RMW: the blog

Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life


White Sands, New Mexico and an unplanned ode to the Sierra Club


white sands

Out of the tour bus at White Sands National Monument

I’ve been a member and supporter of the Sierra Club for almost forty years. Politics aside, the Club has been very good to me. Over the years I’ve participated in hundreds of hikes, events, activities and trips. And most importantly, I’ve made many good friends (including a couple of boyfriends and a husband!).

White Sands

A forensic nightmare: the perpetrator walked across the sand so we can identify the pattern on the soles of his shoes…

The Sierra Club has played an important part in my life. I was a hike leader for many years, editor of various newsletters and a volunteer at many fund raising events.

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The tenacity of plant life

It has also taken me on numerous wonderful trips around the USA and allowed me to discover the great National Parks of this country that I would never have seen on my own.

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Waves of sand. You can imagine the ocean in the distance but Santa Monica is more than 800 miles (1287 km) away

I’ve been on cruises, hiking trips, camping and just plain sight-seeing. This is an easy way for me to support the Club while having a good time myself.

White Sands

I’ve lived in Los Angeles continually since 1965. We are surrounded by beautiful mountains, but other than hiking the trails of Griffith Park (which are not to be sneered at) I had never really ventured into the Santa Monicas or the San Gabriels or the Verdugos. Around 1980 I discovered the Sierra Club and that all changed. I became addicted to hiking at least twice a week. One weekend my car wouldn’t start and rather than spend the time to get it fixed I convinced my father to loan me his car so I could go on a hike!

White Sands

The sun was already fading and the contrast between light and dark was making it increasingly difficult to capture the landscape

I can’t trust myself to do any heavy duty hiking anymore. My ankles, knees and hips took a beating with all the running I did for several decades. But that is totally okay. I have fabulous memories of trudging around the mountains in awe of the beauty of Southern California. I look up at the mountains now as old friends and we smile knowingly at each other.

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The purple flowers in the center stand out in this stark landscape

Sometimes I start writing and I get off on a tangent. So I just let it flow. This post was supposed to be all about my Sierra Club trip to southern New Mexico last year. And White Sands National Monument in particular. All the photos you’ve been looking at are from that area. We had a limited amount of time but as I’ve said before, there is always a trade-off when on a motor coach tour. On the one hand you have no responsibility and all the stress is on the shoulders of the leader. On the other hand, you don’t get to decide where to go or how much time to spend at any given location. But I did manage to take one prize-winning photograph at White Sands and that made the whole trip worthwhile for me!!!

White Sands
From the website: Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live here.

White Sands

As the sun went down the shadows were getting longer which made some interesting photographs

White Sands

On the photo above I liked the way the tendrils seemed to wave around as if the plant was under water and the shadows added extra interest.

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Hey, we saw some native wildlife! This beetle was making his own tracks over the imprints left by human visitors.

The original photo

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Playing a little in Lightroom and Photoshop

Although I love the act of taking a photo and making it the best composition I can, I have to admit the real fun begins for me in the post processing. When I saw this tree I also immediately imagined the possibilities. By itself it’s a perfectly acceptable photograph. But in my opinion the trip through Lightroom and Photoshop makes it magical!

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This leaf also had a little help from Photoshop with the posterization filter. This is my go-to filter to really make the image pop.

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Got to love those shadows. Although the light was getting a little difficult, it also added a little drama!

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White Sands

I had wandered off quite a ways by myself to take photos. I came back to see the group having fun sliding down the dunes. Good for them. My fun is in making art. To each their own, yeah?

Click on an image below for slide show.

Original photo

White Sands

A little fun with Photoshop

By now the shadows were REALLY long. I couldn’t resist taking this photo of my shadow. I didn’t even notice the person standing at the top until I played with the image in Photoshop. Totally serendipitous. This won first prize in the member’s theme at the Culver City Art Group Holiday Show. And I think it also helped me win for best body of work. You never know when you are out shooting what photos are going to turn out best and which ones are going to miss the objective. It really is a hit and miss shooting match!

White Sands

Like all the trips I take, I always think I’ll have the opportunity to return and take more time. But I never do. So I have learned to soak in as much as possible whenever possible.



A walk to the top

culver city baldwin overlookI’ve said it before, I’m sure I’ll say it again: I feel very fortunate to live where I do, just a couple of blocks to the south is Culver City Park that connects with Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and miles of hiking trails. Part of the California State Parks system, the Overlook opened in April 2009. For months I sat out on my deck with a glass of wine (not the same glass of wine) watching the multitudes of people climbing up to the top and thinking it would take a lot of time and effort to reach the summit.

