Rebecca Wilks

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

Friday, October 30, 2020

Switching It Up A Little


All this Covid sameness seems to have me looking for something different.  Nothing radical; I have no intention of moving to Morocco or wearing nail polish (heaven forbid).  I’m not even saying that I’m in a rut, but I can see that rut from here, or at least its event horizon.

Marble Canyon sunrise

Last week we had a family trip to Marble Canyon.  I’ve missed the place and cooling temperatures have finally made the place habitable in the camper.  I’d been pouring over Google Earth and it was great to explore some new dirt roads.  One of those spots was especially photogenic, with a sculptural piece of old barbed wire fencing for foreground.

Mud Cracks along Buffalo Ranch Road

I also stumbled upon a delicious set of mud cracks dusted with lovely azure juniper berries.  Sometimes what’s new is just noticing the ordinary.

Cloud blur and moon, Aravaipa

Later last week, my husband and I backpacked in Aravaipa Canyon with our friend Jeff Maltzman (who happens to have photographed there quite a bit).  I do backpack occasionally.  Well, very occasionally, so I think this whole escapade qualified as novel. Aravaipa Creek is perennial and this alone is unusual in Arizona.  This place is incredibly lush (read: requires bushwhacking) and wet (wading). I did make some conventional landscape shots but had lots of fun with the fast-moving clouds over the moon and some dramatic light rendered in black & white.

Motion blur stand of aspens on a bright morning, Kaibab Forest

Even during last month’s fall color trip, awed by a spectacular stand of aspens, I took the conventional shots but also fiddled around with intentional camera movement and got some interesting results.


I’m just trying to stay out of that black hole.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

300 Camper Nights

Lurch in the Kaibab Forest, AZ

It took me a bit longer to get to the third 100 camper nights than it did the first and second.  Between the upheaval of building a house and moving and COVID, there’s just been less time for camping.  This last trip, for Autumn color, put Lurch over the mark, though.


I’ll admit I do these posts mostly for myself; the retrospective is fun, and the opportunity to reflect is precious.  Perhaps the addition of a few pretty pictures will add some interest.


So, in these last 100, I’ve been in 22 Campgrounds (a number I try to minimize), alone 54 nights, and in 25 new places.  The pull to familiar and loved campsites is strong, so I make a conscious effort to look for new spots as well.


Lurch in the Mojave, California

I’d like to give kudos to my 4-Wheel Camper, which has held up really well to 75,000 miles and some significantly bumpy roads.  True, everything that could be shaken loose has been, but once we tweaked things to our liking, Lurch has been impressively reliable.  There’s a learning curve to driving, operating, and maintaining the systems.  It all seems rather automatic now, though.


I’m struck by (and grateful for) the lack of horrendous weather (wind!) in this set.  As far as I can remember, I’ve only been chased off a North Rim viewpoint by wind once.


So, some superlatives:


Snowy Death Valley Sunrise

Most spectacular morning:  I love sunrises; the solitude and the particular quality of hush.  We spent a second night at Lee Flat (#264, Death Valley) for the snowfall forecast overnight, and woke up to cold clear inspiration.


Harquahala Mountains

COVID Heaven:  I was nervous to go anywhere in the spring and got over that with multiple trips to the Harquahala Mountains, just an hour or so from home.  I never saw another soul. It occurred to me then that dispersed camping is actually quite safe.  The location also wins for most difficult to spell.


White Tanks Park

I had my first (and still the only) electrical hook up on night 206 in the White Tanks Regional Park.  I didn’t really need it, but what the heck.


The most pathetic spot was what we came to call “beer camping,” in the forest just a 5-minute walk from Barnstar Brewing Company, in the Prescott National Forest.  It's not as bad as it sounds: they are rather in the middle of nowhere. This spot was not so photogenic.


Above Old Lime Creek Rd, Colorado

Best new discovery:  Well, this is a tough call, but I’m going to go with night #300, Old Lime Creek Road in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado.  It was stumbled upon, full of aspens, and we saw a Moose.  Full disclosure:  the road is a little rough.


The best, no doubt, is yet to come.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Three Corners


Aspen Motion Blur, Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

This adventure was conceived a year ago, when friends introduced me to the Crested Butte - Aspen - Paonia area of Colorado.  I kept thinking, “I could camp here,” so as soon as I got home the planning began.  Since my husband is feeling freer to travel (our house build is about done) and we have the wonder dog, the trip (to my great joy) morphed into another thing entirely.


We were 11 days on the road and mostly didn’t know where we’d be night to night.  I think I’m too much of a planner by nature, so it’s good to be out of my comfort zone. We found some phenomenal spots.  The only reservation was two nights in an Airbnb in Crested Butte for fishing, laundry, showers, and resupply of groceries and such.

Red aspen detail, Kaibab Plateau, AZ

Arizona’s North Kaibab Forest feels like home, so we started there.  Three nights in an area we can navigate by heart was lovely.  We hung out with friends and rather than our usual camps at viewpoints, stayed at places deep in the forest with aspens and solitude.  There are just so many people out camping these days; rude people and litterers.  Humbug.

Gunnison Forest, Colorado

After crossing into Colorado, we used the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) method of camping; something like, how about this BLM road?  We love the liberal rules about camping, and there are about 245 million acres of BLM land, mostly in the west. Our favorites were in the aspens and provided lots of places to hike and photograph.  One in the Gunnison Forest we called “Cow Camp,” and it would have been about perfect except (wait for it) for the cows.

Gothic Peak at dawn, Washington Gulch Road

Just outside Crested Butte, we enjoyed Washington Gulch Road.  A friend was traveling a similar route, and fortunately for us was a few days ahead.  She gave us a tip that the color was nice there.

Spot of red, Kebler Pass

I was particularly anticipating spending time on Kebler Pass again.  It was beautiful, indeed, but was uncomfortably crowded with fast drivers and loud campers.  We managed to find a place for one night and moved on.

In the boonies, Southern Utah

Our friend in Green River Utah walked us to Ray’s for a burger and fries, which was either really great or we had just been eating camp food too long.  From there we were looking for a place to stage so the last day’s drive wouldn’t kill us.  We were willing to settle for about anything not too close to the road but scored a spot with a view between Hite (Lake Powell) and Bear’s Ears.  It killed me to just drive through the latter, but that’s a whole trip for another time.


Incidentally, there were two wildlife sightings which I was too slow to document with photos. There was a moose in the San Juan Mountains, and a snowy owl in Crested Butte.  These are the things which get my blood moving.


Technically we did drive through New Mexico; on 0.9 miles of highway 160 near Four Corners.  I’m going to say that doesn’t count.  Hence, three corners.  Maybe next time.


There are more images in the Autumn in the West Gallery on the website.