Spring Photo Contest Winners!

It was a hard decision, but the editorial team chose Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes by Chuck Hoekma as the grand prize winner in our spring photo contest. His use of light and shadow adds compelling texture to the photo, and the composition enhances the feelings of emptiness and loneliness of the Western desert. Great job, Chuck!

Week Four -- The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California by Chuck Hoekman.

Week Four — The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California by Chuck Hoekman.

The social media world has voted, and Mindy Muelhausen’s photo of the Topock Gorge on the Colorado River takes the people’s choice honor. Congratulations, Mindy!

Topock Gorge on the Colorado River by Mindy Muelhausen

Topock Gorge on the Colorado River by Mindy Muelhausen

Both Chuck and Mindy will be receiving a selection of books from the Rio Nuevo catalog and will be profiled on our blog in the weeks to come.

Congratulations to Mindy, Chuck, our weekly winners, and everyone who entered! Look for another contest coming up this fall.

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This Day in History, April 22nd

By Jim Turner


Earth Day 19701970 – Earth Day is celebrated for the first time. Thousands of college students, more than ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and millions of other Americans participated in educational programs, rallies, and marches. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a strong environmental supporter, said that he hoped to “get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy.” It worked, and three months later the Environmental Protection Agency was established by the executive order of President Richard Nixon. On Earth Day’s twentieth anniversary, more than 200 million people in 192 countries worldwide celebrated. The United Nations has named the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, as its official Earth Day. The non-profit Earth Day Network coordinates what is now the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.

 United States

Carpenters_-_Nixon_-_Office1969 – The Carpenters signed with A & M records. Brother and sister team Richard and Karen Carpenter’s soft musical style helped them to become some of the best-selling artists of all time. Karen Carpenter had a lead vocal range of an octave and a fifth, plus falsetto. Her range was C below middle C to G above high C.

In fourteen years they recorded eleven albums, thirty-one singles, five television specials, and a summer replacement television series in 1971. To date, Carpenters’ albums and singles have sold more than 100 million copies. Their career ended in 1983 with Karen’s death due to heart failure related to anorexia. Extreme media coverage surrounding her illness helped increase public awareness of eating disorders.

The West

Landscape1889 – The Oklahoma Land Run, or land rush, started on this day. Known as the Boomer State because of the land boom, Oklahoma is also the Sooner State after those participants who got there sooner and claimed the best free land. The University of Oklahoma team nickname is the Boomer-Sooners. People who gathered at the Arkansas or Texas borders were permitted to enter Oklahoma, which had previously been set aside for Native Americans, seek a parcel of unclaimed land, and file a claim of ownership. Federal marshals, railroad personnel, and other persons lawfully in the territory before the opening (“legal sooners”) were prohibited from filing land claims – a provision that was more often violated than observed.

Quoting from an article in Harper’s Weekly published a month after the land rush on May 18, 1889:

1-oklahoma-land-rush-1889-granger“In some respects the recent settlement of Oklahoma was the most remarkable thing of the present century. Unlike Rome, the city of Guthrie was built in a day. To be strictly accurate in the matter, it might be said that it was built in an afternoon. At twelve o’clock on Monday, April 22d, the resident population of Guthrie was nothing; before sundown it was at least ten thousand. In that time streets had been laid out, town lots staked off, and steps taken toward the formation of a municipal government. At twilight the camp-fires of ten thousand people gleamed on the grassy slopes of the Cimarron Valley, where, the night before, the coyote, the gray wolf, and the deer had roamed undisturbed. Never before in the history of the West has so large a number of people been concentrated in one place in so short a time.”

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Hitting the West Fork Trail

IMG_2969I have heard about, read about, and seen gorgeous photos of the famous West Fork Trail of Oak Creek near Sedona, Arizona, for years. Roger Naylor writes about it in his book Boots and Burgers, agreeing that though it can be crowded, it is still a “mesmerizing combination of soft forest and sheer stone, intimacy and dizzying drama.”

