Western New Mexico – September 2022 – Catwalks National Recreation Trail

The small mining town of Graham, New Mexico was founded in 1893 to mine silver and gold ore. To obtain the water required a pipeline was built up the narrow canyon, with a wooden walkway built on top for workers to be able to traverse the path.

Known as the Catwalk, this was in place for the 10-15 years that the town and mine was in existence. In the 1930s the WPA effort known as the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) rebuilt the catwalk for recreational purposes.

In 2012 this catwalk was destroyed in a large flood, leading to the rebuilding of the current Catwalk. It is a great engineering feat as well as a nice, shady hike up the canyon hovering above the creek.

The creek below is a favorite spot for people to cool off from the hot New Mexico summer.

As you proceed up the canyon you begin to run out of catwalks and have a small creek crossing.

Eventually you go as far as the trail will allow, as the rest of the trail has been damaged by storms, so it was time to turn back.

The entire area is very beautiful, and the Catwalks is a required stop.

Faywood, New Mexico – September 2022 – City of Rocks State Park

Approximately 35 million years ago a volcano erupted in what is now western New Mexico. Thanks to the soft compound of the rocks, and millions of years of erosion, what is left is an amazing square mile of large sculpted rocks, some 40′ high.

Since 1953 this unique place has been the City of Rock State Park.

The size becomes apparent when compared to the cars, trucks and campers in the park.

One daring tent resident has taken up residence directly underneath a suspended boulder.

Nearby Table Mountain dominates the horizon to the east.

City of Rocks is a great place to spend a couple of hours wandering around between the rocks.

Guadalupe Mountains, Texas – September 2022 – The National Park Tour Continues

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is about 100 miles east of El Paso, near the New Mexico border. It is about 45 miles from Carlsbad Caverns, making it a perfect day to visit two parks in one day.

The visitor center is one of the few structures in the park. It is conveniently located near the campground, as well as the start of the primary trails.

One trail goes all the way to the top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. We chose a different trail, the Devil’s Hall Trail.

After a couple of miles you reach the wash that leads to Devil’s Hall. The wash is full of rocks and boulders, which for me, was too much to overcome to make it to Devil’s Hall. Still it was a scenic workout.

El Paso – September 2022 – Views from Above

The road that runs along a small mountain just north of downtown El Paso provides scenic views has the appropriate name of ‘Scenic Drive’.

From here you can easily see most of El Paso, and across the border to Juarez.

The houses on top of the hill appear to be the most expensive in town.

The overlooks provide a panoramic view of downtown El Paso, as well as the mountains behind Juarez.

The Manhattan Heights neighborhood below is accented by a large collection of cypress trees rising above.

A close up of the neighborhoods on both sides of the border.

This giant red X is a sculpture in Juarez that is (according to most) intended to symbolize the combination of Spanish and Native cultures.

With the glass eye in the center it also is thought to represent the Aztec symbol Nahui Ollen, for balance in the universe.

So much for balance.

Meanwhile back up on the hill is this large home with their own Statue of Liberty, visible from the border. You can’t get close enough to see if it has the famed inscription on it.

Eastern Arizona – August 2022 – San Pedro River Valley

The road from the small town of San Manuel to Benson runs for 60 miles through the San Pedro River Valley. Of those 60 miles, at least half are unpaved, and at many points, very rough.

It is however a great drive, with impressive scenery along the way. The monsoon rains have left the entire valley very green.

The first 10 miles or so south of San Manuel is paved, and runs through an impressive area of saguaro cactus. The density of the saguaros here rival the official national park areas closer to Tucson.

The large cactus below is likely more than 150 years old, with an impressive collection of arms.

The Galiuro mountains are on the east side of the valley, rising more than 4000′ above the valley floor to the peak of the tallest, called Dził Nazaayú in Apache, or Bassett Peak in English.

Once you hit the gravel and dirt section, the road goes through the washes. On this large wash the residents have used the unique approach of old vehicles for an embankment to reduce erosion.

A driving tip on these roads – when you see a sign that says ‘watch for flooded road’, slow down even if there isn’t any water, as a large dip filled with deeper sand is likely in the path of travel.

The drive through the wilderness continued for another 25 miles, often offering up great photo ops along the way.

As we got a bit closer to Benson we started to see signs of civilization….

Arizona is a great place to get off the main road and see what adventures you can find.

Oracle, Arizona – August 2022 – Moorish Oasis in the Arizona Desert

In the early part of the 20th century many wealthy people from ‘back east’ made their way to Arizona to live in the dry desert for their health. A man from Chicago named Neil Kannally was one of those people, who came west to recover from TB.

