Sunday, November 1, 2009

Drought Plus 10 Inches, Minus Barbecue

I was out at the Bamberger Ranch Preserve this evening for their annual volunteer appreciation gathering. Arriving with the sun low in the sky, but with a little time before sunset, I quickly found the legendary J. David Bamberger and asked for permission to head up into High Lonesome to re-photograph the tanks I showed in my Drought with a Side of Pig posting, early in September. He agreed, and I dashed out of the party just as the food was beginning to show up.

I borrowed a friend's truck (having bummed a ride to ranch), drove out along the ranch's main road, took a right at the misleadingly named Hes' Country Store (it's half museum, half bunkhouse, and not one bit a store), there leaving pavement behind, then bumped and juddered my way up a pair of well-worn, rock strewn, tire tracks into High Lonesome, and eventually parked in my usual spot, halfway up a valley wall. Shouldering my 40 pounds of photographic equipment, I started hiking toward my favorite valley as fast as the terrain would permit. My interest was in in seeing how the tanks had changed after at least 10 inches of rain had fallen in the last month or so.

Regular readers will recognize the photo above of the drought-stricken tank cooking in September's hot afternoon sun. The photo below was taken by twilight this evening. Leaving aside the gentler lighting, though still far from full, the tank is transformed. The bare, burned ground with a shrinking pool of sickly orange water at its center is now a decent-looking body of water, and every bit of grass and other ground cover has surged back to life.

That tank has looked a lot better in the past, for example in April of 2007, as seen below, but the rains have made a huge difference, nonetheless.

Unfortunately, in order to a make-up for the drought's damage, we need even more rain than the latest photo suggests. As you may recall, the tank in a neighboring valley had dried-up completely when I visited it this September:

This evening, seen below from a different angle, that tank is still dry. More than ten inches of rain simply vanished into the bone-dry soil. In exchange, there's a lot more vegetation, but still not a drop of available water.

So, wish us more rain, world. Central Texas is far from recovered from its drought.

* * *

Those pictures turned-out to be more expensive than I expected, by the way. The camera and tripod took a tumble from my shoulder to the ground as I struggled to simultaneously untangle a leg of the tripod from both the branch of a bush on the trail, and one of the little bungee cords on the back of my camera gear backpack. The camera wouldn't power-on after that fall, and only a methodical disassembly and reassembly of all the bits and pieces led to the discovery, to my relief, that the problem was confined to the camera's battery grip. Removing that and going back to single-battery operation brought the camera back from the dead.

Adding hunger to injury, by the time I made it back to the volunteer appreciation party, all of the barbecue, side dishes, and even the cake had been eaten. I had to settle for a plate of beans, and the last fragment of cake – so sad a remnant it was that nobody else had been willing to touch it.

Alas, trying to take a beautiful photo can be an expensive undertaking in a lot of ways, and, while you can bet on the expense, the beauty has a way of being elusive.

* * *

As it happens, my best photo this evening was of the XXXXXXXXXXX, shot hours later by moonlight, but David has embargoed that image until he's ready to announce the XXXXXXXXXXX at some unspecified, future date on his blog.

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