This year I finally managed to hit the trail, and was rewarded with one of the most relaxing and beautiful hikes I’ve ever taken. We stayed at Canyon Wren Cabins, a small B&B operation right next to Oak Creek that continues to be a favorite place to get some relaxation and solitude, and also their unbelievably good homemade brownies. The West Fork trailhead is enticingly just north of the cabins. We left in the morning right after breakfast to ensure parking at the Call of the Canyon Day-Use Area, which fills up quickly. We made it ahead of much of the crowds, which gave us a slightly more solitary experience to enjoy the birdcalls, the sound of the wind through the trees, and the soft sound of the creek, low and calm on this spring morning, gently flowing over the rocks.

The creekside hike is very easy, more like a stroll through the trees, as there is very little up and down to deal with. The only small challenge is selecting the right rocks to step on to keep your feet dry over the several small creek crossings. It’s even easier, though, if you wear hiking sandals that allow you to just wade right through the shallow water. I waded across a few times next to a bulldog who was enjoying the walk as well.

The maintained trail ends a little over 3 miles in, as the canyon closes in around the creek. If you don’t mind getting a little wet, wade into the creek around the bend and enjoy more quiet and privacy, and even more striking scenery. That water sure was cold, but it was worth it! You can follow the creek as far as 14 miles in, keeping in mind you will have to wade, boulder hop, and possibly swim. Also remember you have to travel all those miles on the way back too! Someday I would love to hike the West Fork in its fall-foliage glory, which is what you always see pictured in books and articles. This is a hike I wouldn’t mind repeating.

Roger Naylor recommends rewarding yourself post-hike at Garland’s Indian Gardens Café & Market down the road, but this time we stopped in at Oak Creek Brewery’s Grill in Tlaquepaque, and enjoyed their delicious fish and chips plate along with some of their excellent beers.

For more information: (928) 302-2900, www.redrockcountry.orghttp://www.fs.usda.gov

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The finalists

We thought it might be fun to take another look at each of the weekly winners in our Spring photo contest before we announce the grand prize winner on Friday. Voting is still open for the people’s choice award, so be sure to take a look at all the entries and vote for your favorites before midnight tomorrow.

Here are the finalists for the grand prize:

Week One -- Snow Canyon State Park, Ivins, Utah. Chuck Hoekman

Week One — Snow Canyon State Park, Ivins, Utah. Chuck Hoekman

Week Two -- Cook Bank Building Ruins, Rhyolite, Nevada by JT Dudrow

Week Two — Cook Bank Building Ruins, Rhyolite, Nevada by JT Dudrow

Week Three -- Lower Salt River, Arizona by Bob Miller

Week Three — Lower Salt River, Arizona by Bob Miller

Week Four -- The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California by Chuck Hoekman.

Week Four — The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California by Chuck Hoekman.

Week Five -- Red Tail Hawk in New Mexico by Dawn Santiago.

Week Five — Red Tail Hawk in New Mexico by Dawn Santiago.

Week Six -- night blooming cactus by Tom White.

Week Six — night blooming cactus by Tom White.

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We Have a Winner!

Judging by our entries this week, Spring is one of the best seasons for photography in the West. From macro flower shots to expansive landscapes, this week’s photos were excellent. The editorial team really appreciated the technical difficulty of shooting a flower that only blooms at night, so this week’s winner is Spring Cactus by Tom White. Congratulations, Tom! Please email aarond – at – rionuevo.com and he’ll get a book out to you.

White Week 6 winner

Next Friday we’ll announce the grand prize winner, selected from our outstanding group of weekly winners. We’ll also announce the winner of the people’s choice award. Voting in that category will remain open until midnight next Wednesday, so be sure to browse through all of the entries from the contest and like your favorites. (You can vote for as many as you want, because narrowing it down to one would be next to impossible.) The winner will be the photo with the most likes.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your views of the West with us. We’ll be back again in the Fall with another contest, so keep shooting!

