Posts Tagged ‘Covered Wagon’

Living The Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences

March 18th, 2016

Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde

Part Five: Agricultural Influences

(Continued from the blog post, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel.”)

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”

~ Aldo Leopold from A Sand County Almanac

About This Series: “Living The Good Life”

Fall Maples, Aspens, Black Oaks and Fresh Snow on Grizzly Ridge From the Garden at Rough Rock, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Fall Maples, Aspens, Apple Trees, Black Oaks and Last Sun on Fresh Snow on Grizzly Ridge From the Garden at Rough Rock, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Scene when I arrived home from the #Heartland. (To see large click on image)

In 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I asked to interview her about her locally popular organic gardening, homemade preserves and all natural cuisine. I also wanted to capture the essence of my parent’s philosophy of living, their low impact lifestyle and long-term sustainability way before the word “sustainability” existed or the philosophy became a trend.

While the tape recorder ran, my mother joyfully began to answer my questions about more than 56 years of vegetable gardening, flower cultivation, ornamental breeding, gardening for butterflies and birds, natural pest control, fruit tree pruning, grafting and much more.

Unfortunately, we only made one tape. She died suddenly while I was 3,000 miles away on the East Coast before the interviews could continue. The afternoon after that fated first taping, she handed me her personal copy of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing. She first paused to hold the book and look at it for moment, put it in my hands with gravity and said, “This was our Bible.”

The Nearings and their methods as professed in Living the Good Life, spiritually led and inspired the 1950s “Back to the Land” movement. The Hydes were at the early edge of this movement, leaving the Bay Area in 1950 to settle first in Indian Valley among the remote mountains of the Northern Sierra, then on a rocky flat bench of land on a branch of the Feather River Canyon, looking down on Indian Creek and up at Grizzly Ridge towering more than 4,000 feet straight up above the house they carved out of the wilderness.

This series of blog posts examines how Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail in pursuit of flora, fauna and photographs, adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.”  Part One serves as an introduction, citing sections of the book and how the Hydes applied them. Part Two reviews Ardis and Philip Hyde’s respective childhoods and how their influences brought them together and eventually to their own land in the country. In the third episode of “Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde” I reflected on the changing seasons and passing years as their dream home and their way of life continue here. Part four of Living the Good Life, came from my interviews of Dad about defeated attempts to establish a home in Carmel near the photography market as he and my mother were advised to do by his mentors and friends Ansel Adams, David Brower and others. Failure in Carmel surprisingly took them overseas to Morocco in Northern Africa and eventually back to California where they built their dream home in the Sierra. More on Morocco in future articles and blog posts.

Part Five: Agricultural Influences

Before continuing the more or less chronological story of the Hyde’s “Living The Good Life” dream with the construction of their home to include passive solar and other green or passive energy features in Part Six of this series, in this Part Five I will share how my mother’s ancestors helped found part of Sacramento and through their ranch contribute to the agrarian lore of the Great Central Valley. My mother orchestrated at least a start in agricultural knowledge during my childhood.

My father, born and raised in San Francisco, sought out nature all over the Bay Area. His father was an artist, draftsman and furniture designer and maker who also loved nature and loved the Sierra. He descended from a long line of schoolteachers. For more on my grandfather Leland Hyde and Dad’s other early influences, see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 4.”

In contrast my mother’s ancestors were early pioneer families of the California Central Valley. My mother grew up in the greater Sacramento area, spending most of her childhood in the rural outskirts away from the town that is now downtown Sacramento. My mother’s maiden name was King. Ardis King Hyde’s father, Clinton Samuel King, Jr. grew up on the King ranch outside Sacramento. Mom’s mother, Elsie Van Maren King grew up on the Van Maren Ranch. The King’s sold their ranch when my mother was too young to remember. However, my entire life, until my mother passed on, she talked about her vivid memories of the Van Maren Ranch.

The Van Maren Ranch was located in the part of Sacramento that is now called Citrus Heights. The Van Marens were one of Citrus Heights founding families. Van Maren Boulevard was named after the family. The main ranch house, roughly in the center of the 1,000-acre ranch, stood on a hill that has now been removed where a shopping mall now sprawls.

One Van Maren family myth had it that during the Great Depression, my great grandfather Nicholas Van Maren exclaimed one day in exasperation that his greenbacks were worth so little that he might as well pave the lane into the ranch house with them.

“I’ll call it my Greenback Lane,” he cried out. From then on the family and their friends called the road Greenback Lane. This was how the familiar Citrus Heights thoroughfare received its name.

The main crops on the Van Maren Ranch were wheat, oats and barley, with a secondary production of grapes, almonds, apples and olives. There were also a number of milk cows, horses, chickens, goats, lambs and pigs to supply the family pantry. My grandmother Elsie had three sisters and no brothers. The four girls grew up doing the farm chores that in those days were usually done by boys, in addition to the household chores as well. My grandmother was a superb cook, who could easily feed a few dozen people. My mother, who had three brothers and no sisters, as the only girl in her generation, was constantly in the kitchen with her mother. Some of my mother’s best recipes were handed down from generation to generation.

