Monday, December 27, 2010

Moving further down the road as it materializes. I'm heading back west during my winter break. I'll be starting in Nevada and heading towards Death Valley. I'd like to also visit Zion and Bryce Canyon, but it will be depend upon the weather. I have no reservations so my wandering will only be limited by my threshold for enduring cold nights.

My flight will be arriving in Las Vegas after dark, so I will enter Death Valley not knowing what I'm driving through until the next morning, which is the best way to see a new place. As I've said before, seeing a place for the first time at night gives you a chance to get a feel for the environment through your more basic senses without biasing yourself through sight. Even when the sun rises and you can finally see your surroundings, the impression on your other senses will always remain to enrich your experience there.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lush could be the word used to describe the environment at the bottom of a canyon. The running water that creates the canyon gives rise to an explosion of vegetation in comparison to the rest of the desert. The canyon walls provide the shade that keeps the sun from baking the plants and stealing the water that they retrieved from the stream. This makes a canyon one of the most pleasant places to hike in the desert. Following the meandering stream gives your walk just the right type of aimlessness. The curve of the canyon wall always keeps you motivated to keep going in order to find out what is behind the bulging wall in the distance.

Scale is not easily conveyed. One of the best things about seeing Arches for the first time is the realization of the size of its features. You’ll lie under an arch and realize you could fit a house inside, or even a small building. You even really get an idea of how big they are just by looking at them in person, you have to hear them. The echo of your shoe scuffing against loose sand and pebbles that you kick down while climbing give you the subconscious realization of these massive forms. To record all of these impressions in a picture and then transmit those feelings to a person who has never visited the place is impossible. The challenges in landscape photography are similar to those in architectural photography. The spot must be found where the features being photographed are arranged in such a way through the viewfinder that their organization will convey to the viewer of the photograph an understanding of the space. Being at the actual site, binocular vision and the way that the shapes change as we move around help us understand a space. When that space is compressed into a two dimensional image, we need clear hints of where the edges of the foreground give way to the background. Adjusting a highlight or darkening a shadow can guide the viewer’s eye to important features, making parts of the picture stand out and giving it depth. It also always helps to throw in a recognizable object to give a sense of scale. By the way, can you spot the person sitting with their body silhouetted against the sky?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A lack of trees and a distance from city lights are the things that make stargazing in the desert so wonderful. Arches NP is dangerously close to the city of Moab with its flood-lit hotel parking lots and even a spinning spotlight occasionally. On the night where I was waiting out a big storm in my car parked on the side of the park road I had a high vantage point facing towards moab looking out over the petrified sand dunes. As the storm passed and lightning struck I saw an orange glow in the distance and was sure that lightning had started a fire somewhere in the park. It was only later when I was trying to take pictures of the night sky that I realized this orange glow was actually the lights of Moab polluting the sky. Luckily, Moab is the only city around so the lights can be escaped if you retreat deep enough into the park.

Skyline arch is on the side of Arches opposite Moab and at a much higher elevation. At this height and with this sparse landscape you can see stars all the way down to the horizon line, something impossible from beneath the screen of dense vegetation on the east coast. Whenever I looked at the night sky, I felt like the stars were receding into the sky as I focused on them. I could catch a glimpse of the brilliantly speckled sky out of the corner of my eye with its superior night vision only to have the stars retreat when I turned to look. I think this is why a person can spend so long staring at the night sky. Your eyes dart back and forth almost beyond your control trying to catch a dense patch of stars that always seems to be just out of view.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The mountains behind the dunes were hidden by the haze of blowing sand. The experience of walking on windblown sand would be familiar to anyone who has stood in the shallow tide at the beach. Everywhere you place your foot, the wind starts to carve away sand, undermining your stance. The sand drifting close to the ground shimmers like a silk sheet, creating the optical illusion that you are walking the wrong way on a great conveyor belt. Without the proper equipment, it was all that I could do to keep the sand out of my ears and eyes. I had to walk with my head down, only rarely glancing up to get my bearings and adjust my walking trajectory. The path that I chose to the top of the dune was deceptively shallow looking with nothing by which to judge the scale of the dune. As I started to climb I felt like I was under a cresting wave, being pulled down by a current of sand as a wall grew in front of me. When I finally gave up trying to climb the dune, I turned around to find myself in a pit with steep slopes on all sides. As I tried to climb out, the wind was dumping sand over the edge of the dune and the ground beneath me was sliding back into the pit faster than I could climb out. I finally found a seam where two slopes met and by staying in the seam which was relatively shielded from the wind was able to slowly crawl over the rim of the pit. Now, completely turned around I was barely able to make out the treeline from whence I had entered the dune field and made my way towards it. Safely under the cover of trees I spent the next 45 minutes dumping sand out of my clothes and brushing it from inside my ears and around my eyes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