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What We’re Reading: April

Dead WakeDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson
review by Jim Turner

I spent a lot of time on the road giving history talks this past few months, and when I get to different cities I like to browse the bookstores looking for audio books. I need them for those those stimulating drives to Phoenix, Yuma, and Lake Havasu City.

I was delighted to find Erik Larson’s new book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, on a Phoenix road trip. I first saw Larson on CNN Book TV talking about his best seller, The Devil in the White City, about Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and a serial killer who set up a hotel right next to the fair. All of the dialogue in that book came from original sources: newspaper articles, letters, diaries, etc. Since then, I’ve read just about everything Larson has written, always about famous historic events or inventions, with excellent research, drama, and mystery supplied by original sources.

Larson outdoes himself with Dead Wake. His thorough research turned up lots of diaries, letters, government documents, and newspaper articles that put you right there with the people who were on the ship. Even though the fate of the Lusitania, sunk off the south coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915, is well known, the suspense in Larsen’s story is guessing which of the intimately drawn characters  will survive, and which will be lost.

Larson also provides details that explain why the ship wasn’t protected by the British fleet, and whether the Lusitania was carrying munitions. I don’t usually read books with sad endings, but Larsen focuses on the courage and strength of the passengers and crew, and follows the survivors’ lives afterward through triumph and tragedy. As an added attraction, President Woodrow Wilson was courting Edith Galt at that time, and we read about that through Wilson’s mawkish personal letters.

miss peregrineMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
review by Sylvia Leon

I am always a little hesitant to read a book that has anything to do with fantasy, but much to my surprise I absolutely devoured this book. The main character Jacob finds that his grandfather held a very big secret from the rest of the family and wants to get to the bottom of it. You follow Jacob on his adventure through a Wales forest, trying to figure out the clues as you read along. Page after page you can’t believe what you are reading, and by the end you are hoping to find a secret within your own family. With unforgettable old-fashioned photos scattered throughout the book, you find yourself in a relationship with all the characters.


Ocean_at_the_End_of_the_Lane_US_CoverThe Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Review by Sylvia Leon

Ever wonder if what you just experienced really happened? If so, then you will fall in love with The Ocean At The End Of The Lane.  Gaiman tells a story about a little boy, his encounter with a neighbor girl, and the darkness that follows a town suicide. You find yourself rooting for the duo, hoping that they can protect one another. At the end of the story the author throws in a twist that makes you look deep into your own memories. Was what you remember real? Or was a memory created for you?

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Hummingbirds, Spider Silk, and Web of Life Eggs, Part 2

A few weeks ago we published the first installment of Linda’s thoughtful and reflective take on the the connection between spider webs and hummingbirds. This is part two. And in a brief moment of self-promotion, we’d like to remind you that our new book, Hummingbird Plants of the Southwest by Marcy Scott, will be available in a few weeks.

By Linda McKittrick

The full moon is setting in the West early this morning, and  I am lucky enough to be able to see the moon beaming from this desk. As if that weren’t enough beauty, the morning offers the sound of a male dove beginning his mating song. Soon more will join in. As moonbeams make their horizontal way into the yard, the silvery spider webs in the foliage around my door shimmer silvery white.

2 photo 1 Spiders use silk for a variety of reasons: web weaving, cocoon construction, and even in a kind of sperm delivery system. All spiders have silk glands located in their abdomen, which emerge from tiny tubes in their spinnerets, known as spigots. Spiders, while not the only animals to produce silk (caterpillars and weaver ants do, too), produce the strongest silk, often compared to the strength of steel. It also has a remarkable capacity to expand. One example of this is referred to as “capture spiral silk,” used in web construction, allowing for prey to impact or collide with the web with minimal breakage. Spider webbing is also relatively weatherproof, meaning that it has an ability to endure, sometime past the life span of its weaver. This web longevity may be tied to its purported antimicrobial/antiseptic properties.

Female hummingbirds use spider silk to build secure, strong, and flexible nests. I am going to share with you a few photos of the young hummers growing; the nest accommodates all that Spring and young birds challenge it with. I am reverberating with the “Ah Hah” of how much of their success in fledging was due to the superior spider-silk building material that their mother used to build a strong, flexible nest. They rode out significant winds, their little nest bobbing like a tiny boat in a stormy sea, because the nest was securely anchored to base of branches with spider web. The rapid growth of the two babies was easily accommodated as well, as the spider web allowed it to expand in size without breaking apart as the babies grew. Much of the success of these little birds’ hatching, growing, and fledging rested, literally, on spider silk.

The first and second eggs were laid a day apart.

2 photo 3 The first and second eggs were laid a day apart.

They then hatched a day apart.

2 photo 5 They then hatched a day apart.

What a difference a day makes when it comes to beak size.

What a difference a day makes when it comes to beak size.

When it came time for fledging, they flew off one day apart, as well. I was lucky enough to see this; they flew like “professionals” right off the rim of the nest!

2 photo 10 When it came time for fledging, they flew off one day apart, as well. I was lucky enough to see this; they flew like professionals right off the rim of the nest!

I read this week that Little Miss Muffet (the girl scared away from her tuffet by a spider, scattering curds and whey; too bad, as they are so nutritious) had a father who revered spiders. The Australian Museum website has a nice little piece on this should you want to find out more. It was from this source that I learned Reverend Dr. Thomas Mouffet (1553-1606) had a deep love of spiders. He wrote of the common house spider that “she doth beautifie with her tapestry and hangings.” More interestingly, it appears that he liked to treat ailments with the use of spiders. The museum quotes him as writing, “The running of eyes is stopped with the dung and urine of a House Spider dropt with Oyl of Roses, or laid in along with Wooll.”

Back to modern day: Scientists are exploring what spider silk may have to offer in terms of ligament healing in the human body. Also interesting, the antimicrobial/antiseptic properties of spider silk that humans have long reported using to bandage and heal wounds are being explored in scientific labs. This moves the conversation forward from anecdotal observation to preliminary results of effectiveness in the lab.

I love a good opportunity to come to terms with Life on Life’s terms. The so-often-feared spider, who frightens so many Miss Muffets in the world, has so very much to offer. The spider contributes to new generations of pollinators, such as hummingbirds. Yes, it is true that some spider bites do real harm. I know this first hand; a black widow bite is painful and in some can be dangerous. Yet its silk may have significant healing properties and scientific utility, offering varied gifts to humans.

Which brings me to the concept of the Web of Life, which is an all-encompassing view of life where all of nature, including humans, is seen as linked to all things, as if we were all connected by an enormous, invisible, yet dynamic web. Inspired by this idea, I thought we would revisit a recipe from the past and give it a new twist.

2 photo 11

Web of Life Tea Eggs

Chinese Tea Eggs are often described as marbled. In the spirit of today’s theme, let’s playfully reinterpret them as having a spiderweb pattern. I like the recipe so much that I made a fresh batch and photographed all the steps, so you will have real success! These tea eggs are a portable, aromatic, healthy, flavorful and beautiful savory snack. They can be eaten just as they are or can be used as a jumping off point for great deviled eggs or a flavorful egg salad.

8-10 eggs
3 tablespoons of tea or three tea bags (see note below)
3 tablespoons Chinese Five Spice powder

Boil the eggs just like you do normally. Just the eggs and hot/boiling water.

When the eggs are hard boiled, let them cool a bit for handling and then crack them, creating the beautiful web pattern. You can smash one side of an egg against the kitchen counter, and then play around with cracking them with your fingers and hands for finer details. These cracks allow the flavor and color into the egg white.

Mix up a bath of the tea and spices.

Place the cracked hard boiled eggs into the tea bath and simmer over low heat for as long as you would like – I simmered mine for more than an hour. Then I covered the pot and let them steep in the tea bath for several hours.

NOTE: Black tea is most often used in Chinese tea egg recipes, but any tea will do really, and it is fun to experiment. In the several years I have been making them, I have used mostly loose leaf tea, but this time I used some very old tea bags that I found in the back of a drawer. I did not give their flavor a second thought; but you could if you would like. Try green or oolong tea.