My mom remembered trips out from the suburbs to the rural area that is now Citrus Heights to the Van Maren Ranch on weekends one or two times a month. She learned to ride a horse on the ranch as a little girl, milked cows and helped out with all of the tasks on the ranch that her mother had grown up doing. Mom loved visits to the ranch and did not mind pitching in and working with her grandfather around the ranch and grandmother in the kitchen. Mom was quite capable and hard working, even as a child. Her grandparents in turn enjoyed the companionship and help of their eager, inquisitive suburban granddaughter each time she visited. She remembered hauling water from the hand-dug well to the house by bucket the old-fashioned way and making everything in the kitchen by hand.

Both my mother and grandmother were tough as nails. They could out work and out rough-and-tumble any boy or man their whole lives. Part of what attracted Dad to Mom years later was how comfortable and fearless she was in the outdoors, yet how she also carried herself with grace indoors.

Besides being an artist in the kitchen, my mother was what gardeners call a “green thumb.” She could make flowers grow from rocks, which is essentially what she did for close to 60 years at our home in the Sierra Nevada. She had not had her hands in the soil much at all though for many years when my parents finally bought the property in December 1955.

Soon after, Mom and Dad walked the property with their friends Cornell and Pat Kurtz from nearby Lake Almanor, who also were accompanied by their four-year-old daughter Kit. A tangle of branches, decimated small trees and bulldozed piles of dirt and rock, the house site had been a logging staging area. Not much dirt mixed in with the Grizzly Formation igneous andesite rock. Indian Creek over geological time cut down through a giant rockslide that came down off of Grizzly Ridge and dammed up the creek. The bench a few hundred yards above the present riverbed consisted mainly of angular fracturing Grizzly Formation rock with some dirt in between to further wedge in the rock and make it hard to move.

This was more than 15 years before the publishing of Dad’s renowned book, Slickrock with Edward Abbey, but Dad and Mom had traveled much in the Southwest where the name “Slickrock” was common as were other names with “rock” in them such as “Smooth Rock” or “Balanced Rock.” For more about Slickrock see the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?”

Recently Pat Kurtz described that she and Cornell had visited the Hydes in 1956 while they were still living in one of the neighbor, Bill Burford’s houses, before Mom and Dad started building our home in 1957.

“I remember picking up the sharp, pointy rocks on your land,” Kit Kurtz added. “The rocks I were used to at Lake Almanor were rounded. I was already thinking, ‘this is rough rock.’” While showing the Kurtzes the land, Dad mentioned that they could not think of a name for the place.

“Your Dad looked down at Kit,” Pat Kurtz said. “He asked, ‘What do you think?’ and Kit said, ‘Rough Rock.’” Dad and Mom looked at each other and at Kit with smiles of acknowledgement and agreement.

“That’s it,”Dad said. “That’s the name.” Our home has been Rough Rock ever since. I will say with great assurance that to this day it lives up to its name in spades, or despite and intensely in spite of spades, or any other digging implement.

Dad even had to blast or chip a few giant rocks. Tons more he removed to pour the foundation. The rocks taken out of the trenches for the foundation were distributed along the hillside to make terraces. My parents filled in behind them to build the soil for a garden. I was not born until 1965, but the pickup truck hauling program was far from over when I got old enough to wield a shovel or pitchfork. I remember a childhood filled with trips to nearby ranches and farms to clear manure, used hay or combinations of the two out of horse stalls. We made those trips in an old 1952 Chevy Pickup we called the Covered Wagon when it still had a corrugated steel camper shell-like canopy on the back. For more on the adventures of Covered Wagon all over the West see the blog post, “Covered Wagon Journal 1.” We also hauled dirt, sand, grass clippings, straw, wood chips and just about anything else that would make soil. I will write more about the gardens and gardening in future blog posts.

Besides being a laborer and off and on participant in Mom’s gardening efforts, thanks to my mother I was exposed to other agrarian influences. As a very small boy, probably around age three, my mother took me to a nearby dairy farm, introduced me to the farmer and to his dairy cows up close. Mom and I watched while the farmer milked his cows. We tasted the milk and I even took a turn at milking. When I was young we had milk delivered by a milk truck as part of a regular milk route. Later, I would go with my mother to pick up whole milk directly from the dairy farms that sold it. Mom skimmed the cream off the top and used it to make butter or to whip cream. We also made homemade ice cream from local whole milk.

My mother raised me on unpasteurized milk. I lived a highly active, sports-filled life and never broke a bone until I was in my 40s far away from my childhood home. I have never had any allergy problems either. A substantial body of scientific evidence links pasteurization, hormone supplementation and genetic modification of milk and dairy cows to food and pollen allergies.

My mother and my mother’s brother, Nick King, taught me how to care for, prune and organically fertilize our apple trees. For more on my uncle’s nursery, apple farm and beekeeping, see the blog post, “Actor, Photographer, Apple Farmer and 1960s Activist Nicholas King’s Memorial.” Every year Dad and I helped Mom pick apples in our mini orchard of three trees. Mom tried many other types of fruit trees, but few of them bore much fruit in our mountain climate and elevation of 3600 feet above sea level. Just before she passed on in 2002, Mom planted a plum tree in front of the house that just started bearing fruit four years ago. It produced a heavy limb-bending crop of plums one year, but unfortunately the raccoons ate most of them.

