Atop Sierra de Álamos

Late spring as seen by high up both sides of the Álamos Valley…

Looking at Alamos, Sonora, Mexico from the north.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

It was an effort to get this shot. But it was the right season to do it.

I always looked north from Plaza de las Armas at two peaks that reminded me of camel humps. I knew they would provide a wonderful vantage point of Álamos and surroundings. Chon, my guide, and I started up a trail early on an overcast morning. Two others, possibly miners, with a supplies burdened burro, were ahead of us. High up, they took a fork in the trail to the east and we continued climbing to the west.

alamos, sonora, mexico seen from the north, mirador and plaza de las armas are clearly seen, photo by anders tomlinson . 1995.

In late spring, the summer jungle is bendable bare branches.

I was hoping the sun would break through. It didn’t. We reached the top under cool cloud cover. I would later learn this was a blessing. I began to film. We now go back in time to this moment contemplating the big picture. Timeless.

sierra de alamos, towering above alamos, sonora, mexico.  photo by anders tomlinson.  1995

Sierra de Álamos towers over the village wiping sleep from its eyes.

To the immediate south of Álamos is the Sierra de Álamos mountain island. It runs east-west, perpendicular to the coast and the Sierra Madres. It has always taken me and my guides several hours to reach the top from the Plaza de las Armas.
The most comfortable time to start is the cool pre-dawn hours.

View from Gringo Point, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Good morning Alamos from Gringo Point in the Sierra de Alamos.

A week later, Chon and I spent two days and a night atop Sierra Álamos. Gringo Point is a rock outcropping that looks down directly on Álamos. Truly a bird’s eye view. Again, overcast persisted. But what can one do but do what one does?

alamos, sonora, mexico seen fro sierra de alamos in the spring of 1995.  photo by anders tomlinson.

One can almost hear a 1,000 silver mule train leaving Álamos south.

Chon created a fire in the high altitude morning chill, a bed of embers no wider than his palm with a flame no longer than his thumb, and brewed me a cup of tea. I unpacked three bags of camera equipment and began to film. We did not talk. Below, a church bell persistently called for morning mass. And we could hear the past that becomes today and will be tomorrow. I have never forgotten that civilized cup of tea.

pines forest at the top of sierra de alamos overlookiung alamos, sonora, mexico.  photo by anders tomlinson.  1995.

Pine trees rustle in the wind and parrot calls echo off stone canyon walls.

Pine aromas in a dry tropical rain forest, with tea in hand, is truly a top-of-the-world experience. I felt safe with Chon guiding the way. it is always best to travel with a guide so you don’t go where someone doesn’t want you to go. Recently, life had been hard on Chon and these moments above and beyond the village were good for his spirit. And I was thankful for the opportunity to capture scenes from the highest vantage point.

Chon in the red hat behind Kit Nuzum

Chon in the red hat behind Kit Nuzum

Chon was Kit’s right-hand man during much of Pedregral’s early construction in the shade
of the giant fig tree. Chon took pride in doing a job well and enjoyed a good joke and a cold beer.

Sharing A Moment With Chon

We come and go, in the short term, like the birds and in the long term as do mountains.
This video scene celebrates Chon who worked on many projects for the Nuzums including
the strawbale casa on El Pedregal in Álamos, Sonora, Mexico.

Chon   portrait by Kit Nuzum, 2015.

Chon portrait by Kit Nuzum, 2015.

Another day, another smile amongst old friends in Álamos, Sonora, Mexico. Time passes,
every moment history, every scene a moment. We are all part of the river of life.

Antonio Figueroa and Mountain , Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

A summer return to the northern rock outcroppings.

One of 1996’s summer-photo-expedition goals was to return to the camel humped rocks. Local photographer Antonio Figueroa joined me on an effort to repeat the spring shoot. We knew summer heat and humidity would challenge us. We set off early in the morning. When we left the trail at the base of twin peaks we ran into a dense jungle of tangled vines, limbs, overgrown brush, stickers… We couldn’t get to the top. The air became hotter, oppressive, as the sun climbed into a watery sky. We had to return without our photos. Talk about disappointment, but it was what it was. And it would become worse. On the way down, Antonio ran head first into a hornet hive. If you could see Antonio’s swollen face in the photo on the trail you would realized his pain. As soon as we reached Alamos he went to the hospital for treatment. A tough day was had by all, but none tougher than Antonio’s attempt to capture the big picture. Jungle one – photographers zip.

