Little Horn Sheep

It’s not very often we see big horn sheep. But this past week we went out to take pix of the snow and ran into a herd of big horn sheep, including 7 babies. Woohoo!

I can probably count how many times I have seen big horn sheep on 1 hand. They are one of the less common big animal encounters. We were lucky enough to not only see big horn sheep, but babies… and in snow on top of that. It was like a 3-fer.

It made my day, if not my year! I was very happy to have a positive jolt of goodness in what has been a difficult time for us personally. You take joy where you can get it.

I guess we need to get out more!

A Tribute to Our Journey

Journey was born Dec 15, 2009.

We picked her up on Feb 2, 2010, following an extremely difficult time and my dad’s death on Christmas the year before.

She was my everything. I poured my love and soul into her, and she gave back in spades.

We got her just before we retired while still living in the Valley.

She grew up at the home we were building at the time in the mountains, where she has lived ever since.

She was our helper, our companion, and friend.

Journey died on Jan 31, 2021. Almost 11 years from the day she came home with us. She was 11 years old.

She left our lives just as she came into it, following a parent’s death, and a difficult time. John’s mom died just two weeks before. John’s mom’s quality of life had diminished significantly in this covid time of ‘protectionism’. We had only been allowed to see her once in the past year. It took its toll. After months of isolation and loneliness, she died alone, with no family at her side.

I had a friend once who said she’d never want another dog again, as the death of a pet can be so hard. While I can attest to the excruciating pain and sadness Journey’s death brings, I wouldn’t give up the last amazing 11 years with Journey for anything. She had so much love to give, and gave it unconditionally.

She was such a happy girl, and physically showed it in so many ways. She loved her toys and her pillows. (And she loved me to fluff her pillow under her head. She had me wrapped around her paw.). She loved for you to ‘hold my paw’. She’d wave when she saw you and want you to hold her paw as a form of affection. If she really liked you, and you were lucky enough, you’d get a ‘puppy hug’. She’d put both paws and her head on your shoulders, as if to say, “I love you, thank you for being here”. When you’d come home, she’d be so happy to see you that she’d go into a ‘puppy rampage’, and run around in circles. She had so many beautiful gestures, facial expressions, and love.

Journey was so full of life and happiness that she brought it with her and shared it with everyone she met. She loved people and would greet them with a butt wiggle, tail wag and those big beautiful bright eyes, as if to say, “Hi, hi, hi, I’m Journey.” Strangers were just friends she hadn’t met yet, and she introduced us to many.

Journey was with us 24 / 7. She went with us everywhere. She loved her Jeep and truck rides, it didn’t matter where we went. She adored camping and was all full of jumpy-jumpy-jumpy just at the mere mention of it. She had an enormous vocabulary. She knew when it was supper time (her favorite time of the day). I would ask John, “can you take her out?” while I was preparing dinner. She knew what that meant, and without any hesitation ran to the door. She would RUN back in with such excitement expecting dinner to be waiting for her, sometimes skidding into the kitchen.

She was so full of life and brought such joy and happiness to our lives. Our lives and home are empty without her. We are absolutely devastated and heart broken for her loss. The pain and knots in my throat and gut are unbearable. But we remember her many quirks, mannerisms, and every day behaviors that make us smile.

Both John’s mom and Journey leave a huge void. They wanted more than anything, for us to be happy. We intend to never forget and honor their memories, and live a full life and be happy. I miss you so much it hurts.

A world of friends

I have to say, with all that is going on in the world, and our lives right now we have felt very alone. I know we are not the only ones. Having not seen or talked to so many friends we have (or had) during all this isolation seems so sad. Will it be different when the world opens back up? Or will they be gone forever? That I can not answer, but suspect it is a combination of the two.

So, without getting too sappy or melancholy, today I feel thankful for the my many friends and supporters of my photography. It’s times like these that we should immerse ourselves in those things that make us feel joy and happiness when all the rest is falling by the wayside. I have had many folks who have asked to see pix of the snow. So it is with that encouragement, that we braved the storm and trudged out every day to get what pix we could.

Snow photos can be difficult to get. First off, the snow itself is white and blindingly bright. Having no ‘color’ it is hard to take photos of and exposures can be tricky. The snow storms bring bleh clouds and gray skies, drab and not very photogenic. Here on the mountain, most of our roads are closed. Snow plows have created berms along the main roads making pulling off the road impossible.

Animals are scarce, as foraging through the snow can be difficult for them. See my post here… https://kritterspaw.com/2021/01/27/snow-foraging/ . But with the encouragement of friends, we were persistent and somewhat successful in our quest to find some decent photos.

We went North toward Winslow looking for snow and animals. We went out into the forest behind our home to see if we could find some snow views. We headed toward Flagstaff to see if we could catch some animals. We ventured toward Pine to see what that might yield. See post here … https://kritterspix.com/2021/01/27/we-got-snow/

We ran into road closures, icy slick roads, dead animals, stupid drivers, impassable areas, ugly skies and bright harsh light. But we also found bull elk standing in a meadow blanketed with snow staring back at us wondering what we were doing there. We saw trees caked with snow on the windward side majestic and satisfied with new found water. Ponds and waterholes previously dry were filled with fresh fallen snow, thirsty grass poking through the hill surrounding her.

There is beauty when we look for it, both in the environment around us and those in it. Be thankful for what you have and who you have to share it with, as we are today and everyday.

We Got Snow

Storm brewing on the horizon over Moqui Draw
Snow coats trees over Moqui Draw

After a long dry monsoon season and cold barren winter our forecast seemed bleak. We were desperate for some precipitation and moisture for our thirsty forest. The weather guys swore we were really in for it… Monday, no Tuesday, wait maybe Thursday, or Friday. Nothing. For sure Saturday. It seemed everyone else started getting it, but we were passed by. Flagstaff was getting pounded we heard. Hmmm. We got maybe 4″, and were waiting for this monster storm.