2 photo 13 2 photo 14 2 photo 15  2 photo 12

Linda is both an urban and a rural food producer. She ranches in the Sierra Madre foothills in Northern Mexico. She also keeps honeybees and fosters native bee habitat in the urban Southwest. She enjoys raising poultry, with a special fondness for heirloom breeds. She sees herself as an extension of the hives, flocks, and herds among which she lives. A version of this post originally appeared on her blog, Savor the Southwest.

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The Winner!

We didn’t have lots of entries this week, but what we lacked in quantity was more than offset by the quality. Thanks to everyone who entered their great shots this week!

Santiago Week 5 winnerAfter lots of back and forth among the members of our editorial team, we chose Dawn Santiago’s red tail hawk image. We liked it because, with the mile post marker and the bird in flight, it was obvious that both the photographer and the bird were traveling. Although, if the glaring face of the hawk is any indication, he wasn’t particularly pleased to be shooed away from his perch on the sign. Congratulations, Dawn. Please email aarond – at – rionuevo.com and he’ll send a book to you. Your photo is also in the running for our grand prize.

Our contest is entering its final week, and the theme is Spring. We have some beautiful entries so far, and we’d love to have more. Just upload them (no more than three, please) to our Facebook page.

Enjoy this beautiful spring weekend, and take some pictures!

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Our final theme…

2014-04-28 14.27.05It’s been a great contest, and for this, our final theme, we decided to pay homage to our favorite season, Spring. In some parts of the West, that means bright, warm days; flowers bursting into bloom; and the beginning of outdoor activities. In some places, though, it means just a promise of things to come, like jonquils popping up through one of the last snows of the year.

Post your photos to our Facebook page before midnight next Wednesday and we’ll announce the winner next Friday. Remember, the weekly winners will all be eligible for the grand prize at the end of the contest (books from our catalog and a profile on our blog), and the one entry with the most likes will win the people’s choice award.

Thanks to everyone who has entered, liked, or commented on the entries during the past few weeks. It’s going to be a tough decision to pick a winner.

Good luck!

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This Day in History — April 8th

The United States

HankAaronHallofFamePlaque1974 – Hank Aaron sets new home run record, topping Babe Ruth’s 714 career home runs. More than 53,000 fans showed up at the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to see Hank Aaron hit Dodger Al Downing’s pitch in the fourth inning. Henry Louis Aaron, Jr. was born in Mobile, Alabama and started with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954. The team moved to Atlanta in 1966, and Aaron moved to the Milwaukee Brewers after he broke Ruth’s record. He retired in 1976 after twenty-three years, with a final 755 career home run record that lasted until Barry Bonds beat the record in 2007.

 The World

Pablo_Picasso,_1901-02,_Femme_au_café_(Absinthe_Drinker),_oil_on_canvas,_73_x_54_cm,_Hermitage_Museum,_Saint_Petersburg,_Russia1973 – Pablo Picasso died. Born on October 25th, 1881 in Malaga, the northern, Andalusian region of Spain. With training from his artist father, he became a painter, printmaker, and sculptor. He co-founded the Cubist movement, invented constructed sculpture, and co-invented the collage. Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and Henri Matisse were responsible for revolutionary changes in the art world in the early 20th century.


The West

Bob_Burmanunnamed1916 – Three people were killed and several more injured in a road race in California. The race was held on Grand Boulevard in Corona, east of Los Angeles. Corona, founded in 1886 as part of the Southern California Citrus boom, was laid out in the shape of a wagon wheel with the circular Grand Boulevard as the rim. It was used as an automobile racetrack from 1913 to 1916.

2468Leading the race, “Wild Bob” Burman, previous world speed record holder at 129 mph, lost control when a wheel broke on his blue Peugeot. He, his mechanic, and a spectator were killed when the car crashed through a barrier. Five crowd members also received serious injuries.

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