Sunday, June 24, 2012

King Copper

Natural State

Freeport-McMoran’s open pit copper mine in Morenci, Arizona is the largest in North America and one of the largest in the world.  The monster mine produces 650,000 tons a day of copper.  I tried to visualize its immensity and decided I’d have to see it for myself.  So I took the long way back to Taos from Tucson for the grand unveiling.  I was blown away. 
According to Google Maps the mine is the about the size of Manhattan; a slash in the earth that is a mile deep and measures eight miles north to south and four miles across at its widest point.  That’s 32 square miles sports fans.  It’s a Seven Wonders of the World phenomenon employing thousands of workers and using high rise earth movers that look like insects across the great pit.  The tires alone dwarf a human being.  The tops of mountains have been excavated to reveal brown earth rich with copper and gold.  Terraced amphitheaters laced with roads are dug, the dirt sifted and separated for its precious bounty. 

The Morenci of today is actually a new town built to house miners displaced by the ever expanding mine.  The company owns the whole shebang including workers houses that adorn an earthen cirque.

More to come  There's one hell of a story here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Magic Light

Monhegan Island is a rocky speck 12 miles off the Maine coast.  It measures just 1.75 miles long and .75 mile across.  There are no automobiles allowed.  You can't even bring a bicycle. 
While the island’s 75 full time residents are lobstermen, Monhegan is most famous as an art colony; one that became prominent in the 1890s and remains so today.  Like northern New Mexico, Monhegan boasts magic light that has inspired generations of artists including Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent and Jamie Wyeth. 
The island’s lighthouse sits at the height of land. I photographed it as the sun disappeared beneath the horizon behind me.  The white clapboards of the adjacent buildings seem to glow against the darkening sky.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Is that All There Was?

When I chanced upon the remains of the town of Rice in California's Mojave Desert it felt like the most desolate place on earth.  What compelled Standard Oil to build a service station where there are no humans on the way to absolutely nowhere is baffling.  The crumbling mid-century station which once was Rice seems to be evidence of that folly.  Yet here, as in New Mexico and Arizona, the Santa Fe Railroad gave rise to dozens of sidings and tiny settlements built to support it.  Some persist.  Some, like Rice, do not.

To get to this garden spot head east from Twenty Nine Palms on Highway 62 heading to Parker, Arizona. I do not recommend July.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Land Grant Country

Even the smallest settlements in northern New Mexico boast a Catholic church.  Shown here are the adobe churches in Golondrinas and Watrous.  Services are offered every few weeks when a circuit riding priest passes through.  This is Spanish land grant country where nearly everybody descends from the Conquistadors and Los Archuletas, Medinas, Gallegos, Torres and Cordovas seem to populate every community.

Stock Pond
Not far from Watrous grasslands roll toward the Sangre de Cristos and the land heaves up to 13,000 feet at its highest point.   State Road 161 winds through fertile pasture land past alpine lakes and tiny villages before joining Highway 518 and its abrupt ascent near Holman.    
Highway 161 Westbound

I'm having blogger software problems folks so the images and copy are not in the order intended.  Gave it four tries and gave up.