Thursday, October 30, 2008

Skywatch Friday: Cave Creek Canyon

Slanting Sunlight in Cave Creek Canyon
Photographed by Gusto! 10-25-08
Click on any image to enlarge for the best viewing.

This Story begins with Someplace Else and is continued On the Road to Rodeo, it concludes here with,

Cave Creek Canyon and The Ciricahua Mountains

I know we’ve crossed back into Arizona when we pass State Line road. I see yet another red-tail hawk on a utility pole surveying its domain. When we pass through Portal I am looking down at my bird book and so I don’t even notice the tiny town set at the base of Cave Creek Canyon. As we round a corner the rocky cliffs of the canyon rise before us. Gus pulls off the road to take in the view as the sun sends slanting light into the narrow gap. We know we don’t have much time.

A sign points out the way to Paradise. We’ll have to go there sometime, but today we want to see Cave Creek Canyon.

Farther down the road the golden cliffs rise steeper around us. Each bend of the road reveals a new vista.

A merry creek tumbles through the sycamores and alligator junipers that line the creek bank. Here, as if looking through a window, I see the bright colors of autumn that are lacking in the Sonoran desert.

Even the rocks seem to glow with the golden colors of autumn.

I think about asking Gus to turn around and let us explore New Mexico more in the last hour and a half of daylight, but my curiosity pulls me onward and so we point Birdie west and leave the paved road behind. We start our ascent up the narrow gravel road that will take us 20 miles over the Chiricahua Mountains and drop us down near the Chiricahua National Monument.

The steep and winding road ascends through cottonwoods, junipers and pines. A few aspens appear as flaming yellow candles in the thick cover of evergreens that fill the mountain slopes. We start to pass campground after campground filled with tents and trailers and bearded men dressed in camouflage hunkered down around open campfires. A few boys are with them learning the ways of the woods and the ways of the men, a fraternity of hunters in the deep forest night. I see more men than birds on this whole excursion.

Switchback leads to switchback until we finally reach the crest, then suddenly the way slopes ever downward and we hurry to beat the last glimmer of daylight. The road we travel opens out to grassland where I see kestrels now, clinging to the utility wires. Are they hoping for one last meal in the fading light of the evening? Gravel gives way to asphalt as the dirt road becomes Route 181. Soon we reach the junction with 186 which will lead us into Wilcox and back to I-10. A large tree stands tall alongside the road as we turn northwest and I catch the silhouette of a great horned owl as we pass by. His night of hunting has only just begun.

Darkness falls swift and black around us. There are no streetlights here, and no moon to light the way. The road rolls over the hills. Not a car is in sight. We are alone on open range. Gus thinks he sees a person trying to flag us down from the side of the road. He slows the car but as our head lights illuminate the body we realize it is the butt end of a cow and the waving hand is simply the swishing of its tail.

It’s dark enough now for stars to emerge in the violet colored sky. The topography has become more rolling with round hills that make me feel like I’m driving through a giant bowl of lumpy oatmeal at night. We pass between two especially round hills and then the land flattens out. Soon we see the lights of Wilcox and the way home, which is west on I-10.

In the dark interior of the car with contentment wrapped around me like a blanket, I think about how today, I saw Someplace Else and it only makes me want more. I don’t know how long it will be before we head east again, but when we do, I intend to go further into the Land of Enchantment and perhaps even further. There are more sights to see, more birds to count, and more places to explore. Besides, I think I saw a sign just over the border that said El Paso was only 190 miles further. Hmmn…I’ve never been to El Paso. Could that be the next “Someplace Else?”

Please visit Skywatch Friday for more amazing views of the skies around the globe.

Photographer's Note: All of today's photography is by Gusto! using the Nikon D80 and the 18-70mm lens set in auto. Kathie cropped and enlarged some photos. I also enhanced the colors in the photos of the cliffs using Picture Project to bring out the colors the way I remembered them. Though I did an auto correction, I had to go in and manipulate the colors myself beyond what the program recommended as the reflected light washed the rocky surfaces out too much. Though I did not us a HDR program, please see Troy's post about this subject on Ramblings Around Texas.


Unknown said...

Beautiful - what a lovely adventure you share with us! Isn't it amazing how we want to see more behind us, yet the pulling from in front seems stronger!? Hope you get to go back and do more in NM. Beautiful post- thanks! (

Deborah Godin said...

More views for us to swoon and sigh over!! You are lucky to have such beauty, the sky and mountains and painted rocks!

bobbie said...

Those painted rocks are unbelievable! Gus' pictures are wonderful, and your words as well. this was a great adventure for us. Thank you, Kathie.

Louise said...

Wonderful post. I LOVE those golden cliffs!

I have Picture Project, but I don't know how to use it. The way you were able to control color without making it look all wacky makes me think I need to learn!

Texas Travelers said...

Great going, Gus.
Terrific job, Kathie.

The last photo with those beautiful blue shadows is outstanding. It looks like the works of a master printer from the days of old. Well done.

The slanted light photo is a perfect example of low level approaching horizontal light.
Great capture.

The bright yellows silhouetted by the dark trees is another great photo.

The remainder of the photos are good, very enjoyable, and add to the tale of adventure.

I believe your style of writing is improving, if that's possible.

Wonderful tale. Makes me want to get out and explore.

thanks for the visit,
Troy and Martha

EG CameraGirl said...

I really enjoy visiting the canyons of Arizona. (My sister lives there) Canyons are amazing! Thanks for the tour.

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Interesting story and beautiful pictures.Your "Someplace Else" turned out to be exceptional.I'm glad I had the opportunity to tag along through the medium of the blog.Thanks.

Jane Hards Photography said...

Incredible geology, we don't get here. Fascinating narrative too.

Unknown said...

Great shots and very interesting post

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Aaah... My beauty fix!!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Kathie: A wonderful view of the canyon, very nice with the photos.

Anonymous said...

I love to drive and explore just the way you describe. Isn't it wonderful what you can see and learn, by just going out and looking? And you brought back super photos - I want to walk down that first road!

Mary C said...

What a nice trip you and Gus took. Thanks for taking all of us along with you. May I recommend a few places to visit in New Mexico for a trip in the future? Kathie, you must put Bosque del Apache and the Magdalena mountains on the top of your list. This is a birders' and wildlife lovers' paradise. Second, another NWR is Las Vegas (New Mexico); and third, Santa Fe, Taos, and Los Alamos areas.

Arija said...

What a wonderful post with beautiful photographs and great information.

AphotoAday said...

Oh wow -- what a great place... Makes me want to go back to the southwest and take photos...

Celeste said...

What a beautiful trip, no wonder you felt so content Kathie. I love your skywatch picture with the sun rays cutting across the rocks, very cool.

chrome3d said...

Those were really beautiful golden cliffs.

I have to admit that I have been forced to view the animation movie ´Cars´ a lot lately and these scenes look a lot like the scenes from that movie.

kjpweb said...

A great tour! Wonderful show that you put on for us! Bravo!
Cheers, Klaus

Larry said...

Great descriptions and photos! Kestrels are decreasing each year in Connecticut.-They are now less common than Peregrines here.

Margaret Cloud said...

Just like reading a book, what a great post, felt like I was in the back seat, thanks for sharing. The photos were really nice. Please come on by sometime.