December 26, 2013 – Part 3
Humpty Dumpty Fell Off The Wall
Sotol Vista Overlook
What an incredible day we have had. So much to see here. The desert is filled with so much space and it is so easy to get lost. The roads are great and this time of year, there is no overcrowded car parks to negotiate. Most of the time we feel like we are the only ones here. The clear skies and bright sun keep the landscape ever changing. If you enjoy photography, you will find so much to photograph here that you will have a difficult time trying to fit it all in. It’s going to require several trips to see everything on offer. Ross Maxwell Drive takes us back to base camp at the basin. All day Cerro Castellan peak has been looking down on us as we made our way to the desert floor. With a landmark so spectacular following us around all day – who needs a compass! It’s about 4.00pm now and the sun is starting to set. The light has transformed from a bright white to a cool magenta with purple hues. The temperature drops fast. The wind has picked up as we make it to the top of the peak. The roads slices right through a valley of peaks and valleys and delivers us to a spot where we were earlier today. The sudden display of purple, red, orange, and white within the rock formations means the temptation is too much for Andrew’s foot and compels it to shift pressure from the gas pedal to the brake pedal while his mind starts searching for a fix. When he gets like this I have to urge him on to avoid stopping right in the middle of the lane – traffic be dammed.
It’s easy to mistake the dunes for the kind you might find along a coastline or a dried up inland lake but these are different. Composed of fine and very loose volcanic rock and dust they don’t offer the same pleasures when you slide down them. Trekking to the top of them proves more challenging than appears from the car. They kind of welcome you in from the side of the road and when you put a foot on them your mind is reminding you that this could be painful if you slip. If going up feels a little challenging, the coming down bit is downright terrifying (not really) and it’s a job well done when you make it to the bottom without a tumble. Of course, once the boy appears, it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll make it to the bottom in once piece.
Andrew decided to forgo my cautions about taking the descent slowly and found himself sliding down the hills without anything to grasp onto. Has anyone noticed that they don’t make jeans like they used to? The seat of those pants really got a work out on the ride down. Pride a little hurt, and probably hands and derriere also if pressed to admit it, he decided to attempt it again to prove that he could come down without falling (which he almost did). Snapping the shots as he passed me by he almost took another tumble (just for good measure). Men will be, well, boys.
Back on the road we decided to stop again at Sotol Vista Overlook. Wow! What a sight. The sun’s golden glow is mesmerizing. Stunning rays of golden light crawl out across the desert floor. The contrast to the pictures taken earlier in the harsh mid-day light feels like being in an entirely new place altogether even when standing on the exact same spot. Andrew spent a quick hour photographing the ridges, valley, and flora while the sun said it’s last hurrah. Feeding of his excitement, I decide to step out of the truck and join him. I last about about 10 minutes before recoiling into the passenger seat. Call me a wimp but the wind on the overlook could almost blow you away and the temperature had frigidly dropped to a breathtaking 40 degrees. We have hats, gloves, and jackets stored in the truck but even with these worn securely, the wind cuts right on through. I am not sure how Andrew was able to stay out as long as he did (superior determination and a deficiency of common sense I suspect). I have noticed when something really captures his attention he becomes fully absorbed in it, zoning out everything around him including heat and cold and loses track of time. He had to forgo gloves in order to manipulate the dials and his hands were half frozen when he finally returned memory card full. The feeling that he had captured something special (which would not come by again) was enough medicine to ease his realized pain. I had such a difficult time with selecting the pics. He captured so many differently interesting angles and perspectives. It was worth the pain after all.
The road you see winding it’s way around the ridge as it descends into the valley is part of the Ross Maxwell Road we traveled today.
We arrive back at camp shortly after dark with enough time to use the generator for a quick meal before heading to bed. Tomorrow we will head back down Ross Maxwell and this time we will reach the pass before dusk (hopefully).