And then a few minutes later the storm hit…..
A few shots from Chiricahua National Monument near Willcox, AZ.
It started raining just after midnight and hasn’t ceased or even slowed since – has me pinned in my tent pondering the rain gear stored in the car.
Rain of this magnitude – it’s really pouring – is a normal occurrence in the Mid-Atlantic region though usually not this early in the season. Trees begin storing water in the fall to create the sap necessary to get them through winter. But early fall is six weeks off. I keep thinking as I lay stretched out here on my sleeping bag how welcome this rain would be in the Eastern Sierra – Mono Lake especially comes to mind. But if I’ve learned nothing else out here it’s that Nature is what it is; fiddling with it can be problematic. Adjusting is a better approach. As Charles says ‘It’s never a matter of wrong weather just wrong kit.’ In this case it’s right kit; wrong storage location. And a soaking trip in between.
When I arrived in Shenandoah National Park yesterday, after completing the three day run of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the sky was near crystal clear. Very unusual here where a haze is almost constantly present from the summit of Skyline Drive out across Shenandoah Valley. Not yesterday afternoon. Visibility was excellent, better than I’d ever remembered from my many trips here over the years. I immediately anticipated a grandelicious sunset. That was around 1400.
But there was rain to the south headed our way. I believe there’s something called a Tropical Depression running round the Gulf so this might be a result of its presence. This is the early edge of hurricane season in that area which tends to frequent rain in this area. (Rain is much more welcome than a hurricane.) Anyway, as the clouds rolled in about 1600 my hopes began to fade. But I thought there might be a chance so, after getting camp set up and grabbing a couple of Reese Cups and a bottle of Gatorade for dinner at the camp store, I drove the ten miles or so south to Turk Mountain Overlook and took up the vigil, camera at the ready.
What you see, compliments of iPhone, did.
What you don’t see is my hesitance to open the tent flap and make a dash for the car to retrieve the gear I should have placed in the tent last night. I’m sure I’ll rally soon. In the meantime I’ll enjoy another chapter of Twain’s Roughing It<a
Long haul road-tripping of the type I do is not all campfires and tents and bug spray and romantic things of the sort. It’s true, I get my share of skies that extend from here to there and sunsets that chase them to wherever they feel like going. It’s a good life, no question. Although some people I run into have a hard time believing I don’t get lonely or homesick. I don’t. Trust me on that.
I send cards or letters or emails and such that from time to time contain phrasing to the effect that ‘I wish you were here.’
And it’s not you; its me. I can’t imagine there are too many people who would ever get comfortable with the way I travel. It’s just erratic. Sometimes it drives me a little batty. But as I said in some post – that never got posted – I’m never disappointed. Whatever happens is what’s supposed to happen. Do you have any idea how long it took me to figure that out? And embrace it?
Like today. I’m in Estes Park, CO which sits literally at the gate to Rocky Mountain National Park. I think this is probably one of the top five – by popularity- parks in the country. (Do you know enough about Your parks to guess the other four?) I toured it to a degree this morning. Drove up the Old Fall River Road – a one-way 9 mile stretch of unpaved switchbacks – to the Trail Ridge Rd that peaks out at 12,200 ft and parallels, in a way only engineering marvels of this type can, the Continental Divide.
Just so Chaz couldn’t accuse me of touristing the place I parked at the road peak and walked up 300 ft to the top of the hill. I found just standing up at this altitude to be difficult; I suspect most people could have duck-walked up faster than I got there – but I got there.
The widest angle lens on my Canon struggled to capture the vistas. So if this iPhone pic looks anemic Don’t blame Steve Jobs – or me. The park is all about up and boundless. Putting that in pixels ain’t easy although I promise you’ll see a few better images shortly.
But right now I’m on one of those non-romantic runs getting new shoes on the chariot. Drove through a gawdawful rainstorm to get in here last night and experienced hydroplaning at 10,000 ft. Not a good thing. Had the original tires on the car and they had reached the limit at 78000 miles.