Kannally originally bought a 180 acre homestead, but over the years increased his ownership to 50,000 acres. The homestead came with a small home that Kannally added onto, as well as adding other small cottages.

Eventually in the late 1920s he had a 2600 square foot home built in a Moorish/Mediterranean style.

In addition to the main building, there were a number of small cottages that served as bedrooms, in the same architectural look.

Not what you would expect out in the middle of the desert, it served the family until the 1970s, when the last of the family passed away. Today 4000 of those original acres serves as Oracle State Park, and the home is the centerpiece.

The courtyard and buildings serve as an oasis in the desert as well as the visitor center for the park.

Much of Oracle State Park serves as a nature preserve, providing a safe haven for local wildlife as well as transitory birds. It is a peaceful place to visit, although I would recommend waiting until the weather cools off a bit in October and through the winter.

Oracle, Arizona – August 2022 – Biosphere 2

In the early 1990s people needed to find a new adventure. In the foothills of the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson was one of those adventures.

Biosphere 2 was conceived, designed and built to provide a closed ecological system; in other words, a self contained biosphere where people would live for extended periods in a (mostly) self sustained world, mimicking what would be required to live in outer space.

In 1991 8 people moved into the massive complex with it’s 90,000 square feet of rainforest, ocean, wetlands, grasslands, desert and agricultural areas. The attempt had numerous issues with food and oxygen shortages, plants and animals dying and tension among the residents who lived there for the 2 years.

About a year later in 1994 a shorter residence span was started, completing in a few months.

During, and after the residence attempts there were numerous financial challenges, resulting in a number of owners until finally in 2011 the University of Arizona fully took the facility over.

Today it continues to serve as a research center as well as a tourist destination. On the day we were the number of visitors was so low we felt as though we had the place to ourselves, in some creepy 1970s sci-fi movie about being abandoned. This did however provide great photo opportunities.

The tower in the center was the library. It was rarely used because of the lengthy spiral staircase to reach the top.

It’s setting in a natural bowl was to enhance the recovery of rainwater.

The living quarters included 10 small apartments and a community kitchen.

Inside the atriums you really get a sense of the size.

Unlike the residents in the 1990s, we were able to wander in and out of the buildings.

The energy center. Despite the fact they are in nearly perpetually sunny Arizona, they used natural gas for fuel as the cost of solar panels in the 1990s was cost prohibitive and they ran out of money to install them.

With this massive structure sealed from the outside air, the fluctuations in temperatures also caused changes in air pressure. This was managed by 3 huge ‘lungs’, which would relieve the pressure for the facility. When doing research on the tours it was disappointing to learn that the tour no longer includes going into a lung.

Fortunately we ran into one of the docents, Claudio, who has been giving tours there for 30 years. He informed us that for an additional $10 we could get a behind the scenes tour, including the interior of the lung. Where do we pay!

Once that was taken care of Claudio took us off to the basement where we passed the massive chillers for the air conditioning, as well as other mechanicals underneath the facility.

And into the lung!

The large black ceiling is a rubber membrane that will go up and down to regulate the air pressure. If the pressure was too great the entire lung would collapse, saving the rest of the facility. This fortunately has never happened, but Claudio did demonstrate how the pressure would make the ceiling go up and down.

After our behind the scenes tour completed, we continued on our own through the desert, rain forest, and ocean sections.

When in Tucson go to Biosphere 2 – and ask for Claudio!

Across the Western Hemisphere – 2017-2022 – A Celebration of 5 Years of Blog Postings

For the 5th anniversary of posting to WordPress I thought I would post some of my favorite photos that have appeared.

The blog has postings prior to 2017 but they were added in the last 5 years – those are celebrated on the 1000th posting here https://rdzphotographyblog.com/2020/01/28/a-milestone/

I recommend to all – wander the world, you never know what you might come across.

2017 – Ohio State indoor track meet
2017 – Ft Mitchell, Kentucky – Vent Haven Ventriloquist Puppet Museum

2018 – Manhattan – Vacant City Hall Subway Station tour

2018 – Sunset in Molokai

2019 – Cleveland. One of the finest architectural wonders in the world – the Arcade
2019 – Paris, Kentucky. Caliborne Farms. A multi million dollar stud just waiting for his next assignment.

2019 – San Antonio de Areco, Argentina. A participant in the gaucho festival holding the Argentina flag.

2020 – Patagonia, Argentina. A real gaucho at work.

2020 – Delaware County, Ohio reservoir from a drone.

2021 – Tucson. The Thunderbirds sail past the sun in the late afternoon.
2022 – Far Eastern Oregon on Highway 3 on a rainy Memorial Day weekend.