Another agricultural, small farm activity Mom instigated at Rough Rock when I was a kid was raising chickens. They were bantam hens named Henny Penny and Peg Leg. They laid a slightly smaller egg than most chickens, but they each produced one to three a day, which was all we needed. Dad built them a chicken wire cage inside our garden shed. They would go in at night and out during the day. I fed them around the same time each day as I fed Pad, our German Shorthaired Pointer dog.

Pad was our primary domesticated animal. Pat Kurtz originally found her for us and named her P. – A. – D. after Philip, Ardis and David. The Kurtzes had a long line of their own German Shorthaired Pointers for many years. Pad would stay with them when we traveled. Pad was also good with the chickens. She hardly even went near them. She ignored them with disdain and distaste. We never knew why. After a few years Peg was taken out one day by what must have been a raccoon, or possibly a Bobcat or even Mountain Lion. All we found were a few feathers. Penny lasted a few months longer before suffering a similar fate.

I am grateful to my mother for introducing me in small ways to farming and ranching. While I did not grow up on an actual working farm or ranch, I had at least enough taste of it to understand what the lifestyle was like and what producing your own food is like. Farming is hard, but highly rewarding work.

(The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living the Good Life 6.”)

What Urban Exploration Photography Learned From Nature

March 5th, 2012

What Did Urban Exploration Photography Learn From Nature?

Is nature glossy? Is nature always beautiful? My father Western American landscape photographer and conservationist, Philip Hyde, said “Nature is always beautiful, even when we might call a scene ugly.” Is he correct?

Red Canyon at Hance Rapid, Boulders in Dunes, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, copyright 1964 by Philip Hyde. First Published in "Time And The River Flowing: Grand Canyon" by Francois Leydet, in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. The book that helped defend the Grand Canyon against two dams.

(See the photograph large: “Red Canyon At Hance Rapid, Grand Canyon National Park.”)

Nature surprises us with patterns we might not have noticed or thrilling textures and colors, but nature also at times presents us with drab or even repulsive sights so ugly they smell, such as a road killed skunk or a field spread with cattle manure. My mother, Ardis Hyde, often repeated the old adage, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I also remember her saying, “Wow, what a beautiful field of manure,” on more than one occasion when we were hauling cow manure for the garden in “Covered Wagon,” a 1952 Chevy Step Side Pickup, see the blog post, “Covered Wagon Journal 1.”

Dad’s photographs of proposed wilderness areas and national parks documented the natural features of the land. He said he was not interested in “Pretty Pictures for Postcards.” This attitude came partially from his having studied and taught with Ansel Adams. Dad also espoused the straight photography and documentary principles of his other mentors Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham. These principles included keeping compositions simple and maintaining the camera’s focus crisp throughout the image, as was only attainable with a large format view camera.

Like Edward Weston, Dad presented his black and white photographs with minimal darkroom manipulation. He said, “There is no need to add drama to nature. Nature is dramatic enough.” However, when he printed dye transfer color prints and Cibachrome color prints, Dad found more color adjustment necessary, to meet his goal of making the final color print look more like the scene as he remembered it, than the film.

Today the trend in much of what is called landscape photography is toward heavy saturation, dramatic weather, unusual lighting, sunlight effects and the most dramatic cliffs, mountains or other land features. Making pictures today is in truth often two arts: Photography, defined as what occurs in camera, plus the art of post processing using Adobe Photoshop or other photo editing software. Post Processing is much like dodging and burning in the darkroom, except that in the world of digital prints and photography art, the alteration of images is easy to overdo because it takes no more effort to move the slider to 80 percent than to take it only to 10 percent. In contrast, when darkroom processing ruled, greater alteration took more work.

Landscape photography today displays magnificence. Big scenes of striking beauty possess the viewer, exhibiting an abundance of what photography galleries call, “Wow factor.” In contrast, my father’s photography grunge rocked: gritty, clear, raw and most importantly imperfect. The imperfections were minimized in the darkroom, but certainly not removed or cropped out of the photograph as they are today.

Nature is very rarely perfect. Neither is any kind of photography. While many produce sub-standard photographs, many landscape photographers thrive with quality work and high standards for maintaining a “natural look.” I have looked at much current landscape photography. In my opinion the best work continues to become better.

Nonetheless, much of landscape photographers today could re-learn, or learn back a lesson from Urban Exploration, Urb Ex or Urban Decay photography. The lesson Urban Exploration photography learned from nature. The best way to understand the lesson is to read one of the master lesson teachers in Urban Exploration Photography, Chase Jarvis. Chase Jarvis recently wrote a blog post called, “The Un-Moment: Why Gritty Beats Glossy & the Deceit of Perfection.” I recommend repeated reading of this post for landscape photographers who want to find their own voice and connect more deeply with nature. Any photographer, for that matter, who wants to have an authentic connection with his or her subject matter could learn from Chase Jarvis.

What do you think? Can the beauty of imperfection improve landscape photography? Does gritty make sense in photography genres other than Urban Exploration?