I wish I could refresh me as quickly and inexpensively as I did the tires. They just called my name. Job done. Back to Estes.
One of the things I had been looking forward to on my recent camping trip to Death Valley – also my first visit – was seeing the night sky from one of the darkest places on earth. Being an eastern urbanite that sky is something that I am otherwise routinely deprived of. I wasn’t fully aware of the depths of my deprivation until one summer night sitting outside my dwelling in Arroyo Seco, near Taos, I glanced up and really saw the Milky Way for the first time. It was almost as if I were looking at the underside of a very sparkly lid – it was that tangibly imposing to me. I had been in a few planetariums in my life and in a few dark areas; but nothing I ever saw displayed in any of them came close to looking at the real thing hanging there over my head that night. So, I figured this would be one of the many treats to expect in the Valley. A super dark sky and a big ol Milky Way.
Typically, I paid no attention to the state of the sky before arriving. I just go. I thought I would see exactly what I intended to see: A gazillion stars spread out endlessly across the night sky. The moon had different plans and for most of my stay was up early shining like a flood light and not setting until late the next morning. But even had I done the research ahead of time my visit schedule wasn’t going to change. Fortunately I’m going to be under wide open western skies for some time and the Valley is only a short 5 hour drive from my base camp in Los Angeles. There will be other chances, assuming the Mayans weren’t hiding the real date somewhere.
I went with what I had and since I had to be up early for sunrise lighting I was also able to get moonsets. I suppose I could have done the moonrise but when it’s full like this it’s very difficult to acquire any contrast on its face and a moon without contrast just looks like – well, a big flood light. Nothing especially interesting about that.
I already posted one of my Zabriskie shots on Google+ in the Death Valley Photographers Community – a part of which I now count myself, but nothing’s come through the blog yet so here you have a sunrise scene that I took from the top side of the Texas Springs campground area – nice when the shots come to you – and then a shot of the moon setting on the western side of the Valley over the Panamint Range. These were shot on different days because the sunrise shots I got from the Zabriskie overlook just didn’t work. (I feel as if I’m lucky when any of them turn out.)
I also have to admit that this sunrise caught me by surprise. I was a little late getting out of the tent on this morning and hadn’t expected to see anything other than a bright morning sky. The gear was locked in the car. The camera had no lens mounted. So I had to scramble. Hand held. The shutter was a little on the slow side to get the image and it suffered as a result from a lack of sharpness. But still. I can’t remember the last time I saw so much sunfire in the morning sky. It is what it is. And that ‘is’ works for me.
I was more prepared for the moonset and I like the result. The geology and the astronomy that manifest their ways in Death Valley make it a wondrous place. This Valley certainly earned its name. It holds the bones of many men and animals who arrived in its depths at the wrong time and became permanent footnotes in its long and violent history. Even today taking anything in this place for granted can cost you your next sunrise – all your next sunrises. No matter. It is a visual delight and one of the grandest exhibitions Nature puts on anywhere on earth.
Since I’ve been recalcitrant in getting any of the première shots online let me add one more; this of the Mesquite Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells. I’m sure as people make return trips to DV that favorites places established in earlier visits become replaced by new ones that hadn’t quite resolved for them earlier. This place is simply too grandiose (is that redundant?) for anyone to make a selection for all time. But they can one at a time – and I did. The Dunes. They are mesmerizing. They are also easy to get lost in if you fail to hold the high ground. I posted a couple of videos on Facebook of my walking round these piles of sand and acquired a pretty spiffy self-portrait that is posted in the Selfy-Sunday Group on Google +. This shot is my favorite – so far. It’s a soft exposure and I just like the way so many of the colors that define this place blend together in it.
This was taken late morning and so the light here is also from the sunrise. The area in the foreground I think is referred to as The Devil’s Corn Field but I’m not entirely sure. If it weren’t so late and if I weren’t so lazy, I’d look it up. As it is, if you’re really curious – or perhaps know – you can chime in.