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Road Trip, Day 8, Three Rivers Petroglyphs to Guadalupe Mountains

On March 10 I woke up having camped at the Valley of Fires, ate a little breakfast and packed the truck.  I was eager to get on the road again, so I made a few snapshots and headed south with a plan.

The Valley of Fires is a 5000 year old lava flow near Carrizozo (try the cherry cider, that stuff is amazing) which is 45 miles long, 2-5 miles wide, and roughly 45 ft thick.  The lava cooled to form jagged basalt formations.  This is some extremely rugged terrain, not fun for hiking, but the agave grows well there.

 From there I headed south to Three Rivers, NM.  There is a very cool little artist's studio/store owned by painter Cameron Blagg, the Three Rivers Trading Post.  The gallery features dozens of Cameron's paintings of southwest-themed scenes, as well as the work of several other artists and artisans from around the southwest.  I highly recommend you stop by, it's about the only store for 30 miles in either direction, Pamela will be more than happy to show you around.

A few miles east of the Trading Post is the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site.  Petroglyphs are drawings left on rocks by people hundreds or thousands of years ago.  At Three Rivers there are over 21,000 of them left by the Mogollon Jornada who lived in the area between 900 and 1400 A.D.  No one knows what the symbols mean, or why they were made.  Perhaps in prayer, perhaps in ceremony, perhaps it's what we would call graffitti.  This is one of very few places where "regular people" are allowed close enough to inspect them, walk around, and ponder their meaning.  I was the only visitor that morning.  Bonus?  They have a campground and flush toilets.

The mountain ridge to the east is the Sacramento Mountains, often called the White Mountains because of the prevalence of gypsum.  This is the source of the famous white sand dunes of the White Sands National Missle Range and National Monument.  This panoramic image is assembled from 6 shots and is 21000x3500 pixels in finished form.

After this stop, I spent the afternoon in Alamagordo where I restocked the groceries and did a load of laundry.  Then I set out for Guadalupe Mountains National Park, approaching just as the sun was setting.  Here's an iPhone shot from the road.  Made camp, cooked some dinner, and shut down for the night.


Elizabeth Sunshine sure is cute!

Took a break from my road trip photos and went over to Houston for a portrait session over the weekend.  Is today already Wednesday?  Sheesh!  Anyhow, not being a local it was a bit harder to find a suitable location for taking toddler portraits, but we found a pretty good one.  Helen's Park in Braeswood worked out perfectly.  Their funky cool blue mosaic tile fountain was a source of fascination for not-quite-two-years-old-yet Elizabeth.  Of course, it also helped that she's just so dang cute.  Here's a few shots from the day:


Road Trip, Day 7, Central New Mexico

After a seedy motel stay in Silver Springs, NM, I got up and headed towards Socorro, New Mexico, having heard hundreds of times about how spectacular the birding is at Bosque del Apache NWR.  Along one of the back roads, I accidentally found a huge copper mine, the Santa Rita Mine.  Bosque del Apache was pretty nice, but I've got to say we have nicer ones in South Louisiana (like Lake Livingston).  Apparently most of the birds that winter in New Mexico had already headed north for the summer. 


After the wildlife refuge, I fueled up in Socorro, then decided to backtrack west, specifically to go see the Very Large Array National Radio Telescope.  The "telescope" consists of 27 dish shaped antennas, each 85 feet in diameter, spread across about 2 miles.  It's configurable, too, they can move the dishes around depending on what the astronomers are looking for at the time.  Finally got my self-portrait for the week, too.

And then, heading back east for the night (I camped at the Valley of Fires in New Mexico, a "recent" lava flow) I saw the sun setting in my rearview mirror, hung the Canon G11 out the window, and in one shot at 70mph...


Road Trip, Day 6, Saguaro National Park and Mt. Lemmon

TuesdayI was excited to go see Saguaro National Park, both the East and West ends.  While I didn't get out and hike any, I felt like I got a decent sense of the places from the dirt road tours.  I even took some photos while I was there.

I'd finished the parks by abut noon, so I decided to head up the Mt. Lemmon Hwy on my way to the next stop, which turned out to be Silver City, NM.  This was the most amazing stretch of road I've ever driven.  The road starts in Tucson at an elevation of about 4500ft in Sonoran desert with lots of the cactii like the photos above, but quickly climbs to a peak at over 9100ft in a very small resort town.  Yes, snow skiing.  Yes, within 40 miles of I-10.  The vegetation at the peak is a mix of aspen, pine, and spruce forest.  I stopped at the top for a snack, notice the swollen package...

All along this highway I saw literally dozens of bicyclists riding UP the mountain.  At one stop (about 7000ft up) I learned that this highway is particularly popular for international biking teams training for events like the Tour de France.  I could see why.  Gorgeous views and physically torturous.  Of course there were also rock climbers.