Covered Wagon Journal 5

March 11th, 2010

Covered Wagon Journal 5

Last Entry From the Summer 1955 Journal of Travels Through the Western National Parks

By Philip Hyde

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 4” For an introduction to what the Covered Wagon is see “Covered Wagon Journal 1“)

Low Tide, Rialto Beach, Olympic Ocean Strip, Olympic National Park, Washington, 1955, by Philip Hyde, made on the ’55 ‘covered wagon tour’ of Western national parks and monuments.

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

September 7. Olympic National Park is a true rainforest, a cool jungle, covered with a great green canopy that all but excludes the sunlight, causing the forest floor to be bathed in a soft, pervasive green glow. The forest floor is more open than you might expect. Occasionally, there are moderately long vistas down the forest aisles which give you an opportunity to gain a better perspective on the immense size of the mature spruce, hemlock, and Douglas Fir trees. At the end of the dirt road that leads east from Highway 101 to the campground on the Hoh River, a short nature trail loops around a choice sample of the forest. At one point the trail enters the Hall of Mosses. Great maples are hung with dense clumps of moss, and long streamers of moss hang down from the vines that are spun  from trunk to trunk. Here and there a rotting remnant of a tree appears but dimly, its every form-defining edge softened with a cushion of moss. Often these fallen giants are covered with legions of seedling trees—new forest life, rooted and nurtured in the old.

September 9. We are working south, tracing in reverse the westward course of the rivers fed by the great accumulation of  ice and snow on the heights of Olympus. Each of these river valleys is densely forested with the climax type of rain forest that once covered the coastal slopes from Alaska to California, and is today represented in its virgin state almost exclusively in Olympic National Park. Coming up the roads leading into the park from the highway, there is no question when you reach the park boundary. The great green curtain falls at the line, and you pass from a scene that often looks more like a battlefield than a forest, into the peace and serenity of a forest floor unmarked by the often aimless and destructive characteristic of logging operations. A picture of that line of demarcation along the western borders of Olympic National Park will always come to me when I hear loggers talk of just wanting to “take out a few of the overripe trees that will die soon anyway,” or speak of “sanitation cuts,” or “down timber salvage.”

September 10. The green cathedral of the rain forest on the East Fork of the Quinault bestows a kind of benediction on our summer’s travels. We have walked down the trail in silence, knowing that our summer wanderings are drawing to a close. But our silence is one of gratitude. After a summer in the parks, we are more aware of our great riches. The remembered beauties of those places of wonder flood over us, as our imagination takes us back to a scene described in the museum in Yellowstone. The time is 1860. A group of men are camped in the meadows by the junction of the Gibbon River and Firehole River, sitting around one of their last campfires, discussing the future of this area so full of natural wonders that they have been exploring. They have decided, at length, that it should become a preserve, set aside for the people. This was the beginning of the movement that culminated in the establishment of Yellowstone as our first national park.

Traveling through our western landscape, while being grateful for our parks and preserves, we cannot help noticing the contrast between them and the lands in between, which, increasingly, become the battlegrounds of “progress.” How fortunate we are that for all those who came to dig, chop, plow, and burn, some came who saw, and valued, and then worked to preserve. May there be enough of these, in this generation, to enable us to pass on this priceless heritage to those after us.

Covered Wagon Journal 4

February 22nd, 2010

Covered Wagon Journal 4

From the Summer 1955 Journal of Travels Through Western National Parks

By Philip Hyde

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 3” For an introduction to what the Covered Wagon is see “Covered Wagon Journal 1“)

(See photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana, 1955, by Philip Hyde, made on the summer ’55 ‘covered wagon’ trip.

August 7. After dinner and preparations at the roadhead for the High Trip that begins tomorrow we drive back to the Indian Village to see the dances we missed last night. In front of us, as we are seated, is the dance platform. Behind the platform is a semi-circle of white tepees. Beyond, in the distance, the peaks of the Tetons stand silhouetted against the twilight sky. Mr. Laubin begins the program, performing symbolic dedication ceremonies as a medicine man, lighting the small campfires around the edges of the platform. During the next hour, we watch a procession of beautifully done dances, ranging from the stately Dance of the Chiefs, to the amusing Prairie Chicken Dance, and the exceptional virtuosity of the Hoop Dance. Some of the dances are solos by Mr. Laubin. Often he is joined by Mrs. Laubin and several of their Indian Troupe.

August 8. A 4:30 a.m. rising began this first day of the Teton High Trip. Our walk has taken us through meadows filled with wildflowers and through occasional woods of the bright-barked, shimmering-leaved aspens. Beneath the aspens is an almost continuous sea of blueberry bushes,  whose ripening berries slow us down. Our trail enters Death Canyon and follows the course of a stream, ending in a scramble to a limestone bench that commands a fine view of the Tetons.

August 12. Crossing over the high limestone ridge separating Alaska Basin from upper Cascade Canyon, we gained a spectacular view of the high peaks. The great fault-block from of the central Teton massif is readily distinguished from this vantage point. Descending to our next camp near the head of the canyon, we passed through an amazing variety of rocks, culminating in the vicinity of camp in the gneiss of the central Teton block, fantastically twisted and contorted. In the upper basin, we crossed a definite dividing line between the gray and rust-colored sedimentary and highly crystalline metamorphic rocks. This was probably the fault line, but is so weathered here it doesn’t look like a fault.

August 13. The mist has gone up from the face of the ground this morning, wreathing the Grand Teton in a translucent veil of mystery dispelled and returning in cycles. I am poised on the brink of the high ledge near our camp, recording on film the canyon below, as the mist rises and recedes, like a tide in an arm of the ocean, in ever new phases of undulation. Finally, the warmth of the rising sun dispels the mist and sends me back to camp for breakfast.

August 19. We climbed to the top of Mt. Helen, a slight eminence on the high slate ridge above our camp in Big Horn Basin. If it is an inferior peak, it commands a superior view of this part of Glacier National Park. The horizon, through 360 degrees, is filled with a profusion of peaks, many of them sheltering the frozen white forms of ice for which this park is named. Stepping up on the pile of rocks marking the summit, we surprised three ptarmigans, their white underbodies unmistakable in this typical ptarmigan habitat.

August 20. Climbing to Dawson Pass on our way to our next camp at Pitamikin Lake, the wind was cold and brisk. As we gained the exposed saddle of the pass, it took a maximum effort to stay on our feet. The sky to our west was an angry gray, with the wind tearing away pieces of cloud and hurling them at us. As we advanced around the rocky shoulder of Flinsch Peak, a beacon-like mass of broken, flat-sided pieces of sandstone and shale, the pieces of cloud were getting larger. At one point where the trail turned into a rocky gully, we halted to turn our faces out of the freezing wind and the sharp, wind-driven missiles of hail and sleet. For about four miles, the trail, grown faint with disuse, traverses high on the shoulders of Flinsch and Mt. Moran, offering superb views over a wide expanse of eastern Glacier National Park.

August 22. Leaving our last camp at Pitamakin Lake, we coasted down the canyon to its junction with Atlantic Creek Canyon, where we turned up for the ascent to Triple Divide Pass. Shortly after starting up the canyon, we realized we were no longer on a trail, but on a junior grade road. Apparently built by a small tractor, it must have been laid out by an engineer who had never walked on a trail, for it set a constant grade and maintained it for about three miles, studiously avoiding watering places. Aside from walking on a paved highway, I can imagine no more monotonous experience. And, as if to further demoralize us, we discovered half way up that there was an alternative, not shown on the hillside, we discovered that the other trail continued up the floor of the canyon, skirted the edge of a beautiful lake far below us, then made the switchback climb up the head of the canyon to the pass, weaving back and forth across the course of the small stream that cascaded down from the snowfields above the pass. When some of the park officials we met later spoke of a disappointing decrease in trail use in the park, I could not help wondering how much experience on that trail had contributed to the decrease. I hoped too, that the tendency, evidenced in many parks we visited during the summer, to place engineering and administrative efficiency over esthetic appreciation, would somehow be checked.

August 28. The light of the rising sun is just striking the great curve of Citadel Mountain that sweeps up from the shore of St. Mary Lake, as we turn our “covered wagon” westward, for the first time this summer, over Going-to-the-Sun Highway and on to Olympic National Park.

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 5“)

Covered Wagon Journal 3

February 16th, 2010

Covered Wagon Journal 3

Extracts from the Summer 1955 Journal of Travels Through the Western National Parks and Monuments. (Partly on freelance assignment from the Sierra Club)

By Philip Hyde

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 2” For an introduction to what the Covered Wagon is see “Covered Wagon Journal 1“)

Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 1983, by Philip Hyde. The Yellowstone River, a tributary to the Missouri River, is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states.

July 16. At Hell’s Half Mile the water is so low that the beginning of the rapid is a waterfall of about six feet. Our party is scattered on the stream-side rocks to watch what proved to be the first successful folbot run of Hell’s Half Mile. The victors, Ray Simpson and Dave Allen, were properly feted when we reached camp, and each was presented a special medal of tin-can top with bread-wrapper laurel wreaths.

July 23. We have headed east into the Rocky Mountains from Dinosaur National Monument and are based for a few days at Georgetown, Colorado. Today, we have been up into the alpine country above Georgetown, winding through the Engelmann spruce forest on a dirt road that emerges above timberline onto a meadow whose upper limits are defined by the weathered wood walls of houses and stores. Mixed freely with the fields of blooming wildflowers are the blights of other years: abandoned mine buildings and random spaced mounds of tawny tailings. Beholding such a scene, I cannot help thinking how much of this I’ve seen in the Rockies. And, I cannot help but reflect on the good fortune of Sierrans, that an accident of geography kept our high country clean. A benevolent providence placed our gold-bearing ores on the flanks of the foothills rather than on the crest, so we may enjoy both the color of the old mines and the inspiration of high-country wilderness left intact.

July 25. The air is perfectly still as we watch the sun change the hues of the distant wall of the Wind River Range. Our camp is just north of the celebrated old South Pass by which so many emigrants crossed the Continental Divide in their covered wagons. As we crawl into our bunks in our own rubber-tired covered wagon, we can imagine we see a faint line of dust rising on the horizon.

July 26. Yellowstone-bound, we stop to watch two trumpeter swans with three young in a slough of the marsh in Jackson Hole Wildlife Refuge. Beyond them in the distance, looking at first like sticks, are a pair of sandhill cranes.

