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.
My favorite state in the USA is New Mexico.
It's true I haven't visited all 50. I've traveled a bit however. How can I tell you why I love New Mexico the best? The history and culture are, in my opinion, the most fascinating and diverse in America. It's the scenery, and the adobe. It's the fine people, the Spanish and Mexican and Indian and Anglo. It's the spicy and delectable cuisine. It's El Malpais and El Morro and Bisti and the "seven cities of gold". It's chile peppers. It's the Chihuahuan Desert and the Rocky Mountains. It's the politics. It's the "Red or Green"? It's the scarcity of humanity. It's the sunsets, and the rain and the hiking and camping. It's Santa Fe. It's high Taos and low Las Cruces. It's the clouds! It's the sparkling metallic 1963 Chevy Impalas - chopped and channeled. It's sopapillas and posole and fideo. It's the cowboys still out on the range. It's Chaco Canyon and the Acoma Pueblo. It's Route 66. It's Billy the Kid. It's Carlsbad Caverns and the White Sands near Alamogordo. It's Bandelier National Monument. It's the Navajo and the Zuni. It's the snow on houses of earth. It's weird alien stories from Roswell. It's Georgia O'Keefe and Robert Oppenheimer and Tony Hillerman and Dennis Hopper. It's the mariachis on the Plaza in Albuquerque. It's the fertile Mesilla Valley. It's the Pecos and the Rio Grande. It's farolitos at Christmas and Hatch green chiles. It's the Tent Rocks and the llano and Shiprock. It's Los Alamos and the Hubbard Museum of the West and, well, I'm just getting started. Did I mention the food?
For the third time in four years Lupe and I visited the "Land of Enchantment". The reason that this is "Part 1" is because I have a New Mexico trip (Part 2 - El Malpais, El Morro and Acoma Pueblo) planned for October too. That trip will be camping and hiking. This trip's primary purpose was to visit Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces and look at property in communities to consider once Lupe retires. It was also, evidently, shopping and eating.
We started by taking the north route through Prescott, Arizona. I had been to Prescott some years back, on the 4th of July, and liked it well enough. It is an attractive cowboy town that sits at 5400 feet in elevation and has a famous rodeo every year. We stayed at the historic Hassayampa Inn which I highly recommend.
We got up early and hit the road to Santa Fe. There was a large fire about 15 miles away from Prescott (Goodwin Fire - 28,500 acres...now fully contained thankfully) which we skirted on our way. We arrived at the supposedly great Inn of the Governors (not recommended...ahem) and immediately went to eat at one of my favorite Southwest restaurants, The Shed.
We spent the next couple of days wandering around town and relaxing. A highlight was the New Mexico History Museum exhibit called "Voices of the Counterculture in the Southwest". The exhibit was really put together by Ed Abbey's old amigo, Jack Loeffler and well known '60's photographer Lisa Law. I had known of Lisa's Rock musician photos but was deeply impressed by her images of life in the 1960's. Coincidentally, having dinner one night in Santa Fe, Lisa walked into the restaurant and I was able to meet and chat with her. Very, very cool. Her website for fellow '60's aficionados, historians and culture lovers, is here.
Here are some photos I took while we meandered around town. It's a delightful place. I don't believe I've ever had an unhappy moment there.
On the last day of our stay, before spending time in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, I drove Lupe over to Bandelier National Monument. The Monument is remarkable for the cavates that ancestral Puebloan people inhabited for thousands of years. The setting is in a pinyon-juniper woodland...perhaps the most appealing topography in all the Southwest. I did take a few photos including the one at the top of this post and the one below which, to me, captures the area well.
The following photos show an ancient Kiva, old walls, cavates, the pinyon-juniper woodland and Lupe along the main trail in Frijoles Canyon.
You may have noticed the photo of the two young Native men doing maintenance on a ladder. A lowlight of the trip was some guy asking them what kind of rock comprised the ancient homes. They answered. "It's volcanic tuff". This guy walks a few feet away and says to his wife, "That's NOT volcanic. Those damn Indians don't know what they're talking about". Yeah, I was livid. I've found that confronting such ignorance with my anger typically isn't helpful but I find myself still burning, now, a few weeks later. What a monumental idiot. It is, of course, volcanic tuff and understanding that is part of the Bandelier experience - that racist halfwit could have easily discovered this through a 60 second perusal of the Monument website. Some of the people I meet on the road...I could write a book.
Enough about that. I'll probably write a cathartic blog post one day just telling stories about the inanities of some folks I've run into but, for now, enjoy the following gallery of black and white photos I made of magnificent New Mexico. I hope you enjoy the photos and remember...I'll be back in October. Who wants to come along?
The month of June in California typically signals two things; the start of the glorious summertime and "June Gloom" when the marine layer hovers over Southern California. I happen to be a lover of both. While September may be the best month of the year at the beach for those of who are sun worshippers June offers morning fog and overcast that usually "burns off" in the afternoon. After a lifetime of living in SoCal I've grown to love both months but June has a certain charm and I scheduled three coast trips this year. We had originally planned a large family outing to Lassen but, as I write this, the highway through the Park still isn't open due to the massive snow California received last winter. The water is a blessing and, hey, despite missing family and friends, the beach ain't bad!
