Tag Archives: Cactus

Ba Bam

The peace of morning and a first coffee is shattered with the distinct double crack and earth-shaking clatter of a sonic boom. It is soon followed by another. High overhead jet fighters hone their deadly skills. They are too high to be seen but the eternal thunder of their presence is oppressive. I am on the Southern edge of the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range. The military actually posts schedules and provides passes for folks who want to sit in bleachers and watch as ground assault aircraft practice “Ordinance delivery.” Bizarrely the range is adjacent to the Cabeza Prieta National wildlife sanctuary. Run rabbit, run.

The desert weather has been wet and windy and cold. This is another bleak Sonoran morning. I finally get to know an acquaintance of over thirty-five years and it is grand to find a kindred spirit. The day speeds by. I have been introduced to the amazing area around this small Southern Arizonan community of Ajo. My old van has been repaired and I am very glad I did not attempt the job myself on the side of the road. I will begin meandering northward in the morning. I am grateful for the camaraderie and the rest my stop here has provided. This place is fantastic and I want to return soon. Hostile as the desert may be, it has seduced me.

It is nearing midnight as I start this blog after editing another day’s batch of photos. Outside, nearby, coyotes yip and howl. I will sleep well.

Fred’s Mexican roadside repairs. I was very grateful for the comforting light of the sign for a night’s stop. Check out Barb’s website, this place does great things.

I drove in to say thank you.

This place shelters hundreds of dogs. It is a very small dent in dealing with Mexico’s stray dog problem, but it offers hope and humanity. The dark female on the right made it very clear she’d like me to take her with me. Heart rending!

Even in the bleak damp dawn of that morning, desert flowers bloomed beautifully.

A grey, cold morning in the Sonora Desert while it was snowing at home on Vancouver Island. It was hard to photograph anything without plastic trash showing everywhere, a very sad problem throughout all of Mexico and I can suggest no solutions other than the obvious.

A Sagauro cactus corpse, bizzarely mummified. Yep, that’s my little old van in the distance, dwarfed by the enormity of the desert.

And then the sun began to emerge.

Early springtime. I am told that April and May are stunning.

I find the desert impossible to photograph and convey the sense of grandeur, wonder and amazing detail all at once. One needs to stay in a single place for at least several days, observing the scene with the ever-changing light. I really want to stay for months.

Everywhere one looks there is beauty both stark and subtle.

President’s Wig? No. It is firmly rooted.

Well, it’s a start. Mexico is definitely becoming more environmentally aware. Now do something about all the plastic trash!

One of the wonders to me is the thousands of half-vast projects never completed throughout Mexico. This building is typical of someone’s abandoned ambition. It is clearly unfinished and unused.

Crossing the border from Sonoyta Mexico to Lukeville Arizona. No photos please! Shut off cell phones! I drove northward toward Ajo with a grinding, shuddering driveline, my third serious mechanical issue of the trip. … Ba Bam part 2

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”

… Stephan Covey

Down From The Mountain

(Click on images to enlarge)

The entire desert environment is harsh and no place for fools (like me) to wander alone.

As is often said, there’s no fool like an old fool. An arduous climb, and harder descent lead me on to the next quest, the same day. I did not find the petroglyphs and ended up stuck in an arroyo for a couple of hours while I jacked the van, again and again, shovelled and stacked rocks until I finally found the high ground. Fool! You may tell me how clever I am to get myself out of my fix, as darkness fell but, this old backwoods man often recites the mantra “superior pilots use their superior knowledge to avoid situations requiring their superior skill.” All’s well that ends.

The path zig-zags ever upward. Each step is a conscious placement of your boots. The rocks are loose and grabbing a bush for support is a definite NOT! Nearly all vegetation is covered in vicious thorns.

The changing views are spectacular and draw you ever upward.

Homeland Insecurity sneaky-cam chained to a tree. James told me drug mules come over the mountain passes..yep, way up there. There are electronic sensors strategically placed and the soon the helicopters are on site.

