Archive for the 'Arizona' Category

The Transit of Venus

June 05th, 2012 | Category: Arizona

The US Naval Observatory branch in Flagstaff held an open house today and had plenty of telescopes set up with solar filters so that the public could watch the transit.  We had a fantastic view.

Here is a picture taken with my 400 mm lens with a huge stack of filters (2 N8s, 2 N4s and a polarizer), f/22 and 1/8000 shutter at 100 ISO – the least sensitive I could possibly make this camera.  Through the viewfinder, it was still to bright to look at, and i had to guess at the focus (for some reason, a little less than infinity).

It’s a little fuzzy because of the atmosphere, I think, but you can clearly see the disk of Venus.  I watched it at the moment it made “contact”, but this photo was taken more than an hour later.  you can faintly see some sunspots.


A1 Mountain

December 11th, 2011 | Category: Arizona

I took a short hike to A1 mountain today; I’ve tried it twice before but ran out of time or light.  Today was the day!

The elevation is 900 feet, so there was a little work involved.  For some reason, I’ve always done this hike in the snow.  Today was no different.  Although it’s been a week since the snow fell, it’s still deep in the woods, specially on the north face of slopes or in gulleys.  So it was a snowshoe hike, bushwhacking through the woods.

I love the breathtaking view as you turn off of route 40 onto A1 mountain road:

That’s the San Francisco peaks in the background, with A1 on the left.  I took a forest road until it was impassable.  The main forest road was moderately-traveled, with packed ruts but little exposed soil.  I turned onto a smaller road which looked as if 3 or 4 vehicles had been before me.  When the snow got deeper than the bottom of my little SUV, I parked and started walking, at about 7500 feet, along the compass bearing to A1 mountain.

Walking towards the slope, I passed through an area pulverized by fire.  The sun shone brightly into the wounded forest, warming me up.  I passed over the last, and only, human footprints I’d see on my way to the top.  Shortly afterwards I entered an erosion gulley on the east side of A1.  Shadowed by rock, the area was gloomy and cold, the snow deep.  I started trudging up the steep slope, stamping my feet into the drifts.  Tycho ranged happily at the edge of my sight, but he was a good boy and didn’t stray.

The going got tough and I had to take a few breaks.  No path here – just whatever way I wanted to go.  I followed the deepest snow while trying to switchback a little.  Soon I was at the rim of this old volcano, with a good view to the south:

In the heavily forested interior of the crater, it was dark and cold, but right on the edge, where the winds can do their worst work, it was spring-like because of the sun and lack of wind.  Tycho and I took a rest.

I worked my way west to the highest point, and had a great view to the southwest and west:

Coming north, the crater lip dips and rises again, with occasional tantalizing glimpses of the San Fran peaks covered with snow.  All i had was my cell phone, so I didn’t get any shots, but in person, it’s nice to see.  Tracks of rabbit, birds, mice and probably coyote – or maybe stray dog – lay across the volcano, but if any human had passed here, it was before the snow.

Slaloming down the steep slope on my way back to the car, I could see the dome of the US Navy observatory.  Not bad for an afternoon outing: 3 miles, 900 feet, 1:45, and only 15 minutes’ drive away from home.



Buffalo Park

September 17th, 2011 | Category: animals,Arizona

Buffalo park is a public park in Flagstaff that really shows off the skyline (and my dog Tycho!).

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The Mighty Mole Hunter

August 10th, 2011 | Category: animals,Arizona

My 75-pound dog’s main outdoor preoccupation is hunting 2-oz moles and shrews.  Here you can see him engaged in his favorite activity on the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks where we live in Flagstaff.  We hiked through a birch forest to get to an open area near the Arizona snow bowl.

He is a living roto-tiller, trying to dig all the way to the center of the earth.  The dirt’s a-flyin’:

When he excavates a big enough trench, he thrusts his snout into the mole tunnel, like a giant mosquito biting the earth, inhales a lungful of mole smell, and then sneezes.  Why is it that this creature, with a sense of smell tens of thousands of times more powerful than mine, needs to actually touch the source of an odor with his nose and snort it in as much as possible?

