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Jun 232010

Old trucks and cabins at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona.

Yolanda invited her Pi Phi sorority sisters for an extended weekend reunion in Scottsdale. In other words, I got the boot. Great!! I rented a car and headed up to Sedona.

Such a dramatically beautiful and magical place, Sedona. I’ve been there many times and am fortunate to have met and become friends with local photographer, Larry Lindahl http://www.larrylindahl.com/1/home.html.

Larry and his lovely wife Wendy were going to the Gila Box, a canyon in eastern Arizona, for a rafting trip and offered their house with awesome views of Thunder Mountain. All I had to do was water the garden. Fantastic, I was set.

After spending a good part of Thursday playing taxi, picking up Yolanda’s friends from the airport, I beat feet north to Beaver Creek, nope, not our beloved The Beav in Colorado but a little national forest campground close to Sedona.

Before sunrise at the pool behind the campground along Beaver Creek.

Our handyman, Larry Jacobson, always has good suggestions and on this one, he was right on. Beaver Creek Campground is situated along a beautiful stretch of creek two miles east of the Sedona turnoff from I-17. Fortunately, it’s not a big campground and there is little traffic along the road, just a few wandering cows to avoid.

Grass, cottonwoods and sycamores along Beaver Creek.

I got there just before dark and “set up” the amazing, Quickdraw self-erecting tent Larry lent me. All I did was take the tent out of the bag and throw it. It popped into shape and set itself up! All in about five seconds. Not surprisingly, you attract quite a bit of attention when you do this.

The evening was mild and after dark I explored along the creek and up the road a bit. In the distance I heard a chorus of frogs. Scrambling over the rocks by the creek in the dark, I was met by a full on chorus of singing frogs. I don’t use the term chorus lightly. I’ve never before heard such a true chorus of frogs.

The singing rose and fell in a melodious song produced by dozens of frogs, each singing, or trilling on their own pitch, creating a wall of pulsating sound that wandered slowly in the dark across my field of hearing. It was mesmerizing.

The next morning I got up before sunrise to find some photographs. The stretch of creek behind my campsite was lovely, with red rocks, trees, bushes and a large pool. Thar be photos.

Afterward, I took off to meet Larry and Wendy to take possession of their home before they left. It was a lovely, blue-sky day with big puffy clouds, so typical of Sedona. One of my goals was to re-do a photograph I had done several years before of Devil’s Bridge. This time though, using a new technique called HDR or High Dynamic Range photography. I’ve been writing a couple of articles about this style of photography and thought that it would be useful for this subject.

Sunrise on Thunder Mountain in Sedona.

Sunset that evening wasn’t terribly productive but I got up before dawn the next morning and got a few decent images around Thunder Mountain. Later that morning I headed out to Devil’s Bridge, taking the last mile of so of dirt road very slowly. It’s a pretty rocky, rutted road and I had no desire to damage the rental car.

Parking and then hiking along the road, I followed a set of quite fresh, mountain lion tracks, possibly from the night before. The trail to the formation is about a mile, an easy mile, after which I climbed up beneath the arch and set up, waiting for the still moments between breezes to make the exposures.

HDR involves making a series of usually around five exposure brackets; two over-exposed, a normal exposure, and two under-exposed. Combining them in a program called Photomatix allows you to smooth out the highlights and shadows in high contrast subjects like the bridge, half of which is in shadow.

Upon processing the images later that day, I found that I gained nothing with the new technique, but I did get a pretty decent shot of the bridge from the unusual angle below the arch.

Devil’s Bridge looking toward Boynton Canyon.

Another goal was to make a visit to the Gold King Mine, www.goldkingmineghosttown.com,  in the charming, old, mining town of Jerome. I’ve been to Jerome several times over the years. It’s perched high up a mountain south of Cottonwood, with spectacular views north to Sedona. On my previous visit a couple of years ago, I discovered the Gold King Mine and ghost town.

Abstract #2-Gold King Mine Jerome, Arizona

This is another of those amazing folk art creations, just like Rattlesnake Crafts I wrote about before, only this time it’s mainly old trucks, mining implements and the ghost town. There are dozens upon dozens of old vehicles parked in rows all over the property. Among them are scattered all sorts of stuff: heaps of old tools, tire rims, junk of every description, and also the town’s shacks, (there was a sort of town there). There’s a dentist’s office, an assay office, the auto parts supply, an old cabin and other buildings filled with chickens and other animals, live chickens that is, of many remarkable breeds.

Big Bertha

They also have an old, steam saw mill that constantly “chucks” away as it releases pent up steam. You can even pay ten bucks to hear them fire up Big Bertha, an enormous, old power generator, to hear it thunder.

There are a number of beautifully, restored, classic cars around the property. It is a photographer’s dream. I’d love to lead a photography seminar here. Everything is in a state of slow decay and there is so much unusual and interesting subject matter laying around rusting away. Should you ever go to Jerome, Arizona, the Gold King Mine is well worth your five dollars.

Abstract #1-Gold King Mine Jerome, Arizona

Copyright 2010 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging


May 112010

Rattlesnake Crafts and Historic Tombstone

Mike Benjamin and Zeke.

