Cane Cholla

The Cane Cholla (Cylindropuntia imbricata) is a species of cactus known for being relatively cold hardy. For this reason, they are often found in the desert grasslands of the Southwest where there are few other species of cactus due to the cooler environment. This one was photographed at about 4,400′ in elevation on the J-Six Ranch in Cochise County, Arizona.

Whitewater Draw

Whitewater Draw, in the Sulfur Springs Valley of Arizona, is a state wildlife area managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. It is best known as a winter roosting area for tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes. Formerly a cattle ranch, it was purchased by the state of Arizona in 1997 and improvements were made to enhance the habitat for wildlife management. Marsh areas are especially rare in Arizona, and today Whitewater Draw provides critical habitat for the cranes, many species of waterfowl, raptors and upland birds, as well as a long list of mammal species.

The little dark cloud

The Southwest is blessed with remarkable sunsets, each one seemingly more spectacular than the last. This incredible monsoon sunset at J-Six Ranch in Cochise County, Arizona featured an additional interesting feature: a small dark cloud hovering like a vaporous UFO beneath the great blazing orange cloud bank above.

A foothills evening

The evening light reveals a remarkably diverse plant community on a desert bajada on the lower slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona. The sub-tropical Sonoran Desert displays a relatively lush aspect compared to the other North American deserts.

The forest’s sudden edge

The east side of the Santa Catalina Mountains of Arizona drop precipitously to the San Pedro Valley. Here, among the Ponderosa Pines, the montane pine forest abruptly ends at the edge of a cliff.

Law west of the Pecos

Judge Roy Bean famously used his saloon in West Texas as his courtroom and proclaimed himself as the “law west of the Pecos.” Judge Bean was apparently a big fan of the British actress and socialite Lillie Langtry, who was nicknamed “the Jersey Lily” after the flower that was the symbol of her hometown of Jersey. Judge Bean named his saloon in her honor, calling it the “Jersey Lilly” (using two L’s). Coincidentally, the name of the settlement where Roy Bean’s courtroom was located, originally called Eagle Nest, was renamed Langtry after an engineer and foreman with the railroad named George Langtry. The site today is a Texas Information Center and rest area along US 90 west of Del Rio, and, yes, west of the Pecos.


The invisible falls

The former mining town of Ouray, Colorado is blessed with many outdoor amenities. One of the foremost among these is the little gem of a city park called Box Cañon Falls. Here, Canyon Creek flows off the high cliffs and drops 285′ into the narrow gorge below. A steel walkway anchored into the canyon walls allows visitors to enter the tight slot of lower Box Cañon and approach the base of the falls. The sound of the thundering  cascade, reverberating in the narrow confines of the passage, is deafening, especially around May and June when the runoff from snowmelt is at its peak. The fact that the waterfall is largely concealed inside a great crack in the canyon cliffs hardly diminishes the spectacle. Only the very bottom of the falls is visible as it blasts into the creek bed from its deep crevice, but it is enough to provide some sense of the overwhelming power produced by thousands of gallons of water falling from a great height.

The isolated storm

Unlike the the more generalized rains of winter, summer monsoon thunderstorms are often a hit or miss proposition. It is common to see a relatively small area getting pounded by an isolated storm cell, as this photograph shows. This scene is a view to the northeast of the J-Six Ranch in Cochise County, Arizona.

The Palisades of the Desert

Desert View is the easternmost viewpoint in Grand Canyon National Park along the south rim of the canyon. From this viewpoint the canyon walls turn to the north in a spectacular series of cliffs known as the Palisades of the Desert. These sheer cliffs cliffs run for miles forming the eastern wall of the canyon. The Colorado River, barely visible in the far left of the photo, is at 2,800′ in elevation. Along the rim atop the Palisades of the Desert, the contour is at about 6,800′ elevation.

White and Lavender Columbine

The White and Lavender Columbine (Aquilegia cerulean), also known as the Rocky Mountain Columbine, is the state flower of Colorado. These were photographed in Imogene Basin in the San Juan Mountains, Ouray County, Colorado.