My favorite memory of Arches National Park. Watching this slow sunrise I finally realized where the feeling I get when looking at a desert landscape comes from, it’s the shadows. Shadows in the desert are unlike those anywhere else in the world. Clouds rarely gather above this landscape and there are no tall trees to filter and scatter the light. There’s just the sandstone, linked directly to the sun. The stone is tied to the sun to such a degree that they change shape depending on the sun’s position in the sky. Taking this scene as an example, I arrived when the sun was still just a faint glow on the horizon and sat for three hours watching the scene move. First, the wavy stone in the background slithered into the light, followed by the wall on the right looking like a door opened to a lighted room. Then the great fin at the center started to surface in a lake of darkness. As the sun rose higher I could start to see a face in the distant wall, as time passed the brow appeared to swell and the chin receded while the loop of shadow cast by delicate arch swung down the adjacent incline. All of these pieces were moving like parts of a giant clock. It was cold and I was losing feeling in the skin where I was sitting but I was riveted to the spot waiting to see what would happen next.

I met a photographer who was complaining that everything he took a picture of was too bright or too dark or some combination of the two. To me, a picture with inky shadows and burning highlights is a realistic depiction of the desert, it’s the way that it looks when you pupils are constricted from the bright sunlight and you’re looking around for a shady spot to rest.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vindication of my choice to wake up early and hike up to Hohensalzburg Castle was what I experienced when I reached the top and looked out to this view. The sun was rising behind clouds, allowing the mist to linger over the homes of south Salzburg. It had recently snowed and hiking up the ice covered (northward facing) cobblestone road had felt more like mountain climbing, with me having to pause frequently and plan out my next few steps. Having made it safely to the top, I realized that the entrance fee was nearly double what the sign at the bottom of the hill said it was. Because I didn't want my climbing efforts to have been in vain and I also was scared to imagine descending that hill without a sled I went ahead a payed to get in. Whichever archbishop of salzburg was responsible for the castle walls must have also been a saavy businessman. The walls on the path leading up to the castle are designed in such a way that you can't see any glimpse of the city skyline until you have payed and passed through the turnstile at the main gate. I had thought that once I had reached the main gate, I could at least look out and see the city without having to pay, but it was impossible.

The castle itself is a wonderful piece of architecture, but the real draw and the numerous open battlements from which you can view the domes of Salzburg's churches and Salzach river. Just as I had made my way out to one of the battlements, the bells in the Salzburger Dom began to ring providing me with by far my favorite memory of my trip. These bells can be heard in this video

