Sunday, 8 January 2017

Part 11 of our holiday- North Rim Grand Canyon and surrounds - a week of wows!!

Michael and Mary, our friends from Mesquite, very kindly offered to drive us the 3 hours by car to the North Rim (and collect us afterwards!) as otherwise we would have had to hire one specially - so spoilt we were!
Just after we passed into the GC National Park, we were delighted to see a small grazing herd of bison/hybrids with a couple of calves.  We kept our distance, but thanks to the telephoto lens, managed a reasonable few shots.  So many people do not have respect for wild, often dangerous, animals and these especially, females with calves at foot.


Arrival at the Grand Canyon Lodge. The Lodge was rebuilt in the 1930s, the original from 1928 burned down due to a kitchen fire. The top of the canyon is 8,000 feet (over 2,400 metres) above sea level and so it is closed to the public in winter due to severe weather and snowfall! This was where Gaelyn, a Park Ranger, met us. Gaelyn and I have been following each other's blogs from the time I first started blogging, so I felt that I had seen so much of the canyon through her eyes, long before we arrived there.   If you are not following her already, I highly recommend her GeoGypsy blog which you will find HERE.  


So many of the physical features along the North Rim have names, but the chances of me getting them right are slim, so just enjoy the magnificent views!! The South rim of the canyon is on the horizon , at anything up to 18 miles away, under this swirly atmospheric sky.
The colours of the rocks seem to change with every different light, as the sun moves across the sky and clouds pass in front of it. This is just a side canyon and the Colorado river is in the main canyon behind the peaks at the top of the photo. The landscape is  breathtaking!!

The Colorado River can be seen at the base of the  canyon, which is 6,000 feet deep in places. There is a walking trail for the fit and adventurous, down one side and up the other, if you have 3 days to spare!

On our first evening there, I rushed out in the middle of dinner, just to get these shots of the setting sun!

As above. You can see what I mean about how much the light changes the colour of the landscape!

A monsoon on the South Rim, perhaps 25 miles away. At this altitude, storms are not for the faint-hearted, with plenty of impressive thunder and lightning!  Try as I might I could not get the lightning on camera!

and after the monsoon had passed. Look closely to see the rainbow on the left of this photo....

The Wedding Site at the North Rim; can you just imagine these views as a background to your wedding photos. Don't be tempted to stand mother-in-law too close to the edge!

Gaelyn taking  more photos; her camera never seems to leave her side and the results she achieves are generally pretty amazing!

Angel's Window; look closely and you can see the Colorado river way down below! Visitors are allowed to walk to the end on the promontory - see the safety railing!

Information about the feature. There are loads of useful signs like this dotted around by the Park Service for the benefit of the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the canyon every summer.

Bill, Gaelyn's partner, was most generous of his time and we spent a day upstream from the Grand Canyon, being chauffeured through the  Vermilion Cliffs countryside; our experience and enjoyment was compounded by Bill's  extensive local knowledge and commentary. Thanks to them, we saw places that we would never have had the opportunity of going to, if we had  been travelling independently.  
This photo above is of the two Navajo bridges crossing the Colorado river as it  runs through Marble Canyon. The left hand bridge is the one referred to in the sign below. The right hand one was built for $15 million and opened in  1995 to cope with modern traffic weights and flows. You can still stroll across the original bridge and soak up the history!! The  California Condor, now hopefully rescued from extinction but still rare, has a 10 feet wingspan and pairs have been known to roost under Navajo Bridge and nest in the area; unfortunately, they did not appear while we were there!

Further information on the original bridge. Back in those days, this was another US engineering achievement, built nearly 500 feet above the river. A worker sadly slipped and fell to his death during construction. Supervisors rejected the idea of rope safety nets, as they said there was too great a risk of red-hot rivets setting fire to them. If only..........

A breathtaking spectacular panorama of the Vermilion Cliffs near Lee's Ferry (Northern Arizona) - one of the most impressive sights in the whole US of A! The rock is a type of sandstone and the pink colour is caused by red iron oxide and other minerals.


Gaelyn and I on Colorado River near the confluence of the Paria (a tributary of the Colorado) near Lee's Ferry, which, due to its unique geography is the only place in hundreds of miles from which one can easily access the Colorado River. Early explorers and later, settlers, were able to cross the river here in the mid 19th century, looking for routes to the west coast. John Wesley Powell, from an English Methodist family,was a pioneer of the exploration of the Colorado river and its dangerous rapids. The books about his life are fascinating!


One of the still surviving buildings at Lonely Dell, the settlement established by John D. Lee at Lee's Ferry in 1870 and for whom Lee's Ferry is now named! A baking hot day when we visited, with temperatures over 40 degrees!


