Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mojave Desert
(or I Learned Something New Today)
Now, as many of you know, Jeff & I live in the high desert in New Mexico, so you would think I would know about deserts.  You would think.  But, as I found today, sometimes those ideas one had as a child are stronger than reality.  So, let me share with you what I learned about the Mojave Desert today, as we drove thru it.  I also must add a disclaimer – all these photos were taken with my cell camera while driving in the RV, so they most likely aren’t up to my normal quality, but they certainly serve the purpose!
Mojave Desert View
Lesson 1:  Where’s the sand?
This is the part where I should have known better, since I live in the desert that has no real sand, but, for some reason, when I always thought of the Mojave Desert, I pictured sand dunes all over the place.  Now, I’m not saying I expected Lawrence of Arabia to come galloping over a dune riding his camel, but you get my point.  (By the way, do camels gallop?).  But, as you can see from this image, there’s an awful lot of green!
Mojave Drive View
Lesson 2: It’s not flat.
Except for sand dunes that shift with the wind, I thought the Mojave would be pretty darn flat.  But, the land sort of rolls with minor hills and valleys all over the place.  That was surprising to me.
Mountains in the Desert
Lesson 3: Not only is it not flat, there are mountains all around!
And, as we drove thru the Mojave Desert, we drove thru the Bristol Mountains!  Everywhere I looked, there were mountains!  Amazing!  So, today, I learned about the Mojave Desert, and my illusions were given a major adjustment!  But, it’s always fun to learn something new, or something we should have known!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Meteor Crater, Arizona
The first stop on what I’m calling our California Wine Country Tour was not in California!  We only got as far as Winslow, AZ, the first day, and the campground we stopped at was not far from a national landmark, Meteor Crater.  It is the best preserved and first proven meteorite impact site on earth.
High Vantage Point
About 50,000 years ago, well before man walked the earth, a meteor ended its 500 million years long travels thru space abruptly when it crashed into the earth.    Traveling at about 26,000 mph, it passed thru earth’s atmosphere and struck the earth here in what was to become northern Arizona, with a force greater than 20 million tons of TNT.
Looking to the Crater Floor
The impact pulverized much of the rocky terrain that it struck, and left a crater nearly a mile across and more than 550 feet deep.  I found it amazing how almost perfectly round it is – just like all the cartoons and animated descriptions picture it!
Up the Crater Wall
Just to give you a bit of perspective about the size, 20 football fields could fit on the crater floor, and over 2 million fans could watch from the crater walls!  A true Super Bowl, if you’ll pardon my pun!
Width of the Crater
The floor of the crater topographically so closely resembles the surface of the moon, NASA made it an official training site for the Apollo astronauts.  It used to be open to the public, but no longer is.
What’s left of the Meteor
The original size of the meteor was believed to have been 450 meters – approximately 1350 feet.  This piece is what is left of that monster space rock.  I didn’t measure it exactly, but it looked to be about 3 feet across at its widest point.  Truly and amazing site, and I’m glad I have finally gotten to see it!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Canyonlands National Park – Driving in Canyonlands
As we drove back thru Canyonlands, you might think that we had seen all there was to see, and the drive back would be rather boring.  Nope!  There are views all over the place in this wonderful National Park!
Take the Long View
As we came around a bend in the road, the view out from beyond the road was fantastic!  You can see the layers of rock formations starting at the road and out toward the distant mesa.  And, you can see layers of clouds and spots two different sections of rain with some bright clouds in between.
Lonely Tree
Here’s another of those wonderfully artistic looking dead trees that dot the park.  I love how weathered they look, yet still standing strong.
Rain in the Distance
It seems to be raining all around us at this point!  Here’s another view of rain falling in the canyon.  It looks like a silky curtain falling gently to the ground.  Was the rain actually falling gently?  I don’t know.
Rain Rolling In
In this image, the rain doesn’t look all that gentle!  The clouds look like they are leading the charge and the two rock formations appear like forts preparing to withstand the onslaught!  The rain is rolling in!  Time to get home to our RV!

