I took this photo: Fashion Sense and North Dakota

muddy boots and legs
Displaying my fashion sense, I wear North Dakota.

There were two signs on the front of the building. The more prominent sign did not declare 2 7/8 as the name of the bar, but, rather, said, “ZERO TOLERANCE TO FIGHTING ON 2 7/8 PREMISES.” Welcome to fracking-boomtown North Dakota. I drove by.

That evening a massive thunderstorm piled up along the horizon, clouds towering above open plains, building strength, collecting moisture. Until, in the deepest dark of a moonless night, they had enough and let loose.

The Great Plains create some pretty vivid thunderstorms; this was a beauty. Lightning exploded across town in so many consecutive flashes I could see the length of the main street clearly for several seconds. Not just the blink of an eye that leaves you blinded and wondering if the light had been there at all, these flashes lingered. Clearly jumping from cloud to cloud and ground to cloud, there was constant light. The thunder kept pace, a steady rumble in the background with skull-crushing claps in between.

Then the rain came, pounding on the roof two stories above. The parking lot under my window disappeared behind the downpour, truck tires several inches deep in standing rain, as the drains overloaded.

The storm raged for what seemed hours, eventually tapering off as it moved across the open landscape. I fell back into fitful sleep for too few hours.

Many places become entirely inaccessible after a storm like this. Dirt roads turn to what we called Gumbo in Montana. Red dust, yellow dust, brown dirt, it’s all the same after a night like that, bacon-greased ball bearings. The collective hangover of too much.

Enter, the fracking industry, with its heavily graded and graveled roads that go everywhere, and took me where I needed to go that day. I don’t recall what I was surveying, plants or birds. I remember the landscape, wet and misty from the night’s excess. And, I remember repeatedly scraping mud from the bottom of my boots as I slid through the morning’s work. I took this photo when I realized I was wearing a large chunk of North Dakota. With my newly established fashion sense, I might fit in at the 2 7/8.

I took this photo: Pueblos Cowboy and His Horse

horse and riders moving cows out of the Pueblo Mountains
A small boy on a big horse moving cows in the Pueblo Mountains

Three riders moved slowly across the landscape, deliberately but unhurriedly they paralleled my path in the opposite direction. I watched the horses with some envy as I continued on foot.

It was July in the Pueblo Mountains. It was hot. I had been walking since dawn; it was midday now. I was out of water, out of food, and out of patience with the shadeless glare of sun-soaked sagebrush.

From a long way off I could see the horse. Even from a distance, I could tell it was a big horse. The rider was just a red dot. Eventually, the red dot became a person, a boy. He rode a few loops, lazy figure eights. He backed up the horse, made it stand and side step. Then he just sat and watched me approach.

“Where’s your horse?” the boy asked with unaffected curiosity and genuine concern.

“I don’t have one.”

“How far did you walk?”

“I don’t know. Several miles. I started at sunrise.”

“That’s a long time without a horse.”

“Yes.” We stood a minute, he on his horse, me looking at the ground. Then, diverting him from my obvious failing, “That’s a big horse.”

“I know. 17 hands. My dad told me I had to grow enough to get on him by myself before I could ride him. I’m only 7. I can’t grow that fast.”

“But you’re riding him.”

“Yup. I told my dad he better build me a ladder.”

“Did he?”

“Yup.”

“I saw three riders earlier. Was your dad one of them?”

“Yup. And my mom and sister. They said I wasn’t big enough to muster so I had to sit here and wait for them to push the cows to me. Then I can circle and ride them down the hill. We’re moving them to water.”

“You’re not big enough to muster but you’re big enough to sit this giant horse out here by yourself for however many hours it takes for them to come back?”

“I know. That’s what I said. But I lost that argument. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have anything to do.”

“You need a book.”

“I know.”

I had miles yet to cover and parted company. He sat his horse and watched me walk on.

Later in the afternoon, I watched from a slope above as the cows came, moving ahead of the three riders. The boy rode to meet them, swinging far to one side of the cows and then falling in with the other riders. He waved as he passed below me. And I took this photo of him, his mom and sister, the dust, and the cows, a scene of the west.

 

 

Rhinoceros resort, restore, restart

Extirpated from the wild in most of Africa,  I had the good fortune to see black rhinoceroses on a private preserve in Zimbabwe last year.

