Rebecca Wilks

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I’ll just Sit Here Until….

Me in the Moon Room, Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge

It’s haunting up here in April, especially since this was likely to be my last chance.  Jess is moving on to a new challenge, at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa.  She texted last month, inviting me to “help” her move out of her North Rim Grand Canyon home.  The word is in quotes because, though we both know I’m happy to help, we also know that spending a few days at GCNR before opening on May 15 is a rare privilege indeed.  I told her I might just bring a camera.

Last Light at Bright Angel Point
We met in Flagstaff and I followed her up.  She was kind enough to slow down a bit, knowing that I drive like your grandmother. 

Spring is windy in Arizona, and the last trip up this way the gusts were a bit troublesome in the camper so I was that much more grateful to stay in her house on, as luck would have it, the leeward side of the building.

This visit was complex for her, with all the mental-emotional work involved in a big life transition, moving tasks, and the need to work remotely for her new position.  While she was working, I walked, sometimes with her irresistible rescue dog.  His name requires its own sentence; “El Perro Negro de la Paz but you can call me Earl.”  Which I did.  I always miss my Luna when I travel without her, so I was grateful for the dog therapy.

Each time I walked alone, I found myself sitting for a longish time, looking at the canyon from the Transept, Ken Patrick, or Widforss Trail, and not just because the altitude was whipping my butt.  This was more sitting than usual.  It occurred to me that I was sitting until I no longer took the canyon for granted.  I love this place, and of course I’ll be back, but perhaps never in April.

Deserted lodge
One afternoon I was nursing my wind-chapped face and having lunch at Jess’ house.  Part of her work for that afternoon was writing study questions for videos about the complex and shocking history of Effigy Mounds.  Outside Magazine covered the story last year.  Like most places, the more you learn, the more you want to experience the place.  And I can’t wait to see what Jess brings to the healing of Effigy Mounds.

Just Like Grand Canyon North Rim. 

More images are in the Grand Canyon Gallery on the website.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What's New In Yarnell?

Yarnell Arizona
It’s been a while since my last Yarnell post.  There’s quite a bit going on up here on the hill, so I thought it was about time to catch up.

Incident Site, Yarnell Arizona

Judging from the turnout, word has gotten out about the State Park Memorial Trail. The hike is significant but worth the effort and does a nice job of honoring the 19 fallen firefighters from the wildfire almost five years ago. Consensus from the merchants is that hikers have been exploring Yarnell a bit, and we’re happy to see them.

Yarnell Hill Fire Memorial under construction
The Yarnell Hill Recovery Group, which was recognized but disaster relief professionals as a truly remarkable local (relief) group, is focusing on our memorial in town.  The restroom building is going up now, and we’re all looking forward to seeing the rest of the park, designed for us by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

We have a new food truck in town, “This Dude’s Food.”  I became an instant fan of Zach’s (the dude in question) street tacos. There’s a lot of buzz in our little town about The food served from his red trailer, and coverage from local press.

Iris bud in my backyard, Yarnell AZ

Spring is my favorite season and it has arrived.  Yarnell is decorated with blooming iris and lilac and the town smells great.  The Turkey Vultures have returned for the season as well.  These guys sometimes get a bit of a bad rap, but we think of them as town mascots.
Yarnell Daze Parade 2017

Yarnell Daze, The Mountain Festival, held each third weekend in May, is coming May 19 this year.  The parade starts at 10:00, and afterward you can listen to live performances, shop, and visit the beer garden and art show. The festival draws lots of desert dwellers because our temperatures are about fifteen degrees cooler.

Barnstar Brewing
My husband and I have been spending time at Barnstar Brewing Company, north of us in Skull Valley.  Open weekend afternoons, they offer spectacular microbrews available nowhere else, along with light food and terrific views form indoor or outdoor seating.  Dave, Sandy, and Jason have a way of making everyone feel like family. We’ve officially become “Barnstar Rifraff.”

Wagoner Road Bridge over Hassayampa River
As for me, I’ve been spending more and more time in Yarnell and working on photo projects all over Southern Yavapai County.  There are some locations that have been in the back of my mind for years, and it’s been great chasing these.
Highway 89 at Dusk

Among my favorites are the Bridge on Wagoner Road, and traffic at dusk on highway 89 North of Wilhoit.

I’m sorry if I sound something like a Cheerleader for our town, but that’s not too far from the truth.

I hope to see you up on the hill.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Type Two Fun

Self-timer selfie, Marble Canyon AZ

For the second night in a row, I’m out of bed at midnight.  The wind is slamming the side of the camper and keeping me awake.  So, I get up, reconfigure the dinette into a bed and pull down the pop-top, scrambling to connect the six exterior clips before the wind pulls the top back up again.  It’s a little tight sleeping with the roof down, but there’s much less motion and noise and I do eventually get back to sleep.

Last light on Echo Cliffs.  Marble Canyon AZ
I’ve been a little freaked about wind as long as I can remember.  Then, in August 1996 a microburst smashed windows and pulled off part of the roof of my Glendale, Arizona home.  Winds were clocked at 130 mph. Any hope that I would embrace windy weather was gone with the terracotta roof tiles.

Besides all that, high wind is usually not ideal for photography.  Tripods can blow over, and plants whip around complicating close-up shots.  As if that were not enough, dust gets into the camera leaving unpleasant spots in my images.

My new friend and his rum
Camping trips tend to defy my expectations.  I envisaged peace and solitude; walks and reading in a camp chair in the shade.  After the first rough night not sleeping I passed the better part of the day hiding from the gusts inside the camper reading and napping.  When the three guys on the motorbikes showed up, I was pleased to see them.  Perhaps absolute solitude is not required, I thought.  Perhaps the distraction of human contact is a good thing.  One in particular was fun to chat with and even shared his handmade rum which he calls “Pirate Piss."

I was, as Craig Childs says, “Turning the pages of the world, seeing what comes next.”

Upstream View of the Colorado River, Marble Canyon AZ
I’m not sorry to have taken this trip, despite its challenges. I love this spot in the Kaibab National Forest, 27 miles from pavement and hadn’t been there in three years.  It seemed the perfect place to get away, with a view and places to walk.  I’ve never boon-docked in one place for three nights before.  I suppose it’s true that #homeiswhereyouparkit

Last Fall I had the pleasure of a National Geographic Live talk with fearless explorer Bryan Smith, when he illuminated the three types of fun.  Type One Fun is the usual kind; a just plain good time.  Type Two sounds great in stories, if a little sketchy.  There would be no lasting harm, lots of adventure, and some good times interspersed with the challenges.  Type Three runs the gamut from minor injuries to death and even the best storyteller can’t make it sound like fun, though they might be able to make a case for calling it adventure.

Backlighted agave, Marble Canyon AZ
This trip was solidly in the “Type Two” category, with some photography along the way.

More images from this type two fun trip are on the website, in the Grand Canyon Gallery.