Survival

live on a Sky Island

Sky islands are isolated mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments. The term originally referred to those found near the southern borders of the U.S. states of Arizona and New Mexico with the northern borders of the Mexican States of Chihuahua and Sonora such as the Dragoon Mountains featured in this post. The isolation has significant implications for these natural habitats. The American Southwest region began warming up between ∼20,000–10,000 years before the present-day and atmospheric temperatures increased substantially, resulting in the formation of vast deserts that isolated the sky islands.

This sycamore tree survives life in this ephemeral stream of an Arizona “Sky Island” by allowing entire trunks to die off during extended dry spells. The tree is an Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii).

Informative sign at campsite

Reference: wikipedia article “Sky Islands.”

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Cochise Spring

ancestral Apache land

Interstate 10 between Benson and Wilcox ascends through a field of enormous, eroded granite boulders. Off to the west are the Dragoon Mountains, otherwise known as “Cochise Stronghold.”

Informative sign at campsite

Starting from the campsite is the “Sky Islands Traverse” hiking trail, leading up into the mountains. I wandered from the trail to follow a dry streambed to this residual pool of water, the time being early spring, and this is what remained from the winter rains.

A single butterfly of the genus Anthocharis generally called “Orangetip” for the colorful upper wing tips. These exist throughout the world, here in Arizona they migrate across the desert, obtaining refuge and nourishment from “Sky Islands” such as the Dragoon Mountains

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Bridging the Lethe

notes from November 2231 AD

Hook

Ancient legends speak of the River Lethe, crossed by departing souls.  The waters of the Lethe wash away memory, allowing for spiritual rebirth, reincarnation, a return to the world in new form.

SycamoreGrove20170404-10

This memory implant represents a bridge over the Lethe.

Footbridge over Enfield CreekFor those chosen to cross over to the new land in return for

Sycamore Grove

their treasure, lives and selves.

Sycamore Grove

Description

This virtual monoculture glade from the long time of forests,

Sycamore Grove

a place of happy gatherings, of families, plentiful food and water.

Sycamore Grove

These sycamores grew over centuries, through thousands of days, wider than 10 people,

Sycamores

white with age as the outer covering, called bark, falls away.

Sycamores

forked, trunks

Sycamore Trunk

climbing to the sky.

Sycamore Sky
Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Abstracts: graceful shadows

Shadow and Rock

Two Nature Abstracts, macros of Reavis Creek below the falls

The light of a early spring desert afternoon on a broad rock shelves along the creek.

I spent a day hiking in, two days hiking out and a day of canyoneering to the foot of Reavis Falls. The featured (i.e. “header”) photograph is a view of the inner canyon, the raw material for these abstracts.

Click this Link for a Superstition Wilderness Adventure

Waterfall Textures

Unrestrained chaos at the foot of Arizona’s highest waterfall

I received notice of IStock acceptance of select photographs from my last posting, “Wilderness Textures”, was accepted.  Click to view my IStock Portfolio, including  photographs from today’s posting included in the acceptance notice.

In this post I move up the Reavis Creek canyon from where the last posting, “Wilderness Textures”, was sited to the foot of Reavis Falls.  With the first photograph you look up at the falls from the head of the canyon carved by the creek over eons.  The rock wall, the canyon “head”, is thick with microorganisms, fungi, mosses.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

In the foreground is a jumble of boulders, some washed down at flood time, spread wide at the bottom of the falls, piled to a jumbled height of 15 feet. 

Talus is the geological term for this formation.  Derived from the Latin word for slope (talutum) the definition, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is “A sloping mass of detritus lying at the base of a cliff or the like consisting of material fallen from its face.” 

 

The ankle bone is also called talus, from the French word for heel, I bring it up because climbing this chaotic, unstable jumble is a way to break your ankle.  The route to Reavis Falls, a climb up one side of Lime Mountain then down the other on a non-existent (lightly marked) trail, is rated difficult and impossible with a broken leg or ankle.  I was alone and very careful to check each rock for stability before putting my weight on it.

A climb of the talus pile was necessary to view the pool at the waterfall base, for this photograph.

