Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Incredibly stupid person defaces national parks and monuments all over the West

There are stupid people, then there are really stupid people. One really stupid person has been painting bad art on rocks all across the West. Fortunately, there's a pretty good chance she'll get caught, soon. When she does, I'm hoping she'll actually come to realize what an insanely stupid thing she has done. I'm also hoping our government will play in role in that. So there's this petition to the President of the United States, asking that this stupid person be held accountable for her actions. Please sign it!

Just over 600 folks have already signed up in just the first day. It would be great if the number made it past 100,000, so the White House would have to formally respond to it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hike 2014.050D -- White House Trail, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ

Hiked Sunday, September 28, 2014. As denoted by the letter "D" on this hike, this was the fourth of my short walks during the last weekend in September that I have collectively designated as a hike. When I started this blog, a set an arbitrary 3 mile minimum. On this trip, there were only two walks of any significant length: This one, for about 2.2 miles roundtrip, and the next hike, about one mile roundtrip, in Walnut Canyon. The other short walks were no more than 1/4 to 2/3 of a mile, total, and were basically just viewpoint walks.

As noted on previous posts in this series, White House Trail is the only one in Canyon de Chelly National Monument where you are allowed to walk below the rim of the canyon without a Navajo guide. It starts from the South Rim. If you're not up for an actual hike, you can park at the trailhead and look down, into the canyon. You can see the White House ruins from parts of the rim here.

If you decide to hike, the trail starts off to the east, about 1/4 mile from the parking area. You loop off that way, then drop behind a large rock that leans over the start of the trail. This part is shaded, because you've got the rim to your south. There's not a lot of cover here, though, so if it's raining, you'll get wet.
It's a rather steep trail. Keep in mind you'll have to climb back up this way on your return, and that you're at moderate altitude. If the climb or the altitude may be issues, don't go down.

That said, it's only a bit over a mile each way, so if neither is an issue, the hike is relatively easy, unless it's extremely hot.
As you can see in the photo of the ruins here, the two upper "units" to this ruin are whitish in color. This the basis for the name of these ruins.
It's sandstone pretty much all the way down, and it's a very scenic hike. You also overlook some Navajo grazing and farming areas. Signs indicate not to photograph the Navajo or their dwellings, though obviously there's a distance involved. You're definitely allowed to shoot from the rim. You're not allowed to shoot near the signs. Where in between those extremes you should also not shoot is, I suppose, at your discretion.
It had rained heavily the day before this hike, and showered on occasion during this hike. The ground was wet in spots and the water ran high at the bottom. Several potholes in the sandstone held water.
It was also late Septem-ber, yet the river bottom was green. I don't know how much is regular monsoonal rains and how much due to the season, but this location looked very verdant, as did, in fact, Walnut Canyon (the next post, probably).
Upon arriving at the base of the ruins, I discovered that a fence kept you about forty yards away from the ruins. I also noted that there were portapotties on the other side of the creek, but at the bottom. That's non-trivial, since, otherwise, you're on your own the entire way, and there's not a lot of hope for privacy on the trail down, so you'd have had to hold it in both ways. That could encourage you to hurry your hike more than necessary.
At any rate, once at the bottom, I shot the ruins from several angles. I also shot one looking up the steep cliff face that sheltered them. They certainly have ancient feel to them, and the contrast between these ancient ruins and the continued presence of Navajo in and around the valley does provide a sense of scale and place.

Yet, in comparison to some of the other nearby Ancient sites, those in Canyon de Chelly are not very approachable. The landscape in which they are set is the most impressive of the group, but the ruins themselves are not. I'm definitely glad I came here, but I'm also glad we stopped at Walnut Canyon later in the trip.
Of course, I had previously visited Waputki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monu-ments. The old habitations there are more accessible, and would definitely be worth a visit, even after someone were to see Canyon de Chelly.
Not much else to say about this hike. Only one more significant off-trail hike to go. I also walked some around Winslow, AZ. Probably won't blog that, but their downtown/Route 66 area was surprisingly pleasant to visit.
During the Winslow visit, we ate dinner at La Posada. I'd recommend a visit there, even if not to eat. It was a pretty place to visit, which is why I may yet post some pictures from that stop.