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The unexpected detour will often prove to be the highlight of your day. I was driving around the outside perimeter of Arches NP looking for a view that I might like to revisit at sunrise the next day when I spotted a sign for a trail that I had not read about. It was a 5 mile out-and-back trail through Negro Bill Canyon. First, a bit on the etymology of this particular canyon. The name, which has obviously been awkwardly reworked into something only slightly less offensive actually refers to a part black cowboy named William Granstaff who ran cattle here in the late 19th century. I was surprised to learn that despite the seemingly racist overtones of the name, it referred to a man who, by what I can tell, was a business partner in equal standing with white cowboys in the 1870s.
The trail through the canyon is exceptional. You crisscross the canyon floor and climb up and down the canyon walls to work your way upstream without getting wet. The trail ends at Morning Glory Natural Bridge, which is one of the largest natural arches in the world with a span of 243 feet. It is also not technically a "bridge". A bridge is what an arch is called when it spans over running water. This distinction has to do with the mechanisms that formed the arch, running water being a very different process from normal weathering. However, this arch is merely next to a running stream and was actually formed by the collapse of part of the wall it is attached to, the correct term being "alcove arch".
As I made my way along this trail, I apparently missed one of the points where the trail crossed the stream and I continued further along the narrowing bank. Eventually the stream came so close to the canyon wall that I had to shuffle sideways with my back against the wall to continue. I had just completed a tricky jump and balance maneuver on a tiny rock in the stream when I noticed a couple of hikers on the opposite side of the stream. I asked them where they had switched sides and it was far enough back that I decided to risk it and hop the rest of the way across the stream.
As I caught my breath on the other side, I took a drink from my water bottle and noticed that it was already half empty. I hadn't thought to refill it before setting out from Arches not knowing that I'd be doing any long hikes. The trail had been pretty level so far, but I resolved that I'd turn back once I had drank half of what I had left.
Just around the next bend, the canyon walls narrowed and progress was made only by alternately scaling and descending the sandy cliff base. Not knowing the distance to the end of the trail I tried to ration my water intake, but still found the canteen quickly depleted. Just as I was about to turn back, I spotted the natural bridge in the distance. I realized that it would be unwise to continue and had to admire the bridge from a distance content in the knowledge that i would return again someday soon.
Dark wedges in the starry sky was the form that the sandstone skyscapers of park avenue took the first time that I saw them. I was heading into Arches for the first time ever at 4 in the morning. The sun had not yet started to glow behind the La Sal mountains in the distance and I was driving the winding road up into the park. Looking ahead, I could not tell whether I was looking into the distant expanse of the petrified dunes or surrounded by cliffs looming overhead. Then I turned the corner leading to park avenue and I realized that the sky was not black, but riddled with more stars than I had ever seen. What I thought had been the black sky were the forms of sandstone cliffs towering over the road leading into the park. Having no sense of where I was, a strong feeling of uneasiness set in as I looked up at these dark forms that always appeared to be moving from the corner of my eye. However when I turned that corner and saw the shapes of these rock formations outlined in stars I knew instantly where I was. This view had become very familiar to me through the countless pictures I had found of the site while I was longing to visit Arches. They were unmistakeable, but so much larger than I had imagined. It was when I saw this that I finally felt that rush of being "there" where I had wanted to be for so long.

The effect may have been comparable if I had seen all of this for the first time during daylight, but I don't think that anything can compare to those magical hours that I spent in the park before sunrise that first day. Both the familiar and unexpected where slowly revealed as the sun rose, allowing me to compare what I had imagined during the pitch black drive in to the reality of my surroundings.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Privacy is the best part of visiting the southwest during the winter. In late February, snow has become less frequent and daytime temperatures begin to climb out of the 50s making hiking through the desert extremely pleasant. However, this is not the best part of this time of year. For some reason, possibly because people don't believe in wearing jackets in the desert, most of the parks and sites in the southwest are all but deserted this time of year. You may still run into other tourists at the ranger station or at the most famous sites like delicate arch and mesa arch but the vast majority of your time will be spent alone, the way it should be in the desert.

Not having a vehicle capable of traversing the washboard like riverbed leading to Antelope Canyon, I had to get a ride from one of the Navajo men that oversee the site. Luckily, I was the only one who showed up and was able to have my own personal guide through the area. If there where any place that fosters a desire for solitude it would be Antelope Canyon. Early in the year, the sun never gets high enough in the sky to crest the walls of the narrow canyon. The light, reflected back and forth between walls of navajo sandstone, fills the canyon with a warm glow. The dappled light gives one the impression of walking through a dense forest. The temperature, kept low due to lack of sunlight, feels like it would in a cave. The Navajo do their part to restrict the number of tourists in the canyon during peak seasons to help preserve the site as well as to allow each person a glimpse of the sublime solitude contained within.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The northern end of the Taiya Inlet, just outside Skagway, Alaska. We had rented bikes to ride up into the hill behind Skagway, as we had heard that the views on the road back down were breathtaking. The idea was to walk the bikes up the forested hill to a paved road and then enjoy a leisurely coast back into town.

To start, the road was much farther up the hill than expected and there were few trail blazes to keep us on track as we carried our bikes up. As a result we kept thinking we must be going the wrong way and started searching side to side along the hill for the road which we eventually found by following some hikers that were going in the opposite direction.