Finding them after dark, a spotlight illuminated a calf scampering about behind its placidly eating mother. Her horns were cut off to deter poaching and the animals are under 24-hour armed guard.

The black rhino population dropped from an estimate of several hundred thousand in the early 1900s to 2,410 by the late 1990s. The primary cause for this decline is poaching. Several subspecies are extinct.

These photos are fuzzy and full of nighttime darkness and shadows. At first, I was disappointed by them. A year later, they seem to appropriately suit their state in the world.

rhino calf
Wary of the light and strangers, a rhino calf hides behind its mother.
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The mama rhino has been dehorned as a measure of protection against poaching. Her dehorned shadow is visible on her calf’s side as it moves behind her.
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Rhino back, fade to black. What will the world be without rhinos?

Summer blues

Oregon Crater Lake
The summer blues of Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Hart Mountain – spring delights

For too many years Hart Mountain was out of my line of travel and added just enough extra time and miles to the trip at hand that I by-passed it. This spring I made the effort to go there, just there, and was well rewarded. It is a long slog from anywhere, the roads can be quagmires, the dust invasive, the heat crushing, and the mosquitoes draining. May it always remain this way.

 

butterfly flower
Swallowtail and balsamroot
sagebrush, thunderheads
Sky drama
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Looked down upon by a northern harrier
Subtle layers of color and texture
hills valleys
Sagebrush landscape
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Bumblebee with balsamroot

The commercial strip v. the National Monuments – a request for stay of execution

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
On the executioner’s block: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

 

It is already true that one can be dropped on any commercial strip in the USA and have no idea where they are. Each is so much the same, so not unique, that Chattanooga and Bakersfield look much the same. We have eradicated the prairies, slaughtered the forests, and filled the wetlands, must we also quash the individuality of the national monuments and make them conform to the ideals of capitalism, consumerism, and corporate expansion? What of calm, contentment, and courage to step outside of the box, to appreciate the subtle realm of time, space, and light that is not under our control? Where will we go for peace when we have used up all that is wild?

You have seen my photos over the last year. Many of those photos were taken in national monuments (including the two on this page). If you enjoyed my meager attempts at conveying the intensity of these landscapes, you will enjoy this (free ebook) photographic journey through the national monuments by exquisite landscape photographers

http://landalmostlost.com/

And, I hope you will send comments in support of retaining the national monuments.

 https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001

Stay the executions.

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

 

Mid-Summer’s morning among the Painted Hills

volcanic hill Oregon
At the edge of the Painted Hills, Red Hill sits among spring grasses.

Three landscapes and a soaking shed

A wild winter ride to iconic Central Oregon hot springs offered these landscapes. The road to Summer Lake is a beautiful stretch of little-used highway along the western edge of the Great Basin. Sagebrush gives way to alkali lakes, winds rip across the open flat, and clouds create another dimension of life above the high desert.

Central Oregon, hot springs
An unsettled day in the high desert.
central Oregon, alkaline lake
Silver Lake, Oregon, snow from the west meets billowing clouds from the east.
central Oregon, hot springs
Snow seems to be falling from Summer Lake up to the clouds.
central Oregon, Silver Lake
Between the land and sky of Central Oregon lies Silver Lake.
central Oregon, hot springs
Summer Lake Hot Springs soaking shed

Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice!

All the best and brightest for 2017!

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Spring trees after morning rain. Beartown State Forest, Massachusetts
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Yampa River valley, cottonwoods, snow, and afternoon light. Colorado
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Fern aliens. How can so many shades of green live in one place? Mount Baker, Washington
Sea alien – A.K.A. anemone. Deception Pass State Park, Washington
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Paintbrush in lichen-laden sagebrush. Steens Mountain, Oregon
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
The road through Candy Land
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Fall color against red rock. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
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Super moon set. Canyonlands National Park, Utah
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Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
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Kalahari Milky Way. Botswana
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Zebra-belly nap face. Moremi National Park, Botswana
Moremi National Park, Botswana
Personal grooming is important in maintaining superiority.
Elephant knees and toenails and a little one tucked under the trunk. Chobe, Botswana
Lilac-breasted roller. Moremi National Park, Botswana
Paradise Found, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

The road through Candy Land

Remember the children’s game, Candy Land? If the board was laid out on a real landscape, this is what the road would look like, marshmallow fudge and cotton(wood) candy.

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Cottonwood Canyon Road, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah