Archive for the 'Arizona' Category

Grand Falls

March 14th, 2015 | Category: Arizona

Today I went on another visit to a favorite place – Grand Falls.  It lies on the Navajo reservation east of Flagstaff, where the little Colorado river was dammed in antiquity by lava from a nearby cinder cone. The lava dam forced the river to re-route and spill back over the side of its own gorge further downstream, creating a spectacular waterfall.  Arizona climate being what it is, the river’s water level differs radically depending upon the season, so if you want to see a thundering cataract, check the water flow before going.  It’s generally decent if the flow above and below the falls are greater than 150 CFM.

Here are instructions for how to check on the water flow, from Joel Hazelton on

Go to this link:

Scroll down to “Little Colorado River Basin”, and under that you want to look for “Little Colorado River at Winslow, AZ” and “Little Colorado River at Cameron, AZ.” All the way to the right side of the page there should be 3 columns with numbers in them. The center column represents the cubic feet per second. You’ll want to check the cubic feet per second for both of those locations.

Today (7/20), it is flowing at 3.9 cfs through Winslow. In order for there to be a good show of water, it should be flowing at several HUNDRED CFS through both Winslow AND Cameron. Sometimes, after storms or snowmelt, Winslow will be flowing well but not yet at Cameron. It should be flowing well at both gauges, since Grand Falls is between the two towns. There’s always a chance, especially if it is a slower flood during spring snowmelt, that the high water has made it to Winslow but not quite to the falls.

On this day, the flow was a little less than 200 CFM above and below, and it looked pretty good – not as good as I’ve seen in the past, but very impressive. The company was excellent – my friend Juanita, a fellow Flagstaff Freethinker, and my dog Tycho.

Directions: A 4WD or AWD, medium/high clearance vehicle is preferred, but if the weather is good, a car can make it back there – but I wouldn’t do it in a car. To get there from Flagstaff, 40 East to Exit 211(Townsend Winona road) and turn left. In about 2 miles, turn Right onto Leupp Rd. Drive until you are on the Rez (there will be a sign on the right welcoming you to the Navajo Reservation).  Between mile markers 5 and 6, look for road 6910 on the left.  It’s just a washboard dirt road; drive about 9 miles or until you hit the river, where you can stop and park.  Walk up the mound and towards the little shelters.You can also drive right to the gorge by backtracking a few hundred yards and going up the small hill.

The view back towards the peaks is wonderful.

Things were just beginning to bloom:

The upper falls was flowing pretty well, so we knew it would be good when we got to the chasm. One of things I really like about these falls is that if you haven’t seen them before, until you get right up on them, you have no idea how cool it will be.

You can see how the red sandstone is capped with black lava that dripped over the edge.  When in the gorge, the northeast wall is sandstone, and the other wall is black lava that is very crystalline and looks like dark bricks. The volume of lava is very impressive. I read somewhere that it might have come from Merriam crater, which is a few miles away.

The river collects a lot of trash on its trip, and the currents at the falls create a garbage gyre of impressive size.

Tycho was losing his mind because of all the balls: basketballs, soccer balls, volleyballs, beach balls, super bouncy balls, you name it – it was there.

On the way back to the car, a small dog was barking plaintively from an island in the middle of the upper falls.  It looks afraid and lost, but i didn’t know what to do about it.  Suddenly a larger dog burst out of the bushes, swam across the river, and led the small dog back to shore!  When we got back to the car, they were underneath. These feral animals were not violent, but they were afraid.  I could tell they were sweet and lured them out with treats.  I think it was a mother and her juvenile pup. They seemed to desire human company but were incredibly skittish.  Every time I raised my camera, they crawled under the car. When we left, they ran after us for about half a mile.  It broke my heart to leave them there!  But they didn’t look emaciated; they are getting by somehow.  I don’t know if they belong to some ranch out there, but from their reaction to us, I rather doubt it.


Antelope canyon exploration

October 27th, 2014 | Category: Arizona

Recently I attended a meetup Kayak/Hike trip to lower Antelope canyon arranged by local Flagstaffian Kyle.  He did a great job and there were a lot of cool people on the trip.  Here is a brief description of what we did:

Start at Antelope Marina and kayak to the beginning of the canyon via the Colorado River. Kayak through the upper canyon until you are beached at the trailhead of Antelope Canyon. From here we will hike until the canyon ends. Afterwards we will kayak back to the marina.

As we got further and further along, the canyon became more twisted and beautiful. A narrow twisting slot emptied us out into a fork; we went left. This eventually led us to a series of wet troughs filled with opaque water; there was no telling if they were 2 inches or 6 feet deep until we waded into them.  Several of them were neck-deep or worse, and at one point we encountered a slippery wall requiring a rope. We turned around after encountering a second such wall and deciding that although we could climb it, we didn’t have enough time. The red rock, shadowy canyon depths, spectacular sandstone formations, and the total silence of the slot canyon’s depths create a breathtaking experience.

To do this properly, we’d need to stay in Page and start early.  Next time…




Hart Prairie Hummingbord Moths

October 26th, 2014 | Category: animals,Arizona

Here’s a post from another visit to Hart Prairie.  A group of friends watched the sunset and enjoyed one another’s company. It’s things like this that really make me love where I live: beautiful surroundings and great people. The most salient feature of this visit were all of the hummingbird moths who were making the most of the late fall flowers. They are enormous plump moths with cute faces.


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Picnic at Hart Prairie

October 26th, 2014 | Category: Arizona

A little while ago, I picnicked with some friends at Hart Prairie.  The weather was perfect and it was classic Northern Arizona: incredible beauty accessible in only a few minutes. Grown-ups, kids, and dogs were all satisfied.

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Steamboat rock

February 06th, 2014 | Category: Arizona

Here are the pictorial results of a day hike to steamboat rock in Sedona. This is accessible via a poor trail that can go straight up cliffs.  Not for the acrophobic, this one! Step carefully… and look around, there are ancient native American ruins everywhere, hidden high in the cliffs.

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Blue Ridge Kayak Camping

August 13th, 2013 | Category: Arizona

Our first trip to Blue Ridge was a scouting mission for a larger trip which we just completed.  It was a logistical giant, but we pulled it off: 15-20 people converged over hundreds of miles and were rowed or ferried to the campsite about 3 miles from the boat launch.  The weather was perfect, not storming until the last hour when a few of us were still rowing back.  Kids, dogs, and adults all had fun; every night was a party; good food, conversation, and company was the rule.  The Perseid meteor showers were ramping up, so at night we lay back and stared at the immensity of the cosmos – so clear at this altitude – and watched meteors streak across the milky way. During the perfect days we clambered down the sandstone cliff of our castle-like isolated campsite and swam in the emerald waters. We saw western Grebes and Pelicans – odd birds at this location!

Click on any image to enlarge it.

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Blue Ridge Overnight Trip

July 22nd, 2013 | Category: animals,Arizona,Uncategorized

Me & a few Flagstaff friends whipped up a quick car-camping trip to the Blue Ridge reservoir. Incredibly, on a Saturday afternoon there was a single spot open at the Rock Crossing campground, although if it had been full, we could easily have camped nearby in the woods, which is permitted west of the campground.  There is also another nearby place, the Blue Ridge campground. We ate great camp food, had a nice fire, woke up early and went kayaking. It poured on us during the evening, but we were ready, and stayed cozy, playing games and talking.The dogs were afraid though, poor things.

For my friends that don’t know about this part of Arizona, here is what it looks like: no cactus here! The water echoed with the cries of Osprey and herons; duck hens led flotillas of hyper-kinetic chicks and trout jumped out of the water to catch dragonflies.  We paddled down the narrow reservoir for a couple of miles, surveying camping spots for next time.

On the way home, I stopped to take pictures of the infinite field of flowers south of Mormon lake, which has a great view of the San Francisco peaks. There was an infinite number of grasshoppers to go along with the flowers, and also there were clouds of butterflies and harmless bees. The weather was gentle, the wind slow, and there was almost no sound except distant thunder. It was like a scene in a movie where a character goes to heaven.

The dog was overjoyed.  I knew how he felt!

Here is one of the legion of grasshoppers, which rose up in a cloud around me as I walked on the flower-covered dry lakebed.  The seldom touched me; it was like being in a school of fish.

Here is a link with photos taken by others on this trip.


Rainbow day at the grand canyon

January 28th, 2013 | Category: Arizona

Today I took a quick trip to the Grand Canyon with my friend Chris for a few short hours on the south Kaibab trail to Cedar ridge, a 3 mile round trip with an 1800 foot elevation change.

Because of the weather and season, we had the place almost completely to ourselves.  The canyon is often at its best during inclement weather; just be prepared, and rewards will follow.  We geared up for ice, but this time didn’t need the spikes – days of rain had left the trail a muddy mess, making hiking poles very appreciated. The weather was perfect for a hike – cool, humid, and not too sunny, with sweeping bands of rain,snow and hail that caused constant stunning rainbows.  These images have not been enhanced, other than using a polarizer on the camera.

Total refraction satisfaction!

I’ve never seen rainbows that were so close and intense; they were clearly in btween nearby rock features.

Here’s one that is slightly behind a nearby spire:

It was Chris’ first time at the canyon.



Fall in the Peaks

October 09th, 2012 | Category: Arizona

Fall is beginning, no doubt – here are a few images of golden aspens and flawless Arizona skies.




Red Mountain – Red Butte – Grand Canyon South Rim

July 12th, 2012 | Category: Arizona

Here is a batch of long-overdue pictures from a very long one-day marathon hiking trip!  It was as if we were afraid that northern Arizona would get away if we didn’t DO ALL THE THINGS.  So we did all the things.

My companions on this trip were Casey, Tammy, and Tiger – for the most part.  There were actually a bunch of other people but most of them were sensible and retired after a single hike.  Subsequently, I can’t recall their names, more’s the pity.  Anyway, they are as nice a group of people as I’ve been hiking with, and I look forward to more adventures with them.

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