Unfortunately by the time we found the road, we were getting close to being late coming back to our ship. So in the interest of time we chose to take the shorter, unpaved road back down to the city. All that we could glean from the tourist map was that we would need to make a left turn roughly half way from the bottom. It seemed simple enough as there appeared to be only one turn-off on that whole stretch of road. So, we happily took the first turn we came to, marveling at the great time we were making. Then we came to a dead end, but off to the side there was something resembling a dirt road, so we continued, confident that we would be out of the woods shortly. Then the dirt road turned into a dirt path which turned into a path covered in sticks and pine needles which led to an impenetrable net of branches. But in the distance! it appeared to be a continuation of the trail! We could have doubled back and looked for the right road but there was no time now, the only way was to find a path through the forest. So we dismounted and crawled under the tangled branches and dragged out bicycles after us. Now it was a matter of weaving between trees until we reached the trail. The closer we got to the trail along our winding route the more it looked to just be a short linear patch of dirt. When we were finally upon it, it turned out to be a steep drop-off further into a brown leafy abyss.

With pride swallowed we climbed back to the dirt road and pulled the twigs from the bikes spokes and chain. Sure enough, not more than 100 feet further down the road there was a nice paved turn off that led straight back to town. When we finally reached the bottom and approached the bridge that crossed over into Skagway we stopped to catch our breath and looked out at this view. While the journey had been misery, it had led us to something much more beautiful than we would have found on the regular road.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Visit Goblin Valley State Park". This is what I was told by another hiker I met on a cliff behind the south window arch at 4am. He was dragging his wife who had just had foot surgery up a rocky trail so that they could watch the rising sun impart a glowing red hue to the arch. He told me that he had gone there about 10 years ago on the recommendation of a guy he had just happened to meet as well. He hadn't arrived until after dark and so he grabbed his sleeping bag and walked down into the valley without any notion of the sandstone mushrooms surrounding him. Apparently the experience of seeing these "goblins" for the first time when you open your eyes after a short night's sleep could be described as surreal. Actually he said he was unsure of whether or not he was actually back in his dorm room in Salt Lake City sleeping off some variety of intoxication.

For me, the experience was surreal in a different way. I had been in Arches for a few days which, while beautiful throughout, is focused on certain points of interest. In goblin valley there really is no destination when you begin your hike, nor is there really any trail. You merely drop down a short incline into the valley and choose a direction in which to wander. The "goblins" (I prefer their original name "mushrooms") look mostly identical with some standing alone or in pairs and others clustered together. At the far side of the valley the wall stands roughly 50 feet above the valley floor and is riddled with short tunnels and bubbly protrusions that made me feel like I was in an anthill. If you follow this wall, you can eventually find your way into a "side valley" where the mushrooms get taller and more irregular in shape.

The mushrooms are apparently formed of eroded sandstone but after the previous day's rain everything felt soft. To me it seemed like I could have smashed the formations with the swing of a shovel or something. I also left deep footprints in the spongy ground as I walked around. Unfortunately I entered the park with my water bottle half full and ran out pretty quickly while walking and had to turn back before I had explored the rest of the area.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The trail, part three. This is from a different part of arches, "The Fiery Furnace" a maze of narrow paths and dark pits. It can be so disorienting that the visitors center recommends that you enter with a ranger if you've never been before. I gladly took them up on the offer. Our ranger-guide must have been pushing 70 but it was a delight to see him climbing over boulders and sliding through narrow cracks while the rest of up were fighting to keep up. He also provided interesting explanations of the surrounding environment.

One detail that would prove crucial to me at a later time was his explanation of the effect of rain on exposed sandstone. The cement that holds the sandstone in Arches together is calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate can be dissolved when it reacts with water and carbon dioxide. It just so happens that rain water accumulates enough carbon dioxide on its descent to earth that it creates just such a reaction. The result is that after a rain storm, the surfaces of sandstone boulders are covered in a thin layer of the sand left behind when its CaCO3 matrix dissolved.

The reason that this was so important to me is because I prefer to wear tennis shoes while hiking. I think that they are much more comfortable, and their shallow treads provide a great amount of friction on dry, rough sandstone. Once the rain storm happened, the sandstone began to act as a course grade sandpaper on the soles of my shoes, reducing my shallow treads to a smooth rubber in less than a day of hiking. Once this had happened, wet sand began to cling to the bottoms of my shoes. These sand grains acted as little ball bearings making it impossible for me to stand on more than a 10 degree incline before I would start to slowly slide away.

