Monthly Archives

April 2008

A Day At The Wave, North Coyote Buttes, Part I

Arizona, Photo of the Day, Stories, The Wave

I have long heard comments from hikers and landscape photographers about the beautiful and bizarre sandstone formations of the North Coyote Buttes area of Arizona. I am not a serious landscape photographer nor am I a what you would consider a “desert lover”. However, on a lark, I decided to apply for a permit for a hiking permit to the Wave, a particularly fantastic and odd section of the North Coyote Buttes. The Wave is so popular that the Bureau of Land Management must limit access to the Wave to only 20 people per day, by lottery. Summer is to be avoided due to the heat, and winter is not particularly pleasant due to cold and possible ice, snow or rain out there. Spring and Fall are the times to go. In spite of my applying for the most popular time of year, I lucked out and scored a permit. It came in the mail about 5 weeks later, along with some cool topo maps and directions to find the Wave amid the crazy random sandstone confusion that is the North Coyote Buttes. (More about finding the Wave in future posts.)

Geometric joints and cracks form in eroding sandstone, North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona

Geometric joints and cracks form in eroding sandstone.
Image ID: 20610
Location: North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA

As my permit date (April 16) approached, I was besieged with work and family responsibilities, and it became clear that I would not be able to take a proper four- to seven-day trip allowing me to explore the area immediately around the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument (in which the Coyote Buttes and the Wave are located), which includes cool places like Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Buckskin Gulch, etc. Instead I pulled a virtual overnighter, hopping the hooker flight to Vegas on Tuesday, driving four hours to Page, getting up at dawn on Wednesday, hitting the trail, spending the whole day out in the area of the Wave exploring and admiring the sandstone formations, getting back to my car after sunset, driving back to Vegas, settling down in some nasty hotel next to the airport (should have stayed on the Strip, what was I thinking), finally hitting the sack at 1am only to rise at 4:30am Thursday for a 6am flight back to San Diego. Back in my office at 8:30am on Thursday. Door to door about 40 hours. Whew. It was worth it though: it was one of the coolest hikes I have ever taken, and I am looking forward to going back to look around the area more.

Photos of the Wave, North Coyote Buttes

Route 66

Photo of the Day

One our recent desert road trip, we found ourselves on Route 66 for a while. We passed some seriously forlorn-looking old eateries, defunct and barely surviving service stations, and some funky little communities that look like they are ever-so-slowly fading away. It was strange to think that before the interstate system was developed, Route 66 was one of the major travel arteries of our country. Now it is little more than a footnote and curiosity for old-timers and history buffs.

Route 66 (also known as U.S. Route 66, The Main Street of America, The Mother Road and the Will Rogers Highway) was a highway in the U.S. Highway system. One of the original federal routes, US 66 was established in 1926 and originally ran from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at Los Angeles for a total of 2,448 miles.  US 66 was officially decommissioned (i.e, removed from the offical U.S. Highway system) in 1985 after it was decided the route was no longer relevant and had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System

Route 66 (also known as U.S. Route 66, The Main Street of America, The Mother Road and the Will Rogers Highway) was a highway in the U.S. Highway system. One of the original federal routes, US 66 was established in 1926 and originally ran from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at Los Angeles for a total of 2,448 miles. US 66 was officially decommissioned (i.e., removed from the offical U.S. Highway system) in 1985 after it was decided the route was no longer relevant and had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System.
Image ID: 20567
Location: California, USA

Late Night Run to the Ice Machine

Photo of the Day

As soon as we check into a hotel room, any hotel room, one of my kids always has to make a run to the ice machine. What’s up with that?

Girl walks down hotel corridor at night, carrying ice bucket, abstract blur time exposure

Girl walks down hotel corridor at night, carrying ice bucket, abstract blur time exposure.
Image ID: 20571

Photo of the Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley National Park

California, Death Valley, Desert, National Parks

The Devil’s Golf Course is a curious assemblage of crystalline salt shapes spread over a large swath of the Death Valley salt pan. This saltpan, which is the lowest point in Death Valley National Park, and indeed the western hemisphere, holds a small amount of subsurface moisture. This water is extremely salty and briny, a result of the accumulation of minerals that were left behind when the 30-foot-deep Holocene-era lake disappeared (the accumulation continues with each year’s winter rains). Capillary action draws the subsurface moisture upward. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind salt crystals that form myriad fantastic shapes. The growth is quite slow, perhaps as little as one inch every 35 years. Wind friction and seasonal flooding of the area during winter storms erodes or reshapes the salt crystal forms, and the process continues.

Devils Golf Course, California.  Evaporated salt has formed into gnarled, complex crystalline shapes in on the salt pan of Death Valley National Park, one of the largest salt pans in the world.  The shapes are constantly evolving as occasional floods submerge the salt concretions before receding and depositing more salt

Devils Golf Course, California. Evaporated salt has formed into gnarled, complex crystalline shapes in on the salt pan of Death Valley National Park, one of the largest salt pans in the world. The shapes are constantly evolving as occasional floods submerge the salt concretions before receding and depositing more salt.
Image ID: 15582
Location: Devils Golf Course, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Devils Golf Course. Evaporated salt has formed into gnarled, complex crystalline shapes on the salt pan of Death Valley National Park, one of the largest salt pans in the world.  The shapes are constantly evolving as occasional floods submerge the salt concretions before receding and depositing more salt

Devils Golf Course. Evaporated salt has formed into gnarled, complex crystalline shapes on the salt pan of Death Valley National Park, one of the largest salt pans in the world. The shapes are constantly evolving as occasional floods submerge the salt concretions before receding and depositing more salt.
Image ID: 20552
Location: Devils Golf Course, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Photo of Badwater, Death Valley National Park

