I've been fortunate in the last few years to meet some really fine photographers like Lori Carey, Joe Smith, Tracy Schultze and Rachel Cohen (among others). Something that most of these photographers participate in is a year end list of their "favorite (or best) photos". We submit them to a well known and well regarded Bay Area photographer, Jim Goldstein, for his annual "Blog Project- Your Best Photos"annually. So this is my list.
I had the good fortune to maintain my regular routine of monthly travel (except October because of the Dodgers - dem bums). I started off the year with two trips to Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave, visited Dodger Spring Training and Homolovi State Park in Arizona, took two trips to the Central Coast, went to Utah and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, went to each California League stadium, Petco Park, San Francisco (AT&T Park) and environs with Lupe, and took a fabulous Four Corners trip, which included Mesa Verde, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Hovenweep National Monument and a quick jaunt to Joshua Tree to see my buddy, PJ Finn. Whew! Who said retirement was boring?! I made about 8000 images this year and 7,990 were pretty bad. Well, not really, but these photos represent my personal favorites.
The first photo (above) was taken in the fading light of a September afternoon at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from the south rim near Chasm View. To me, it seems to capture the "up close but oh so deep and mysterious" look of this magnificent canyon.
The next two favorites are also canyon photos and both from Imperial Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at opposite ends of the day. The first was taken while walking around with my amiga, Liz Kylin, in the late afternoon and a few days later I got up early to catch the sun as it just started to hit the point. You'll get a sense of how fascinating the light of the canyon can be from these two very different photos near the same vantage point (taken with the same camera).
Let's move from canyon country to the coast. My number 4 favorite is a photo of Morro Rock - a place I return to year after year (since the 1980's). I finally took a photo I liked of it.
Next is a Mojave Desert photo taken after a steady 24 hour rain and the clouds were still lingering and creeping over the ridges into the valley below.
The next photo is a long exposure of the pier, at sundown, in my beloved Gaviota State Beach. I'm not a fan of the ugly yellow boat hoist at the end of the pier - but, hey, that's Gaviota.
My amigo Joe Smith has really encouraged me to use more black and white and the last 4 are in that medium. The first is of Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu on a late summer afternoon.
The next photo is of Round Tower in Hovenweep National Monument. This structure was probably built between 1150 AD and 1350 AD by Ancient Puebloans.
This photo of iconic Spider Rock at sunset is probably my favorite of the year. Yes, I know its been photographed thousands and thousands of times but I like the simplicity and shadow of this black and white.
Lastly, you wouldn't really expect the old Southwest Dude not to have a railroad track photo, right? Right. My last is from a favorite spot near Cantil, CA.
Since it is the end of the year I want to express my gratitude to each of you who follow my blog and vicariously travel the roads of the West with me. I hope you get some sense of how much I enjoy sharing my "traveling life" with you and I hope you know how great it is to have you along.
I'd like to also give a shout out to my pals and fellow inspirational photographers, PJ Finn, Craig Pindell, Scott Hays, Don Wendell, author extraordinaire, Chris LaTray and fellow travelin' fool, Scott Jones. I'm fortunate to have you dudes in my life (even if most of it is online).
Lastly, I also want to acknowledge the greatest blessings of my life which are my three children, my two daughters in law and my sensational wife. I don't know how they put up with me - but they do and I'm so damn lucky.
My best to all - let's have a brilliant 2019.
I loaded up the Casita and headed for the Mojave Preserve on Monday, December 7. A few months back I heard that the Mitchell Caverns had re-opened for visitors after being off limits for seven years. The Mitchell Caverns are part of the Providence Mountains California State Park which lies in the Mojave National Preserve in the Mojave Desert. I made reservations to visit the Caverns on Friday, December 7. My camping buddy and soul brother Marty joined me on Wednesday but we didn't anticipate how cold and rainy and windy it would be. The first day I arrived it was cold and pretty but a change was in the air. I have a favorite boondocking spot (or 3) out there but, since the forecast was for heavy rain, I opted to stay at good old Hole in the Wall campground. It is, without question, one of my favorite spots in the West.
On Tuesday, I drove down to old Route 66 and Amboy Crater.
Every year, in the summer, a few people seem to die near Amboy. It boggles the mind as the crater is close to the parking area and it seems impossible to get lost. While wandering around the volcanic piles I found a makeshift memorial to an Orange County couple who were found dead there in 2017. It's heartbreaking - even more so when you see how close they were to getting back to their car.
