Welcome friends - I'm posting published articles and sundry items as time allows. Most subjects pertain to conservation, photo trekking and tourism in borderlands Arizona, USA. More of my articles can be seen on my publisher's website

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Article: "Summer Canyons and Secret Waters"

(Published June 2009 in Murray Bolesta's "The Borderlands Photographer" in Tubac Villager.)

Shade and water. Where in the borderland wilderness can you find both at the same time?

My friends Sam and Cass have just moved to this area, intent on becoming true desert rats and nature photographers. Further, they stubbornly insist on achieving success with minimalist frugality: "I wonder how far we can go in photography with cell phone cameras? Let's stretch the technical limits."

Yes, that may be a stretch for Sam and Cass, but with some input from me, they eagerly seek momentum. “Murray, where should we go first?” The borderland’s secret canyons can provide plenty of shade and water for the adventurous nature photographer. Both can mitigate the ferocity of a first trek in summer.

Vertical walls shelter a hiker from the intense sun, but provide a challenge to the photographer. That challenge, high contrast between shade and sunny areas, is almost insurmountable, even with cell phone technology, I tell Sam and Cass. “Try photographing in either shade or sun first, but not both.”
Further, not all canyons have the soothing effects of water, and not all canyons with water have flowing water. Any water, however, is capable of multiplying the opportunities for good pictures, I explain. “Th e fl ora, fauna, and reflections are where the action is.”
Some popular canyons in this area are Sabino and Madera. “Why not there?” I ask Sam and Cass.
“We don’t want crowds” they answer.
“Show us some special, secret spots.”
Well, you won’t necessarily find traffic jams in Sabino and Madera Canyons in summer, I tell them, but if you seek a wilderness canyon experience that’s nearby, I know a few spots.
“Like where?”
I think for a moment. “You want special, secret spots. If I told you where they were, they wouldn’t be secret any more. I may have to blindfold you.”
Secret watery canyons are nearly a dime a dozen in the borderlands. The Tumacacori Mountains; the Pajarita Wilderness on the border, the east side of the Santa Rita Mountains; farther east by the San Pedro River and the Galiuros; back west at the Baboquivari Mountains.
These canyons are where the intrepid summer photographer will find water and life and drama. But few trails will greet him or her. Sam and Cass have it both tough, and easy. Th e tough part is learning how to hop rocks for hours on end. Th is requires supple ankles and knees, and stout boots with rigid soles. Th e easy part, for them, is the light load of carrying cell phone cameras, as contrasted with the two clunky bricks strapped around my neck.
Water is perpetual in some of these places. Summertime, starting late June, is when the monsoon begins in the borderlands, so that’s when water may be plentiful in all of them, flowing rapidly or trapped in pools.
June is really hot – the hottest month of the year. Sam can’t believe this, and asserts that July and August must be hotter. He hasn’t seen the cooling effect of monsoon clouds and rains, which are brutally absent in June.
Sam and Cass are fearless, and that troubles me. Apart from falling and spraining a vital body part, a canyon trekker can have close encounters with rattlesnakes in the summer. I warn them that the only treatment for snake bite is back in the emergency room, quite a distance.
Showing my friends the lower-leg chaps, or gaiters, that I wear, Cass thinks these are overkill. I respond that “kill” is the operative word. Did Sam and Cass charge up their cell phone cameras? Off we go to begin the journey of two new desert rats.

No comments:

Post a Comment