Meanwhile, after visiting Canyon de Chelly, we also detoured to Hubble Trading Post on the way back to I-40. Probably won't do a separate write-up on that one. Not sure if it's worth the visit, other than that it is an historic location--one of the first (and still functioning) trading posts on the Navajo Nation.
Once back at I-40, we were basically back near the Days Inn that we started the day. There's a restaurant and gas station there, too. We ate dinner at the restaurant there. I had a craving for fry bread, which this place met, nicely. Don't remember the name, but it's the only restaurant near the Days Inn, so you can't miss it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hike 2014.050C -- Spider Rock Overlook, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ

This is the third of three posts from Canyon de Chelly, which I visited at the end of Septem-ber. Still need to finish those blogs.

This isn't really a hike, although a small amount of walking was involved. It's no more than 1/4 mile or so, total, at the end of a road, along a paved trail that overlooks the far southeastern end of Canyon de Chelly.

The Navajo call this place "Spider Woman Rock." Apparently, this is where the being who taught them how to weave came to this earth. I think I heard it that she lives in these inaccessible towers.

Can't get to the base of these rocks unless you've got a Navajo guide. As mentioned in previous posts, the only trail you can take unaccompanied into the Canyon is the White House trail, which will be the next one I'll post about. Otherwise, you're limited to the overlooks and the short walks from those parking areas up on the rim.
This overloook is just like the others I have posted about, previously: It provides astounding views into the canyon that was known in the local language as, "the Canyon." So, if I didn't already mention this in an earlier post, "Chelly" is a corruption of the Dine/Navajo word for "canyon," so Canyon de Chelly would roughly translate as "Canyon Canyon," or "Canyon of the Canyon."
The day we visited was the day after a very heavy monsoonal rain, so the river was running high and muddy. I'm not sure what it normally looks like, but I suspect it's pretty low in the late season.

Despite being a short walk, the trail takes you along enough of the rim to give you a variety of perspectives on the canyon and the Spider Rock.
Even more so, because of the weather on the day we visited, shifting shadows changed moment by moment. For such a short walk, I took plenty of pictures. But, of course, the highlight of the day was going to be the White House Trail, a trip down into the gorge. That will probably be my next post, just so I can finish this particular trip.
Just thinking out loud, Canyon de Chelly is about 3:15 from Flagstaff, and 1:20 from Chambers, AZ (on I-40). That makes it a little long for a day trip from Flagstaff itself. But it was definitely worth visiting.

If you are actually staying in Flagstaff, there are three national monuments (Walnut Canyon, Wapakti, and Sunset Volcano) within one hour of Flagstaff, and two national parks (Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest) within two hours of Flagstaff. So, for future reference, Flagstaff can make a pretty convenient jumping off point for day trips in the area, and it's got enough altitude to be somewhat more temperate in the summer than places like Las Vegas or Phoenix.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hikes 2014.051 and 2014.052 -- The Aspen Grove, San Bernardino National Forest

Hiked Sunday, October 5 and Sunday, October 12. I hiked this last week, but my camera battery was dead, so I have no pictures from that hike.

On that day, the leave still had a fair amount of green, and it was before peak. But I figured this weekend would be past peak. If possible, mid-week would have been perfect.

I was correct. There were plenty of bare white skeletons of aspen this Sunday. But there was also still enough of the golden leaves of quaking aspen to make the sight an impressive one, particularly for those who may not have been here before.
By comparison, here's what it looked like a little over a year ago (sort of what it would have looked like last week, had I a functional battery in my camera), and here's what it looked like on my first visit to the aspen grove.

And, just for comparison, here's what it looks like when the aspen are green. You'll probably find some very comparable pictures from the other posts with the leaves golden.
It's probably too late to see much of a show this year, though, if you did want to see at least something, go *today*!

For future reference, if you visit, I would suggest some time around noon, or maybe a little after. That gives the light more or less behind the main portion of the most easily accessible grove, which gives the great backlighting that makes the golden leaves really pop. Then again, I usually don't get an early enough start to reach the aspen grove much before 10 or 11am at the earliest. How it looks at sunrise, I can only guess. But I did notice that, by the time I left (2 or 2:30pm, the lighting had shifted enough to make some of the most photogenic areas appear just sort of normal.

