All Photos In One Place
OOPS. Writing here on February 4, 2022 to tell you I had to delete the OpenSea NFT collection these photos came from, although I’ll be launching it again with changes and deletions. The reason’s not important. My apologies, in any case. I’m leaving all these images here, however, because they look so good with Substack’s full-width option enabled. Let’s just call this a photo essay. Enjoy your visit and the wonders of the place I live. - JHF
Southern Colorado Is Very Weird
This is either Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge at 3:02 p.m. on March 10, 2016 or private property across the road. In general Southern Colorado just confounds me. The general barrenness and starkness, but all those birds! The thousands of Canada geese and sandhill cranes out there seem happy. I wish I'd made an audio recording.
Upper Rio Grande
South of Ute Mountain in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern Taos County, NM, the river runs in a shallower canyon here than farther south. You can clearly see the lava flows. Taken on the Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, 2021. An astounding area not easy to find or navigate.
They either have something to say or said it long ago. Shot at the top edge of a cliff overlooking the Rio Grande in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. The way these rocks have weathered for the last 10 million years is mysterious and strangely comforting.
High Desert Ghost Cabins
I captured this image in the early 2000s on Road 10 in Costilla County, CO. The setting seemed so jarring with the abandoned tourist cabins, so many miles off in the boondocks. The strange thing is, I had to change a flat tire on my truck near this location a few years later. There was no way to call AAA (now that's funny) because I couldn't get a signal on my cell phone. The temperature that night was was dropping down to zero, too, so I had to do it right, and I'd never changed a tire on the F-150. Had to use a hand pump because the spare was almost flat. In all the time it took to get that tire on the Ford, I never saw another vehicle. Imagine living where an accident could leave you hurt or freezing and no one would know.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus church is just out of sight to the right. Shot in Costilla, NM in far northern Taos County. This is from a copy so I’m unsure of the date. Probably sometime in October, 2019.
Cloudy Day Volcano
Heading south from Antonito, CO on US 285 you pass into New Mexico and soon come to San Antonio Mountain, one of the higtest free-standing extinct volcanoes in North America at 10,912 feet. An acquaintance in Alamosa, CO said of this, "It's always doing something out there." This image of a cloudy autumn day looks almost peaceful, but I wouldn't stay too long.
Telephoto shot from a now-forgotten spot, possibly U.S. 285 heading up from Tres Piedras, NM. The spirit of the place is screaming on this cold and windy day.
Code of the West
That's Ute Mountain in the distance on December 21, 2021, destination for my solstice adventure. I followed that road past the Cerro del Yuta sign (not visible here), over black lava boulders the size of watermelons half-buried in the road up to where the trees start on the mountain. First I had to navigate the barrier. The, uh, gate is actually a very loose assemblage of scrap wood and barbed wire with one or two loops at one end that you're supposed to pull over the top of a post that's just a little too far away. I managed this but did it backwards, ending up on the opposite side of the gate (fence) from where the truck was. So then I UNHOOKED the gate again, but instead of pulling it 90 degrees to one side, I just laid it right down (lazy) and decided to step through the wire strands to get to the other side before "latching" it again. Don't ever do this. I posted the image to Twitter and my sister replied, "I hope you closed it!" I said, "It's the Code of the West."
Queen o’ the Mountains
That's what I informally named my '01 Dodge Dakota 4x4. I bought it from a baritone sax player in Santa Fe whose father owns a muscle car restoration garage in Chicago. Aside from a little rust it's a wonderful machine. Bulletproof SOHC V8 with dual exhaust, automatic, trailer package. It carried me to Ute Mountain and back on the winter solstice, 2021, when I took this picture. The road looks pretty good here, but it sure wasn't a few miles back or forward. Never would have made it without a high clearance vehicle and tires that can crawl over sharp lava boulders.
Monte Vista Birds
From the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge in southern Colorado. The Canada geese and sandhill cranes don’t mind each other a bit. The sound is wonderful, too.
The starkness and immensity just knocks me out. This may be coming back [heading east] from Mesita, CO. That's an abandoned stone schoolhouse on the right.
Rio Grande with Volcano
The Rio Grande flows south (right to left) down inside that canyon. The volcano is San Antonio Mountain. I took this shot on the Winter Solstice (2021)from as far up the slope of Ute Mountain as I could drive. All of that expanse belongs to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern Taos County. I was out here the entire day and never saw another human.
Also known as “Lobato Bridge” depending on the map. This trestle bridge over the Rio Grande in Costilla County, CO is roughly halfway between Garcia and Manassa, a journey that takes about an hour on gravel roads. Note the wooden planks to drive over. This portion of the Rio Grande in Colorado is beautiful and strange. With almost no sign of human presence in the area, the bridge stands out.
San Antonio Mountain
It's hard to choose a picture for this collection that doesn't have San Antonio Mountain in it. Most of the extinct 10,912 feet high volcano actually lies in Rio Arriba County with the east-facing slope in Taos County. This particular vantage point is on a road that gets much rougher as it approaches Ute Mountain, out of sight to the right (north). Image from March, 2018.
Sunshine Valley, north of Questa in Taos County, is one of the most unlikely places to live I’ve ever seen, miles from any stores, services, or law enforcement, but at least has a very high water table. Think of melting snow and you’ll see why. I knew someone once who had a hand-dug well there. That's Latir Peak on the left with the Latir Wilderness Area beyond. Looking east here. I'm constantly astonished by how wild and huge this land is.
Unhook the barbed wire, walk the crude gate around to the side, drive the truck through, and then hook the gate up again. This is the last one on the way back from the wilderness drive to Ute Mountain in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Getting late, last gate!
Rio Grande from Ute Mountain
You can see the road I came in on for my winter solstice outing on December 21, 2021 just to the left of the canyon below. There was actually good Verizon service from this location—possibly due to elevation? My vantage point for this photo is over 8,000 feet. The mountain in the distance is Cerro de la Olla. Simply a wondrous, solitary place to be.
Shot on top of Wild Horse Mesa a few miles north of the Colorado state line. This is one of the scariest places I've ever seen in the wild. The hole is easily wide enough to fall into with one leg. I couldn't gauge the depth of the chamber below, which extends off to the left, but a dropped rock bounces audibly three or four times as it falls. The symbolism is powerful. Rarely has any natural feature of a landscape felt so dangerous. I couldn't live anywhere near it.
This is about as far as you can drive up the lower slopes of Ute Mountain in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in Taos County. There was a "road" beyond that went off into some trees but looked like outlaw engineering and I demurred. In this shot, I've turned the truck around and taken one last look before heading home. A very special place and very hard to reach without the proper vehicle, directions, and a steady heart. I scattered some of Kathy’s ashes here.
Pronghorns at 8,000 Feet
We saw these pronghorns—you may call them antelope, most people do—just a few miles south of the Colorado line opposite San Antonio Mountain. They'd just crossed US 285 ahead of us, and here they are running off into the vastness. I can’t believe this place.
Rio Grande Near Lobatos Bridge
I shot this on my birthday in 2017 in southern Colorado just downstream from the Lobatos Bridge in the middle of “nowhere” like most of you have never seen. Experiencing water flowing through the semi-arid landscape is a primal thrill. Can you feel it? The Rio Grande's been doing that for several million years and someone I know goes skinny-dipping here.
Our Founder (Murder Cow #1)
We were driving slowly along a ridge or mountain top at least 10,000 feet up. It was early August and damned cold. This was in New Mexico but very close to Colorado, about 65 miles into the back country on a gravel road. I stopped to take the picture but I didn't hang around. Beautiful metal print approximately 16” x 24” plus signed top quality art print via unlockable content.
Rio Grande With Blanca Massif
That’s Blanca Massif in the background. Each of the peaks are over 14,000 feet. The Rio Grande originates in the San Juan mountains west of here before following the rift valley into northern NM. The energy there is powerful and strange. I shot this from the Lobatos Bridge over the Rio Grande in Costilla County, CO far away from Taos on gravel roads with nary a sign nor clue along the way.
I took this self-portrait on the way home from Ute Mountain in northern Taos County on the Winter Solstice, December 21, 2021, miles from anywhere, completely alone in the high desert sagebrush of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument just a mile or so from Ute. The driving was tricky in places and I went as far as I could. It had been a raging good though emotional day. Before I started down I stopped for a moment to let a few of Kathy’s ashes blow away in the wind. When I got home and started processing, I saw how the sunlight passed through my glasses and hit the camera, resulting in unique lens flare effects I could never achieve on my own. After seeing the final results, I knew how to title it.
Hats off to the Substack folks for enabling full-width images, well done. Look for more photo stories here at GODDAMN BUFFALO.