Rincon Peak Summit

Experience the Sky Island view from Rincon Peak

The Rincons are one of 42 Sky Mountain islands isolated from each other by the gradual warming and drying climate changes since the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. While this marvelous environment of oak and pine forests only accessible with much effort on foot, it is literally visible from every point of the Tucson valley and million human inhabitants.

Rincon is Spanish for corner, the mountains are called that from their shape enclosing a space on the west, northwest until recently used for ranching and is now falling into use for tract housing. The mountains themselves are reserved as wilderness, parts in the Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest.

In the past 44 years I was lucky enough to visit the Rincon Wilderness interior three times, shouldering different style backpacks onto the mountain, walking different boots. The first, during college the 1970’s, a party of six left from the end of Speedway, up the Douglas Springs trail. The climb was an exercise in desert survival that several friendships did not survive, replace by new friends met on Mica Mountain. I have no photographs from that experience, only memories and the backpack.

Reconnecting with Arizona in 2004, thirty one years after that first experience, I took no chances. My first attempt on Rincon Peak was a success. Risk and effort were reduced, not eliminated by hiring a guide for the four day trip. We made it to Rincon Peak via the Turkey Creek Trail out of Happy Valley, climbing a mountain buttress, views ever widening and lengthening.

These are some photographs from that experience and a landscape photograph of the peak at sunset, taken the following year.

Sego Lilies bloom among a stricken oak and drying grasses on the Turkey Creek trail. This is an overview of the environment, it is the winter rains that trigger the bloom.

Sego Lilies -- CLICK ME!!!!

We paused while I unpacked my gear to capture Sego Lilies growing along the Turkey Creek Trail.

Sego Lilies -- CLICK ME!!!!
Sego Lilies -- CLICK ME!!!!

Deer Head Spring, at the top of Turkey Creek Trail was a moist spot with no accessible water when we reached it April 27, 2004. With the remains of a gallon of water each we needed to press ahead to Heartbreak Ridge and climb into Happy Valley Saddle were, thankfully, the creek was low and full of algae but usable. Here are my first views of Rincon Peak, looking across the aptly named Heartbreak Ridge and Happy Valley Saddle.

Distant View of Rincon Peak-- CLICK ME!!!!
Telephoto view of Rincon Peak -- CLICK ME!!!!

The view to south from Rincon Peak. The white rocks at lower right forms a Valley of the Moon wall. San Pedro River valley at the root, Mae West Peaks at left margin, Dragoon Mountains with Cochise Stronghold center. Taken around 12:30 on April 28, 2004 as a thunderstorm approached.

View from Rincon Peak -- CLICK ME!!!!

The Rincon Peak view looking south, southwest over the Valley of the Moon to the eastern Tucson Valley and the Sky Islands the Whetstone Mountains (Apache Peak), behind are the Santa Ritas. The works of man are overpowered by sky, rock, distance.

We made a hasty departure in front of the thunderstorm. It was a touch and go decision to attempt the peak that day, we made it with moments to spare.

View from Rincon Peak -- CLICK ME!!!!

April 29, 2004 the morning after reaching Rincon Peak I set up the tripod near our Happy Valley Saddle camp to capture Rincon Peak in early morning sunlight.

Rincon Peak from Happy Valley Saddle, dawn -- CLICK ME!!!!

The day we descended to the X9 Ranch via the Rincon Creek trail. My guide’s grandfather had a homestead at the X9 and his access to the trailhead through private lands opened this route for us. This is a photograph of sunset on Rincon Peak from the X9 ranch. I am looking east from the Rincon (Spanish for corner) made by the massifs Rincon Peak, Mica Mountain and Tanque Verde ridge.

Rincon Peak from the X9 Ranch-- CLICK ME!!!!

The evening of November 2, 2006 I climbed the Saguaro National Park, East, Tanque Verde trail for about 30 minutes to reach this view of Rincon Peak and waited until just before the sun set behind the Tucson Mountains for this shot. Then hiked back to the car in twilight. In my hurry, I tripped on a stepped turn and dove headfirst into a large prickly pear. It was a very painful experience and I regretted damaging the cactus and the loss of and good hiking shirt. There were large spines in my face and tiny, pesky spines covered my chest and back. The large spines are not barbed and come right out. I needed to visit a physician to remove them.

