Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dry Mountain Valleys

I love the mountains in west Texas . After one has driven for hours across the Permian Basin they are a welcome relief of a view. The mountains of west Texas rise out of the desert and can be said to be the southern extension of the Rockies, although they look like nothing in Colorado.

There are well over twenty five ranges (29 depending on what you call a "range") that are all really desert ranges-the vast majority of them are dry. Think of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and you think of clear trout streams but the mountains here are all but dry rocky places. Only the Guadalupes, Davis and Chisos get high enough to generate any real moisture and that is still rapidly runs off or is absorbed into the ground. The rest are mostly rock and brush, although you never know what spring or canyon may contain a surprise.

The Franklin Mountains are like that. They rise some 4000' feet above the city of El Paso and top out at 7000'. They are something to look at, but they are dry. Their elevation and size is just not enough "mass" to generate large amounts of rain, so they are dry peaks with dry valleys. Sure it rains here, it has even snowed twice one week when I was there but moisture is still the exception-not the norm.

When I was up on the trans-mountain drive I stopped at the summit of the pass that the road cut goes through. There a trail starts up a dry wash toward one of the high peaks. With some snow on the peak and the rocky dry stream bed I was struck thinking it reminded me of something one might see in the Himalaya (not that I have been there, but the impression from images I have seen). So I set up my camera in hopes of capturing the scene as my mind saw it, not a mountain range surrounded by a city, but a desolate place half a world away.

The crisp temps, dusting of snow, and wonderful fresh smell of the desert after a rain made the scene even more vivid to the senses. I set up the tripod, picked out a lens and added the polarizer and a grad filter to balance the shadows with the light on the peak. This desert valley of west Texas had taken on a whole new look. I made a few images.

I thought about hiking to the peak, but it was too late in the day. I hoped I would get another opportunity but the snow would be gone before I had that chance. Still I made an image that stood out for me as a rare snow in Texas

It was a good day.

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