I started at a longtime favorite-Thornhill Broome Beach near Point Mugu. In the early 1980's I was living in Ventura, CA and attending UC Santa Barbara. On the weekends, to survive, I would work at my father's typesetting shop in Los Alamitos. While taking the 101 to the 405 was much faster I invariably found myself taking "the long way home" along Highway 1 through Santa Monica, Malibu and up to Ventura County. I'd drive by Thornhill Broome and see campers literally right on the beach and think- "one day I'm gonna go there". I have followed through on that thought - many, many times.
The stretch of coast from Port Hueneme to Neptune's Net in Northern Malibu is some of the best in Southern California. There are very few homes and the beach is often desolate and lonely despite its proximity to LA.
Lupe and Banjo joined me for the weekend. In addition, her cousin Mundo and his wife Jenn also joined us on Saturday night for a wonderful outdoor barbecue and bonfire. Prior to their arrival I hiked each day in Sycamore Canyon and near the wetlands just north of Mugu Rock.
After the weekend Lupe went back to finish off the school year and I drove north to windy Gaviota State Park. I like it there and there may be more photos of that place here on the blog than any other place. It is almost always ridiculously windy and this trip was no exception. At one point I looked out the window and saw a dome tent rolling, end over end, directly at me. It ended up hitting the side of the fiberglass trailer with a thud and then flew over the top and about 50 more yards away where it was finally stopped by a wooden fence. Those folks left pretty quickly afterward.
The wind is one of the reasons I like Gaviota so much. It's in a small bowl along the coast, Kerouac slept here in "The Dharma Bums" and a train trestle is just overhead. But, the wind howls down through Gaviota Pass and makes camping there, sans an RV, difficult (although I did it for years). It generally keeps the amateur campers away. After a few hours of contending with the wind they often, while loudly cursing, get in their car and go. Can't blame them and gives me a bit more solitude.
Rumors abound that it may be closed soon. I certainly hope not. It's a treasure.
Marty, famous Marty, joined me the last night of my stay in Gaviota. He and I decided to hoist our old carcasses up a nearby peak to see some wind caves that I'd recently heard about. While it's a short hike it is very steep in places. We labored up the hills, sweating and mumbling to ourselves, but the destination was worth it.
I returned home for a few days and then my 16 year old daughter, Lilly, and I drove up to an old favorite of ours Pismo Beach. Lilly and I have been going to Pismo since she was a tot and we know the drill. We shop, bowl and head for the pier. Unfortunately, this year the Pismo Pier is going through a much needed rehabilitation and so it was off limits.
I brought my camera but didn't really plan on taking any photos. I wanted to devote my time and energy to "The Lilster". However, on one of last days we were there Lilly asked if we could go to Margo Dodd park since she'd heard it was pretty cool. Well, despite the heavy marine layer, it was indeed, "pretty cool". The rocks were covered with pelicans and it was a joy to discover.
I know, with Lilly reaching the latter part of her teen years and me getting older, we may not have many more trips with just the two of us. It was a memorable trip and she is a wonderful traveling companion. Her old man couldn't love her more if he tried. Here are some photos of Lilly's day trip suggestion.
I was unprepared to retire when I did. While the circumstances might be unique for each "retiree" I don't think I'm alone in that feeling. Most of us go from being productive "members of society" to being a little lost with this new stage of our lives. That probably sounds strange to many of you still working who look forward to retiring- I know it was a foreign thought to me. But, like many things in life, you can't realize how different it feels until you're there.
I remember telling a friend I went from daily trying to make the world a better place to having little purpose. She asked me, "So, you wanted to change the world? You did all that academic work, got your doctorate, and worked in school districts to help kids and change the world, right?" "Yep", I replied. Her response?
"How'd that work out for you?".
Brilliant, even though it did sound a little like Dr. Phil. It was a painful truth. She said three things that resonated afterwards...
1. Trite as it may sound, maybe all any of us can do is be the best person we can be. Set that example and quit trying to "change anything" except yourself.
2. Do all the things that you've wanted to do. That's not selfish, that is leading a productive and meaningful existence and following your heart is an opportunity that many people never get.
3. Surrender to what is.
So, I took her excellent advice.
I have been a traveling fool since that conversation. I work at being the best husband, father and friend I can be. Two new lights of my life, Finley and Joaquin, have been born. I have found a new love- photography. I have embraced my love of music and literature. I have re-established some long lost relationships that are deeply meaningful to me. I have seen and been places I wanted to see my entire life. This year is no different. I'm getting into my "golden years" and I'm loving it. Turns out this next stage of my life is a powerfully poignant and beautiful time.
Here's where I'll be the next few months:
April - I'll head to Utah and the Colorado Plateau. Zion, Monument Valley, Canyonlands NP, Kodachrome Basin and the Valley of Fire in Nevada.