Click me for a framed version of this photograph

Rincon Peak from the X9 Ranch-- CLICK ME!!!!

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Weekday Visit to Sapsucker Woods

A far-seeing, nature loving group of individuals set aside this prime swamp-land in 1954. January 8, 2021, it is surrounded by homes, a major road (the unluckily-named Route 13), an airport. Though the trails are narrow, I am happy to report everyone encountered (six individuals, though two were encountered twice on the circular trails) wore mask and demonstrated consideration.

Swamps are navigated on wooden walkways. Here are a few IPhone 7 snaps from the entrance.

Today I noticed for the first time this glistening sculpture with a plaque reading, in part, “Kent Ullberg, Swedish, b 1945, ‘Invitation of the Dance’, 2017. Stainless steel.” It was donated by the billionaire Imogene Johnson shortly before her death in 2018 at the age of 87. Mrs. Johnson was a Cornell University alumna. She and her husband were huge donors to the university, having met there as undergraduates.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Late Autumn Ithaca 4

Past Eddy Gate

At this point most of the climb from downtown Ithaca is behind me and the Cornell Campus is underfoot. I pass the Eddy Gate, the former main entrance to Cornell University, where Eddy Street vaporizes to become a footpath along the rim of Cascadilla Gorge. This ramshackle hexagonal structure rest on the friable shale gorge rim. It does NOT look inviting and, over the years, I’ve not spotted a single person hanging out there.

Fluffy gone-to-seed goldenrod on the gorge rim.

As I duck into the Upper Cascadilla Gorge Trail above College Avenue a poster visualizes an effective defense against crowd control munitions, the umbrella. Below the call to “Stand with Hong Kong” is another newsflash/movie review from outside the mainstream media, “Donnie Darko Makes No Sense.”

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Late Autumn Ithaca 3

Up East Hill

Today a large fox devoured a squirrel on our front lawn while I wrote this post. Further up Green Street is this mural, I do not find an attribution and assume it is from 2020.

Continuing past all the new development in downtown Ithaca, I head up the steep sidewalk up east hill on Seneca Street, named for the Iroquois Confederacy tribe of the westernmost lands. Here is a flowering tree with attractive red haws growing on the corner of Seneca Street and Schuyler Place.

From the doorway of the former Henry W. Sage mansion at 603 E. Seneca St designed by William Henry Miller in1876. Today, it is broken into six apartments. This is the Sage of Cornell University Sage Chapel. Henry Sage was a supporter of admitting women to Cornell to the extent of donating $250,000 around the year 1870.

206 North Quarry Street, the northwest corner of Seneca and Quarry. It, too, once a single family home now broken into apartments.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Late Autumn Ithaca 2

A family story and artistic expression

Across the street from Tompkins County Public Library, next to City Hall, is the Green Street Garage decorated with artistic graffiti by the French artist Amir Roti.

Completed during Fall 2012. This artist’s style is seen around town, black and white with touches of blue of inscrutable, dream inspired (?) scenes. The winters winds do whip through these streets.

A few steps away, some propaganda. I recognize the characters as Native Americans from the feather object. Doing some research I found it was completed in 2014 by Brandon Lazore here is some text from the artist, “”Women’s Nomination” is dedicated to all Haudenosaunee women. A silhouette of “Sky Woman” falls from Sky World. In moments, she will be caught by flying geese & put on turtle’s back – “Turtle Island.” In her hands she holds roots of the 3 sisters – corn, beans, & squash. The woman in green represents Clan Mother, grandmother, elder. The woman in purple is her daughter & the baby is her daughter’s daughter. The wampum belt is the Women’s Nomination Belt which represents, among other things, the right that Haudenosaunee woman have to give their child a clan, to chose names of children, & to choose chiefs. Strawberries represent medicine like mother’s love is medicine to a child. The moon represents fertility & how it’s cycle plays a huge role in every woman’s life. The Sky Domes are inspired by traditional art decorating our clothing for centuries. It represents the sky world & the plants that were given to us – corn, beans, squash, & tobacco.” Haudenosaunee are also known as Iroquois.