A more artistic vertical format version, below, captured with the Canon EF 100mm “macro” lens.  All shots are using the Kodak DCS pro SLR-c (the “c” designated Canon lens compatibility) and a Manfrotto studio tripod with a hydrostatic ball head.  The horizontal format shot was captured with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens.   I prefer the vertical version, artistically, because the talus jumble is all but cropped out while the upper corner of the angular basalt boulder is left as an interesting focal point.  The boulder, not being in the spray, is in focus to contrast with the basalt wall behind the water.

I captured a series of shots from this precarious vantage point, working up from the pool to the brim of the waterfall.

My goals was a composite photo of the falls.  I have yet to succeed with this project.  Maybe I will give it one more shot in spite of having learned the hard lesson the best photographs are a single moment captured in a single frame.

I find in this series the vertical aspect is more artistic.  The water volume, of the falls, at this time of year offers only the finest of sprays with most of the basalt rock wall only moist.  The 100mm “macro” lens allowed me to include only the falling water with a bit of the moist wall for contrast.

In the following version I experimented with color, moving from the narrow range of hues, to more contrast.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography. License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog. Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link or any photograph or this link to select a print with custom framing from my “Textures” Fine Art Gallery.

Here’s another of my Arizona wilderness adventures, “Racing the Sun.”

Wilderness Textures

Abstract Beauty of the Superstition Wilderness of Arizona

These abstracts are some of my photographic output from four days and nights spent alone in the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness.  For the first three days I met not a soul, all these images were captured on a single afternoon spent in the canyon below Reavis Falls, a jumble of landslides, flood debris and boulders.  There is no trail.  The few people who enter the canyon must negotiate around boulders, crossing Reavis Creek many times.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

My backpack kit included a full sized Manfrotto studio tripod with hydrostatic ball head.  The benefits more than outweighed the effort (I was a lot younger in 2008) when the Canon EF 100mm (macro) lens is mounted on a  Kodak dSLR body, allowing me to take crisp shots.  The tripod legs can be adjusted to precise positions for stability.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

I can feel the bright afternoon desert spring sunshine in this photos.  It was after the spring floods, the flow of Reavis Creek and ample still but slow.  Gathering in pools over the rough stones of the creek bed, the water absolutely clear.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

I held the shot over many minutes, capturing ever changing diffraction patterns.

We see in all these photos, not a homogenous blend of stones from a shared geology.  Reavis Creek washes over diverse geologies: volcanic, ancient igneous extrusions, sedimentary and metamorphic are jumbled together.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

This is a series of photographs of smooth, white igneous boulders with shadows of  still leafless sycamore and cottonwood trees.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Graceful shadows

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Strong, demonstrative shadows.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

A leaning cairn, not a trail marker….

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

A 15 foot high jumble of stones piled at the bottom of Reavis Falls, carried over by the floods.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

A metamorphic conglomerate stone….

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Another metamorphic conglomerate.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography. License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog. Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link or any photograph or this link to select a print with custom framing from my “Textures” Fine Art Gallery.

Here’s another of my Arizona wilderness adventures, “Racing the Sun.”

Cochise Dawn

ancestral Apache land

From 2004 through 2011 I visited Arizona every Autumn, October or November. As a University of Arizona Alumni Board member for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences we had a meeting during “homecoming” and a fund raising event. I’d come early or stay later for getting acquainted with Arizona, more than was possible as an undergraduate. In 2007 I camped for several days Chiricahua National Monument of the remote south eastern corner of the state.

The park empties out this time of year, for some reason. The weather is perfection with clear skies, moderate daytime temperatures, cool nights. This time of year the Arizona White Oak acorns ripen and fall. The campground has aluminum picnic tables, the falling acorns made a loud plunks throughout the night. This would annoy some people. Me, it is a great memory.

The following two images are great memories from my first morning.

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Rhyolite Moon
These formations hovered over the trail on my first morning. The rising full moon was an unplanned bonus.

I experimented this trip with a breakfast of granola with dried whole milk. It was delicious (for me) and got me out on the trail quickly. This first morning I clicked my hiking poles together to scare away bears as I walked in the pre-dawn dark. The preparation and extra effort paid off with this photograph.

Click any photograph for my Online gallery.

I met one hiker who was a harbor pilot from Hamburg, Germany. He came just to view a particular rock formation that was, literally, the rubber bath duck. It is several miles to the site, a moderate hike with significant elevation gain. He took his snapshot with a little camera and was on his way.