View from Above

Mt. Alamos is some 6,500 feet above sea level. It towers 5,000 feet above the town of Álamos. It is another world, wild parrots, dry tropical forest, granite and… Up and down is a day’s effort, it is well worth it. To reach the top it is recommended to start hiking early while it is still dark and cool.
Photos and editing by Anders Tomlinson. Music from “Camino Songs” by SonicAtomics.

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.

Spring and Summer

11… A tale of two seasons, a tale of two spirits…

Late spring 1997, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

The end of Spring seems like the end of the year.

In the dog days of Spring smoke from burning farm fields on the coast and Navajoa is blown up into the foothills of Alamos. Warm heavy air holds down a layer of dust that covers anything that doesn’t move. It is what it is, life goes on as another yearly cycle completes its course.

Spring time in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

And then the land comes alive with color and sounds of rejuvenation.

Everything glistens with a sheen of cleanliness. Spirit returns to the laugh and smile of the Alamos. Color explodes in what not long ago was the plainest of places. Behold a lush cornucopia of jungle greens accented with vibrant wildflower rainbows. Overhead, ever-changing skies take on moments of absolute magnificence. One is embraced by healthy glowing faces proud of their crops coming up around them. Lluvia! In the jubilant glory of rain’s fulfilled expectation, yes!, there’s more life to come. Lluvia!

Two seasons from Tecolote Hill

view of alamos, sonora, mexico to the east from tecolote hill, spring, 1995.  photo by anders tomlinson

It is mid-Spring, there is still a freshness to the air

The hills are turning a sullen brown. The gradual metamorphosis from vivacious green to parched brown sneaks up on the casual observer. It is seen best when looking at the hills. Many of the irrigated gardens in town stay green and colorful. But the hills…

view from Tecolete hill, Alamos, Sopnora, mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson

And here we are. It is always good to climb in the cool of the morning.

The air is aromatic – a taste of menthol. Birds are singing. The hills are alive with color.
There is water in mountain gullies. Growth is everywhere. It is summer. Lluvia!

End of Spring

Spring time, looking west from a dry distant hill at Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Its late Spring looking west at Alamos from the ranch’s high ground.

Where there is water there is green. This photo was taken on an Easter Sunday. Alamos, with Cacharamba behind it, is to the west.

late spring, looking west towards alamos, sonora, mexico.  easter sunday, 1996. photo by anders tomlinson

Where the desert meets the dry tropical forest.

When the summer rains come the dry arroyo could be at flood stage. On this easter Sunday one can only imagine rain. The dryness is everywhere.

alamos, sonora, mexico seen from red cross hill, piedra hola.  summer 1996.  photo by anders tomlinson

Summer 1996. The rains have come.

The hills are alive with the sound of music and color. Everything is overgrown. Where there were paths through the hills in the spring is now dense entanglement. One needs to be watching where they are go if they can go at all.

Two Spring Views from atop Sierra de Álamos

view of alamos, sonora, mexico from atop sireea de alamos in the spring. photo by anders tomlinson.

Gringo Point is to the upper right with Alamos below.

It is becoming warm despite the altitude. Álamos from here appears to nestled in the hills like an egg in a nest. It is a small colonial town surrounded by land that through history man has rarely touched. Here, the wilderness dominates and man exists.

view of the western edge of alamos, sonora, mexico seen fro atop sierra de alamos in the spring, 1995.  photo by anders tomlinson

El Camino Real takes the easy way northward.

Any season, hundreds of years ago, would be difficult to travel on the El Camino Real. But a road, like water, follows the path of least resistance. This view is towards the north-northwest. Over the horizon, hundreds of miles away, is the border and beyond, hundreds of miles, are Los Angeles and San Francisco. From here, at this moment, with morning tea over a small wilderness cooking fire, no bigger than a single flame, everywhere is far, far away.

Every year Summer Returns

View of alamos, sonora, mexico from the foot of mirador looking northwest in the summer.  photo by anders tomlinson.

Yes, it is summer time and the living is easy.

Summer returns every year as does a sunrise does every day. The question on many minds is will the rains return, and when? This scene is after an evening shower that had washed the streets clean and watered every garden.

And the mountains’ night skies explode

Summer is the Alamos season of vibrant color, rains and nights of natural magic and wonder.
Lightening on a warm Alamos summer evening is a show to remember. The romantic Plaza is a wonderful vantage point. Rolling thunder punctuates child’s play and lovers’ embraces.

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.

Geologic Timeline

A step back in time starting with the coming of the age of mammals…

Atop Sierra de Alamos at sunrise, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Atop Sierra de Alamos, near Gringo Point, looking south at sunrise into Sinola.

So much of is about history. In that spirit let us peek at the region’s geologic history, stand earth time. The Sierra Madre Occidental and the Rocky Mountains began to form 90 to 30 million years ago along the west coast of North America. Ocean levels were much higher than today, back then there was no Florida. The age of mammals started 66.4 million years ago. Sierra de Alamos was beginning under great pressure deep in the earth along with what would become Aduana’s silver deposits.

Granite Outcroppings on Sierra de Alamos, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson

Sierra de Alamos is granite, only recently has it emerged from the earth.

Northwest Mexico, including Alamos, was buried under thousands of feet of ash, cinder and lava flows. Volcanic eruptions began 25 million years ago and continued another 12 million years, give or take a day or two. The Sea of Cortez began to form 12 to 3 million years ago as the Basin and Range block building was underway. Sierra de Alamos was still underneath a layer of all things volcanic. Over time erosion cut into ash flow plateaus creating landmarks like Barrancas del Cobre, Copper Canyon, whose materials were washed away and deposited near Sierra de Alamos. The rising mountain was still cover by blankets of earth.

View from atop Mt. al;amos looking south west, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by anders Tomlinson.

Atop the mountain looking southwest towards farmland and the Sea of Cortez.

As time marched on climate changed. The region began to cool 15 to 30 million years ago. Two to four million years ago it was warming up and raining. Most of the past two million years has been an ice age with 15 to 20 glacial periods. And now the planet is warming again. From a distant gallery it may look as if earth’s climate ebbs and flows like clockwork as the solar winds race past our blue planet, a molten rock with the thinest of crust and atmosphere.

Atop Mt. Alamos looking north at Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Spring time on the mountain looking north with Alamos waking up below.

Today, Sierra de Alamos rises thousands of feet above its surroundings. And many have visited Alamos to research the region’s geology, flora and fauna. Josephine Scripps was asked by the San Diego Natural History Museum in the 1940’s to lead a group of six young men, none who spoke spanish, on a natural science expedition to Alamos. They were to bring back a rare mountain sheep’s skeleton and hide. Josphine, 1910 -1992, was the granddaughter of Edward Scripps, founder of the Scripps – Howard newspaper chain. Her life-long pursuit of collecting mineral specimens from across the planet began on that trip to Alamos.

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Rancho Las Crucecitas

You say Estancia Crysalis – I say Rancho Las Crucecitas…

walking home from town to Estancia Crysalis, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

This may not be a well-traveled road but it is a long-traveled path through time.

If one were to close their eyes and listen to the footsteps of this old woman, with a young woman’s body, one would hear someone going back in time, retracing footprints of the ancient ones as this old woman returns to Estancia Crysalis. Here is another world where the land speaks in a dominate voice. Listen carefully, and one will hear sounds that Indians heard before the arrival of the Spanish. Here, there is a purity of all things nature.

Looking east from the main house at Estancia Crysalis, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

And there is Chihuahua, and there are Sierra Madre foothills and there is...

It is a short, invigorating walk from Plaza de las Armas to Estancia Crysalis on paved road, the old El Camino Real. The slight incline, as you rise into rolling Sierra de Alamos foothills, stirs the minds and exercises the heart. The entrance to Estancia Crysalis is across the road from the El Mirador. The dirt road into Estancia Crysalis follows Arroyo Barranquita. Once on the ranch there is the Sierra Alamos, right there, in all her beauty, framed by 200 year old Mesquite trees.

Horse stalls at Estancia Crysalis, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

For the Arabians these were stalls for students these were shelter.

And so it was and so it is. Estancia Crysalis was formerly known as Rancho Las Crucecitas. The last owners of Rancho Las Crucecitas, Dr. Martin Dale Edwards and his wife Zora Tyler, raised a select herd of 22 purebred Arabians. These rustic stalls were the horses homes. Sharon Bernard is the current owner and changed the ranch name to Estancia Crysalis. A group of college students on a field trip from the USA stayed at Estancia Crysalis and used these stalls for lodging. And so it was and so it is.

A Ranch on the outskirts of town, looks forward to the future.
Estancia Crysalis, along the El Camino Real, is a mile southeast of the Plaza in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. The 175 acre ranch, on Sierra de Alamos sloping foothills, is focusing on a new day, and listening for opportunities floating on tropical breezes. Video…

The above video is from summer. The following video is spring. Estancia Crysalis experiences the seasons in all their dramatic changes. Life in Centro Alamos is dominated by man’s structures and gardens. Life on Estancia Crysalis is dominated by nature.

In another era, Estancia Crysalis was a working horse ranch.
Today, the spirits of these departed steeds, proud Arabians, are present, be it a sound of a branch breaking under weight or a small flurry of dust. Shut your eyes and listen, they are still here. Video…

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