This was merely a source of annoyance and mild peril until I approached the flooded wash which I described in an earlier post. As I said, there were two options, find another route or wade waist-deep through the puddle which was about 30 feet across. Other hikers were arriving often enough that I decided not to risk taking off my pants to wade through and decided to find another route. I eventually determined that this was the only passage though an otherwise immense fin of sandstone that stretched as far as I could see in either direction. There was however a large and lumpy boulder sitting on one side of the puddle that would allow for dry passage provided that one could get on top of it. I tried every approach to climbing the boulder but just as I would reach for a handhold to pull myself up the last step, my useless shoes would invariably slip and send me bouncing down the side of the boulder. The humiliating thing was that the boulder really wasn't that steep. As some snooty kid would gleefully demonstrate to me, with a good pair of shoes you could run right up the side of it.

Eventually I decided to go back and find the biggest fallen tree branch that I could and try to plant it in the water as a step to where I could grab an easy handhold on the side of the boulder. The branch I found was roughly T shaped and quite flexible. As I edged myself towards the water, branch in hand, I started to slide towards the puddle and threw my hands out to stop myself. When I slammed the T shaped branch down in my hand, the three prongs stuck to the stone and stopped me instantly. What a wonderful invention! The wooden climbing claw was what I decided to call it as it allowed me to easily hoist myself up the side of the boulder to safety.

Once I had reached the other side another group of hikers came into view. I called over to them and explained what I had done to get by and told them that I'd toss them the stick that I had used. I hurled the stick with amazing inaccuracy, bouncing it off the wall and depositing it in the middle of the puddle. Without saying another word I just turned around and continued with my hike. Figuring out how to get over that puddle was the most fun part of my day and I realized I shouldn't deny them of the same pleasure.

Don't be lazy! Turret Arch, Double Arch, the North and South Widows are all visible from a paved parking lot in Arches National Park. Many visitors take advantage of this, taking their pictures only a few yards from the start of the trail, just enough to hide the fact that they're standing next to the sign-post announcing the beginning of the trail. People generally don't enjoy long car rides but wide open national parks seem to make them crave the confines of an automobile, I even saw one family photograph this entire area drive-by style except they didn't roll down their windows to shoot.

What that family did miss was this little tree, half dead, growing in a mud pit below the grand turret arch, but somehow even more impressive than the arch itself. It seems like such a perfect place for a little tree to grow that I can only imagine that this spot has been occupied by a long line of trees for as long as this arch has been in existence. So while the family on wheels was probably already rolling past balanced rock I was slipping down rocky slopes and landing in muddy potholes, climbing up to get a better view and running across narrow passes trying not to fall 30 feet to the ground below.

In the book Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey laments the attempts by the Government to make Arches more accessible with paved roads to every attraction. Well, even those roads failed, they'll have to pave the trails and rent out ATVs if they really want to force those ungrateful to see the outdoors.

The Trail, part two. Like a giant head stone this fin marks the entrance to the Devil's Garden in Arches National Park. The name Devil's Garden seems contradictory to me, with "devil" implying a hot and arid environment and "garden" implying some sanctuary of green in an area otherwise covered in tumbleweed. I can't speak for the heat, as I always come here just at the tail end of winter when snow still falls, but the plant life really is unlike what you'll see anywhere else in the park. Junipers and Pinyon Pines are in relative abundance here enjoying the way that water lingers in the convoluted washes that form between the fins.

Parts of these washes can remain flooded for days after a heavy rain or even on a sunny day in my case when snow begins to melt rapidly. This renders some portions of trails impassable due to flooding, leaving you a choice to double back and try to find another route around a wide and deep puddle or accept a cold and squishy hike of the remaining miles after wading through. I was faced with this choice on one occasion and I chose to climb around the puddle. This course of action was complicated by conditions that I will detail in subsequent posts.

Sometimes you've got to be a little bit selfish. This is Delicate Arch, which almost anyone who has seen its likeness on a Utah license plate would know is located in Arches National Park in Utah. On websites like flickr you can find hundreds of pictures of Delicate Arch that look exactly like the one on Utah's license plate. The reason for this is that not only is Delicate Arch a dramatic example of the beauty of collapsing sand stone but it is oriented in such a way that the setting sun lights up the inside of the arch with red light on a clear day. On any given day you will find at least 20 photographers setting up tripods to catch this event, praying that clouds on the western horizon don't ruin their shot. They will wait for hours for the light sun to move into just the right position. They will fiddle with their composition trying to frame the La Sal mountains in the distance with the arch. They will pass around business cards for their respective wedding photography businesses. They will also wish death on any ignorant soul who dares to actually walk up to Delicate Arch as the sun is setting to get a unique view of the awesome and surprisingly large structure.