The following is my masterpiece from the trip. Imaging the effect of seeing this image on settlers. That same first day I turned a corner and there this was…it took a few minutes to comprehend what I saw, it was so incredible and, for me, unexpected. It first, the only perception is a huge rock dome of rough rock, then, slowly, the image of a native American profile forms in the mind.
Cochise Dawn

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Cochise Dawn
Cochise Dawn

Click link for the complete story behind how I captured this image, from my Online Gallery.

Michael Wills Inspiration Point
Michael Wills Inspiration Point

During the session for Cochise Dawn I turned the camera for the view northwest and did a self portrait. In the distance are the Galiuro Mountains and Wilderness. Tucked alongside is the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, hosting one of the few perennial streams of Arizona.

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park

Want more? Click this link or any photograph for my Online Gallery.

In the nature of fame, today Watkins Glen is the best known of the Finger Lakes State Parks. The International Speedway of that name enhanced and amplified name recognition during the post war years. Founded in 1948, the course used public roads of the town until the inevitable happened, an accident and the death of a seven year old child in a group of sidewalk spectators when a racer lost control.

The glen predates the race by 12,000+ years formed at that time from glaciation using materials from distant eons . Watkins Glen was known as a tourist attraction from the 19th century for the resort hotel on the south gorge rim, acquired and developed by New York State in the first years of the 20th century.

From a gate off “Lovers Lane” a sturdy flight of concrete steps with custom made handrails lead to an observation platform over the gorge. This feature will be known to many future generations……

Lovers Lane Observation Platform– CLICK ME!!!!

…….the fine grained concrete is worthy of a Roman wall, the heavy iron handrails were built to specification as flowing curves unlike what is done today: built as modules and accommodated on site.

Lovers Lane Observation Platform– CLICK ME!!!!

In the 20th century the fame of Watkins Glen attracted the road race, the popularity of racing enhanced park attendance. Today, the gorge trail of crowded summer weekends. On Tuesday, August 1, 2017 Pam packed a picnic lunch and we made a late start for a weekday visit. The upper entrance is enhanced by mature trees, oak, elm, hemlocks. We had our picnic under these on a moldy picnic table enhanced with a green striped table cloth and fresh coffee.

Pam is my personal photographer. Here is an example of her work.

Michael Wills in Watkins Glen– CLICK ME!!!!

To give me my due, I did the driving and carried the 30+ pound pack into the gorge.

Pam captured me in position downstream from Rainbow Falls with a Manfrotto tripod with hydrostatic ball head on which is mounted a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and Canon EF 24mm f1.4 II USM lens, Tiffen nd 0.9 filter.

It was coming up to 4 pm eastern daylight savings time, the sun still high overhead. I needed to carefully choose a position for a frame in the wide angle lens without hot spots. Here are two results.

The sun was just of the gorge rim, to the right. Rainbow Falls forms from the tributary to Glen Creek cascading over the gorge walls.

Rainbow Falls of Watkins Glen– CLICK ME!!!!

Visitors walk under the falls where falling water eroded the soft, underlying stone to form an overhang.

Rainbow Falls of Watkins Glen– CLICK ME!!!!
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Spillway Falls with Hemlock

hemlock grace and water

The Dry Creek dam is across the upper, eastern, end of Fillmore Glen. Historical records of the dam construction must exist someplace. My opinion is, somewhere in the federal bureaucracy there is a record proving this dam was constructed by Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. That is when the gorge trails were dramatically improved and it is logical a dam was necessary to control water flow during times of heavy rainfall and the spring thaw, to allow a full appreciation of the gorge beauty. It is a substantial concrete structure with cast iron controls, two spillways: one never, the second always flowing. This day the reservoir is full, frequented by beavers, stocked trout, herons, blue jays, crows, hermit thrush. The reservoir banks are thick with wildflowers of the season. This afternoon I noticed purple flowering raspberries: a past prime bloom or two, ripe fruit growing in the late afternoon shade on the south side of the dam.

Unlike its name, Dry Creek is perennial, fed by a broad drainage of pastures, cornfields and forests. Year round the spillway runs, feeding into the gorge a constant, reliable supply of water for the many waterfalls for which Fillmore Glen State Park is known. The very first waterfall is on the rocks supporting the north side of the dam, formed where water from the spillway flows over these rocks into a deep, east west gorge overhung on the south side by mature hemlock trees.

