Sunday, April 26, 2009

My New Favorite Road

Texas has many great roads.

Drives that are scenic and awe inspiring. I have many that I have taken and greatly like. I think about the view as one crests the Hueco Mountains on US 180 out of El Paso. Or the cliffs and canyons of the Bofecillos Highlands along FM 170, AKA -the River Road. Or the rough gravel road that follows the Rio Grande through Big Bend- another River Road. Or hill country along Hwy 16. Or the Davis Mountain Scenic Loop.

But with just one visit, I think I already have a new favorite- FM 2810, the Pinto Canyon Road.

One visit. The middle of the day at that. And I am sold on it.
The best road in the state.

What make it so great you ask? Well, lets just say it is the best example of west Texas I have seen.

It starts in Marfa and winds 50 some miles to Ruidosa. 50 some miles is not that long of a road, so you can bet it packs a lot into those miles. It goes from the Marfa Highlands, across the Cuesta del Burro Mountains, down through Pinto Canyon, and across the desert to the Rio Grande at Ruidosa.

So back to Marfa. For those who have not been there, Marfa is in the middle of the vast open high grasslands south of the Davis Mountains. This just looks like what you would expect a giant Texas ranch to look like. Or maybe a movie.

That is why Marfa has been an area used in several films. Giant was filmed here. As was There will be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Fandango, and Dancer, Texas.

FM 2810 starts driving across this open range landscape.

A lonely road heading southwest toward the mountains. A road you are likely to see more pronghorn than people on.
My kind of road.

After a while the road climbs up into the Cuesta del Burro Mountains and the views get bigger. The golden grasslands of the open range roll into deep valleys and out across the Marfa Highlands.

Stands of yucca become the forest here.
The rugged peaks of the Chinati Mounains rise beyond the Cuesta's and between them lies the deep Pinto Canyon where this road will descend to the Rio Grande.

The views go for miles. I cannot seem to drive for more than a few hundred yards at a time. It seems that another spectacular view presents itself that often.

Fifty miles takes well over five hours. There are just too many places to stop.
I am filling memory cards like crazy. This is just too neat of a place.

And this is the middle of the day. I need to come back here and watch the sunset from this road.
After cresting the Cuesta del Burro Mountains, the pavement ends and the road begins a rapid decent on a rough unpaved one lane track down into the deep Pinto Canyon.

The canyon divides the Cuesta's from the Chinati Mountains and steeply drops from the mile high reaches of the Cuesta del Burro Mountains to the much lower elevations along the Rio Grande.

As you quickly descend the canyon on twists, turns and bumps the lush grass fades. Cactus and rock dominate the view. The road works it's way past cliffs and peaks into the desert country below. It crosses several streambeds. It passes the sign for turn to the Chinati Hot Springs. finally it ends at the few buildings that mark the small village of Ruidosa.

There at the Rio Grande the unpaved track joins the paved FM 170 and heads toward Presidio.

This is a drive not to miss. But it is also not a drive I would take a car on. the first 32 miles are paved but the last 20 something are not. There are also several rough patches on it. I think you would be better off with some clearance. Second note, I think this road is better driven from Marfa to Ruidosa. That lets gravity pull down the rough part.

Be sure to have plenty of memory cards, film, and you widest lens. In this big country you will need it. Drive it. It just might be your new favorite road too.

You can see more of my images from FM 2810 in my galleries:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On the Sand

Friday. On the road. Heading west.

That is a magical thought.

That is what I was doing just over a week ago. Destination Big Bend. That first day however I was heading to Pecos and luck had it that I happened to get to Monahans about 7pm.

What luck!

Late in the day and at the dunes. A perfect opportunity to stretch the legs and to warm up the tripod too.

In the past it always seemed that I drove past the dunes in the middle of the day but my last two trips have gotten me there for sunrise and now sunset. What a difference the good light makes.

That late afternoon light was bright and directional. Along with clouds it was just what I would hope for.

What a difference the wind makes too. That I really did not hope for.

Sand is fun. Wind blown sand-is not. I decided to go light with just the wide angle lens and the sturdy tripod. That turned out to be a good choice.

I started walking the dunes and the wind was really kicking the sand up. It was like being sand blasted.

I walked up and down dunes making images and feeling the grit of sand. Got to be careful to keep the tripod leg joints out of the sand. Turns out that did not matter as the grit still found it's way into the leg locks.

Made it out there for about 45 minutes. Managed to make a few decent images. Here are two.

The crest of the tallest dune with sand whipping across the top. The other you can hopefully make out my shadow on the dune.

What a great way to start the trip. Nice light and sand dunes. And it was only day one!

Who knows what the next day would bring.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Open Road

The open road.

The open road is the great journey, the place of what if, the way to a new frontier.

Nothing like it.

I especially like that first day when I leave town. That first day on the road, the possibilities are endless. With a week or more to forget the worries of the world and to just experience the journey. It is exhilarating to be on the road again.
As I head west for a week in the desert I am thinking a lot about the road the journey. Here is an image to maybe give a sense of that. Overlooking a highway cut through the mountains under the stars of night.

The journey starts.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rock Ledges on the Clear Fork

This part of Texas has a lot of limestone. There are many places along the Clear Fork of the Trinity River that have cut down to the limestone and offer a view of the past but also give the river a canvas to play on.

Those ledges make a tapestry of pools, ledges, rocks and spills that give the river character.

As a photographer, they also give me a place to practice that is less than a five minute walk from home.

Every day on the river is different and every time I walk the river I seem to see something new or something that I never noticed before. I visit the same pools on a regular basis and find them different every time.

I also find that even just moving 100 feet downstream brings a whole new world at your feet. These two images are just a small example of that.

The river has been low all winter but the top image was taken after a small rain that did put the levels up a bit higher. A good spring rain will really get the river kicking. Of course, I am not wading in it then.

As I type this I notice that it is about an hour to sunrise and since it is the weekend I think I'll grab the camera and make for the river. Who knows what I'll see today.