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As it happens it is a half hour walk, more or less, depending on my energy level, from my front door to the very tippy top!

culver city baldwin overlook

There are three routes to the top. A hiking trail which is difficult for me as I no longer do well on uneven ground. A billion stairs which are also difficult because some of them are too steep for my old knees (however, I have done the stairs several times with the help of a hiking pole). And the route I prefer now, the paved road which is shared with cars.

culver city baldwin overlook

My pet peeve of the day: Despite this sign, which evidently no-one other than me has bothered to read, gives vehicles the right of way… this is a road! And the advice to walk on the left facing traffic is totally ignored. People either hug the right curb with their backs to the cars, or walk all over the road causing vehicles to either stop or drive at one mile an hour. I don’t get it. Am I the only one who feels it is safer to see the cars coming towards me. Yes, it’s tough being perfect in an imperfect world!

culver city baldwin overlook

These photos were taken in December, 2014 after one of the first rains. It’s fabulous to see the hills change from brown to green overnight!

culver city baldwin overlookSince then we’ve had a couple more storms and the hillsides are even greener… I just didn’t want to take these photos all over again.

culver city baldwin overlookWhen the park was created it was landscaped with native drought-resistant plants. So this is how it would possibly have looked hundreds of years ago when the Tongva Indians inhabited the area.

culver city baldwin overlookThis view shows the Sony Pictures “ziggurat” building just left of center. In the center is an approximately 160-unit (don’t quote me on that) apartment building being constructed at the end of my street over on the Los Angeles side. The red-roofed building at center right is Culver City City Hall. You can see my roof deck from up here but I’m not going to point it out!

culver city baldwin overlook Aaaahhh… the Pacific Ocean on the horizon. Looking out towards Playa del Rey and Marina del Rey. In the center is the tower of the Culver City Veteran’s Building and in the foreground the baseball field at Botts Field in Culver Park.

culver city baldwin overlookUpper center is the Blue Whale, the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.

culver city baldwin overlookThis park is well used. On the one hand it is not the place to come to get away from people. But on the other hand I always feel safe with other people jogging and walking around me.

This park is well used. On the one hand it is not the place to come to get away from people. But on the other hand I always feel safe with other people jogging and walking around me. If you look very closely and squint you can see the Hollywood Sign in the distance at upper right at the top of Mount Hollywood. Behind Mount Hollywood are the Verdugo Mountains. And the highest mountains in the background are the San Gabriels.

culver city baldwin overlook

Walking back down with a feeling of accomplishment. Just above the girls’ heads you can see the Rainbow Sculpture at Sony Pictures (Sony is on the old MGM lot… need I say more?).

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Looking towards Marina del Rey. Culver City is five miles from the ocean.

culver city baldwin overlookWe are looking at the high rises in Century City which was built in the 60s on land that was previously the 20th Century Fox Lot. Fox Studios is still located there today.

culver city baldwin overlookThe interpretive center. I love browsing in here when it is open (I think mostly at the weekends) as there is a lot of information about the flora and fauna of the area and about the development of Southern California in general. They did a very nice job with the architecture. I see these buildings from my deck. They are lighted at night.

culver city baldwin overlookJust a view through the bushes to Century City.

culver city baldwin overlookLooking back to the interpretive center. The LAX control tower is in the distance.

culver city baldwin overlookThe long and winding road!

culver city baldwin overlookOn a clear day you can see forever (sing along now…). Downtown Los Angeles at right with a little snow cap on Mount Baldy.

culver city baldwin overlookI can never get enough of these views…. the Hollywood Sign splat in the middle at the top, above the SBE building in the center.

culver city baldwin overlook

Red berries make a nice contrast with the green. Very holiday-ish just a few days before New Year.

culver city baldwin overlook

Some kids and parents enjoying a soccer practice down below in Culver Park. I walk through there on my route back down the hill.

culver city baldwin overlook

I just walked up here yesterday and it was so much greener than this so you will just have to imagine how green it is. But in the summer it is 50 shades of brown!

culver city baldwin overlookI just happen to like this fence. Certainly not keeping anyone or anything in or out… maybe just designating private from public land…. I really have no idea.

culver city baldwin overlookI’ll be posting some more photos of another walk up here soon I am sure. Hope you enjoyed coming along on this outing!

You might enjoy an earlier post I wrote: Stepping up to Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

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