Here are some black and whites from the first couple of days.
I woke up on Wednesday morning to flash flood warnings on my telephone. I did as much as I could to prepare for the coming storm. I went for a walk and enjoyed the pre-storm calm.
Marty arrived and we enjoyed a fun evening hanging out, having great conversation, listening to music and watching a biography of the great Jack London on my iPad. The next day we went for a short hike and the rain started. We went back to the trailer and hunkered down. At one point, we looked outside and realized that we were the only people left in the campground. It was slightly unnerving as we both kept getting iPhone warnings about impending weather doom. Turns out that it did rain - steadily for several hours. However, it was never a truly "hard rain" and there was no flash flooding.
The day after it rains anywhere is usually wonderful but, in the desert, it is extraordinary. The smell of the creosote bushes permeates the air and the sun feels brand new. Marty and I got up early and went to the Mitchell Caverns which were terrific and highly recommended. For me, however, the landscape views that day were unforgettable.
Here are some photos from the Mitchell Caverns. The first photo is actually a mine - not a cave - on the walk to the Caverns. The second photo is the entrance to the Caverns...(on the right- the entrance on the left suffered a cave-in many years ago).
The short drive back to the campground after our cavern tour was spectacular.
A private ranch, Blair Ranch, still operates out there in the high Mojave. This is a view of the ranch from the Providence Mountains Visitor Center.
The next day Marty left around noon and I spent the afternoon lazing in the sun and reading. Sometimes, it's not the hikes or the sights or the drives - it's these moments I enjoy the most from my life on the road. Book in hand, cold cup of water, and sun in my face in the expansive and quiet desert. Yes.
The next day, my last in the Preserve, I decided I'd try and see Goffs Schoolhouse. I've tried a few times before and it was always closed. I drove until I got reception on my cell phone, called, and they said, "come on by!". I ended up spending much more time than I anticipated. The day was warm and the managers, Gus and Stella, were hospitable and helpful and kind. After seeing their work I ended up joining the MDCHA (Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association). Goffs is an even more fascinating place than I'd anticipated. Not only the schoolhouse but the dozens of exhibits outside encouraged me to stay and wander for as few hours. Here are some photos I made of the place.
Lastly, you probably know I have "a thing" for two lane highways, trains and telephone poles. To, me, they visually represent the hopes and dreams of the West that I have romanticized since my youth. I did get a nice photo that gets two out of the three.
The Preserve is about a 4 hour drive for me and I'm already planning my next trip. Thank you for coming along!
“Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones.” ― Keith Richards
Music is in my bones. Throughout my life two things - always - have given me solace. First- my children. Second - music. Regardless of the sadness and tragedy and injustice of life I have always been saved by my kids and my songs. This year, of course, was no exception.
If you follow my blog you know I'm a Roots/Americana fan. Americana is hard to specifically define - Wikipedia describes it as, "Americana is an amalgam of American music formed by the confluence of the shared and varied traditions that make up the musical ethos of the United States, specifically those sounds that are merged from folk, country, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, gospel, and other external influences". Fair enough. I''ll just say this - the sound of Americana resonates deeply in me and is, "in my bones".
While the following list is the albums I purchased this year and reflect that Americana emphasis I am, in general, a fan of all music with the notable exception of popular "Country Music" and "Contemporary Pop" which I find abominable and superficial and useless (not that I have strong opinions or anything).
The following is a list of the albums I purchased this year listed by release date. Please note, because I am a supporter of musical artists I do not stream music but, in order to acknowledge the musicians with my wallet, I purchase each album. I do, admittedly, often use YouTube to preview music that I may want to purchase. Also, I am constantly updating my older music and that is not reflected here (my classic Blues catalog expanded exponentially this year!).
OK - enough introduction. Here's the NEW music that I considered for my Top 10 list:
I'll also list the music that I played most often in 2018 but here are my choices for the Best of 2018. Ranking is a pain and wrong for a lot of reasons - all of the albums above are good - the following simply resonated most deeply for me on a personal level.
Ok - now - here are the new songs I've listened to the most this year:
Ok! I've made my list. Agree? Disagree? Want to share some great music that I haven't listed (or maybe even heard)? Leave a comment. Better yet - make your own list!
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.