography: My Shot — Wild Burros at Lake Pleasant – Morristown, AZ

We decided to take a hike at Lake Pleasant to see if we could locate the wild burros that reportedly live there. As we travel along the highways, we see signs to watch out for the burros, but we have never seen one.

The park has a Wild Burro Trail so naturally we decided this would be our target destination. Lucky for us we were less than ten minutes into the hike when we spotted a lone burro. Upon further exploration, we came across the tres amigos (three friends) pictured here.

So…there really are wild burros at Lake Pleasant!



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Metadata

File Name: IMG_1103_r.tif
Capture time: 10:44:14 AM
Capture date: Feb. 15, 2019
Exposure: 1/400 sec @ f/5.6
Focal Length: 79mm
ISO: 80
Camera: Canon PowerShot AS590 IS
Lens: 4.3-215mm
Edited in Lightroom/Photoshop

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©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com



Photography: My Shot —Deer Mountain Peak, RMNP, Colorado

My wife and I enjoy hiking and every year we take two significant hiking vacations. During these hikes or treks, I enjoy taking photographs of the scenery, nature and other interesting finds.

The hike to the top of Deer Mountain, Rocky Mountain NP, was somewhat difficult in parts, especially the last ascent with a steep upward grade. The view from the top was striking although the day was overcast and the colors subdued.

Nevertheless, I captured the streaks of light coming from the sky, piercing the clouds and hitting the Moraine Park area. The picture captures the mood.



I thought perhaps since the tonal values were not intense that it might be better depicted in a black and white rendition. As you can see, the subtle color of the streaks of light become lost as they blend in with the surrounding monochromatic tones. What do you think?



Longs Peak is almost directly north, far off in the distance of the leafless tree on the ledge. Here is a closeup of Longs Peak.



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Metadata

File Name: DSC_1031-2.tif
Capture time: 11:04:48 AM
Capture date: Sept. 16, 2016
Exposure: 1/80 sec @ f/25
Focal Length: 21mm
ISO: 100
Camera: Nikon D3300
Lens: 18.0 – 55.0mm f/3.5-5.6
Edited in Lightroom/Photoshop

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©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 – JBRish.com



Photography: My Shot — Elephant Mountain Cave Creek, Arizona

A couple of weeks ago, the weather was rather mild in our part of the Sonoran Desert so we decided to take a hike which was partly in the Spur Cross Recreation Area. As we hiked over a dozen miles that day, we could see Elephant Mountain from numerous vantage points.



This is a well-known landmark in the area and there are several ranger-led hikes to the mountain every year. You can call for information if you like. Our hike this day took us near the mountain and around the sides, but not on to it. It was our near constant companion as we trekked along.

If you are having difficulty “seeing” the “elephantness” of the mountain, here is another copy of the photo with my interpretation.



As a bonus, I included a relevant quote. If you read my website regularly, you probably surmised that I am a collector of quotes.

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Metadata

File Name: DSC_4018.NEF
Capture time: 10:50 AM
Capture date: Dec 14, 2018
Exposure: 1/160 sec @ f/10
Focal Length: 18mm
ISO: 100
Camera: Nikon D3300
Lens: 18.0 – 55.0mm f/3.5-5.6
Edited in Lightroom

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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2018 – JBRish.com



Photography: My Shot — Pine Cones in the Mist

When we plan our hiking and photography trips, we understand that we are most likely going to have some days when the weather is not ideal. Even if it rains, as long as it isn’t a deluge, we carry out our plans to hike. We may elect to alter the selection of trails, but hike we will.

During our adventures in Sequoia National Park, California, we wanted to see a stand of the giant sequoias that were located in the Muir Grove near the end of the Muir Grove Trail. The day was a dreary, drizzly one. To add a bit of drama, we had a map that accessed the trailhead through one of the campgrounds that was unfortunately closed for renovations. Cars were not allowed, but we were told we could walk in.

The construction turned the campground into ghost town and the cloudy, misty, rainy day created an eerie spectacle. Undeterred however, and with most of the landmarks altered or removed, we finally located the trailhead.

As we made our way along the designated path, we came across the beautiful branch pictured below. The two elongated pine cones were dangling in the air. They were posed in such near perfect juxtaposition against the misty background, that I was inspired to take this photograph and I am glad that I did.



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Metadata

File Name: 000031_sequoia_1619.NEF
Capture time: 12:10 PM
Capture date: June 10, 2018
Exposure: 1/60 sec @ f/16
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 1250
Camera: Nikon D3300
Lens: 18.0 – 55.0mm f/3.5-5.6
Edited in Lightroom

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BTW – Here is a picture of me by the unbelievably huge sequoia’s near the end of the trail. To give some perspective to the scene, I am nearly six feet tall and I am standing at the base of a single tree.

Click HERE for more information about the Grove Muir Trail.



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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2018 – JBRish.com



Photography: My Shot — Swirling Pine Needles


Pine Needles Swirling in the Stream

After hiking for more than a week in Yellowstone National Park, we moved on to Red Lodge, Montana to continue our adventure. We decided to explore a course along the Silver Run Plateau, Trail #102, Loop #3 just outside of town.

The first part of the loop was quite rocky with boulders and large rocks buried in and around the path. The return half of the hike, however brought us nearer to the river which had much better footing and more intersting views. Along the way, we passed a feeder stream that had a very slow, but consistent flow. A large number of pine needles were “caught” in a side channel and they were swirling around in a somewhat circular motion as the water worked its way around some rocks and debris.

