Here is a second series of photographs from my Milagrosa to Agua Caliente Canyon loop hike. I was amazed to see water flowing near the top of Agua Caliente (second photograph) even though we had received so little moisture for most of the winter.
Looking down Milagrosa Canyon, Milagrosa Canyon, AZ (16″x33″)
Falls in Agua Caliente, Agua Caliente Canyon, AZ (12″x18″)
In March, I hiked up Milagrosa Canyon (I have posted climbing photographs from this canyon in the past). I exited the top of Milagrosa by scrambling up a series of stepped dry waterfalls. I then picked my way across a hill through the Sonoran Desert until I hit a trail that dropped back down into the head of Agua Caliente Canyon. After a brief swim at a lunch time pool, I boulder-hopped down Agua Caliente to where the two canyons join near the road. As I was sliding from boulder to boulder, countless thumb-sized, camouflaged desert toads hopped out of the way of my feet. Overall, the day was at least an 8/10 stars for fun- it felt rugged without ever being more than three hours from a trailhead.
Saguaro Cacti Marching into Milagrosa, Milagrosa Canyon, AZ (14″x16″)
Agua Caliente Pools, Agua Caliente Canyon, AZ (16″x42″)
Two hours north of Tucson along Arizona State Route 77, a small turnoff dumps you out onto a dirt road that winds up into the hilly desert. The southern Arizona climbing community has created a series of trails and low-impact camping sites so climbers can unobtrusively set up a tent and climb in the limestone canyon known as ‘The Homestead’. The limestone cracks and overhangs in this area are a fun alternative to climbing the granite and schist of Mt Lemmon.
Homestead Canyon Cliffs, Gila County, AZ (16″x54″)
Far off the Ground at Homestead Canyon, Gila County, AZ (16″x44″)
After hiking to Ventana Arch, we scrambled up the rock towers of Window Peak. The approach to the summit took a few hours; we had to ascend at least 4,500 feet from the trailhead to the peak, but the views were worth the walk. The hike down to Sabino Canyon was also gorgeous- a few rainclouds blew over and spat a few drops of water on us as we passed the last ridge near sunset.
Looking Down from Window Peak, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x57″)
Saguaro and Evening Clouds, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x36″)
Early in March, I hiked up the Ventana Canyon trail to Ventana Arch and back down through Sabino Canyon. Here are a few panoramas I took on the way up to the Arch.
Ventana Arch, Cliff, Hills, and Sky, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x53″)
Maiden Pools Rocks and Cacti, Ventana Canyon, AZ (16″x50″)
Winter rain and snow on Mt Lemmon brought enough moisture to the Sonoran Desert to make this usually dry stream bed in Hairpin Canyon fill with water. On this particular day, I didn’t expect to take many photographs (I was out to climb), so I didn’t have my tripod in my backpack. I used a rock instead (bottom photograph) and managed to take a long(er) exposure set of photographs for the panorama using image stabilization (basically a gyroscope in the lens)- it’s amazing how well this relatively new technology works in a pinch (but I still wish I had my tripod!).
Falls and Cliffs at Hairpin Canyon, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x47″)
Falls, Log, and Sky at Hairpin, Coronado National Forest, AZ (12″x18″)
While climbing in January near the base of Mt Lemmon, I stopped at the mouth of a small canyon to take this vertical panorama of the rock, vegetation, and clouds.
Bush and Winter Clouds, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x38″)
In early January, one of our only winter storms blew through southern Arizona (in what was supposed to be an unusually wet El Nino winter here in the Southwest). I was hoping to go climbing further up in the Catalina Mountains, but the Highway was closed, so we parked and walked our climbing gear up to Hairpin and spent a gorgeous day listening to a flowing creek and climbing beneath a ceiling of billowing winter clouds.
Hairpin Cliffs and Winter Clouds, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x50″)
While the rest of my group hiked up the river, I spent about half an hour standing knee-deep in water photographing ripples and a small rapid in the Aravaipa River. Here is one of my favorite angles on the water and rocks.
Aravaipa Flowing Water, Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, AZ (16″x56″)
This tree hangs over the cliff next to the trail that winds up the steep rock face to Observation Point in Zion National Park.
While scouting Mesa Arch in the evening, I took a panorama of the rock formation near the upper end of the Arch (see my post from 2 weeks ago). I decided to re-shoot a similar panorama at sunrise with better lighting because I liked the way the Arch seemed to dive away from the camera.