After three lovely days of perfect spring weather in Chiracauhua National Monument, we move on to historic Tombstone, Arizona of shootout at the OK Corral fame. On the way, taking a very good gravel road thirteen miles into the desert, we stop at Rattlesnake Crafts, one of those amazing expressions of eccentric folk art found occasionally around the country.

The entrance to Rattlesnake Crafts

Rattlesnake Crafts, www.rattlesnakecrafts.com, is the home of  John and Sandy Weber who left their office jobs years ago and moved to to the middle of the desert in southeastern Arizona.They have collected thousands of old pots and pans, rifles, helmets, rocks, adding machines, branding irons, you name it. Hundreds hang from beams and could possibly be one of the worlds biggest wind chimes. The racket must be intense when the wind blows.

The couple’s hobby is not just collecting tons, literally, of odd things, but catching rattlesnakes and making crafts from the skin. A small trailer sits amidst the chaos, filled with wallets, knives, cellphone cases, key chains, and various sundry things covered with snake skin. Buying is on the honor system. Pick out what you want and put your money into an unlocked box outside the trailer.

Rattlesnake Crafts has to be unique in the world, well worth the trip into the desert.

Tombstone, “The town to tough to die.”, www.cityoftombstone.com, www.tombstone.org, is a National Historic District and National Historic Landmark. Yes, there are still gunfights at the OK Corral, staged for tourists that is.

Today though, is Founders Day. The whole town is out, the residents taking on their own old west personas. Gunfighters walk Main Street, ladies in 19th century costumes stroll carrying parasols, an old miner rides his donkey posing for photos and talking with friends. Terco Paco, “The Tombstone Bandit”, wanders in character, bandoliers crossing his chest, an old sombrero atop a mass of unkempt hair. Hugh O’Brian, Wyatt Earp from the old  50’s TV show, who, at 84, looks little like the gorgeous hunk of his earlier days, signs autographs beneath his old posters and promo pics.

Johnny Bones performs his unique music along the boardwalk.

Mike and Teresa Benjamin with Zeke.

Terco Paco-The Tombstone Bandit

Stagecoaches and surreys slowly pass by creating an authentic western mood. As I’m told, the residents dress up like this for all the major holidays. Unplanned as our travels are, they always include bits of synchronicity. Traveling to Tombstone and arriving while they are celebrating Founder’s Day is just another in a long list of wonderful experiences simply happened upon as Yolanda and I explore the world.

Copyright 2010 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging


May 112010

Spring in the Chiracuahuas

Sunset among the hoodoos of Chiracauhua National Monument

We spent three wonderful days in the amazing Chiracauhua mountains of southeast Arizona. Chiracauhua National Monument,http://www.nps.gov/chir/index.htm,  is a treasure trove of geological wonders. Created by a volcanic eruptions 11 million years ago, the rhyolite formations have eroded into a wonderland of massive pillars tinted by lovely chartreuse colored lichen.

A patina of chartreuse lichen covers the hoodoos

Hiking amongst the rock formations provides an ever-changing panorama of interesting shapes and vistas. Many of the hoodoos have eroded into each other creating bizarre formations. The weathered and twisted piñon pine, cedar and juniper trees add an other-worldly dimension to the landscape.

Trails are well marked, winding their way through the columns. Most are easily hiked in half a day but you can combine trails into 9-12 mile hikes and make a full day of it. A free shuttle from the visitor center and campground takes you to the trail heads of Echo Canyon and Massai Point at 6,870 feet, where most trails begin. From there, take your pick, and end up eventually descending by the Lower Rhyolite Canyon Trail to the visitor center. Along this trail, we watched a young or small female black bear forage on the opposite side of the valley.

Spectacular, panoramic views lay in all directions from Massai Point but those to the east and to the west descend far out into the surrounding valleys toward distant mountains.

Looking west toward the Dragoon Mountains and Cochise’s Stronghold

This being the land of Cochise, the Apache leader whose burial site is hidden within the chaos of enormous boulders in Cochise’s Stronghold across the valley to the west, it is very odd, and fitting that a mountain to the north takes on an uncanny likeness. Cochise’s Head appears as if sculpted into the craggy profile of the dead warrior. A 75-100 foot tall ponderosa pine is even poised perfectly as his eyelash. It is a strange and obvious resemblance.

Another trail to Natural Bridge takes us to a different area of the park. The five mile round trip rises through a forest of juniper, cedar and pine to a high plateau with views to the desert before dropping into Picket Park, a lovely forest of tall, widely spaced pines along a meandering, seasonal creek. At trail’s end lies Natural Bridge, a thirty feet span carved among the rocks above the small valley. This being early April, wildflowers were just beginning to blossom. Another few weeks and a little rain should bring about a spectacular display.

Bonita Canyon Campground is a lovely, peaceful spot nestled within a large grove of Oaks and Alligator Juniper. A seasonal creek runs through and trails lead to old Faraway Ranch, settled by a Swedish couple in the 1880’s, as well as to the impressive Organ Pipe Formation.

I was surprised at the availability of campsites. Spring is their high season. The campground filled up every night but with even an mid-afternoon arrival, a site could’ve been found.

This was our third trip to the Chiracauhuas.  Each trip brings something new. The entire surrounding area has much to offer and much to explore. We will return.

Copyright 2010 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging