Weekly Photo Challenge: Landscape

When I think about landscapes,  I think about the drama of the wide open spaces of Nature. My hope is to be able to capture this in pictures.  I also hope to be able to show the sometimes spectacular interaction between the skies and the earth.  I think of wide-angle shots and of panoramic viewing.   Here are some examples.

Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga), New Zealand.
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Uluru, in the Australian Outback.
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Kata Tjuta, in the Australian Outback.
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In Senegal, not far from Dakar.
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White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.
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The pictures above are probably best viewed when clicked-through.  Other submissions for the challenge can be seen here.

Unexpected Pleasures (Sept 10th, 2014)

One of the conversations I had with a high-school classmate during a reunion trip to New Mexico was regarding how much more accessible the outdoors have become here in the US since the days of our your youth when we came over from India.  It seems like there are many more parks and many more marked trails everywhere, created by all kinds of government and private entities, exposing us to more of the wonders of nature in the country.  It is a great thing!

But sometimes it is the unexpected that thrills the senses.  I was on my way to Cloudcroft, out of Alamagordo, driving up into the mountains on Route 82 from the high plains, when I came to a lookout point just before a tunnel.  This was a few miles away from Cloudcroft.  I could see White Sands behind me.
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The parking lot was empty except for this older couple who had come to the location on a motorbike.  The couple looked like a rough sort, and my first thought was caution.  (I was guilty of stereotyping!) But the woman was friendly.  She wished me hello and asked me if I had been on the trail.  I said I was not aware of the existence of a trail at this spot.  The gentleman then came up and told me about a trail that led from the lookout point down into the gorge between the hills where there was a stream flowing.  He said there were waterfalls.  He said that most people did not know about the trail, which was the best thing about this spot, and that he brought his grandchildren to the stream regularly.  Since I was being flexible in my schedule I decided that I would try the trail.  The gentleman told me that it started just beyond the lookout point, nearer to the tunnel, at a place where a black water pipe ran beside the road.  He then offered to walk up with me to show me the exact spot.  I grabbed my camera bag and followed.  When we arrived at the location of the pipe all I could see was a steep slope going down from the location of the pipe. I told myself that I was not going to give that slope a try today.  The gentleman laughed, saying that he would not attempt something like that at his age himself,  and then showed me a somewhat hidden trail leading off to the right, beside the road, on the other side of the guide rail.  He pointed to a cliff in the distance that the trail would pass and told me that there was a cave-like structure over there.  The cliff looked steep.  I was not convinced that would be passable but I was going to give it a shot.  I climbed over the guide rail and followed the unmarked trail.  Pretty soon I arrived at the cliff.  Indeed there was passable trail.
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Pretty soon I had descended the cliff and this is what I could see behind me.
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The parking lot seemed quite far away at the top of the cliffs, but in fact it had not taken me too long to get to this point.  Immediately in front of me was an opening into a shady wooded area.
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And there was indeed a stream flowing in the wooded area between the hills.
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I followed the stream to a series of very small waterfalls at the end of the trail.  I thought it was quite pretty.
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On the way back I took this picture.   It looked quite peaceful.
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During the walk back I also took my time to look at the flowers along the trail. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This was just the beginning of a wonderful (though tiring) day.

And here is another picture of White Sands, a place I was was going to visit later that day.
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Here is another blog I wrote during the trip to New Mexico.

Interstate 10 (September 8th, 2014)

One evening during my trip to New Mexico…..

I am driving west into the sunset on Interstate 10 after a day spent at Cloudcroft and White Sands.  The land is perfectly flat.  The sky is still lit up in front of me but it is quite dark behind me.  The sky is clear except for a few wispy clouds.  The universe opens up in front of me.  I wish I could take a picture but it is not possible at 80mph.  There is no place to stop in the desolate countryside that I am passing.  I can see for miles. I drive by a mountain range to the left of the highway, not too far away, wondering if I was looking at some place in Mexico.  As I approach Deming, I see the rail cars of a freight train caught in the orange evening light, framed against the beautiful sky in front of me.  The train is also heading towards Deming, and pretty soon the railroad line and the highway are running parallel to each other.  I catch up with, and pass, the freight train as I enter into Deming, NM, my stop for the night.

Deming is a very small sleepy town not too far from the border with Mexico.  In fact you can see the occasional Border Patrol truck being driven around town. I do not think that Deming is well known for anything at this point. I had passed through this town during a cross-country trip in 1987 and was curious if my faulty memory matched reality.  This is primarily a railroad stop for freight trains.  The town itself lies around a one to two mile stretch of road that parallels interstate 10.   It  feels typical of a place along a highway that survives by offering services to travelers.  There are quite a few motels and even some chain restaurants. The streets are quite empty as a enter town late in the evening.  I need to to get me some authentic Mexican food. The local restaurants close early for the evening and I have to eat at the Dennys.

Went roaming around the town early in the morning as the sun was rising.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI checked out the railroad yard. This gas station in the picture below was just off the Interstate and next to the railroad tracks.  The sun was rising up behind me.

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I parked my car (seen in the picture below) at the gas station so that I could walk around and take pictures.

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Went searching for Irma’s and managed to get me some real Mexican breakfast.  The restaurant is around the corner in the picture below.

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I could stand in the middle of the road to take pictures.

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My nice little hotel room cost only $40!  I must have stayed at some similar place on Interstate 10 in 1987.

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Soon after breakfast I checked out of the hotel and took off north on a local road (Route 180), heading for the Gila National Forest and the Gila cliff dwellings.