Having lived in the desert for most of my life, I find Horton Creek to be something of a miracle. Starting out on the trail you'll typically find the creek to be nothing more than a dry bed of rocks, with only crusty algae and tree limbs to suggest it occasionally flows beyond its current limits. The trail continues upstream, and suddenly, you’ll find that what was once dry is now a pleasant little creek. Hike on and the creek grows, with numerous cascades and pools surrounded by lush vegetation. If you hike far enough, you'll come to the source, Horton Springs, where the creek gushes fully formed from the base of the Mogollon Rim. Every time I see it, I marvel how so much water can flow from the ground, run for miles, and then disappear underground again.
Hiking Horton never gets old, and I’ve been visiting it at least yearly for over a decade. I usually attempt to photograph one of the many pools or cascades, with results that fail more often than they succeed. I decided to take a different approach on my last trip. Instead of focusing on the creek I focused on the surroundings, looking for textures and details that would work well with a black and white composition.
My favorite picture from the trip was this image of leaves, with water drops left over from a nighttime storm. During (a good) summer this part of Arizona can get daily thunderstorms. The day can quickly turn from hot to cool and refreshing, one of the reasons this is a favorite summer destination for me. This composition evokes many fond memories I have of hiking this area and experiencing these storms: glimpses through the trees of brilliant white thunderheads billowing high into the sky, crisp cracks of thunder and echoing replies grumbling from the cliffs, the rain starting with great sloppy drops then coming all at once, often passing as quickly as it came. After the storm has passed this is what remains: the smell of pine and wet earth lingering in the air and drops of water glittering on the leaves.