Canyonlands National Park – Orange Cliff and Grand View Point
At this point, we’re moving on to the farthest points in the Island of the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park – Orange Cliff and Grand View Point.  More wonderful views….but would the rain hold off?
Orange Cliff Overview
It’s hard to see why they call the cliffs orange in this view, but you can see how low the clouds are.  The elevation in this area of Utah is about 6,000 feet above sea level, so the clouds aren’t all that much higher than that.  I also love the definition in the clouds at this point. 
Brighter in the Distance
You can see more of the “orange” color of the cliffs in this image.  You can also see the sunlight peeking thru some of those clouds in the distance. 
Storm Clouds in the Distance
Altho this image was taken at Grand View Point, on this day, there really wasn’t much of a grand view!  The clouds were just too close, and some of them seemed to have little cloud fingers reaching even closer to the ground.  Still, no rain falling on us yet!

Canyonlands National Park – Candlestick Tower and Buck Canyon
Our next two stops driving the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands were Candlestick Tower and Buck Canyon.  This entire section is one huge mesa above the Green and Colorado Rivers, and there are fabulous views along both sides of the road.  In the images in this post, you can see how wonderfully photogenic the stormy skies overhead were!
Wide View of Candlestick Tower
One of the things I most love about the Western area of the US is how grand the views can be.  In this image, the Candlestick Tower is off on the right side of the image in the distance.  The lighting at this point was really interesting – mainly cloudy and waiting for the rain, with just a touch of sunlight off the left of the Tower.  Just looking at this image, I can almost feel the promise of rain in the air.
Buck Canyon Overlook
A bit further down the road and on the opposite side of the road from Candlestick Tower, lay Buck Canyon.  I love the way the canyon sort of cuts thru pat of the canyon floor, seeming reaching out to us standing at the overlook area.  I also love the big view in this image – where you can see to the mesa in the distance.  And, if you look to the far right in this image, you can just barely see some rain falling in the canyon.
Here’s a better view of the rain falling in the canyon.  Because the views are so grand and expansive, you can really see the individual showers.  I grew up in the city, and throughout my childhood, I assumed that if it was raining where I was, it was raining all over because when I looked up, all I could see was rain.  But, here, you can truly see that rain in one location is just rain in that location!  I don’t know that I’ll ever get tired of seeing that!

Canyonlands National Park – Shaffer Canyon
The third day of our Moab adventure was rainy and the clouds looked very stormy overhead.  We knew that off-roading was out of the picture for us, as the red sandy clay tends to be either very slick or very mucky, and it’s too easy to lose control and get very stuck!  So, Jeff suggested that we stick to the paved roads and check out the Canyonlands National Park section just a few miles away from Moab.  Canyonlands is actually very large and is split into three different sections – The Maze (which is very remote and wild with no facilities), The Needles (a diverse area of rock spires, arches, and canyons) and the Island in the Sky which has views to die for!  The Island in the Sky section is the area that we explored, and our first stop was along Shaffer Canyon.
Canyonlands View
The drive starts out innocuous enough, and it’s difficult to see at this stage what’s so special about Canyonlands.  But, just wait…….
Shafer Trail Overlook
Here’s our first view of the Shafer Trail.  Our original plan for the day was to drive the trail, but we had to be happy with viewing it from up high, something we hadn’t ever done.  Yes, it’s a long way down to get to the bottom of the canyon where the trail leads.
Stormy Tree
Before we get to more views of the trail, isn’t this a wonderful tree?  I loved the balance and symmetry of it, delicately growing on the very edge of the canyon rim.
Looking Down
We’re getting closer here to what I think is the best view of the trail.  This image gives you a good sense of how close to the edge you can get, and how wonderful the native growth and rock formations are right along the rim.