July 27. After evading at least a half dozen tourist traps the mother bears have set up along the south-entrance highway. Continuing beyond them, we arrived at Old Faithful, just in time for a playing of the geyser. We had come to Yellowstone National Park almost reluctantly, not expecting to enjoy it much because of the usual summer crowds. But something happened to the mood of the place while we were waiting for Old Faithful to play. It began as we looked around at the eager, expectant faces and built up as we began to hear a naturalist giving his introductory talk: even the public-address system became a benign presence, as we realized that we were hearing the pure gospel of conservation preached to this multitude. By the time the geyser had reached its full height, we were transformed by its sermon. Even in a crowd, its radiance glowed undimmed, and, through some kind of magic, that experience set the tone for the rest of our stay in Yellowstone.

July 29. At the suggestion of a naturalist at Mammoth Hot Springs, we took the old road part of the way to Tower Junction from Mammoth, Wyoming. Traffic had been heavy when we turned off the highway, but we met no cars during the hour and a half we spent driving leisurely down this dirt-road entrance to the Yellowstone wilderness. Even the six pronghorn antelope we came upon seemed a bit surprised to see us.

Though there are so many complaints of overcrowding in Yellowstone National Park, the wilderness is still just beyond the highway, as few visitors go far from the parking lots. The loop highway has become a slow-motion race track, with many visitors making the 160-mile circuit in one day. Many of them refuse to walk even a few yards from their cars to see a geyser or the Terraces.

July 31. A mile away from the parking lot the Black Dragon’s Cauldron bubbles and hisses, and sends its “eruptions” of charcoal-gray mud 30 to 50 feet into the air. It is the more interesting when you learn that it suddenly appeared in the middle of the forest, in 1948. Since then, it has gradually killed the forest around it, encasing living trees in the dark mud until they are suffocated.

August 6. We have been sitting around a fire, quite comfortable, in a tepee of Teton Indian Village, near Jackson, Wyoming. The rain which beats on the canvas slopes of the tepee forced cancellation of the Indian dance tonight. Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Laubin, well-known interpreters of Indian dance, and long-time students of Indian life and culture, are sitting opposite us, telling us about some of the authentic Indian objects with which the tepee is furnished. They have introduced us to some of their Indian friends who dance with them. Red Robin, a Zuni artist now living in New York, is seated next to Mr. Old Man, a large man, whose twinkling eyes betray his good nature. Next to him is his wife; then Mr. Good Friday and his wife. The Old Mans and the Good Fridays are Arapaho Indians. There is continuing good-natured banter as we begin to play the old Indian hand game. We are divided into two groups, each group appointing a “guesser” and a “hider.” One side takes the ring, and the “hider” will conceal it in one of his hands. The other side’s “guesser” will try to determine which hand has the ring, and Mr. Old Man beats accompaniment with a small hand drum. In the lulls after a guess, the Indians tell jokes, usually making the white man the butt of them. When we leave, after Mr. Old an has sung us several songs in Arapaho, we remember that we didn’t get to see the dances.

August 7. After dinner and preparations at the roadhead for the High Trip that begins tomorrow we drive back to the Indian Village to see the dances we missed last night…

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 4“)

Covered Wagon Journal 2

February 10th, 2010

Covered Wagon Journal 2

Extracts from the Summer 1955 Journal of Travels Through the Western National Parks and Monuments

By Philip Hyde

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 1“)

Near Water’s Edge, Mile 25, Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, 1964, by Philip Hyde. First published in “Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon” by Francois Leydet, in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. The book that helped save the Grand Canyon from being flooded by two dams. Some recent writers have said that the book came out of a 1964 river trip led by riverguide and Sierra Club Board member Martin Litton and Executive Director David Brower, with passengers who included the who’s who of nature photography and natural science at the time, this is partially true. Others have credited Philip Hyde with being the sole photographer of the book. For all time, let’s set the record straight: The photographers for “Time and The River Flowing” with the number of their photographs are as follows: Philip Hyde–31 photographs, Clyde Childress–18, David Brower–10, Martin Litton (using the name Clyde Thomas)–9, Joseph C. Hall–9, Richard Norgaard–6, Ansel Adams–5 (all color), P. T. Reilly–4, Daniel B. Luten–3, Eliot Porter–2, Joseph Wood Krutch–2, and Katie Lee–1.

June 14. We were thoroughly awakened at 4:30 a.m. by a crescendo in the chorus of rain that had been constant for most of the night. A short time after it began, it was coming into the tent in wholesale quantities. A large rock falling off the ledge above us tore a huge gap in the tent and we were forced to leave. Fortunately, it hit to one side, missing us. As we ran toward shelter under some large boulders, we heard an ominous roaring, and looked up to see a full-blown waterfall cascading down into what had been the camp kitchen. But for the quick thinking of some of those who had been sleeping close to the kitchen, much of our equipment and supplies might have been carried into the Colorado River. What a demonstration of the power of a flash flood. When the excitement subsided, we looked around in the sunrise light to see the canyon walls draped with hundreds of waterfalls coming down off the rims.