Fresnal Canyon. It looks lovely, but there is no gentle strolling here.

It was stunning

A Godshead?

A view eastward toward Tonopah and Sells. The water towers are the giveaway. I find it impossible for this alien to to judge height and distance here.

In the distance beyond the cactus, San Miguel and then Mexico. There is an ominous incessant thunder far overhead as fighter jets practise. You can never see them.

I took this photo when my old injuries stopped complaining and started screaming. I reasoned that I was entirely alone and had forgotten to bring my cell phone. One slip, one sprain or broken bone could have been drastic. Going down was even more arduous. I would later learn that the cave I sought was at the  base of the cleft, in the tan spot. I was only ten minutes from the Creator’s Cave where legend has it he emerged to create the world and distribute the people of different colours. I did not feel quite ready to go meet my maker.

So…I sat a while and chatted with a cactus. He was even more prickly than I am.

Someone went to a lot of work to build these walls. An old camp on the mountain? How old?

Everything commands/demands respect.

Even in January the shade felt good. I can’t imagine clambering here on a summer day.

A ground squirrel sunning himself atop a huge boulder ponders the passage of the apparition I must have been.
I order my used Minolta 400mm reflex lense from Japan. It is fantastic for these sort of shots. The photo was taken hand-held at a distance of about sixty feet.

Ahhh! An underground stream emerges briefly to fall into this pool. Everything gathers there, wasps, flies, moths and all sorts of creatures that make tracks. The sound of that trickling water was sweet music indeed. Then the water disappears underground again.

This character was as tall as I am but was definitely not leaning out for a hug.

Dumb ass! I knew better and told myself so during the two hours of shovelling, jacking and packing rocks while darkness began to fall. The van is not a back country vehicle.

Night fell. Ominous but beautiful.

And so I spent the night.

Pre-dawn. Night creatures provided a wonderful symphony.

Don’t fence me in. Part of the coral where I spent the night.

Water is everything. Note the moisture flowing down the cliff face. What is its source?

Up the arroyo (or, wash). These are the super highways of the desert, where the going is easiest and ambush most likely.

Creak, clatter and squeak. The traditional windmill is a green source of retrieving the essence of life. This one was still pumping but the rest of the system needed attention.

Photographer in the well. I imagined falling in. What a place to die in the desert!

An offering in the desert.

Arroyo beans. Each seed contains the future.

Antcano!

After spending a night at an abandoned cowboy’s corner in the desert I finally made my way back to pavement and the small native town of Sells. I emerged from the grocery store to discover coolant again weeping form the van. Oh Golly! Uh huh.

A Caracara, desert hunter and scavenger, watches my departure.

I’ll be back.

After an eighty mile quest for an auto parts store, whereupon checking the length of a new hose, I discovered that my young Yuma mechanic had not properly tightened a hose clamp. Exhausted beyond words I drove around Nogales arranging Mexican travel insurance, finding a friendly ATM for cash to turn into Pesos and finally a place to park for the night. I am writing this in MacDonalds in Walmart. The van is parked, it seems, a mile across the parking lot in the far corner. An antithesis from Baboquivari, but damn, they do have good wifi! I’ve discovered this during yet another sleepless night in the van.

When I walked back to my urban camp I thought my weary eyes were deceiving me. There were creatures snuffling all around it. To my utter delight, the creatures turned out to be Javelinas, a type of peccary and not a feral pig. I was stunned but managed to grab some cell phone footage of these Wal Mart wanderers. By the way, about my Ajo Bird in the last blog. A reader commented to suggest the bird was a curve-billed Thrasher. By guidebook to birds of this region confirmed that. So, at 03:30 from the Nogales Arizona Wal Mart parking lot, this blog’s for you.

In a pig’s eye!

Walmart marauders. You thought I was kidding? So did I at first.

A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” …Victor Borge