I first encountered Fillmore Glen in the 1980’s with my young son, Sean. On Sundays he and I walked as far as he tolerated, about half way to the dam site, where the gorge makes a turn to the south, the trail on an unstable clay bank against a crumbling shale cliff. Rediscovering the park in the early 2000’s, along with my interest in photography, I noticed the waterfall just below the dam many times and admired it for how the water caught late afternoon light over the many grace points created by rock crags like a wedding cake. The angle from the dam path is wrong for capturing this effect. Today was a first for me to leave the safety of the dam path to climb into the gorge, on the south gorge wall, for a shot.

Here is a view of the spillway fall on a mid-August afternoon, 2017. My photography kit for this walk with my wife, Pam, was minimal: a Sony Alpha 700 with a variable lens, the flash and a Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod. For this version of the spillway I climbed into the gorge on the south wall, about 40 feet above the creek. A hemlock tree branch fell across the view, incorporated into the composition. These hemlocks are not a biological relative of the Socratic, poisonous, hemlock. The relationship is a similar aroma when the leaves are crushed. The f stop is cranked to 36, ISO set to 100 so slow exposure time to 1.6 second. Post shot processing via Photoshop.

Click this link or the photograph for my Online gallery of this offering
Spillway Falls and Hemlock Branch -- CLICK ME!!!!

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Autumn Evening Hike, turning home

through Devil’s Kitchen to Lucifer Falls

In this third part, we continue hiking Treman gorge, approaching Lucifer Falls, viewing another waterfall further downstream and returning to the trailhead.

 Tiny Trumpet, unknown

I have never achieved a satisfactory capture of the waterfall in the Devil’s Kitchen, a place where the creek flow is diverted south by a projecting ridge. Less than 100 feet later the easterly direction is regained where the water plummets over Lucifer Falls.

The annual in fall of rock in Devil’s Kitchen uproots and crushes plants growing there. There is scant soil, the roots of this shiny purple trumpet bloom took hold in a microscopic crack. The plant is so thin, the flower so tiny it is lucky my gaze found it.

Click link for my fine art print “After the Rain: Showy Lady Slippers.”

After searching all my plant identification references, this plan is unknown to me.  Please help with identification. The bloom is 1/4 inch long.

Not far away, these asters grow from a slightly wider crack.  Pam pointed them out to me. I was drawn by the striking color difference of the heads growing from a single stalk.

Click link for my fine art print “Purple Asters.”

As trail winds around the ridge a stone wall rises on the right and for good reason.  The stream shortly reaches the brink of Lucifer Falls, 115 feet high.  Gorge walls fall away, the trail steepens.  Here is the view from the trail next to the brink.

At hand, on the right, a growth of ferns has survived many seasons.  Flowering plants are, in geological time (across billions of years), a relatively recent development compared to these non-flowering ferns.  The first flowering plants appears 120 million years ago compared to the first ferns, 360 million years ago.  Oddly enough, the spread of flowering plants affected evolution of ferns, an increase of fern speciation in parallel to the rise of flower plants.

While descending the stairs next to the falls brink, look to the right to see this ecosystem, a result of water seeping from the sedimentary rock stratification.

Here you can see how, at lower flow levels, the inactive sections of the fall lip become a garden.  In our climate, the entire brink is active for rare and brief intervals during spring thaws.  Note how, closer to the active brink, the grasses give way to mosses.  Where grasses grow the brink is almost never active.

The trail wall is a lighter color than the cliff, this is how you can see, on the right, the steep trail descent.

Pam and I turned around here.  This is some work I did August 2014 of a notable fall downstream from Lucifer.  I used the 24 mm Canon lens here, cropping the image.  My goal was to include the stair, for interest, with sunlight on the upper stairs; the water in shade.

Click link for my fine art print “Woodland Falls.”

Myrtle borders the trail as it rises from the gorge entrance.

Tree trunks fallen from the gorge walls are left to decay, restoring the soil.  The trunks are covered by moss among a thick growth of myrtle and a few ferns.

To finish, here is an image that may broaden your understanding of sunflowers. These smaller, ornamental sunflowers are, at first, difficult to place. Look carefully at the center, composed of many tiny flowers (florets). In crop sunflowers each of these becomes a seed. In this image, shiny beetles are feasting.

The End of this Evening Hike in Treman Gorge

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Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved