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Water Wheel Hike

A couple of weeks ago I met a guy who shares my love of landscape photography. We got to talking and discovered we have much in common, and a natural friendship began to form. It was not long before we started talking about joining up on outings. This is something I’ve been hoping would happen for five years, since we moved to this small mountain town in central Arizona.

This new friendship is an advantage to both of us and for largely the same reasons. We are both the age we are and thus have physical issues that can come into play. Neither of our wives, due to their own limitations, can make the kind of treks we long for and neither have the interest. They do require, however, that we not go alone when we take on an outing that is not of the mundane sort, which of course is exactly what we want to do. So, we both needed a hiking / photo buddy. We made our first outing a few days ago with mixed results, none of which dampened our spirits.

Water Wheel is a nearby recreational area known for its rock formations, series of small waterfalls, and its swimming holes. One waterfall in particular interested us. Naturally, it was the most distant and difficult to reach. Water Wheel also has an unfortunate history as there have been several accidents and deaths over the years when people have fallen or been surprised by flash floods. Knowing this increased our caution as we planned our hike, made preparations, and set out on the appointed day.

We wanted to reach that distant fall and shoot it in soft light at the end of the day. But it was a sunny and hot day, the waterfall was a two-hour hike in, and shooting just before sundown meant we would be coming out in the dark. To further complicate matters, I was taking my new backpack out for the first time. The camera gear, tripod, walking stick, water, food, and basic first aid and other gear added up to twenty pounds. That is not a lot to carry on your back, until you start climbing boulders and trying not to slide off the slope, or if someone happens to have a notoriously problematic back. Ahem.

The first part of the hike was really a stroll. Easy and no issue. When we started climbing the boulders it got more interesting. As it happened, my back began to lock up and a little more than an hour into the hike I knew I was not going to make it all the way. We were not going to be seeing or photographing the waterfall we came for. Bummer.

We sat for a while to let my back relax, down some tasty protein, and decide on Plan B. The choice was obvious and staring us in the face. There were rock features and small waterfalls all around us, so we called it good. We took a few shots, enjoyed the scenery, and made the much easier hike back to the truck. With time to spare we decided to check out a small creek a few miles away, where we were in the shade of pines as afternoon began to slip into the end of the day. The creek was small indeed and perfect for getting up close.

There are always lessons learned coming out of an experience like this, and there were plenty this time around. Lighten the load, don’t be afraid to tell it like it is, make good decisions, enjoy what is presented to you, and have a Plan B and use it if needed – you might be surprised.

In case you are wondering, no, the experience did not dampen our enthusiasm. Later this week we will make a pre-dawn drive to a hillside with a rock formation and cactus feature at the top that will be a perfect sunrise shot. It’s there, we like it, and we each want to capture our own rendering of it.

Someone once told me I needed to get out more. They were right, and I love it.

 

 

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