Friday, 20 January 2017

Part 12 of our holiday - Visiting Bryce and Zion Canyons

Michael and Mary collected us from the Grand Canyon Lodge at 10 am on 3 July 2016 and we said thanks and farewell to Gaelyn, who was busily back into work mode. It is a 4.5 hour drive to Bryce from the Grand Canyon, so we arrived in the early afternoon. Bryce Canyon is a national park in southwestern Utah and is famous for its unique geology, consisting of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheatres, carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. There was plenty of time to have a look around the various named features, and to see the sunset across the canyon. Erosion by  weather has shaped the colourful limestone rock strata into bizarre shapes, including slot canyons, windows, fins, and spires called "hoodoos." Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of them in the world!
Just before arriving at Bryce, we drove through this natural red arch.

Arriving at the Canyon National Park entrance.

Our first sighting of hoodoos! Their colour seems to change with the light conditions.

Yet another natural arch with hoodoos over the top.

As you can see, elevation 8,627 feet  (2,630 metres). It's not quite oxygen territory but impressive enough!

A panarama shot across the canyon just before sunset.

Sunset across the amphitheatre at Sunset Point.

On the opposite side of the Lodge complex, we went on the following morning to Sunrise Point. More hoodoos in a very dramatic landscape!
An unending variety of hoodoos.

We left Bryce  after viewing the sunrise and having a good breakfast at Ruby's Inn, just outside the park, and then we headed off to drive through Zion National Park.  We were heading home to Mesquite, but a drive through Zion in South West Utah on the way was a "must see". A  completely different landscape from Bryce, it has steep red cliffs, but as you can see above, there are also some natural caves and arches..

The scenic drive passes right through the primary area of the park and, being the 4th July holiday weekend and a lovely day, there was heavy traffic congestion!  This photo above is of the short tunnel on the scenic drive,  but there is also a long tunnel, completed in 1930, which is  1.8 km (1.1 miles) long and the longest of this type in the U.S.A!

Views taken of Zion landscape from the car..

The view as below without us in the way! How did those rectangular patterns in the rock get there? Odd but spectacular!

A quick stop, so we could take a photo proving that we had actually been there!

Another view of Zion Canyon before heading back to Mesquite....

and another amazing sunset back in the desert landscape there.

There is one more part of this holiday which is our last afternoon in Las Vegas before flying home, but this will now have to be postponed, as it is now less than a week before we leave for Southern Africa.  I will be back in March (I hope) with the final USA blog, followed by some very different African subjects. Not forgetting, of course, our visits, in December to Le Mans (more to it than just a motor racing centre!) and Rouen (with its amazing medieval old town)  still waiting for a write up!  One day I might just catch up!!!

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016) I will get back to this eventually!  

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


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


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)