Pic of the Week 3/23/17: Crab Eyes
Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK
Date taken: 3/19/17
I can’t believe it has been a month since my last Pic of the Week. I am very disappointed in myself to be honest. The reason I haven’t posted anything is because I wasn’t motivated and the photos that I did capture in this gap I felt weren’t worthy of sharing on this blog. You see, nearly every weekend during the month of March has been rainy or cloudy. It has literally robbed me of photographing sunrise/sunsets and the night sky. And I had some cool photo adventures planned too! I tried I truly tried to get some new photos but nothing resonated with me. Nothing inspired me. So much so that when I looked back on my old work I didn’t want to write or tell the story behind the photos. If you know me, you know that I’m passionate about my work and I love sharing these stories with everyone. But the overcast clouds and dreary weather left a bad taste in my mouth for almost a month. I needed a palette cleanser. Luckily there was some light at the end of the tunnel. This past weekend (3/19) was one of the first weekends we’ve had with clear skies and I was eager to take advantage. I needed an escape and I needed to get away from the stressors of life. So, I planned a hike in the Charon Gardens Wilderness Area of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
Charon Gardens is one of my favorite locations on the refuge. It is one of the most untouched and remote regions of the public use area and it offers so many things to nature enthusiasts. One of the most popular hiking destinations is to a unique rock formation referred to as “Crab Eyes”. Crab Eyes (aka Twin Rocks) gets its name from the delicate balancing rocks atop two sixty-foot-tall pillars of granite. Crab Eyes rests on a hill strewn with broken and mangled boulders. Years of erosion has shaped the mountains into dilapidated mounds of rock. This rugged terrain is what makes Charon Gardens so desirable to hikers and climbers wanting to scale these ancient monoliths. Crab Eyes can be accessed through a moderate two-mile hike along the Charon Gardens Trail. I arrived early to make sure I had Crab Eyes all to myself.
I parked my car at the Sunset Picnic Area. I was just at the same parking lot last month hiking to the summit of Elk Mountain (the tallest peak in the Charon Gardens). Now I was going to capture Crab Eyes. I gathered all my gear and started off towards the trail. There were no other people or vehicles in the area and I could hear the sounds of nature all around me. I would listen to the crows calling, or hear the trickle of the creek, and the rustling of the leaves when the wind blew. It was so peaceful. Starting the hike, you walk through a wooded area before coming to an open meadow about a mile into the trail. The views of Elk mountain and the craggy granite domes are quite impressive. A quick glance of the southern horizon and you will see the famous Crab Eyes from a distance. It’s difficult to really get the size of this landmark from this perspective, but if you follow the trail it will eventually take you right up the base of the pillars that prop up the balancing rocks of Crab Eyes.
This photo was made when I first reached the meadow and Crab Eyes came into view. A wonderfully clear blue sky made a nice backdrop to Crab Eyes. The light was a little after sunrise (sadly, I had miscalculated the sunrise time) and was throwing a soft golden light on Crab Eyes. The direct sunlight was enough to bring out the yellow, green, and pink colors of the rock. I believe this to be lichen, but I honestly do not know. But they are so bright and vibrant In the sunlight it is hard to miss. I pulled my camera out and attached my 70-200mm lens. I zoomed in tightly on the rock compressing the scene and bringing everything closer with my camera. The result is a tight composition with Crab Eyes dominating most of the frame. This close up also help bring out the details of the craggy ridges and boulders scattered throughout the area. It also shows just how precarious of a position those balance rocks are.
I ended up hiking 4.4 miles that day exploring and climbing near Crab Eyes. I did not get to the top, however. The route up there is quite technical and involved and since I was the only one out there I climbed as high as I felt comfortable. Still it was a great time and a much needed escape to rejuvenate and inspire my artistic spirit. I have some exciting new photo trips planned soon and I can’t wait to see what images I come back with. Not to mention, storm season is just around the corner.