Road Trip, Day 5, Salton Sea to Tucson

Monday morning I woke up early, broke camp and loaded the truck for further adventures.  My original plan had been to take Route 66 up to St. Louis, but a schedule conflict prevented that.  So, partly to save gasoline and because I had all my camping gear with me, I decided to stick to the I-10 corridor for my return trip, with an eye on the National Parks system (Saguaro and Guadalupe Mtns, particularly).

Rick and Debbie had recommended a visit to the Salton Sea, directly south of the park, so I headed out that way.  A visit at the ranger station inside Joshua Tree National Park on my way out confirmed lots of other things to do and see along the way.

The Salton Sea is the largest lake in California at roughly 375 square miles in size.  The modern sea was created accidentally in 1905 when the Colordado River overflowed the Alamo Canal.  The Sea is saltier than the nearby Pacific Ocean, and there are few fish species that can survive there (fish kills are quite common).  It sits at about 250ft below sea level and is on the San Andreas Fault.  The Sea is fed by several rivers and agricultural runoff and has become a haven for hundreds of species of birds on migratory routes.  The day I was there?  Seagulls and a handful of white pelicans.

The eastern bank of the Salton Sea was once a popular place for tourists, leaving a multitude of abandonded properties.  I stopped at Salton Sea State Recreation Area for about an hour to check out the place.

After the Salton Sea I continued south to I-8 through very strong crosswinds and headed for Tucson, AZ.  One quick stop for fuel in Niland (I am proud that I only purchased ten gallons of gasoline in California, taxes per gallon are $0.40 HIGHER than in neighbor Arizona, where pump prices are similar to NM, TX, and LA) and another for supplies and lunch in California and I was ready to go.  Later I stopped for fuel at a little old truckstop in Vija, AZ and snapped a few quick photos there before heading on to Tucson where I stayed in a motel and finally got to take a shower...



Road Trip, Day 4, Joshua Tree National Park

Sunday morning I was up before dawn again, but having slept much more comfortably decided to get up and cook a big breakfast then met up with Rick and Debbie again for another day of shooting at Joshua Tree.  Rick gave me a quick tutorial on using the Zone System to caluculate exposures, then we got out his 4x5" camera and made a few exposures just for fun.  I want one, bad.

I camped in the park one more night, before heading out for Tucson via the Salton Sea.

These photos (and more) can be viewed in my smugmug gallery HERE.

 This panoramic image is a composite of 7 images shot vertically.  The final file size is 15000x5000 pixels, or 100"x35" at 150dpi.  It's gonna be expensive, but I think I need it printed and mounted about that size!


Road Trip, Days 1-3. Baton Rouge to Joshua Tree National Park

It's been a few weeks since I've been able to post, since I took a solo roadtrip across the American Southwest.  And what a road trip it was!  Over the next few days I'll be processing some of my images from the trip and posting some of the backstory.  This vacation was specifically for photography (mostly landscape) and started with a two-day photographer seminar taught by Rick Rosen (@RickRosen on Twitter), a photographer friend of mine who worked for Ansel Adams for several years as both an assistant and as a teacher of Ansel's seminars.   

I left Baton Rouge on a Thursday morning with the intent on drviing to Las Cruces, NM on my first day.  I only made it as far as El Paso, TX before shutting down for the night in a motel about midnight.  There was fog on the Atchafalaya Basin, the last hint of humidity I would see for the next 10 days.

Houston looked a bit murky, too, so I grabbed a shot of the skyline from I-10 with my iPhone.  The GPS then routed me around San Antonio and conveniently past one of the finest sausage factories in the country.  Yes, I stopped for supplies.

As the sun began to set in West Texas (the speed limit out there is 80mph, btw) I pulled off the road to grab a few shots.

On Friday I didn't take any photos, concentrating instead on getting across the desert to Joshua Tree National Park.  I arrived at the south entrance to the park at about 7pm, arrived at my campsite about an hour later, and proceeded to set up camp in complete darkness.  The was no moonlight at all.

Before I left home, I'd checked the weather report for the area and had purchased a new mummy-style sleeping bag rated for 35 degrees since the indicated lows were in the 40's.  Well, that night, the temperature dropped below freezing and my toes were dang cold, even with my jacket thrown over the end of the bag.  I also learned that mummy bags are not designed for people with big bellies like mine.  Talk about a snug fit!  At any rate, being from two time zones over and being uncomfortably cold, I got up at about 5am to make hot chocolate and to photograph some of the Joshua Trees near my camp.

After breakfast I headed north toward Twenty-Nine Palms for supplies and to meet up with Rick and fellow seminar attendee Debbie (@debkata).  They drove out from Huntington Beach, CA that morning.  There is apparently a US Marines base in town, and what I found there was astounding.  More massage parlors, tattoo shops, and barber shops in one small town than I had ever seen before.

Rick, Debbie and I photographed all over the park until sunset when they ran into town for a motel stay.  I went back to camp and played with my cameras some more before settling in for the night wearing 2 pairs of socks.

These images and more can be viewed in larger form in my gallery, HERE.