Gaelyn and Bill framed by the window in one of the surviving buildings.

I have many more photos of the Canyon, surrounding area, flora and fauna as well, so at some stage, I will try to do another blog on this amazing area. However, I feel under some pressure to prioritise the completion my accounts of the remainder of this holiday before we leave for southern Africa at the end of this month! (tough job, but someone's etc etc!)

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Our year in monthly photos and wishing all my followers all the very best for 2017 and the coming holidays.

We will be away in a few days time to celebrate Christmas in England with my father-in-law. Computers will be staying at home; only the Nexus tablet will be with us for emailing and maybe the odd single photo on the photodiary.  I find  that blogging on this tablet is beyond me, so I hope to resume when back at home early in the New Year!
Three more posts to go yet on our trip to the USA, but meanwhile here are some of my favourite shots from each month this year!

Blue Tit. 18/01/2016

17/02/2016

Gold finch 10/03/16

Bluebells 16/04/2016

Magpie 09/05/2016

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel 28/06/2016 USA

Meeting Gaelyn and Bill at the Grand Canyon June/July 2016 USA

Scarce Swallowtail 03/08/2016

Bee on the garlic chives 19/09/2016 

Sunset 16/10/2016

Robin.03/11/2016

Amazing roses still on 11/12/2016

Happy Christmas 

Gesëende Kersfees

Nginifisela inhlanhla ne mpumelelo e nyakeni

Nadolig Llawen

Nollaig Shona Dhuit

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur

Buone Feste Natalizie

Feliz Natal

Feliz Navidad!

God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt Ar

Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan

 Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun

 Kung Ho Hsin Hsi. Ching Chi Shen Tan

Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Sawadee Pee Mai

Gajan Kristnaskon

Froehliche Weihnachten

Kala Christouyenna

Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova.

Vrolijk Kerstmis en een Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar

See you all in 2017

Friday, 25 November 2016

Part 10 of our holiday in the USA -.Great Basin National Park including the Lehman Caves from our base in Mesquite.

About 100 miles (160 km) north of Cathedral Gorge (where we were in the last blog), Great Basin National Park, established in 1986, is also in eastern Nevada.  It is in the Great Basin desert and contains most of the South Snake mountain range. The park is notable for its groves of ancient bristlecone pines. Some have been aged (by tree rings) at around 5,000 years old and hence the oldest tree species on the planet! They are shallow rooted and grow best in hostile environments. 
Also in the park are the Lehman Caves, originally protected as a National Monument in 1922.  The caverns were discovered around 1885 by Absalom Lehman, a rancher and miner and they extend 400 metres (a quarter-mile) into the base of the mountains.
Proof that we were there :-) That's bare rock, not snow, above the tree line on the mountain behind.

Difficult to see at this scale but this is an informative map of the park, its features and trails!

The Lehman cave system began forming approximately 550 million years ago (during the Cambrian period) while the rock strata were still submerged in a relatively warm, shallow ocean. The caves have been formed by a marble and limestone solution exploiting and eroding cracks in the rock; the solution also continues to form the many and spectacular cave decorations.

The cave system was extended during the later Pleistocene geological period, when a prolonged and increased flow of water further eroded fractures in the cave's bedrock. Eventually, the water level dropped, exposing the Lehman cave system to anyone without scuba apparatus!

On arrival at the Park's visitor centre, while waiting for the tour to depart, we walked around the exhibits and were fascinated by this Winchester rifle in a glass case.

This very rare Winchester 1873 rifle was only discovered in November 2014, just leaning against a juniper tree in the Park! (see the photo at the back of the case). It had obviously been there through all types of weather, the cracked wooden stock well weathered, and the barrel rusty. How many years had it been there? Who was the owner? Why did they not return for it?


What do you think happened?  It is still a complete mystery!

This is a route of the cave tour.

Access to the caves is only via the daily, and popular, guided tours.

From the entrance, visitors are guided through the specially named areas shown on the map; unfortunately  I am now not sure which  of my photos is which, but there are exotically named caves like the Gothic Palace, the Cypress Swamp and the Grand Palace. There are also hosts of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, flowstone, soda straws, shields and popcorn.  A geologist's dream!
This was my first photo inside the caves, so it is probably the Gothic Palace but....

So many different formations...

and shapes...

in every corner you look.

The colours you see in the photos are all correctly reproduced...

because the lights are white (not coloured) and  switch on and off  manually as visitors pass through each area to protect the precious features, and stop unwanted  fungal growth which would be generated by continuous lighting.