Shafer Trail
This is my favorite view of the Shafer Trail.  It literally winds via switchbacks up the side of the canyon wall!  It’s a really fun drive, as long as you don’t mind riding right on the edge of a long tumble down!  Looking at it made me disappointed that we didn’t get to drive it this time around.  Something to look forward to next time!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Moab – LaSal Mountain Loop and Castle Valley
The second day of our stay in Moab brought us much different terrain and views than the desert from the first day.  Today, we explored east of Moab – the LaSal Mountains that sort of butt up to Moab.  We did finish off with more desert like terrain in Castle Valley. 
Fall in the Mountains
Fall was most definitely in the air in the mountains off Moab.  Altho the golden aspens generally provide the most color, in this image you can see that other colors were peeking out as well!
Fall Bright
And, here is one of those aspens I mentioned, in full glory along the side of the road!  The other fall colors make a nice backdrop on the other side of the country road we were driving down.
Autumn Landscape
And, to think, we weren’t even at the full glory of the fall colors!  Yes, fall does come earlier in the mountains, but I think the peak of the colors is still a week or so away.
Winding Road
Every so often, it’s nice to stop and think about where you’ve been.  This was definitely one of those times when looking back brought as much joy and beauty as we had driving thru it the first time!
Peek of Winter
The fall colors are so brilliant, it would be easy to miss the peek of winter on the mountaintop off to the left in this image.  That little sliver of white promises what is to come.  The folks in Moab said the mountains had the first snowfall just shortly before we arrived.  Brrrr!
Castle Valley View
As we began our descent out of the lower mountains, there was one instance where we had the best of both worlds – the autumn colors of the mountains in the foreground, and the rich red rust colors of the bluffs and monoliths in Castle Valley below.
Color on the Mountainside
I decided to include this image because of the sense of scale I got from it.  It sort of looks like there’s autumn color ground cover growing on the mountains in the background.  But, truly, that color is from various trees and bushes, not ground cover!  Sometimes, you can forget how large mountains are when you’re driving in them!
Traffic in the Road
This just goes to show you, that you can run into a traffic jam no matter where you are!  These cattle seemed to feel that traveling down the center of the road was the exact perfect place to be, and heck with the humans in their vehicles!  After all, they live here, and we’re just visiting!
Giving Us the Eye
Most of the cattle moved over to the side of the road, very politely.  However, there’s always one in every crowd, and this one steer just seemed to want to dare us to make her move.  We were polite, but firm, in our quest to move on, and she eventually decided to give ground to us!  What a character!
Castle Valley Landscape
As we descended toward the valley floor, we left the autumn colors behind, and truly began to once again, embrace the rich red color of Utah in this area.
Erosion at the Base
One thing that we found interesting was how the limestone that these bluff and monoliths are made of, erodes.  If you look closely, at the base, you can see the erosion that has taken place due to the rains that fall periodically.  I’m not certain how many hundreds or thousands of years will pass, but eventually this column will tumble to the earth. But, we’ll certainly enjoy it while it’s standing!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Moab – Hidden Canyon
We continued our adventure from the Tusher Tunnel down the dirt road and eventually came across what is called the Hidden Canyon, and a real treat at the end of this part of the adventure…..
Road to Hidden Canyon
As we began this next stage of our day’s journey, we found ourselves traveling down this charming dirt road.  I really loved the fact that there was this small section of lush green trees in the middle of the Utah high desert area.  The trees here were just starting to change colors for fall.
Path in Hidden Canyon
After a bit, we stopped to give Miki a chance to stretch her legs (and gave us a chance to do the same!), and I noticed this lovely path along the road.  We didn’t walk down it, as we didn’t want to travel too far off the road, and we had no idea of how much traveling we had left.  I’m not certain that this was as much a walking path as it was a mountain biking path.  We did come across a number of mountain bikers on this particular stretch of off-road area!
Part of what makes off-roading fun is the nature of the roads we come across!  It seems as if I’m holding the camera a bit “off” in this image, but truly, the road is rather tilted a bit!