Technic-ally, you need a wilderness permit to cross the creek into the San Gorgonio Wilderness area. I had one, because I'm a stickler for details. However, I would bet serious money that most folks visiting don't have it. Or, if they do, they must not read the provisions on the permit and the sign at the trailhead very carefully.
There were screaming kids (which annoys me, but does not surprise me) and screaming adults (which annoys me more, especially if they appear to be in their fifties or sixties). Kids were tossing logs and rocks all over the creek (which causes little if any actual harm, but does make the crossing steps less stable for future visitors).

To get to the trailhead, you take Interstate 10 (the San Bernardino Freeway to Highway CA-38, in Redlands. That's the Orange St. exit. Go straight at the first intersection off the freeway, then turn left at the second light (which is Orange). Take Orange north about four blocks, to Lugonia Avenue (that's still Highway 38, though the signage may not be immediately obvious to you). Stay on this route for nearly the entire rest of your trip.
Approxi-mately 18 miles east of Orange Street, you'll pass Bryant Street. Just after Bryant Street is the Mill Creek ranger station (USDA Forest Service). Stop there for your Wilderness Permit (free, but intended to provide a limitation on the number of visitors on any given day, so you can enjoy a modicum of solitude in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area).
There's also a flush toilet at the ranger station, which is generally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays (hours and days vary by season).

From the ranger station, it's approximately 24.5 miles on CA-38 before you need to turn.
Take care to remain on CA-38, which involves a hairpin turn just a few miles up on CA-38, where a straight would take you off the highway and towards Forest Falls.

You'll then pass through Angeles Oaks, drive past Jenks Lake Road East, pass Barton Flats, pass Jenks Road, again, pass the Santa Ana River trailhead, and pass the Wildhorse trailhead.
Shortly after the road hits a straight-away and has a passing lane, look for signage on your right for a small road heading to Heartbar Ranch. The road dips down, becomes a dirt road, then continues another mile or so before reaching a fork. Take the left fork (towards Fish Creek). After another half-mile or so, the road crosses a creek and becomes quite narrow and steep. If you have a low-clearance vehicle, you probably want to park before that part of the road. High clearance vehicles will have no problem driving all the way to the trailhead. If you start your hike at the trailhead, it's about 1/4 mile to the aspen grove. If you start before the trail becomes narrow, it's another mile or so each way.

After crossing the river to the aspen grove, if you head right, there's another, larger aspen grove about 1/2 mile or so that way. You can't as easily become immersed in that grove, however.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Aspen Grove in San Bernardino National Forest

I intended to post last week that the grove was pretty much at peak. Leaves are actually sort of rust-colored this year, instead of golden. Forgot my camera on last week's hike, so I'm posting a link to last year's hike. I will probably be going back there on Sunday.

Edit: You may have noticed that I came back again this Sunday. Here's the link to my latest visit to the Aspen Grove.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hike 2014.050B -- Antelope Overlook, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ

There are several overlooks from the north rim of Canyon de Chelly; the first one your reach from the visitor center is Antelope Overlook. From that parking lot, it's about 1/4 mile to the rim. The trail along the rim hits several viewpoints, and gives a very striking look into the canyon.
This was one of only two overlooks I visited (besides the one at White House, where an actual trail into the canyon) (In fact, the *only* trail into the canyon un-escorted visitors can hike).
From high above Canyon de Chelly, the unaided eye can just make out a couple of white marks on the wall below. One looks distinctly like an antelope. The rest are generally not visible to the unaided eye. But use a telephoto or binoculars, and the wall comes to life.
In the pictures that accompany this post, the ruins are below the dark "fingers" of the wall; the pictographs are just to the left of the ruins.
When we visited (Sunday, September 28), the water was high. It had poured the night before, which made the last bit of driving east from the Las Vegas area quite an adventure. This was our first stop of the morning (after the visitor center), though I think the water stayed high all day. There were also a few showers during the day, but nothing like the night before.
Canyon de Chelly is about 1:20 minutes north of I-40. You'd exit at Chambers, then head north US 191, to Chinle. The park headquarters is maybe a mile east of US 191.
The park is entirely within the Navajo Nation, and has no entry fee. The monument camp-ground is run by the Navajo. A Holiday Inn is located in Chinle. We stayed in the Days Inn in Chambers, which is substantially cheaper than the Holiday Inn.
I don't know if it was the lighting or what, but the photos really look like they're of a minature. But that's the actual ruins, some 650 feet below the canyon rim. The canyon, I may have already noted, is quite dramatic. It was even more dramatic with the clouds gathering above.