To counterbalance the sentimentality of the mural here is historical context, a family anecdote from George Washington Schuyler of Ithaca, New York from the life of his paternal ancestor, Peter Schuyler, known to the Mohawks as “Quidor,” as told to the author, John Fisk, in 1881. “After a severe tramp in the wilderness, half starved with hunger and cold, Quidor came on evening upon an encampment of Mohawks, where he was cordially welcomed. In a few moment he was seated before a bright blaze, with a calabash of hot soup, the most delicious he had ever tasted. Presently, when he dipped his rude ladle once more into the kettle and brought up a couple of parboiled human fingers, it gave him a queer turn, but he repressed all show of feeling and quietly asked a feathered chieftain, ‘What is this soup made of?’ The chief as calmly replied, ‘Of a Frenchman we killed this morning; isn’t it good?'” Words even more significant because I would soon walk past the grave of George Washington Schuyler, laid to rest 132 years ago.

References:

The Dutch and Quaker Colonies, Volume II, by John Fisk, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1899, p214 “Peter Schuyler and his influence over the Mohawks”.

The 2019 Ithaca Mural Map

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Late Autumn Ithaca 1

Dredging the past

This Sunday past I parked the car downtown (free parking Sundays) and walked the walk, carrying the Sony Alpha 700 with the variable 18-200 lens. Today is a contemplation of beginnings. Here is a mural dedicated to the founding of the Cornell Library Association, titled “Ezra Cornell”, completed 2016 by Nestor Madalengoita.

It was the 1779 Sullivan – Clinton Revolutionary War expedition against British Loyalists and allies, the Iroquois confederation, that opened up Central New York to settlement, making possible the 1,400 Dewitt acres that is now the City of Ithaca, named, strangely, after an Aegean island with Hector Street, our road to downtown, recalling the foremost defender of Troy.

Click Me for the complete post with photographs.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Ireland on the Mind at Christmas

Irish Christmas Spirit

Where would we be without Saint Patrick?  He was a force, to be sure.  A favorite story,  is the landing of his return to the island 432 AD.  The tides on the eastern coast of the Irish Sea can be strong.  His plan was to sail up to coast further north than what we call today Strangford Lough.  On passing this inlet the boat was swept into the lough tidal narrows.  Circumstances called for a landing, rather than wait for the tide.  Patrick came ashore where the Slaney River enter the lough and “quickly converted” the local chieftan, Dichu, who provided a barn for holding services.  The name of the town “Saul” in Irish is Sabhall Phádraig, translated as “Patrick’s Barn.”

IrelandChristmas-1

In this posting I’ll go lighter on descriptions of technique.  Leave it to say I held to the Canon fixed lens EF 50mm f1.2L USM throughout.  Some, like the photograph of Saint Patrick, used a tripod.  Others, like the latter two of the following Irish Themed Cross set were handheld.  Generally a flash was used to supplement ambient sunlight from a large north-facing bay window.

Here the “celtic” cross is converted to an Irish theme through a substitution of a shamrock with golden decoration inspired by pagan neolithic petroglyphs for the nimbus (circle) intersecting the central intersection of arms and stem.

For the first three I played with aperture, taking advantage of the stability of a tripod.  The final two of the set are handheld.

Note the fanciful leprechaun snowman with pot o’ gold, on the left.

Blown glass Irish dancers.

“Travel memories”

Lets’s finish up with a resin cast Santa Claus in hiking garb.  Hiking is a favorite activity of ours.  Featuring a stout staff and Aran Island sweater.

IrelandChristmas-17

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Christmas Angels

Merry Christmas

The angels of our Christmas tree and home remind us of the Jesus birth stories of scripture and the force of love in our own lives.