California, Death Valley, Desert, National Parks

Badwater is the lowest point in Death Valley National Park, at 282 feet below sea level. Indeed, it is the lowest point in the entire western hemisphere. The Badwater Basin is the catch point for 9000 square miles of drainage, however, there is typically little water here except following winter rains, since the water evaporates quickly. When it does, it leaves behind a saline, crusty, flat white playa made up of almost pure table salt and stretching for miles — a bizarre place. Evaporation is most extreme in Death Valley: a 1.9 inch annual rainfall is exceeded by evaporation potential of 150 inches per year, enough to scorch a 12 foot deep lake to dust in just 12 months. The water that does manage to persist here is the motivation for the place’s name, for it is a salty, warm, nasty swill which you are advised not to drink. A small, specialized species of snail, the Badwater snail, somehow manages to eke out an existence in these waters. Rising above the parking area are some of the oldest rocks in Death Valley, 1.7 billion (with a b) year old Precambrian volcanic and sedimentary rock layers that have metamorphosed into gneiss. Perched 282 feet up the cliff face is a sign marking sea level. If you visit, be sure to walk out onto the playa, not just a hundred yards or so but far enough that the other visitors and their cars become specks. Admire the sheer white horizon stretching in all directions, the Panamint Mountain and Black Mountain ranges that form the walls of the valley, and the blue sky. Hear the silence as your feet crackle and crunch the salt upon which you walk. Feel the parched air wick the sweat off your skin. Feel your throat become dry. Squint. So nice. Now back to the car and air conditioning, to sip your Diet Coke.

Badwater, Death Valley.  A spring feeds this small pool year round.  The water is four times more saline than ocean water.  The small Badwater snail (Assiminea infima) is found only in Death Valley, in spring-fed pools such as these, and is threatened by habitat destruction.  At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater is the lowest point in North America, Death Valley National Park, California

Badwater, Death Valley. A spring feeds this small pool year round. The water is four times more saline than ocean water. The small Badwater snail (Assiminea infima) is found only in Death Valley, in spring-fed pools such as these, and is threatened by habitat destruction. At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater is the lowest point in North America.
Image ID: 20554
Location: Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Badwater, California.  Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America.  9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats, Death Valley National Park

Badwater, California. Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America. 9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats.
Image ID: 15579
Location: Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Badwater, California.  Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America.  9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats, Death Valley National Park

Badwater, California. Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America. 9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats.
Image ID: 15580
Location: Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Photo of Pink Sunrise on Telescope Peak over Badwater

California, Death Valley, Desert, National Parks

I’ve been on a few deep scuba dives in my life but relative to sea level this is as deep as I have ever been, and I didn’t even need to strap on a scuba tank to get there. Seen here is delicate pre-dawn pink light on a snow covered Telescope Peak, viewed from Badwater. Telescope Peak, at 11,049 feet, is the highest point in Death Valley National Park as well as the Panamint Range. Badwater is the lowest point in Death Valley National Park, at 282 feet below sea level.

Sunrise lights Telescope Peak as it rises over the salt flats of Badwater, Death Valley.  At 11,049 feet, Telescope Peak is the highest peak in the Panamint Range as well as the highest point in Death Valley National Park.  At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater is the lowest point in North America

Sunrise lights Telescope Peak as it rises over the salt flats of Badwater, Death Valley. At 11,049 feet, Telescope Peak is the highest peak in the Panamint Range as well as the highest point in Death Valley National Park. At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater is the lowest point in North America.
Image ID: 20549
Location: Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Photo of the Paris Hotel Fountain

Las Vegas, Nevada

The Paris Hotel in Las Vegas is most noted for its tall, half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower. However, it also has a replica of the Arc de Triomphe, a neon-light balloon and a cool fountain at street level as well. Here is the fountain with the balloon in the background, and a bright billboard of two Abercrombie-beautiful models kissing.

Fountain at night, Paris Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

Fountain at night, Paris Hotel.
Image ID: 20563
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

More photos of Las Vegas at night.

Photo of Caesar’s Palace and Jasmine Restaurant

Las Vegas, Nevada

Caesar’s Palace, a Las Vegas landmark, seems so surrounded by other buildings that it was hard to get a decent photo of just the hotel itself. I liked the blue lights in the Bellagio reflection pool illuminating the Jasmine Restaurant with Caesar’s rising in the background.

Jasmine Restaurant and Caesar's Palace Hotel are reflected in the Bellagio Hotel fountain pool at night, Las Vegas, Nevada

Jasmine Restaurant and Caesar’s Palace Hotel are reflected in the Bellagio Hotel fountain pool at night.
Image ID: 20561
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

More photos of Las Vegas at night.

Photo of the Venetian Hotel and “Phantom”

Las Vegas, Nevada

Well, we were with the kids while in Las Vegas so we did not go to any of the shows we might otherwise hit (Ka, Phantom, O) if we had been there on our own, instead opting for sunny days by the pool and dinner out each night. It was fun walking around Vegas in the evenings and seeing it through kids’ eye, they enjoyed the lights and the sounds and the high energy. We thought the Venetian Hotel looked cool, with its tall banner for Phantom of the Opera hanging over the Strip:

The Venetian Hotel rises above the Strip, Las Vegas Boulevard, at night

The Venetian Hotel rises above the Strip, Las Vegas Boulevard, at night.
Image ID: 20562
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

More photos of Las Vegas at night.