Changes in latitude

The final days of my fall 2016 border-to-border journey

I awoke to a beautiful, calm and sunny morning along Disappointment Creek in Colorado; the silence only broken by a light whisper through the sage brush and a car on the distant highway.  After breakfast, I packed up the car and headed south.

I made a brief stop at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Delores, Colorado, then crossed the Navajo Reservation under the watchful countenance of Shiprock.  It was late afternoon by the time I pulled into El Malpais National Monument, and snagged one of the last sites available in the campground.  It was a pleasant evening in the campground, and Shadow and I took a lovely hike into the nearby hills to watch the sunset.  Stars blazed through crystal-clear skies as a soothing chorus of crickets permeated the night.  Noise of the campers nearby precluded any recording, but I was able to get some nice photos of the starry skies.

Starry skies above the campground in El Malpais National Monument
Starry skies above the campground in El Malpais National Monument.

I awoke in the middle of the night to find the campers pretty quiet, except for loud snores from the camp next door.  I gave up on recording and returned to a deep sleep.

The next morning I enjoyed a beautiful drive south to Quemado, and on to Reserve before dropping off the Mogollon Rim.  At that point, I left the Rockies behind and re-entered the desert, leaving early fall for late summer.  I spent the last night of my trip at the Bird Area (technically the USFS Gila River Bird Habitat Management Area).  It’s one of my favorite places to record, and this time it did not disappoint.  Unlike the quiet of the Rockies in early fall, creatures of the desert were still making a lot of noise.  I stepped out of the car into unaccustomed heat and humidity and the head-pounding clatter of cicadas.   I quickly changed into lighter clothing, and Shadow and I whiled away the rest of the afternoon playing on the edge of the rain-swollen river.

Shadow enjoying the cool waters of the Gila River.
Shadow enjoying the cool waters of the Gila River.

I made a series of recordings throughout the afternoon, evening, and into the dawn, as the soundscape changed from cicadas to crickets to the chitters of birds, all with the backdrop of the distant river.  I put them together into one recording, describing the aural transition from dusk to dawn.

Following a quick breakfast, I hit the road for Tucson before the heat was too unbearable.

In thinking back upon the trip, I enjoyed my border-to-border tour of the Rockies, visiting old hangouts and seeing some new country.  The brisk temperatures and incredible fall colors were a pleasant change from the mild winters of southern Arizona.  But from a recording perspective, the trip was lacking.  I had hoped to hear bugling elk, and maybe some migrating waterfowl.  But other than the screech owls in Montana, it was pretty quiet.  I missed some opportunities by not having the details on the best places to record, and not having the time to do some serious scouting.  But I did find some places worth going back to, perhaps when I have more time to ferret out recording locations, or during seasons with more wildlife activity.  Nature recording is very challenging, requiring luck and savvy, at least as much as decent equipment.

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