Early to Rise

Chain fruit cholla bathed in blue light before sunrise along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

In December I arrived when the Tom’s Thumb trailhead opened so I could hoof it out as quickly as possible to photograph this bank of chain fruit cholla before sunrise, with my beloved Guardian looking out over the desert in the background. At that time of year I can hike as fast as I can without worrying about surprising a rattlesnake as they are still hibernating. My favorite shot turned out to be the first one of the desert bathed in the soft blue light before the sun rose above the mountains behind me, but I also like the one below of the same scene bathed in the red light of sunrise.

Chain fruit cholla bathed in the red light of sunrise along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

The Other Side of the Guardian

A rock formation sits before orange clouds at sunrise along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I didn’t want to get up this morning but with high clouds forecast I thought it might make for an interesting sunrise. I headed to the Marcus Landslide Trail to photograph the rock formation I call The Guardian but as I started down the trail I realized the best light was going to be in the opposite direction than I had planned. I stopped and switched lenses and took this shot before continuing down the trail. It was only the start of what turned out to be a wonderful morning.

Survivors

A xenolith embedded in a granite mushroom along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Walking in the desert humbles you. To see life survive and even thrive in such a seemingly inhospitable place is inspiring. Then there are the xenoliths (from the Greek for strange or foreign rock), pieces of ancient rock that survived as magma flowed and solidified around them. This xenolith is in a granite mushroom along the Marcus Landslide Trail, bathed in the reddish light of sunrise. It saddens me to think of what climate change will do to the desert but for now it is a land of wonders, of survivors.

The Green Land

A western gull (I think) perches on a large boulder in front of a moss-covered cliff on the beach at Heceta Head on the Oregon coast

A western gull (I think) perches on a large boulder in front of a moss-covered cliff on the beach at Heceta Head on the Oregon coast. A stream was flowing between us, emptying into the Pacific just to my right. The rich greens of western Oregon were something to behold, I miss seeing moss growing on the rocks, on the trees, in the grass. I don’t miss seeing it growing on the roof, on the steps, on the car …

Snow-capped Peaks

A close-up view of a large quartz rock along the Windgate Pass Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

As I hiked along the Windgate Pass Trail I was surprised to see snow-capped peaks here in the Sonoran Desert, especially to see them at my feet. Looking at this large quartz rock reminded me of the glaciers and snowy mountains of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest. At least I think it’s quartz, learning the rocks of my new home is on my list, but it’s a long list.

Keep It Down, We’re Trying to Sleep!

Keep It Down We re Trying to Sleep

Harbor seals eke out as much rest as they can amidst the crashing waves as the Pacific rises to embrace them. I too was awakened recently by gentle but relentless sounds, once by the sound of Boo trying to get out of the bedroom closet he got trapped in, once by the sound of him trying to get into a different closet. The Pacific is mighty and mysterious, but not so much as Boo.

Under Tom’s Thumb

An environmental portrait of a rock squirrel between two massive granite rocks at Tom's Thumb in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

I met this rock squirrel back in April a few weeks after we moved here. One of the reasons I love a telephoto zoom like the 100-400mm lens so much (this is the Canon, I only got the Sony recently) is that you can zoom in and take a traditional portrait of a small animal far away, like the shot below, but you can zoom out and take an environmental portrait as well like the picture above (when the scenery allows it). In this case I vastly prefer the environmental portrait as you get a feel for the massive rock this squirrel is perching under. Given more time I would have preferred an ever wider perspective with a different lens to show that it was perched high off the ground between much more massive granite boulders above and below than you can see here, but the squirrel only paused for a moment as it ran up the rocks at the approach of a dog on the trail.

I was struck by how at ease this rock squirrel was in the rocks as it moved about the narrow passages and great heights as easily and gracefully as a tree squirrel in the trees. I was delighted to find both rock squirrels and Harris’s antelope squirrels in the desert as I had mistakenly surmised I was leaving squirrels behind when we left Oregon. I fell in love with chipmunks and squirrels at an early age, we had a forest behind our house as a child in Michigan, I can’t remember ever not loving them. They’re a rarer treat now than then, but a treasured treat always.

A rock squirrel between two massive granite rocks at Tom's Thumb in McDowell Sonoran Preserve