Rebecca Wilks

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Never Have I Ever

Sycamore Falls, Kaibab National Forest Arizona

I’ve been curious about Brad Dimock for years.  I’ve read several of his books (I’d especially recommend Sunk Without a Sound, particularly if you enjoy real-life mysteries) and have seen some of the boats he’s built.  As it turns out we have a mutual friend.  When I leveraged that relationship to invite myself and my husband to see his boat shop, he graciously agreed.  My husband makes exquisite furniture, so I knew the two wood guys would have quite a bit to talk about.

So, I had a chance for a new experience.

Brad Dimock and Marco in the boat shop

Brad admiring the Hetch Hetchy

When we showed up Brad told us that his crew couldn’t make it that day.  Marco volunteered to do some sanding and before I knew it, he was helping with painting and attaching the chines.  He was loving every minute, believe me.  I was minimally involved, taking some iPhone snaps and chatting, and I ordered the lovely Thai food that we ate standing up in the shop because “I don’t leave the shop,” Brad says.

My other favorite quote from the craftsman, “superstition is bad luck.”

The best part was that the project is a restoration of one of the Martin Litton Boats, The Hetch Hetchy.  The poor girl was pretty beat-up, but with Brads’ magic touch, she’s going to look stellar.  You can follow the project on his blog,  Fretwater Lines.  Litton commissioned a series of Whitewater Dories in the late 1960s, naming them after lost natural places.  Hetch Hetchy Valley (adjacent to Yosemite Valley) was drowned by a dam in the 1920s.  In short, the vessel is a legend and we had the privilege of helping a bit with her restoration.  Sigh.

For more about these dories and a really great read, check out The Emerald Mile, by Kevin Fedarko.

The Second Falls, Sycamore Falls Arizona
Marco managed to tear himself away eventually, and on the way back to Yarnell, we checked out Sycamore Falls.  I’ve been dreaming of ice and robust water flow over the waterfall for years.  I was rolling the dice, really, but was so pleased that we took the detour and didn’t even mind the rust-colored mud all over my Subaru.  It was all I had hoped for.  Another first.

Stallions sparring a bit, Bush Highway, Tonto National Forest Arizona
This same weekend began with a trip to photograph the Salt River (feral) horses along the Bush Highway.  My friend, photographer Sara Goodnick lives nearby, is familiar with these bands of horses, and knows so much about the animals in general.  Like photographing bears with Stan Cunningham, what I learn is as much fun as the photography.

Juvenile horse and brittlebush, Bush Highway, Tonto National forest Arizona
I’d never photographed them before, either.

I’m still smiling.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Being Mortal

Mojave Sunset
Well, it looks like this year’s Winter location binge is the Mojave Desert.  If you count Death Valley (which you most certainly should), this was my third trip there.  From the look of the flowers I’ll be back at least once more.

Yucca Shadow, Mojave Preserve California
This trip I had the pleasure of traveling with my friend and fellow four-wheel-camper Chuck.  We met and spent the first night at a familiar location, the Granite Pass area of the Mojave Preserve.  This place is sometimes tough to shoot, especially because the rocky hills are perfectly situated to delay both sunrise and sunset light.  Still, there’s magic there and I found some inspiration.

The next day we ventured to what I call (with a sardonic smile on my face) a “super-secret location.”  Much has been written about the ethics of revealing (or not) the details of remote settings.  Those of us who venture out regularly are just sick about the vandalism which happens in places that, before Instagram, were all but unknown.  Yes, perhaps these places will all become well-known eventually, but I’m loath to rush their demise.  There are diverse perspectives on this point.  I’ll just say that I won’t contribute to passing of paradise.  Besides, in the case of sand dunes, photography is so much nicer without footprints.

S-Curve, Mojave Desert
I fell in love with the place and decided to stay a second night, but Chuck wanted to move on.  As much as I loved the company, we said our goodbyes and I settled down to some quiet time.  I read, wrote, walked, napped, and shot sunset out on the dunes. I’ve said this before, but for an introvert like me alone is good and certainly not the same as lonely.  I’ve never been that person who turns on the TV “for company.”

One of the things I was reading is Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, a surgeon.  He explores end-of-life and among other things the tension we (and our loved ones) have as we age between our independence and our safety.  The book is fascinating.  It was also timely, as I considered the balance between risk (and fear, if I’m honest) of solo travel and the right to autonomously pursue one’s life purpose.  Each of us has their own tolerable risk threshold at any given time, of course, but making too many decisions based on fear is a formula for disaster, or at least lost potential and boredom.

The Culprit

On the way out, the truck’s low tire pressure warning light went on.  Now, I can change the tire, but it and the wheel weigh 60+ pounds together and I’d rather not.  I still had 10 miles or so to go before I reached pavement and with it the territory of AAA.  Since the tires looked solidly inflated, I decided to stop every couple of miles and look at them.  When I made to the hard road I considered heading on home, doubting the tire pressure sensor because it had sent me a red herring last year.  I must admit; this truck has teased me with some electrical gremlins in our time together.  At any rate, that’s when I saw the bolt in the tire, and decided to call AAA after all.  300 miles under those circumstances seemed like a poor idea.

Why belabor that story?  Because it helps me remember that I have the tools to solve most backcountry issues.  As a chief resident, when I started teaching the juniors to operate, I had some advice from one of my own supervisors.  She said, “you have to remember that there are no mistakes they can make that you can’t fix.” This was very reassuring even if not strictly true.  It’s the same attitude I must take solo overlanding.

That and remembering that the rewards are worth the risk.  I hope that’s clear from the images.

Desert Gold Flower Detail
By the way, I couldn’t resist a few flower images on the way back to civilization.  In a few weeks, I think we’ll see a nice desert blooming season.

More on the website, in the Southern California Gallery.