Grand Canyon

For a Christmas present to each other, Jennifer and I went to the “Skywalk” over the Grand Canyon. It was less of an experience than we expected, but a helicopter ride into the Canyon was spectacular. The curved windshield played havoc with focus and sharpness, but I did capture a few shots. The 3rd image was shot as we flew over the rim and the earth just fell away below us. Awesome!

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Mojave Desert

Another day trip west of Needles was to the Mojave National Preserve (recently made a National Monument by President Obama). Hole-in-the-Wall trail required scrambling through a narrow, rocky cleft between two buttes. Elaborate rock faces there engaged the imagination. Sunset arrived while driving through a beautiful Joshua Tree forest. We stopped and marvelled at a stunning display of natural wonder.

 

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Amboy Crater & Route 66

Our first day-trip from Needles was west to Amboy, an old Route 66 rest stop in a desolate area of the Mojave Desert. It comprises little more than a motel, a restaurant , a gas station, and a population of 4. But it has some interesting attractions: a unique volcanic crater with several concentric cinder cones, two Chinese guardian lions in the middle of the desert, a funky Route 66 motel and diner circa 1950s, and an international art exhibit!

The art exhibit, housed in the Roy Motel cabins, is a part of a larger art project originating in Switzerland: Matza Amboy explores in rather esoteric ways the issue of water scarcity and how its unequal distribution “becomes an instrument of power and profit”. The dry Mojave is contrasted with the abundance of water in the Swiss Alps, and makes reference to the Aletsch Glacier. I took a photograph of it on a trip to Switzerland in 2006, which I’ve included here.

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Oatman

Now settled for a month in Needles, California. Our first excursion was to Oatman, Arizona, a one-street, one-time mining town on the famous Route 66, with a hotel where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard made a honeymoon stop. Wild burros, descended from miners’ pack animals, wander freely. Clearly the burro in the second image can’t read the “No Parking” sign, but these burros sure know their rights! They’re protected and don’t hesitate to panhandle, pick-pocket, purse-snatch, kick and bite. The worst sanction they get is a scolding! We also saw fields of cacti on the way, and some very photogenic junk vehicles on the edge of town. The Sitgreaves Pass above Oatman was a major obstacle on the main route to California for migrants during the Great Depression.

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Hoover Dam

On our way to Needles, California, we stopped for a tour of Hoover Dam. It’s a very impressive Art Deco monument glorifying American ingenuity, but raises a whole raft of issues related to our relationship with nature. Lake Mead is drying up and the Colorado River is drained of its water before it reaches the sea. A cautionary tale!

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