Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Redneck Camping

Sunrise on the Lower Colorado River Backwater, Arizona

I have a love-hate relationship with BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands.  I love the opportunities for dispersed camping and the dog-friendliness.  We have so much federal land in Arizona, and to me it looks like so many more places to explore.

On the other hand, lots of these areas ("resources" in fedspeak) have been overtaken by what I call redneck use.  I had that sense in the recently established Agua Fria National Monument north of us and in areas east of the Phoenix Metropolitan center.

I squeezed in a couple of nights with my friend Maria Langer last week in the BLM area south of Interstate 10 at Ehrenberg.  We were camped adjacent to the Colorado River and some lovely backwater areas.  The coyote and owl songs were delightful and the smell of the river brings back memories of the Grand Canyon's inner gorge.

Sunrise on the Lower Colorado River Backwater, Arizona
The sunrise on the last morning was breathtaking.

Sounds good, doesn't it?  Unfortunately I awoke from a nap to find someone camping too close to us really, for proper camping etiquette.  He was running his generator.  I asked him not to and he seemed amenable but he was gone when I got back from my evening shoot.  I don't feel too badly; he had lots of other spots to choose from.

The Damage.  Maria Langer Photos
In addition to noise, there's a shocking amount of trash.  Maria includes clean-up in her stay there, bless her, but it's overwhelming.  As if that weren't enough, the dead-end road near us had barriers to prevent folks from going nose-down into the inlet.  Some genius had decided to push or pull these out of the ground, with their monster truck no doubt.  Some other mental giants (or maybe the same bud light dudes) had deposited a heap of fireworks leavings, perhaps for their redneck New Year’s Eve.

ATV Tracks
Finally, there are ATV tracks through the riparian grasses all around the backwater behind our camp.  Really, some judgement is required when driving these vehicles in wild lands.

 I understand that BLM, like the Park Service, is frightfully understaffed.  They couldn't possibly stay on top of all of this.  I wonder sometimes whether they've just given up on some of these overused areas, figuring that they'll never recover.  I’m saddened by the loss.

First Light, Lower Colorado River Backwater, AZ
I imagine I'll be back, with a kayak perhaps, and a whole lot of trash bags.

More form the trip are in the Winter 2016-17 Gallery on the website.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

5 Year Journal

Alpenglow on Mount Whitney, Alabama Hills CA Christmas Day 2015
In 2004, I helped organize a day retreat for a women's networking group I belonged to.

One of the speakers, whose talk I've quite forgotten, introduced a book called the "5-Year Journal."  The book allows three lines for each day, and groups entries for that day together for 5 years.  The fun of this, once you get going, is seeing what you were doing and thinking and striving for in years past. Doreen Clement, the Journal's author, also included periodic summary questions and questions about goals.

The idea was irresistible to me, so I bought one.

13 years later, I'm still doing this exercise, though I switched books to a version from Levenger when Ms Clement died and the original version was temporarily unavailable.  The Levenger version doesn't include the questions, but I don't find that I miss them overmuch.  I'm a natural planner, and even a bit of a brooder, so I do this sort of big-picture thinking without prompting.

The books have also become a way to follow photography & camping trips (I wrote a compulsive little post about my first 100 trips in Lurch the camper using the journal as a reference) and to keep track of shooting location names and other details like plant and animal species to help keyword my images.

I thought, for fun, I'd follow what I've been doing on a given day for the last 12 years. I chose Christmas Days, which I tend to spend rather unconventionally. This being a photo blog, I'll dig up photographic documentation when it exists.
Lee Flat, Death Valley National Park.
Christmas Day 2016
In 2016, Christmas day dawned cold and clear on the Joshua Trees of Lee Flat.  This was our fifth solstice trip to Death Valley National Park and other parts of the Mojave Desert.  My husband and the dog were cozy in the camper while I negotiated to 16 degrees F, waiting for the earth shadow and then the alpenglow on snow-covered mountains.  Then, I joined them for breakfast burritos and hot tea.

Rainbow over the dunes, Death Valley National Park
Christmas Day 2015
Christmas day was spectacular in 2015; complete with a rainbow over the dunes in Death Valley.

Christmas Day 2014
In 2014, we brought friends and got a little silly on the dunes.

Last Chance Mountains, Death Valley National Park,
Christmas Day 2013
December 25, 2013 we woke up at Eureka Dunes, in the north part of this huge park, with a backdrop of the Last Chance mountains.

Santa Barbara Courthouse, Christmas Day 2012
In 2012 we were in Santa Barbara with friends, visiting tourist destinations like the County Courthouse and Mission.  I'd rented a fisheye lens for the trip.

Christmas Day 2011

2011 was our first trip to Death Valley.  We stayed in the Furnace Creek Ranch.  It seems odd now to stay anywhere but the camper.  There are, unfortunately, lots of coyotes accustomed to humans.  This guy was attracted to the crackle of a granola bar wrapper.
Storm light, Santa Ynez Valley, CA.  Christmas Day 2010

2010 we took a drive from Santa Barbara to the Santa Ynez Valley in a storm.  I’d forgotten this image and am delighted to have had a chance to reprocess it as I prepared this post.
Sedona, Christmas Day 2009

2009 was the first year that a charity event we’d been helping to organize for six years didn’t happen.  We’d gotten used to spending all of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on this fun event for homeless families and were at a bit of a loss about what to do.  This year we hiked in snowy Sedona.

Finally, going back to 2003, some pics of the holiday thing, which was called “Miracle in the Desert,” Complete with Santa.
Miracle in the Desert, Phoenix, Christmas Days 2003-2008

Fun, right?  Maybe only fun for those dancing on the edge of OCD.