From that first overlook, I we continued on the trail along the rim, to another dramatic overlook. In one of my shots, a crow cruised through my frame. That's him, at the bottom right of the shot.
After enjoying the view, we returned to the visitor center, then headed up the south rim road. At the end of that road paved segment of road is an overlook to Spider Rock. That'll be my next post, most likely.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hike 2014.050A -- Meteor Crater, AZ

Hiked Saturday, September 27. First of a series of short walks and hikes that collec-tively compose my mere 50th hike of the year. Yes, I'm still annoyed by my lack of hiking opportunities!
Meteor Crater is located just a bit west of Winslow, AZ, and somewhat further east from Flagstaff, AZ, and a mere 6 miles or so south of I-40. Back in 2011, I drove both ways on I-40, but elected to visit nearby national parks (Petrified Forest) and national monuments (Wupatki and Sunset Volcano Crater). There were also sites in New Mexico I wanted to visit (El Malpais and Petroglyph, both going and coming), so I didn't feel I could spare yet another stop so close to all those others.
Still, the siren call of this scar from a 50,000 year old cosmic collision continued to sound, eventually drawing me back to Arizona. In this case, I combined it with a trip to Canyon de Chelly and Walnut Canyon. It was a lot of activity (and driving) to pack into a 3 1/2 day trip that started in the Los Angeles Area and detoured into Henderson, NV.
Just as a FYI, Meteor Crater is NOT a national park or national monument; it's not managed by any of the federal land management agencies, and your America the Beautiful Pass will not get you in free of charge. This place is privately owned, having been claimed and patented under the Mining Act of 1872. A guy named Daniel Barringer believed this crater was, in fact, created by a meteorite, and he believed he could acquire a tremendously large, very pure chunk of iron, by digging around inside the crater.
As it turns out, Barringer was right about this crater being meteoric in nature, but wrong about finding a large chunk of the impactor inside the crater. In fact, the parent body largely vaporized on impact, leaving the blast hole and the raised rim of the crater (that are very visible in some of the later, the later, departing shot, four pictures below.
Nonethe-less, you can acquire land under the Mining Act by working the claim, regardless of if you actually find anything. So it came to pass that Barringer gained clear fee title to the land around the crater that now bears his name.
Being a private facility, the entry fee is set by supply and demand. Currently, that balance is $18/person. Yes, comparatively speaking, that's quite a lot. But it is by far the best preserved meteor crater on earth.
There are several levels from which you can observe the crater, including one that is indoors. That means even foul weather will not keep you from getting a peek at the crater.
The crater is about one mile in diameter. That size is often lost in photos, because there's no sense of scale. So the sequence above gives you an idea: First, if you go up six shots, you're looking from the highest observation point, across the entire crater. Note the small white area near the center.
The next shot in the sequence was taken with my zoom set at 70mm, making it a modest telephoto. This is the same white area you sall in the previous picture. Now, go to the next shot. That one's with my zoom at 300mm. Finally, the fence surrounding the white area is visible.
On the fence is a cutout of an astronaut and a flag. The astronaut is six feet tall; the flag is 3x5 feet. And they're completely invisible in the wide angle shot, and not really visible with the short telephoto.
On-line reviews of Meteor Crater range from "It's awesome" to "It's a hole in the ground." Both are correct. Like a lot of science, you can't really appreciate what you're seeing until you can put this in context.

There's not a lot of hiking you can do here. I doubt I covered more than 1/2 mile, on the paved walking trails and stairs immediately adjacent to the visitor center. There are supposed to be short tours which I believe take you maybe a 1/4 mile away, but you're not allowed to circumnavigate the crater. That would speed erosion and destroy scientific evidence of the cosmic origins of this remarkable feature.