June 19. A little while ago we emerged onto the crowded South Rim of the Grand Canyon, after two days in the lower regions. The first half of the climb was easy, in the cool pre-dawn hours. Once past the half-way point at Indian Springs and the last water, the trail climbs as steeply as a jet plane. And by this time the sun was up, ready to greet us on the shadeless upper bench. With considerable effort, we managed to push ourselves up the trail to the rim, and paused to rest. Then we turned and looked back. As in Yosemite, where the sheer height of El Capitan, or the great depth of Yosemite Valley never quite make a full impression until one has climbed on foot to Glacier Point, or to the top of Yosemite Falls, so it is with the Grand Canyon—the vast abyss seemed grown a hundredfold after climbing on our own legs from the river.

June 24. We have spent the day and much of the night looking at the exhibits of the Museum of Southern Utah, in Kenab, and talking to the Johnstons, who operate it. The museum’s collection of ancient and recent Indian artifacts is exceptionally interesting. Yesterday, we spent part of the day in a canyon in the Arizona Strip to the south, looking at ancient Indian paintings. We were also directed to a “dig” which the museum’s archeologist is developing across Kenab Creek. A burial which he excavated is now on display in the museum.

June 30. We are now on the fabled Yampa River. Our boatman, Dave Rasmussen, turns over his oars to another member of the crew, and picks his guitar for an hour or more of wonderful music that floats out over the lazily moving river and echoes softly from the yellow sandstone walls, sheer cliffs, and rounded domes. We slip around the great curving river bends with no sound but the melody of guitar and soft singing.

July 1. We have seen three golden eagles soaring high over us as we threaded through the climax of Yampa River scenery—the run through the magnificently formed series of bends in the river that begins just below Castle Park. The walls have heightened, and grown more nearly perpendicular, and, at intervals, the river straightens out long enough to provide a vista down the canyon, sweeping from a foreground of river and concentrically curved sandbars, to a prominent feature carved out of the rim, standing at the far turn of the wall. There are so many of these impressive views on the Yampa, that one loses himself trying to recall the exact location of each. We can only hope, after the recent difficult struggle to preserve this unique canyon in its natural integrity, that it will stay this way, so that we can return, and so that future generations can come and be thrilled and inspired as we have been. This day of days is capped with the rising of the near-full moon, flooding its light over the great cliffs that surround us here in our Box Elder camp.

July 14. The bus brought us to the Gates of Lodore, in Brown’s Park, on the northern boundary of Dinosaur National Monument, where a short afternoon run has brought us just a few miles inside the Gates of Lodore. I wonder if John Wesley Powell and the other early river travelers who came to this place received any premonitions of disaster when they looked upon this impressive mountain gate. Here the Green River meanders for some miles through the tranquil bottomlands of Brown’s Park, resting from its exertion in Flaming Gorge upstream. Then, for no apparent reason, it turns abruptly and plunges into this high plateau’s escarpment. The introduction to Lodore is sudden. Once within the Gates, you are committed, and you know this is a formidable canyon. Even the rapids are anxious to start; there are several short but vigorous ones just a short distance inside the Gates of Lodore. The canyon quickly reaches its full height, the brick-colored walls rising in coves and steps whose treads are often carpeted with tall evergreens.

July 16. At Hell’s Half Mile the water is so low that the beginning of the rapid is a waterfall of about six feet. Our party is scattered on the stream-side rocks to watch…

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 3“)

Covered Wagon Journal 1

February 8th, 2010

Did you have a favorite vehicle growing up? What kind of rig do you use for photography or other work you do?

Covered Wagon Journal 1

By Philip Hyde (1955)

With Introduction by David Leland Hyde (2010)

1952 Chevrolet Pickup, Perhaps much as Covered Wagon looked new, perhaps slightly greener and a little less shiny.

In the early 1950s, pioneer landscape photographer Brett Weston drove back and forth from New York to California via Texas, up and down the East Coast, to Mexico and widely explored the Western United States. For more on Brett Weston, his photography and his influence on all of landscape photography see the blog post, “The Hidden Brett Weston.” In 1955, Brett Weston settled down for a time in Carmel to help print his father, Edward Weston’s photographs. Brett Weston in the Spring of that year, sold his traveling rig to Ardis and Philip Hyde. The dark-green 1952 Chevrolet step-side pickup complete with a metal canopy made the ideal photographer’s camper.

Knowing my parents, if Brett Weston had already called it “Covered Wagon,” they might have named it something else. It seems like an Ardis and Philip Hyde name, but you never know. I seem to remember my mother saying, “We’ve always called it our Covered Wagon.” Whether Brett Weston gave it the name or gave it another name, and which of his many journeys he took the truck on, is yet to be discovered. Regardless, after the pickup came from Carmel to the Northern Sierra Nevada, it did not stay home for long. Fate ordained it would be a traveling truck for many years, even after I was born in 1965.

I knew Covered Wagon well. By the time I grew to the age I would remember anything though, the old dark-green truck was going on 20 years old and had long since shed its silver corrugated metal rounded shell that made it look like a covered wagon. By the 1970s our old friend had been relegated to local trips to buy groceries and hauling horse manure, hay and rocks for the garden. Besides gardening, landscaping and building supplies, Covered Wagon had become primarily a wooding truck with tall wooden framed-in sides for the back end. I loved that old truck. It had running boards and the spare tire on the side behind the flared front wheel well.

