Are You A Desert Person?

I never thought I was a “desert person.”  I moved to Grand Junction at the end of 2017 after living in Denver for 25 years.  I had been out to Grand Junction only a handful of times during those 25 years, but I was quite taken in by the desert beauty that surrounds this place and when it was time to leave the city behind, Grand Junction was my choice.  For business and personal reasons, my husband and I wanted to stay in beautiful Colorado, but I was no longer interested in the big city living we had (enjoyed?  Endured?) during our working careers.  I had done about all the highway and city commuting I wanted to do.  I still drive quite a bit, but my driving is different now.  It’s far less stop and go city driving and more long drives through the mountains and deserts, where the traffic consists mostly of herds of cattle, antelope or deer and punctuated by the occasional bear, moose, or bison.   

Deer on Nearby Pinyon Mesa

One of the things I love most about Colorado, and Grand Junction in particular, is that it’s no more than a hop, skip, or a jump to some of the most beautiful places on the planet.  From where I live, I can be at the top of The Grand Mesa, a 10,000+ foot flat topped mountain, in about 45 minutes.  Or, if I prefer, I can drive deep into The Bookcliffs, and admire a multi-millennia’s worth of variously colored sandstone captured within them, or just take in their distinctive skyline from any point in town.  The Bookcliff’s are really an amazing small mountain range, that stretches east to west from western Colorado through SE Utah, for about 250 miles, and is the longest continuous escarpment in the world according to Britannica.  Not only that, but it is a mountain range that runs from east to west rather than north to south. There are a few of these in North America, it turns out, but most of the major north American ranges run north and south.  I just call them beautiful.  There’s nothing like early morning or late afternoon horizontal light to bring out the colors and textures you’ll find in this mountain range. 

Mt. Garfield & The Bookcliffs (Sounds like a musical group!)

To capture this light anywhere, of course, timing is of the essence.  I’ve been staying closer to home recently, because of my mother’s illness and her recent passing, which has been a very difficult time for me.  I finally decided this past week to get out and do something that sets me back on the path of my regular life.  So, keeping in mind that wherever you live, you can find beauty or at least something interesting close by, I spent an evening at The State Wildlife Area, a section of nearby Colorado River State Park. “State Wildlife Area” translates roughly to “local fishin’ hole.”  The water here is beautiful and the views of The Bookcliffs and Mt. Garfield are spectacular. 

Canada Geese at State Wildlife Area with Mt. Garfield behind

The lake is stocked with fish, but there are plenty of other wildlife in the park, including otters, ducks, geese, herons, bullfrogs, and the occasional cute little cottontail bunny. Not to mention, many kinds of birds, of which red-winged blackbirds and sparrows are plentiful to name just a couple of winged park residents. 

Curious Cottontail

I got there in the early evening and walked around the lake checking out the views from various locations.  The lake is surrounded by the City of Grand Junction, and there are hints of this in most directions, so where you point your lens becomes important if what you want is a true nature photo that doesn’t include things like buildings, wires, or even picnic benches, or the parking lot … Anyway, I do try to avoid these landmines when I find them, but I’m not always successful.  Many of my photos include the ridgelines of the roofs of various homes that are nearby.  There is also plenty of farmland close by, which can sometimes be beautiful, and sometimes contain very unattractive farm equipment. Nice, but not so great for photos.


In the Desert, Some Don’t Make It

When I first arrived on this particular day, the lake was just as smooth as glass, which is unusual in the early evening around here, especially this time of year, which is known for it’s monsoon season.  I guess at one time the monsoon season was more monsoon-like, but these days, it generally doesn’t amount to much.  Thunder could be heard a few miles away as I walked around the lake and I saw a couple bolts of lightning crack the sky, and then we got a brief rain shower.  It’s fun to watch the raindrops hit the surface of the lake. 

Glass-Like Water at State Wildlife Area
Raindrops on Lake

At that point though, what I really wanted to do was find some shelter to keep my cameras dry.  I made my way with some haste to the gazebo on the south side of the lake, which was already inhabited by two fishermen and their dog, a long-haired dachshund.  The dog didn’t like me much and barked and threatened to bite me.  I assured the guys that I only wanted to take cover for a few minutes and as soon as the rain stopped, I’d be gone.  They kept their dog at bay for me while I waited out the rain shower, but it reminded me that the only time I’ve ever been bit by a dog, it was a dachshund.  This happened when I was a small child, but you don’t forget. 

I thought that before heading back to the parking lot, I would sit for a minute on a park bench I’ve enjoyed in the past, but when I got there, I discovered that either the water level of the lake was higher than in past years, or the cement slab that holds the bench has sunk.  This is OK if you don’t mind getting your feet wet. 

iPhone shot of Sunken Park Bench

Official sunset happened as I was making my way back to my car.  I took several shots of this, and kept a fair number of them, which I liked for different reasons.  I think my favorite though, is the one with the reeds in the foreground, because of course, it has a foreground, and the others don’t.  Nevertheless, the others have a kind of soft, abstract feel to them as there was still plenty of humidity and virga in the clouds.  If you look a certain way, you can see the “C” from the Colorado State Flag surrounding the setting sun in some of the images. 

My Favorite Sunset Shot of the Evening at State Wildlife Area
An Interesting Contender
A Runner Up
State Flag of Colorado

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