May - Arizona - Painted Rock Petroglyph CG, Kartchner Caverns, ghost towns, Chiricahua National Monument, Bisbee, Madera Canyon.
June - San Onofre, Pinnacles NP with Lilly.
July - Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming and Glacier NP in Montana with Lupe. Point Mugu with Lilly and Lupe.
Aug - High Sierra fishing with son Jordan (and maybe Kevin?). Sequoia NP with daughter Lilly.
September - Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Redwood NP, and Harris Beach in Oregon.
October - Arizona and a visit to Little House Customs for some improvements to my little trailer and camping along the Mogollon Rim.
November - Still not determined but that sounds like desert time, doesn't it?
Come on and join me!
See you on The Road...
It's that time of year when an old Cactus Man's fancy turns from the desert to the mountains and sea.
I have been trip planning for the last week while homebound. Lupe and I have had some domestic issues like painting and appliance repair to deal with (I swear it feels like these damn things are never done). As a result, I have nearly finished my trip plans for the next few months. In addition, Lupe and I are looking at the possible purchase of a very small, affordable, versatile, high ground clearance travel trailer. I need something that is homey enough for Lupe but I can take on my beloved dirt roads. While I love my current setup with just the camper shell I must admit it would be nice to have a place to hole up in bad weather. Anyway, we're not looking for something that resembles our home in any manner (why not just stay at home or in a motel then?). We want a tiny hideaway to take us away to private and secluded spots as well as the National Parks. The research continues...
In June- next week in fact, my son Kevin and I are headed to Boulder Basin in the San Jacinto mountains for a couple of days. I've been trying to get him to go camping with me for a few years now and I'm really looking forward to it. From there he'll go back to work (poor bastard) and I'll head to Nevada and Great Basin National Park. It's my first visit there and it is one of the lesser known National Parks- which is right up my misanthropic alley.
Then it's time for Lupe and Lilly! At the beginning of July Lupe and I are going to Point Mugu and camp right on the beach. Then, at the end of July she and Lilly and I are going to Jalama Beach and Pismo Beach. We'll spend a night in a motel in Morro Bay to wrap up (love that sleepy little town).
In August I'm headed back to the Southwest for a trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. I've been to the south rim probably 10 times but I don't usually head there in summer when the north rim is free of snow and open. I will probably camp a night or two at nearby Jacob Lake and look for future boondocking spots. At the end of the month and just before Lilly starts high school (Good God!) I'm taking her to one of my favorite spots in this lifetime - Lassen Volcanic National Park. I know it so well I can show her around! As she grows older these chances will be come fewer and fewer (see Jordan and Kevin) and I will cherish this time together. It will be an unforgettable trip.
My next BIG trip is in my favorite month to travel - September. I'll be heading to Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming and the Little Big Horn Battlefield in Montana. You've probably figured out my appreciation of and fascination with the indigenous people of our continent and this trip will focus heavily on Native American history and culture.
In October I'm heading back to Big Sur area to stay at Kirk Creek Campground and boondock in the mountains that overlook the sea, I'm gonna squeeze in a weekend back at Pinnacles National Park with my dear Bay Area family.
November brings me back to the desert...
I'll look forward to showing my pictures and narrating the trips as I return from each one.
Lupe and I returned from a Southwest sojourn last Saturday night. I've posted the pics from this fabulous trip under trip reviews- be sure and check them out.
As most of you know I travel solo quite a bit. This trip, a southwest desert excursion, was on my regular route. I was hoping that Lupe would enjoy it and did she ever! We also looked at various neighborhoods in Las Cruces for potential relocation upon Lupe's retirement and Lilly's graduation from High School.
Like many old men I've had my share of women's woes in my life (listen to Oooh La La by Faces for further info). When I reached my mid 40's I'd decided that I was done with long term relationships. I had sabotaged many of them and met a few, shall we kindly say, "slightly bonkers" women along the way. I was more than happy with being a solitary man (more musical allusions- see Neil Diamond). I looked at women a bit like drinking- I had done too much of that in my youth and maybe it was time to stop.
I guess I wasn't truly done because I met Lupe and the rest, as they say, is history. It's clear to me now that I did, in fact, want a partner. However, I wanted a SANE partner. I wanted no drama- complete relaxation and compatibility- who knew I'd find that in anyone?
This trip was a perfect example. Although I had a bit of trepidation about heading out to hard core desert country and camping with anyone who hadn't done that before- it was clear on the first day that my worries were misguided. We listened to music on the road, talked over the campfire, played cards, took pictures, hiked, saw the sights and had a fine time. Why couldn't I find that before?! Perhaps I wasn't ready or it wasn't my path or whatever but Lupe is the perfect travel companion.
Suffice it to say- I'm a happy man with a great wife, 3 fantastic children and two of the cutest grandkids the world has ever seen. My family, good books, and a bit of travel- I need little else.
Enjoy the pics.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.