Snow clings to trees in the forest outside of Flagstaff after January snowstorm.
Elk grazes in Northern AZ

Finally, Monday the storm hit. Over the course of Monday and Tuesday, we finally got some much needed snow. It came and came, yay! We figure we got around 24″ all together. It’s hard to say exactly, as the winds were blowing so hard, drifts were high, and actual measures were difficult to estimate.

Snow collects in depression outside of Flagstaff, AZ
Elk roots around into fresh fallen snow

No matter. We are happy to have it. I guess good things come to those who wait.

Snowy road outside of Mogollon Rim.
Snow coats the trees after a Northern AZ winter storm.
Snow falls over previous burn area.

See my other posts, here… https://kritterspix.com/2021/01/29/a-world-of-friends/ and here… https://kritterspaw.com/2021/01/27/snow-foraging/.

Best of 2020 – Animals

I like to review my year’s photos to consolidate the best of the year.

I posted my Best of 2020 – Landscape photos here… https://kritterspaw.com/2021/01/12/best-of-2020-landscape/. Now it’s time to review my animal pix. It was a good year for animals, as we saw a lot of different types.

Big Horn Sheep

We were lucky enough to see this beautiful herd of big horn sheep as we left Alstrom Point. We saw the herd in the distance, so drove ahead of them, and I walked out behind a rock to see if I could sneak up on them. I’m not sure who was more surprised when we saw each other as I crotched down from behind a ridge – me or them. It was a fantastic moment.

Coyote

Admittedly, I am not a big fan of coyote. They are scavengers and corral & hunt my precious deer and elk. So I’m just as happy not to see any. But I did this year, and got a decent photo that makes the cut.

Kit Fox

We don’t see many fox, so I was thrilled when we saw this pup this year. So cool!

Deer Fawn

All babies are cute, especially the 4 legged animal variety!

Javelina

Speaking of babies… it was super cute to get so see this affectionate family of javelina with new born babe.

Elk baby

And elk baby, or calf.

Elk bull

The next best thing to new animals (at least for us), or baby animals, are those big boys… elk bulls

Deer Buck

and bucks…

The cuter and better expression, the better!

Chipmunk

I got a ton of chipmunk pix this year, they were just too darn cute.

Deer Doe and fawn

And finally, pretty much any animal in the snow. Just wish we had more of it!

Alstrom Point

We have had more trips cancelled this year than we have gone on. Such is the year 2020.

We had put off our trip to Alstrom Point, overlooking Lake Powell, due to weather. Not bad weather, but too much blue sky! With little rain or clouds on the horizon, a beautiful typical AZ blue sky can be less than photogenic.

So when forecasts for clouds came out, we packed up and headed out. Unfortunately, there were none. While we were there, the weather forecast called for clouds the next day (when previously it had called for Clear and Sunny). So we stayed another day. All we got was more blue sky. So we headed for home.

On the way home though, we were gifted with a great little surprise: big horn sheep.

I anticipated where they were headed and stalked into them. Fantastic.

By the time we got home, we were greeted with 2″ of snow. Go figure! (Check out snow pix here … https://kritterspaw.com/2020/12/12/blizzard/)

Sometimes magic happens when you least expect it. Stay the course. Stay positive, and keep on doing what you enjoy.

Sun star

Call ’em what you will – sun star, sunburst, starburst, sunray, or just plain fun.

I love doing sunstars. A sunburst adds a dimension to any photograph and point of interest.

Sun bursts through the trees to reflect through the Aspen Trees

I am often complemented at my use of adding sunrays with a a star filter, program, or app. The truth is, sun bursts are very easy to do in camera. No apps required.

All one needs is a wide angle focal point and small aperture. I love my Canon 16mm, set at f/11 for these great results. Sometimes you have to take a number of photos to get the sun poking through the trees just right.

You may have to split a tree to showcase the sunburst, rather than just looking directly at it with full intensity.

But, it’s an easy thing to do, at sunrise, sunset, or even mid day.

As with any photograph – look ahead, look behind, look all around, and look up. Sometimes the best things are just ahead of us.

The Bucks Have It

While I love when we see any animals, the most coveted are the most unique and least often seen. Big animals, boys (bucks and bulls), and babies bring the most attention due to their illusiveness.

Aside from that, gestures and action, garner more interest, like this floppy eared buck.

I try to capture their personality and individualism in their environment to share.

These animals are here and gone, so it’s important to me to make their moment shine. I keep telling ’em, smile pretty for the camera – sometimes they actually listen.

Aztec Peak

Workman’s Creek in Gila County, resides in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness. It is along a long dirt road 25 miles from Young to the North; or 30 miles from Globe to the South.

View from Workmans Creek Falls
Hawk hangs out on a tree limb over Workmans Creek

The two hundred foot falls drop down to the ground below cascading over rocks along the overgrown creek bed. With little rain this season, the falls are not running.

Truck crosses workmans creek bridge

We weren’t here to see the Falls… or Workman’s Creek. We came to check out Aztec Peak, which continues on the road past the falls (if the gate is open).

Smoke from fires in the area yielded an eery hazy sky with a red sun.

Aztec Peak is the highest point in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness. We were greeted by hazy skies from the smoke in the valley below. The 21,000 acre Salt Fire, the 5,000 acre Meddler Fire, the 9,000 Medicine Fire and the 62,000 acres Griffin Fire, all contributing their fair share of smoke. At night we could see the glow of the fires burning, the closest only 5 miles away from us.

The views from the Peak were terrific, though mired by the smoke and haze. It is definitely worthy of another trip, despite the long drive.