You would often spot similar trucks in the rural area where I grew up in the Northern Sierra Nevada, California. These brother and sister trucks were sometimes lowered, sometimes raised with huge wide tires, brightly painted in orange, red or yellow with decals of flames on the sides, extra long chrome tail pipes and spoke rims. They made a sputtering, rumbling sound that exploded into the noise of a 50-caliber machine gun when their driver stomped on the gas and screeched the tires for 50 yards. Whenever I went with my mom to shovel barnyard cargoes, older kids that I looked up to would come over and say, “Wow, what a cool truck. You could really do something with this. Put in a 4-barrel carb, raise the hood, metallic paint, new rims, bad man.”

As a boy who felt inadequate in many ways, especially in junior high school, I wanted my parents to give Covered Wagon to me so that I could “jack it up” and attain the status of cool. My parents did hold on to Covered Wagon much longer than most vehicles they bought new, owned for exactly 10 years and sold. When Mom and Dad finally did sell it to a local guy who liked old trucks, while I was away at prep school in the early 1980s, I made a big protest, even though I had outgrown my hot-rodding fantasies by then. It was the end of an era.

Even so, I wish my parents somehow could have kept that old truck. I would still have it today. I never went with them on any long trips in it, but I loved it just the same because of all the memories of shorter trips. For more memories of eventually being able to work with my father see the blog post, “Memories of Finally Working With Dad.”

Covered Wagon, as you shall soon read in Dad’s own words, made its maiden Philip Hyde photographic journey in 1955 to Grand Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Dinosaur National Monument and elsewhere in the West, shortly after it left off wandering with Brett Weston. Covered Wagon was a loyal, faithful comrade to my family for many years. So without further  ado, here’s Philip Hyde’s Covered Wagon Journal as first published in the Sierra Club Bulletin in December 1956…

Covered Wagon Journal

Extracts from a Summer Journal of Travels Through the Western National Parks and Monuments

By Philip Hyde

In June 1955, my wife and I set out in our newly acquired camping pickup to find out how a summer of being on the move would help us to accomplish our prime purpose of studying and interpreting photographically the western natural scene. Our plans were flexibly hitched to a series of Sierra Club outings. What follows is a collection of extracts from our trip journals of some of the high points of our summer.

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capital Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in “Drylands: The Deserts of North America” by Philip Hyde. Some say this is a stronger, more majestic image than an earlier photograph made from the same location published in “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” by Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde.

June 7. From our sandy bedsite by the Colorado River at Hite, Utah, we are recalling the activities of the past two days. Yesterday morning we got aboard a school bus at Marble Canyon Lodge, Arizona, for the climb over the edge of the Kaibab Plateau, and north, to Richfield, Utah, where we turned off the highway into some of the most colorful scenery of the Southwest. Last night we watched the moon flood its rising light over the great white and red cliffs of Capitol Reef National Monument. This morning, after a brief sampling of the Monument, we got back on the bus to rattle on through the heart of the uranium country. In every direction the landscape is punctuated by claim-marking cairns. Will any stones be left unturned before the tide of the uranium madness recedes in this once remote and austerely beautiful desert wilderness?

(In 1970 Edward Abbey helped start Black Mesa Defense Fund to keep uranium mining off of Navajo and Hopi lands on Black Mesa. In 1971 the Sierra Club published Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah by Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde in the Exhibit Format Series to assist in a campaign to protect the delicate desert landscapes of the region. For more on Edward Abbey and Black Mesa Defense Fund read the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?”)

June 13. We started our walk up Aztec Canyon to Rainbow Bridge under heavy overcast. There is a wonderful passage where Bridge Canyon cuts through the walls of Aztec Canyon. One of the choicest bits of canyon we have seen, this proves to be the precise spot where the Bureau of Reclamation proposes to build a cut-off dam to protect Rainbow Bridge from the waters that will be impounded by Glen Canyon Dam. Entering Bridge Canyon we walked on to the grand climax of the Glen Canyon trip. Rainbow Bridge’s mighty, free-standing arch was as impressive in the overcast lighting as it might have been in sunlight.

(For more about Rainbow Bridge and the making of the color photograph of it that appeared in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series Book Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run, see the blog post, “The Making Of Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side.”)

June 14. We were thoroughly awakened at 4:30 a.m. by a crescendo in the chorus of rain that had been constant for most of the night. A short time after it began, it was coming into the tent in wholesale quantities. A large rock falling off the ledge above us tore a huge gap in the tent and we were forced to leave. Fortunately, it hit to one side, missing us. As we ran toward shelter under some large boulders, we heard an ominous roaring, and looked up to see a full-blown waterfall cascading down into what had been the camp kitchen. But for the quick thinking of some of those who had been sleeping close to the kitchen, much of our equipment and supplies might have been carried into the Colorado River…

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 2“)

Covered Wagon is also mentioned in the blog post, “What Urban Exploration Photography Learned From Nature.”

Did you have a favorite vehicle growing up? What kind of rig do you use for photography or other work you do?