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A Peek at Picacho

Approaching a small desert peak north of Tucson, I began to understand why it had barely been named -- it's "name" sounds more like a common noun than a proper noun. The atlas had piqued my interest so, just out of curiosity, I came to "Desert Peak."

I was a bit frustrated in wasting the gasoline to get here. It looked as uninteresting as it did on the map. I got parked and we immediately started walking towards this lackluster "peak." It was a shock to see how much the vegetation had changed from the desert floor along the Santa Cruz River, just two hundred feet lower than here. How could plants be so local, so particular about where they grow? We were back in sticker and thorn country, especially the nasty chain cholla.

Many of the place-names out West are rather colorful. Unlike constellations in the sky, mountain peaks sometimes actually look like the animal, saddle, or portions of Mollie's anatomy that they were named for.

Many peaks were named to honor early explorers and settlers. Some peaks even had the dishonor of being named after politicians of the day. Usually they sound more romantic in Spanish, although that can lead to linguistic redundancies, such as the nearby Picacho Peak. In a few minutes the dog and I reached a small saddle for a peek at Picacho:

It is quite amazing how some small peaks can be so recognizable and useful for navigation, or at least orientation. Visiting them year after year, you come upon them as an old friend: Castle Dome near Yuma, Baboquivari southwest of Tucson, Picacho northwest of Tucson, Ute Mountain on the way from Taos NM to southern CO, and of course, Mollie's Nipple near Hurricane UT.

The view from the saddle was nice, but I didn't expect any more visual excitement. There wasn't a single thing about this peak that would tempt the BLM into wasting a brown stake on it. 

I purposely lower my expectations when approaching an area in order to be surprised on the upside.  That is a crucial, but difficult, technique. Sometimes, to make it easier, I go overboard and imagine scenery as a positive evil -- whatever it takes to renounce puffed-up expectations and visual greed. Hence surprise and serendipity get a chance to shine.

With nothing but plainness and mediocrity to think about, all I could do was follow my best instincts by walking up a declivity to a saddle. Small though this peak was, it had a wide variety of what you might wish to see on any mountain, and why shouldn't that be good enough? It had slopes and faces that met fresh mornings, and others that waved farewells at weary afternoons. I doubt that this is on anybody's "Top Ten Desert Wildflower Auto Loops" list, but who knows, you could always find a surprise:


klbexplores said…
Beautiful flower pics. I especially like the one framing the mountain peak. Now you have raised my expectations for the area!!
edlfrey said…
The redundancies that grates on my nerves are Sierra Nevada Mountains and Rio Grande River but they have become as common as Picacho Peak. The closing picture is 'postcard' quality.
The ultimate compliment that all bloggers work for! (eyes rolling upward)
XXXXX said…
Well, actually, that last pic is breathtaking. I do ask seriously, did you alter it at all or is that the real thing?

You know, we should think about this idea of a "postcard." When something is of "postcard quality" as Ed referred to, what is the criteria for that? Certainly, not just any old pic which is highly forgettable. I too found myself gazing at this last pic in a bit of awe as to the beauty. I have known that the combination of red and blue has always caught my eye, the contrast being particularly appealing. The green brings in life and vitality. The reason I ask about whether you have altered it or not is because some of the flowers look a bit blurred and so then there is the additional contrast of sharpness and subtlety.
This analysis is after-the-fact of first being struck by its beauty. One characteristic of "postcard quality" is that the pic stays with you, lingers in your mind, has flavor and feeling. The pic is somehow a visual representation of this underlying feeling that arose spontaneously upon the first glance.
This is art and it is dear to peoples' hearts. That is all anyone has asked you to understand. "Lighten up" works both ways.
Unknown said…
Hey Boonie; how about professional quality! Sure looks like a pro took it!
Now really, George, is that a fair question? How many bloggers don't use Photoshop to tart up their photos? (I only own Picasa.) Photo editing has become so endemic that it renders photography obsolete as an art.

Seriously, I don't remember what I did to enhance these flowers. Not so much, if I remember right. Probably just contrast. Possibly "some" saturation.

But hey, in a society where 60 year olds walk around with jet-black hair, every Hollywood actress has received 500,000 Quatloos worth of cosmetic surgery, every presidential speech is pure spin, etc., what's there to complain about if I tweeked Picasa a little.
Thanks Terrance, but we really need to realize that "professional" photography is all about Photoshop these days.
XXXXX said…
Oh, I don't mind at all. I just honestly know nothing about that since I'm not a photographer at heart. I'm not complaining at all but rather would go the other credit to your ability to tweak it into an expression which sharpens its appeal.
And I have to give some words to the twinkle that is in my eye at the moment. That you purposely engaged in this process of tweaking your photo to enhance its appeal. There does indeed seem to be within you a bit of a "postcard" lover, though so adamantly denied.
And furthermore...

The real kick in this experience is the irony: wordplay, curiosity, lowered expectations, and then the shock of what I found.
XXXXX said…
I understand that part. And I also appreciate your process and your awareness of your process, i.e., how it works for you. I have similar ways that I manage/control my thinking process. I don't know if I can adequately express my regard for the fact that you are so aware of this. We would have a much better world if this type of inner awareness, this type of reflection which can lead to re-examination and re-evaluation of the conclusion as it applies to the bigger picture, was better valued, especially by those in power.

But, you cross a line when what you say then offends a friend needlessly. All it would take is just saying it at the end with more sensitivity to who will be reading it. This is not asking you to change your message for that is the important part, only asking your sensitivity to extend a little farther along the road. I am always drawn back to your blog by such things as the fact that you DO share your inner process. I have said this before.