The first time that I visited Delicate Arch I joined them and set up shop on the side of the amphitheater opposite the arch. I waited there for 2 hours as the sun set, only for it to duck behind some low clouds just as it was beginning to burn red. Some of the photographers looked like they were going to cry! I kicked myself for wasting two hours trying to get a picture that I could have bought a poster of in the gift shop.

When I came back a year later I was determined not to make the same mistake. Once I had made the climb up to Delicate Arch, I got up close from every possible angle. There are steep drop-offs "behind" Delicate Arch making the task of photographing the lesser seen side into a small adventure even requiring an alternate approach along an unmarked trail to safely reach one side (unless you have some really grippy shoes). Once I had reached the back of the arch, I tried my best to stay out of the way of the audience on the other side of the amphitheater but the place has great acoustics and I could hear much grumbling from those on the other side.

The lesson here is to never be afraid of moving away from the crowd to get a different shot of something well known. The people who insist that the only way to photograph landmarks like Delicate Arch is from the "kodak spot" are killing creativity and ruining your vacation! Let people walk into your pictures, they give them a sense of scale. If you're trying to portray desolation at Delicate Arch, you're not fooling anyone who's ever been there. If you're really intent on joining the horde of people selling the same post card, invest in photoshop and clone the people out.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The trail, part one. This is the real entrance to the devil's garden in Arches NP. The official trail starts a little way up the road where you'll pass between two enormous fins which slowly diverge as you enter, opening up into what can be truly called a garden in comparison to the sparse vegetation throughout the rest of the park. I like this entrance though, it's not as grand and sudden but rather builds up slowly as you start on one side of a flat grassy field and slowly make your way to the base of the fins in the distance. Once there you trace the perimeter of this fortress of sandstone to find an opening so that you can start climbing into the garden.

On this particular day, the storm clouds from the previous night were just beginning to clear, leaving behind a thin blanket of snow which you can see in the foreground.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Go everywhere twice. This is particularly true for places that receive sunlight through small openings. A few hours pass and the whole place looks completely different. The first time I came to surprise arch it was noon and harsh overhead light washed out the sky and make no interesting shadows on the walls. When I returned, the sun was low in the west and illuminated the far wall just enough to still allow the low-lights to remain visible in the foreground.

It also may have helped that when I returned I came alone. My initial experience was marred by the presence of a group of "jeep enthusiasts" who had been tear-assing in and around Moab all day in a big convoy of 6 jeep wranglers. They really loved their jeeps and could not go anywhere without them, even when they were all going to the same place each individual had to pilot his own hulking gas-guzzler. They even seemed to always travel in the same order. The red one with the biggest tires must have been the leader, kind of like the ibex with the biggest horns. Way in the back of the convoy was the teal stock wrangler, clearly the omega-male. This herd of offroaders seemed to be following me everywhere for a couple of days.

The bottom falls out. I'm thinking about the hikers that I saw entering the 4 mile trail that I was leaving just a half hour before I took this picture. At the time, it was an innocent sprinkle which felt nice on a warm day. Storms seem to roll in faster in the desert. Once I realized that this black cloud racing towards us was producing lightning strikes it was a race to find the highest and most exposed location in the park, to take pictures of course. I've always wanted to try taking a picture of lightning but in Raleigh and most other places with a healthy tree population you just see bits and pieces of storms. In the desert you can view the entire thing as a single entity and really get a sense of how close it is.
24. The highway between Moab and Hanksville, Ut. These clouds were here when I woke up in the morning and the hung around all day without a drop of rain falling. I think that they were trying to lull us into a false sense of confidence. Later, around 5, just as I was getting back into my car after a 4 mile hike through Negro Bill Canyon, the wispy white clouds swelled into massive black pillars and the bottom fell out. The result will be depicted in the next picture. Anyway, this is an extremely straight portion of highway. I'd think that in making a straight road from A to B when A and B are separated by 30 miles you'd better be damned sure that you've lined your bulldozers up right. Even a small deviation to the right and your highway will end 5 miles west of town B.