I slept in the back of my Subaru to save time in the morning. When my alarm went off, I deflated my sleeping pad, hopped into the driver seat, and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as I turned on the defroster and headed to Mesa Arch. Sunrise was gorgeous, but the crowd of photographers that showed up a few minutes after I arrived made me want to hang back and wait for a clear view of the arch and mountains. After most of the other photographers rushed off to their next tour stop, an incredible glow developed under the arch when the sun started to reflect off the sandstone cliffs below the overlook.
While in Canyonlands National Park this spring, I wanted to visit and photograph Mesa Arch. I guarantee you recognize pictures of this location taken at sunrise with golden light shining over the mountains through the arch. I decided to stop by and scout the location around sunset so I would know where to set up my tripod the following morning; I took along my camera to take a few “non-traditional” panoramas of the arch as long as I had nice evening clouds and the arch wasn’t packed with excited sunrise photographers.
After hiking up the slot canyon in Plaza Blanca, I turned around and headed back to the car around sunset. I took this panorama as the setting sun cast a bright light on this fin of rock jutting up out of the river bed.
Earlier this summer, I decided to take an evening walk through Plaza Blanca (the White Place), a slot canyon across the river from Abiquiu, New Mexico. Georgia O’Keeffe’s work often focused on this area, and a visit to the valley allowed me to imagine the artist painting under the open blue New Mexican sky long before I was born. My sister and I attempted to hike into this canyon a few years back, but we ended up getting accidentally sucked into a similar, parallel canyon to the east and south. This year, we were sure to ask for detailed directions and arrived at the White Place a few hours before sunset. The rapidly eroding landscape at Plaza Blanca is part of the Abiquiu Formation, which consists of redeposited volcanic ash and other sedimentary rocks that are about 20 million years old. The cliffs near the parking area form a wide valley that narrows into a slot canyon to the north and west. Afternoon summer clouds floated by overhead and swallows dove between the canyon walls as we wound up into the hillside. We started heading back to the car around sunset, leaving part of the area unexplored. I hope to make it back to Abiquiu soon so I can photograph more of the slot canyon.
This sandstone formation watches over the Willow Flat campground in Canyonlands National Park. I noticed the dramatic clouds over the rocks, and I decided to take both a short-exposure and a long-exposure panorama of the scene. Notice the clouds streaking/streaming in the second panorama. Side note: I had trouble stitching together the second panorama: the ND filter vignettes each individual frame, so there is slight streaking between frames that I couldn’t eliminate in the stitching process. After a few hours of dodging/burning work in Photoshop, I had to just give up and go with it (which really bothers me).
The mile walk out to Grand View Point provides great views to the south of the Canyonlands. This mesa/butte dominates the landscape at the the Point at the end of the trail.
Here is another perspective on the gnarled juniper tree that I posted lasted week. I liked the small stacks of rocks that someone had built and how the cliff edge formed a line framing the eroded canyon tiers in the background.
While walking the cliff edge at Grand View Overlook in Canyonlands National Park, I noticed this twisted juniper hanging onto the edge of the dropoff. It’s amazing to me that a tree can survive in this type of windy, dry environment that experiences such large temperature swings. Yet, the gnarled juniper inexorably extends its roots into the crack in the sandstone, hastening the weakening and collapse of the very rock on which it grows. The ability of trees and their roots to destroy rocks given enough time has always impressed me.
Here is a panorama focused on the lower tier of canyons in Canyonlands National Park. As I look at this scene as a geologist, I attempt to imagine the deep past in order to envision how this erosion happened. I first picture the river as it ate away at the top of the canyon. It then meandered back and forth, working down to the hard, white sandstone layer capping what is now the lower tier of canyons, then eventually it found a toehold on the softer sandstone below and started downcutting again. As I took this photo, the river was doing what it has been doing for millions of years, but I can only see one, brief snapshot of its work.
Here is a panorama from the White Rim Overlook on the Island in the Sky side of Canyonlands National Park. I liked how the second tier of the canyon seemed to lead out to and frame the mountains in the background.
Earlier this spring, I spent a few days on the Island in the Sky side of Canyonlands National Park. Clouds blanketed the sky, providing a nice backdrop to the sandstone cliffs and canyons. I took this panorama near the Green River Overlook on my way to go hike along the rim. The shelf of sandstone leading down to the fissure cut by the river below is truly spectacular. As I walked along, the open space seemed to eat the sounds of my footsteps- no echoes.
The view of the south-facing canyon walls at Milagrosa Canyon- jumbled giant boulders on the canyon floor, cirrus clouds above, giant saguaros to the sides, and interesting textures on the rock face opposite.