I chose the date for this trip partially based on the Very Large Array’s configuration schedule. I saw on their web site that the radio telescope dishes would be in their closest configuration. When I visited during the Villanueva trip in 1999, the dishes were far apart, and I wanted to return when they were close together.
I didn’t have access to the summer house in Villanueva this time, so I went from one Motel 6 to another.
The Road to White Sands
On the road, I reshot Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch. By mid afternoon I was at the Cuervo, New Mexico ghost town with deep sun and sky. It was creepy in its abandonment. Beautiful, long drive on US 54 in New Mexico.
By evening I was at White Sands National Monument there was marginal light, with clouds coming and going. It made a couple of nice images.
Morning at White Sands, Tularosa Wineries, Valley of Fires, and The Very Large Array
I arrived at White Sands at 7:10 am and worked with steep morning light and clear blue sky, and felt like I shot well.
I made a brief stop at a Volkswagen graveyard in Alamogordo.
Driving north, I stopped at a winery and a church in Tularosa, as well as a pistachio farm.
Turning west, I encountered black rocks and harsh light at Valley of Fires State Park.
I had nice afternoon light and made good images on the drive to Very Large Array. I took an oil field access road to get to a good spot to shoot one of the Tres Montosas peaks.
At the VLA I shot conventional color and black-and-white films, as well as a roll of Kodak High Speed Infrared I brought for the occasion, loaded in my 1960s-era Nikon F. I stayed until closing time and watched the light evolve from handsome afternoon light with towering cumulus to deep amber light just before sunset.
Rio San José, El Malpais, and El Morro
Driving west, I stopped at Rio San José where it passes quite close to highway 6 for a beautiful, lonely canyon shot.
I drove around Laguna Pueblo looking for the mission church, but was disappointed. I made a short video but no stills.
I took a long, winding, beautiful drive through El Malpais National Monument, where I explored the sandstone bluffs, with only marginal success. I found the hard midday light and crowds distracting. Arriving at El Malpais’s La Ventana Natural Arch, I found the trail closed that leads under the arch. Without being able to see daylight through it, it was difficult to even see that it was an arch.
At dusk I walked west from El Morro National Monument on the highway to a spot with big “no parking” signs to make a shot of El Morro’s Inscription Rock at sunset.
The drive to Chaco Culture National Historic Park was long. As the afternoon flowed, I shot some really inspiring stuff. The alien aspect of the desert and the raw fun of hiking the cliffs over Chaco Canyon made it a superior destination.
Just at dark as I made my way south on U. S. 666, I made an attempt at a moonrise over Barber Peak, which was not successful.
Window Rock and Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Window Rock, Arizona is the capital of the Navajo Nation. The town’s namesake is a large natural arch with and handsome promenade built on its approach. I shot it, but not as well as I imagine I could have.
My last major stop was Canyon de Chelly National Monument. I shot briefly from the rim, then shed the heavier gear and hiked to the canyon floor to photograph the White House Ruin. The site was exactly the same as when Ansel Adams had shot it in 1942. Even the light was similar. The hike was beautiful, and I shot well.
I ended up shooting a total, including infrared, color, B&W, and medium format, about 35 rolls of film.
I felt I made more and better pictures than on the trip 14 months before. I drove home with another list of places to visit next time.