Here we have one happy, and dirty, dog (the two are often connected).

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Another day, another fire…

August 08th, 2011 | Category: Arizona

I took these photos a few weeks ago, when I realized that something was on fire… I have to admit, it smells good when this happens, like the world’s best pine air freshener.  This was just a small one, extinguished in a day or two.

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A Pleasant Surprise

August 04th, 2011 | Category: Arizona

While at the Weatherford trailhead, I took a look at the info posted there and saw… my name ( at lower left)! Pretty cool! This photo has been one of the most popular things I’ve ever blogged.



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A standard walk in Flagstaff

July 24th, 2011 | Category: Arizona

Neat things seen today.




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The Hochderffer hills

March 31st, 2011 | Category: Arizona

These hills sound like they should be wearing lederhosen.  They’re a group of cinder cones in the north west corner of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, which contains the highest mountain in Arizona – a 12,600′ collection of volcanic ridges collectively named the San Francisco peaks.  The SF peaks eclipse everything else at first glance, but the region is pockmarked with hundreds of volcanoes which afford varying degrees of climbing difficulty and wonderful views.  Recently I decided to go into the Hochderffer hills, just because I could, and they have a great name.  Here are some pictures.  In some of them (where the road points to the horizon)  you can just make out the north rim of the Grand Canyon, about 90 miles away.

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A visit to Wupatki and Sunset Crater

March 31st, 2011 | Category: Arizona,Travel

Last weekend, Amy visited me and we had a whirlwind day.  I took her to the south rim, and also to Wupatki national monument – one of my favorite places.  Stormy weather made for a cloudy, interesting sky.  Throughout the day, as we traveled through different climate zones, we experienced all kinds of temperatures from spring warmth to wintry blasts of hard snow.

On the way to Wupatki, we drove through sunset crater national monument, which is adjacent to Wupatki.  The two monuments are dense with beauty and history, and are unsung gems; many people come here to see the canyon and don’t know that these things are here.


Above: In the foreground, a jumbled strip of lava hosts a few hardscrabble trees which struggle to survive.  In the middle distance lies the ponderosa pine forest that stretches to the San Francisco Peaks in the background – Arizona’s highest mountains (Actually volcanoes).  Even though the lava is tens of thousands of years old, in places it looks like it flowed yesterday.




Above: The road from Sunset Crater swings down into the painted desert; the forest disappears within a mile.


Above: Wupatki Pueblo, the grandest of the ruins at Wupatki.  There is an “apartment building” to the left, a round gathering place with built-in seats to the right, and all the way to the right in the distance (with some people in front of it) is a “ball court.”



Above: Amy examines some fascinating wind-carved sandstone.


Above: Amy looks into the “blowhole,” where cold, dense air from a cave expands into a strong breeze.  It smells like a damp basement.  When weather changes, the air sometimes gets sucked into the blowhole.



Above: Wupatki is littered with many ruins, tucked organically into the landscape so that the visitor is constantly surprised.



Above: it’s early spring and there’s plenty of vegetation growing.  Many animals scurry through the underbrush; at first glance, it seems like there’s not much life here, but actually there’s a lot going on!  In this one spot we saw several types of mammals and lizards.


Above: graffiti on a water tower in the Navajo Rez south of Grand Canyon.

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Amy & I visit the south rim

March 31st, 2011 | Category: Arizona,Travel

My old friend Amy visited me and I wanted to show her a good time, so we went to the grand canyon.  I love watching people see the grand Canyon for the first time!


Some fool stood here and thought it would be awesome to write his name with a highlighter.  Prick.





Above: the perfectly flat mesa of cedar mountain sits between desert view tower and the painted desert.


Above: weather began to move in, blocking the light and bringing in blustery winds and wispy clouds of hard snow, which can be seen falling in the distance.

Here are some more images.

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