In one section on the route, the fixed lighting system did not work, but thankfully a number of people had torches; nevertheless,  it was  quite a spooky 5 minute walk to the next lit section!

Now I know that this photo shows one of the rare shield formations (the more horizontal bit in the upper centre)...

and you can see a few more here, with stalactites growing from them.

One of my photos towards the end of the tour, maybe the Grand Palace!

Back in daylight, we drove up Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive; there are amazing views along this winding road which takes you up high to a magnificent view across Snake Valley.  There are 11 types of conifers in the Park, including the ancient bristlecone pines!

Looking across Snake Valley towards the Snake Range.

Wheeler Peak is the tallest mountain in the Snake Range; its summit elevation of 3,958 metres (13,065 feet) makes it the second-tallest peak in Nevada. Despite the  extreme heat in the Great Basin during our June visit, there is still some snow to be seen on the mountains!




Also see my daily diary HERE


and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016)  

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Part 9 of our holiday in the USA. A visit to Cathedral Gorge and Ely, from our base in Mesquite.

Cathedral Gorge State Park is, in USA terms, a mere skip (1 hour)  north-east of Las Vegas and something more different from that concreted casinoland you couldn't find!! The Park covers 1,608 acres (651 ha) in a long, narrow valley, where erosion has carved dramatic and unique patterns in the soft bentonite clay.  There are a number of walking trails around the park, but because of the extreme heat while we were there, we only explored the area adjacent to the car park. Michael and Mary found this slot canyon for us to visit, and the temperatures within its shady angles were a bit more comfortable. They had not been to the Park before either, so it was a new experience for all four of us.

The beauty that visitors enjoy today developed from violent beginnings, starting with explosive volcanic activity that, with each eruption, deposited layers of ash hundreds of feet thick over the entire area. About five million years after the eruptions ceased,  faulting (fracturing of the bedrock that allows the two sides of the fracture to move in relation to each other) shaped the mountains and valleys prevalent in Nevada today.

Lots of information and a walking trail map clearly displayed for the  visitors.


Astonishing landscape! I felt a bit as if we had landed on the moon!


 Amazing formations in the soft rock eroded by rainstorms.


Adventurous explorers can crawl through small openings and tunnels in the network of canyons to discover hidden chambers.


Not for the claustrophobic!


Michael and Mary exploring the narrow and deep slot canyon...


and Nigel as well, negotiating one of the narrower side turnings.


Deep inside the slot canyon, here's how the sky appears from ground level!

Intricate rock patterns formed over aeons.

After a two or so hour drive north on Highway 93, our next stop after the park was Ely, where we stayed the night. Ely stands on the crossroads with east-west running Highway 50, also worryingly known as the loneliest road in the USA!


Founded as a stagecoach station along a Pony Express route, the town was named after Smith Ely, a local copper mining company president. Ely's mining boom arrived in 1906 with the discovery of copper there.

The copper market crashed in the mid-1970s and Kennecott, one of the main mining companies, shut down, and copper mining  temporarily halted. The dramatic increase in demand (and hence price) for copper in 2005  once again made Ely a copper boom town, but as the Kennecott smelter had been demolished, copper concentrate from the mine had to be transported by rail to Seattle on the west coast, from where it was shipped all the way to Japan for smelting.  However, since the 2008 financial crisis and the drop in the copper price, it is no longer worth producing copper from the Ely mines and Ely's prosperity is suffering  in consequence. There are still a few reminders in the town of Ely's steam railroad history, and the East Ely museum (housed in the old station building) contains some very interesting artefacts of railroad life, not least the preserved steam locomotives, two of which (nos 40 and 93) pull daily passenger excursions for visiting enthusiasts.

In 1961, No 93 was donated by Kennecott to the museum and was subsequently restored to operating condition by volunteers. We unfortunately arrived in town too late that day for the ride, but here she is in the shed cooling down!


One of the old coal tenders.


The grand old ladies of steam on the Nevada Northern Railroad, locomotives No 40 (restored in 2005) and No 93. The volunteers who rebuilt these locomotives and other rolling stock and who today operate the railyard and museum deserve the highest praise for their dedication in preserving this part of United States industrial heritage.However, due to lack of finance, it may close down in the near future and we were therefore very fortunate to see it!

The old station building, now the museum, is on the left of the track.

The amazing  mountain views visible from the station.

Looking down the tracks.

A Ford van belonging to the Railway Express Agency - it's all explained on the sign in the window! (see below).


Safety First is the motto , but this pick-up looks as if it has taken a few knocks!

We left our overnight stop at the Prospector Hotel the following morning and headed for the Great Basin National Park, but that is coming in Part 10 of our holiday!