What comes to mind with the sudden appearance of Gabriel to Mary and that astounding message? Unlike the attempt of Jonah to avoid his calling, the subtext to Mary’s ready acceptance is the risks faced by an affianced woman who becomes pregnant. The book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 22 verses 13 – 21) calls for stoning a woman who presents herself for marriage as a virgin, when she is not.

When learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph’s reaction, as a follower of Mosaic Law, was to divorce her quietly to avoid exposing her to shame. It was a visit from an angel, in a dream, that convinced Joseph to accept Mary (Matthew Chapter 2, verses 18 – 24).

ChristmasAngel-3

An angel visited shepherds, announcing “today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is the Messiah and Lord.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God.” Luke Chapter 2, verses 8 – 13.

ChristmasAngel-1

Was it an angel who warned the Magi, in a dream, not to return to King Herod with news of Jesus (Matthew Chapter 2 Verse 12)? Scriptures clearly state (Matthew Chapter 2 verse 13) “the angle of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt.”

ChristmasAngel-4

People can be angelic in expressing love for others through action. I am thinking of a movie Pam and I viewed last evening, “The Theory of Everything.” Jane Wilde, in her love for Stephen Hawking, stays with him when, shortly after their romance began, he was diagnosed with ALS. The prognosis was death in two years. In all likelihood, Jane gave Stephen his life and work through loving him. He is alive and working today at 75.

Nested Angel

The love of our parents is more common, no less precious.

ChristmasAngel-7

A note on the photographs, I used a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III dslr with Canon lens EF 50 mm f/1.2L, Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt, Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head.  Some of the photographs were hand held.  When the flash was used, it supplemented ambient light from a large north facing bay window.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Christmas Tableau

Cozy Snowmen dance round the candle

My dear wife Pam is the heart of Christmas in our home. Over the years we have collected a treasure of ornaments and knick-knacks she crafts into displays around our one. Pam completed the project well in advance of our grandchild holiday visits, before card writing and gift wrapping.

My contribution is a photographic time capsule. Here is some of my artistic output from this work.

This grouping of five cozy snowmen (three males, two females) are warmly dressed in knit sweaters and stocking caps; the women with long skirts. The five hold hands in a ring, rising from a common platform. We place a cup and devotional candle in the center.

The tiny group evokes community, harmony, amity. I captured them with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III dslr, a fixed Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L macro lens mounted on a Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head. Fixed lenses provide the sharpest macros. The mounting allowed precise framing and use of the widest aperture and a low ISO. The light sources were sunlight from a large north facing bay window, a Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt and the candle. When used, the flash was angled in various ways toward the ceiling.

I start with a tight shot, maximum aperture. A single figure is in clear focus, the remaining gradually lost in the bokeh. The flash was used. I can almost see then circling around the candle in a winter wind.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

Here the candle is lighted, aperture narrow to f8 using only the candle and ambient light (no flash). The group is visible within surrounding figures. I backed away and the viewpoint is higher.

The candle light enhances the perception of community.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

Viewpoint is closer, still only the candle and ambient light. Aperture widened to 3.5. I must remove the hair in lightroom.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

I backed off, aperture at the max with only the candle and ambient light. The figures are placed in a tableau with other snowmen and a structure, a birdhouse.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

For this overview I swapped in a Canon 24mm f/1.4L II USM with a flash, aperture f2.2.

Christmas Snowman Display
Christmas 2017 snowman display laid out in our den on top of the entertainment cabinet.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Stopped Sun

On the 2020 AD winter solstice

In modern life, disconnected from nature, the steady movement of the sun’s course is not a concern. “This year, will the sun not stop this southward journey (northward in the southern hemisphere) and winter never end?”

Here is a monument to human skill and ingenuity from the Engineering Quad of Cornell University. The unusual, turreted building is the Johnson Graduate School of Management across Campus Road.

Here the sundial arms seem to embrace the sky, with Duffield Hall in the background across the Pew Engineering Quadrangle.

Inscription of human wisdom and knowleged.

To those responsible for this wonder. On this day it was keeping perfect time, I corrected the time on my camera from the sundial reading.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved