Here are a few photographs taken on some recent hikes and trail runs in Sedona.
First was a hike across the top of Mescal Mountain. There are well-defined trails that go around the mountain but only faint tracks that go up and over the top. There are even a few spots that require some basic rock climbing moves—but nothing too difficult.
From the top of Mescal Mountain one can see across Long Canyon into the Red Rock-Secret Mountain wilderness area. One can also see two dark openings in the middle distance. The one on the left is the so-called “birthing cave.” Note in the second image the crowd of people entering and leaving the site.
A few days earlier a small group of trail runners had done “Earl’s Loop” trail run. You won’t find this on any modern maps but you might find it on some older maps. It does not see much traffic and the trail is faint in spots but it has some great views into the Red Rock-Secret Mountain wilderness area. And, of course, the obligatory group jump— with some jumping on the count of 2 instead of 3.
We are entering Milky Way season—generally considered to be March through September in the northern hemisphere. In mid-March the Milky Way does not rise until well after midnight and the Galactic Center of the Milky Way is only about 25° degrees above the horizon by astronomical twilight.
Accompanying the Milky Way was the waxing crescent Moon which was 77% illuminated on the morning of 13 March 2022. The Moon would set around 0413 MST and twilight did not start until 0516 MST.
What this means is that I could photograph the landscape with the Moon illuminating it and then an hour or so later capture the Milky Way after the Moon had set and the sky was very dark.
I arrived with bright moonlight illuminating Cathedral Rock. I positioned the camera so that I could get some star reflections in the small—very small—pool of water. I also shot images without the water—just expanses of undulating red rock with alternating patterns of light and shadow.
Having finished that part of the show I had to wait until the Moon was at least a few degrees below the horizon allowing the sky to become very dark.
The Galactic Center of the Milky was about 16° above the horizon at moonset—which was just barely above the high point of Cathedral Rock. That wasn’t really the shot I wanted so I waited until it got higher.
Just before and after astronomical twilight the Galactic Center had risen to about 25° above the horizon. I shot a few images before twilight began to wash out the stars in the eastern sky. As a bonus, I was also able to capture the planets Venus and Mars just above the horizon.
The foreground images were shot at ISO 800, ƒ/5.6 and ƒ/8, and 120 seconds exposure with LENR (long exposure noise reduction) turned on. The star images were shot at ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, and 300 seconds exposure with LENR. Star images were taken with the camera mounted on an iOptron SkyTracker mount.
A late-season winter storm brought snow to the high deserts of northern Arizona. An early morning check of weather conditions indicated that Sedona airport (KSEZ) had reported snow. And satellite data showed an area of fog in the Verde Valley, including Sedona. This had the potential to be a great opportunity for photographs.
The early morning visit to Sedona was worth the effort. And the trip home included a stop at the recently re-opened Indian Gardens Cafe in Oak Creek Canyon.
It has been a wet autumn with precipitation amounts well above average for both the month and season. This has resulted in water flowing in some of the small seeps, springs, and streams in the Red Rock country of Arizona.
After a trail run earlier last week to view the water in the desert I returned a second time with photographic intentions. I was particularly interested in the tinajas located in a small side canyon. There had been running water—albeit a slow trickle—on that first trip and I was interested in capturing images of the water.
Although only a few days had passed between trips the flow of water had noticeably diminished; it will likely take another substantial rain event to bring the water levels back.
Even so, the tinaja was still full of clear water and made for an excellent subject with bright sunlight in the morning and soft shadows in the afternoon.
Farther up the side canyon was this wall with a water seep that allows a few ferns to take hold and grow. While this is fairly common, the tree growing out of the ferns is decidely less so.
It’s been an interesting fall around here with regards to precipitation. The December statistics for Flagstaff are interesting. Up through 12/29/2014, there had been 2.75″ of water equivalent (both rain and melted snow). Normal for this period is 1.60″. Snowfall, on the other hand, has been mighty scarce. There had been a total of 4.9 inches this fall/winter; normal should be closer to 26 inches. What a difference!
But all that changed dramatically with the arrival of a strong and cold winter storm on New Year’s Eve day and continuing into the New Year’s Day. Snow levels fell to very low elevations with this storm and photographers were flocking to their favorite locations to capture amazing images of the desert with snow. Even Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, received some snow from this storm.
An interesting aspect of this event was the cold front that pushed southward across the Great Basin and brought frigid air to southern Utah and northern Arizona just before the storm arrived. Then, when the precipitation began it fell into very cold air—and did not melt—resulting in snow accumulations around the very low elevations of Lake Powell and Page. This location is well known for being highly photogenic and the addition of snow makes it even better.
Closer to home, significant snow fell in Flagstaff (16-20 inches), Oak Creek Canyon, and Sedona. In fact, folks suggest this may have been the most snow from a single storm in several decades with 8-10 inches decorating the famous Red Rock Country.
And it was an amazing sight when the sun finally broke through the clouds.