The pattern was very appealing and I found that watching the movement was similar to playing with a kaleidoscope.

 

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Metadata

File Name: DSC_3958.NEF
Capture time: 11:18 AM
Capture date: Sept. 17, 2018
Exposure: 1/100 sec @ f/11
Focal Length: 55mm
ISO: 100
Camera: Nikon D3300
Lens: 18.0 – 55.02mm f/3.5-5.6
Edited in Lightroom & Photoshop

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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2018 – JBRish.com



Yellowstone and Bear Country



I recently returned from more than a week of hiking in Yellowstone National Park and all I can say is WOW! We hiked over seventy miles, but enjoyed every hard-earned inch. We are so lucky to live in a country that has such natural beauty in abundance.

Whenever I explain to other people that I hiked in Yellowstone one of the first topics to be raised is bears. Yes, Yellowstone has bears and by reading all the literature, posted warnings and sales pitches for bear spray one would think they were lurking around every corner. I am not making light of visiting areas in bear country. It needs to be a real concern and we did take it seriously, but not everyone sees the bears of Yellowstone when they visit the park.

My wife and I both had bear bells to make noise as we walked so we didn’t startle any bears in the vicinity. One thing worse than an unintended encounter with a bear is to startle a bear unexpectedly and have them feel threatened. Wearing bear bells sometimes brought snarky comments like: “I thought you were Santa Claus.” My retort would be: “Not Santa Claus, but no bear claws!”


Yes, Yellowstone has two types of bears. Grizzlies are more agrgessive than Black bears. – Picture courtesy of naturalunseenhazards.wordpress.com

All the hype does make one a bit paranoid, but I am not sure that is a bad thing. According to the National Park Service, over 100 million people have visited Yellowstone since 1980. During that time 38 people were injured by grizzly bears.

Here is an interesting breakdown according to their website Bear-Inflicted Human Injuries & Fatalities in Yellowstone

Type of Recreational Activity: Risk of Grizzly Bear Attack

  • Remain in developed areas, roadsides, and boardwalks: 1 in 25.1 million visits
  • Camp in roadside campgrounds: 1 in 22.8 million overnight stays
  • Camp in the backcountry: 1 in 1.4 million overnight stays
  • Travel in the backcountry: 1 in 232,000 person travel days
  • All park activities combined: 1 in 2.7 million visits

Also noted is that only eight people have been killed by bears in Yellowstone since 1872. To keep things in perspective, the website reminds visitors that more people have died from drowning, burns, etc.

We had two grizzly bear encounters in and near Yellowstone National Park. We were hiking along one of the paths around Ice Lake in Yellowstone returning to the parking area. Three hikers were hiking towards us and as they passed, they explained that a mother grizzly crossed in front of them with two adolescent cubs and they were going to hike around the lake to get back to their car. This was a significant, lengthy detour part of which was uphill along the roadway.



Picture courtesy of National Park Service

All the literature I read indicated that the chances of being attacked in a group of three or more was only two percent. I suggested to the group that we continue heading back toward the parking lot and risk a bear encounter since we were a larger group and had several canisters of bear spray between us.



Picture courtesy of National Park Service

We walked quickly, but deliberately toward the area near the road where the bears were spotted. We noted their tracks along the path. Apparently they didn’t like the debris in the wooded area any more than we did and they were walking along the relatively clear hiking path.

About one quarter mile from our cars, the three bears (not those three) were spotted about 300 feet ahead of us. The mother bear (very large!) stood up on her hind legs and spread her arms wide in an “it was this big” fashion. I estimate that she stood at least nine feet tall at that point. One of the rather large cubs also stood in the same fashion while the other remained on all fours looking our way. The bears were only there for a half-minute or so when they scampered into the woods.

It was very exciting indeed, but we were glad that we did not have a more intimate bear encounter. We made it to the cars without further ado. My only regret was that the action happened so fast I couldn’t get a picture.

Our second sighting a few days later was of a grizzly with three cubs along the Beartooth Highway near Beartooth Lake. We noticed a group of people along the side of the road, a certain giveaway that something interesting was happening, and we pulled over.

Sure enough, there was a group of three Grizzly bears about 450 feet downhill munching on a carcass that I assume was that of an elk. The speculation was that this was a mother with her cubs, but the bears all looked to be similarly sized…so who knows? The bears were more interested in eating than in what we were doing and since we were a lineup of more than a dozen people standing quite a bit away uphill, it was not a tense encounter.

Bears are large and they look fat, but don’t ever think you can outrun one and don’t for one minute think climbing up a tree is going to help. Read the placards above to see how to survive a bear encounter.

I am an enthusiastic amateur photographer. I enjoy wildlife, but I don’t have an expensive wildlife kit. The closest I come is my Canon SX50HS bridge camera that has a telephoto lens of approximately 600mm of reach. This isn’t the highest quality camera or lens, but I think you can get an idea of what we saw at the bear buffet along the Beartooth Highway.


group of grizzly bears


lone grizzly bear


two grizzlies bears


lone grizzly bear with carcass



After leaving Yellowstone, we stayed in Red Lodge, Montana one night and did some hiking along the Silver Run Plateau, Trail # 102, Loop #3 in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

There were warnings there as well.



There’s a reason for all these signs. One shouldn’t be afraid, but it is important to take precautions and be aware. They refer to it as being “Bear Aware” and they aren’t kidding.

Yellowstone even uses celebrities to help impress the importance of bear safety upon visitors.



We now have bear encounter memories that will last forever and we are very happy that they turned out the way they did.

 

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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2018 – JBRish.com