The Only Way Down
And, this image gives you a bit of the flavor of what I mean!  As you look at the image, the area to the right of the Jeep, which was just as steep as it looks, is the area where the mountain bikers would ride their bikes up the incline!  Jeff had gotten out of the Jeep to check out the steep descent, and decided that the only way down for us was off to the side!
The Road Out
Finally, the road did sort of level out as we reached the bottom of the canyon and then made our way out.  I really loved the way the road seems to just be leading us toward more bluffs to climb.  Truly, it did turn before we reached them!  And, in case you may be wondering, we actually have a book that sort of maps out the off-roads.  I say “sort of” because we did have to stop and double check ourselves quite a bit on this adventure.  I guess the canyon’s called Hidden Canyon for a reason!
Antelope on the Run
What a treat this was!!  Generally, when we see prong-horn antelope, we see them at a distance, and not very many of them.  But, as we were leaving the canyon, a small herd suddenly seemed to appear on our left.  This is just a small section of the herd, which I think may have numbered about a dozen.  Also, when they see us, they tend to run away from us.  In this case, they started to run alongside the Jeep, so I had a wonderful opportunity to capture them in mid-stride as they raced along, with the red clay bluffs of Utah as a fabulous backdrop!  Such graceful creatures, and don’t you just love how the small babies (just born a few months ago) can already keep up with the adults.
Antelope Crossing
As they raced along, it became obvious that they intended to cross the road in front of us.  Jeff did slow down and stopped the Jeep when they decided to actually make the crossing.  Again, I just love the grace of them both running and leaping over the small ravines alongside the road.
Movin’ On
And, here’s the end of the herd making their crossing, and moving on to a different grazing ground.  How lucky we were to have been in this spot and exactly the right time to get to see this!

Moab & the Tusher Tunnel
Our first day in Moab we decided to go off-roading along a new trail – one that took us to a place called the Tusher Tunnel.  The scenery was beautiful!  Take a look!
Off the Road
This is the start of today’s journey!  I really like the texture of what ended up being sort of monoliths.  The road led up and around them……and on to……..
Jeff in Tusher Tunnel
A small path (and semi-rocky, but short climb) led us to the entrance to Tusher Tunnel.  Jeff walked in it first, and then lit up his flashlight to show me the tunnel was actually something we could walk in.  Onward!
Jeff & Miki at the end of the Tunnel
Jeff & Miki waited for me at the end of the tunnel, which seemed to promise some really great views….
A Peek
As I got closer to the far side of the tunnel, I could see that it was going to open up to a really wonderful view!  It was rather cool to walk thru the dark tunnel and truly see the light at the end of it!  I think the tunnel was about ¼ - ½ the length of a city block, so it did get very dark when walking thru the middle of it.
Open View
And, here was part of the view!  I have to admit, I was quite surprised when the expanse was as open as it was!  For some reason, I thought it would open up to a smaller canyon or something – not something so open and grand!
Natural Lines
Here’s a view looking off in another direction from the mouth of the tunnel.  We were sort of walking on a path on the edge of the side of the bluff in which the tunnel was formed.  That sounds a lot scarier than it was.  There was no sheer drop off of the path and it was a rather wide walkway!
Hidden in the Tunnel
There was another smaller sort of tunnel or cave that we found walking along the backside of the tunnel, as I think of it.  Inside this smaller tunnel, we found this natural formation of what looked like a perfect circle, created naturally it seems.  We couldn’t figure out how it was created, since the tunnel or cave was dry, with no water or wetness in it to suggest any sort of erosion.  Really interesting and cool!
Miki Leads the Way
Miki grew tired of exploring that small tunnel/cave and was eager for us to move on and explore other things!
Leaving the Tunnel
Here’s a view of Jeff walking back thru the main tunnel to where our Jeep was parked.  This image gives you a good feeling of how dark it was inside the tunnel.  Before I stopped to shoot this image, I was walking with my hands up around my head, so I didn’t accidentally hit my head on the side of the tunnel.  It had a very slight bend in it, and I would have clunked myself on the head had I not done that!  But, time to move on to the next adventure!