Sunday, December 16, 2018

Windows Section, Arches National Park, October 8, 2018

Yep, way back in October, but I still haven't had time to get these written up. And now I have a new barrier to blogging: CATS! My wife acquired a few youngish kittens, and they have an annoying habit of wanting to walk on my keyboard when I'm typing. Kind of funny: A few days ago, they walked over as I was shutting down. They managed to step on the Windows and L keys, simultaneously, and they locked my keyboard. So a few days later, I'm trying to type in my PIN, and the computer doesn't respond. I didn't know that at the time, of course. All I knew was that the keyboard wasn't taking my PIN.
So I had to get on the Internet on my phone and google stuff like, "Windows 10 keyboard locked," and eventually figured out what they had done. Yeah I'm not entirely literate on a lot of technology, and didn't know Window L would lock the keyboard (and, of course, unlock it).
Speaking of Windows and my phone, these were all phone shots of the Windows section of Arches National Park. It was drizzling to raining the whole morning, and I didn't want to take my real camera out. Besides, that one gets drops on the skylight filter, then everything gets little circles. The phone camera lens is so small, by comparison, that rain doesn't seem to affect the shots.
Started the morning in the Days Inn in Moab. They have (at least as of my visit) a nice, complimentary hot breakfast, much better than than your typical Days Inn/Super 8 level of food. And since checkout wasn't until around noon (as I recall), I ate early, headed into Arches ahead of much of the crowd, and walked the Windows Section, before returning to the room to warm up and shower.

That's nice bonus, since the rooms for even Days Inn/Super 8 level of motels in Moab is really quite high, as in $150 to $200. But they're stupid close to Arches' entrance, and not too far from the entrance to the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands. In retrospect, I might have decided to just burn my Wyndham Rewards points, because that night at Deadhorse Point State Park was really pretty cold.
I parked in the lot for the Windows trail, and walked counterclockwise, past Turret and South and North Windows arches, then around back on the primitive loop, then down to the Double Arch trail and back. Probably about two miles, total.
Those ubiquitous yellow flowers were blooming adjacent to the trailhead for Double Arch. The view of the Cove of Arches was very cool. The soft light of drizzling rain probably helped.
Double Arch, of course, is where Indiana Jones found the Cross of Coronado, in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

Nice and easy start to the day. After getting back to Moab, I packed, then headed into Island in the Sky. The drive and overlooks were, themselves, quite impressive. I also took a short walk overlooking the Shafer Trail, Mesa Arch, and Grand View Point. Hope to get those posted, soon.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Arch Rock, November 10, 2018

After doing an evening at Sky's the Limit, for their Night Sky Festival 2018, I drove back to Arch Rock, to get some photos of Orion, rising over the arch. This shot is 25 seconds at 20mm, f/1.8, at ISO 1600. I'm not sure if it's just reflection from the dust in the air, but the arch seemed brighter than last time, even without "painting" the arch.

As noted previously, Arch Rock is a short hike, maybe 1/4 mile each way from the actual trail, which starts in the White Tank campground. Even if you park on the main road (which you'll need to do, late night, unless you're camping here), it's still less than a mile, each way.

I still need to write up my Utah hikes. . . .

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Zion Canyon, Perseus Milky Way

I still need to write up my Canyonlands and Arches hikes, but these were from just yesterday. I had ambitious plans for the weekend, but had to cut them short on account of personal exigencies. So this is all I have to show for the long drive from the LA area to Zion. I got there too late for what were some really spectacular coloration on the cliffs at sunset, and even too late to look for fall color on the river. But, to be honest, I'm pretty sure I was a week early for that. So, just some Milky Way shots.

A few months ago, I got some nice southern Milky Way shots, looking to the south, down the Virgin River. But, tonight, there were too many clouds and too much light that way, so I had to shoot north. And, even that way, there were a lot of clouds.
Transparency was also poor especially near the horizon. I also noticed some effects of shooting with my ultrawide lens. Definitely some astigmatism and field curvature. But not too bad at smaller sizes, where the warped stars are less apparent.

These were all taken in the 1/2 mile or so between Canyon Junction and the Human History Museum, along the Pa'rus trail.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Park Avenue, Arches National Park, October 7, 2018

Well after getting back from my car, I headed over to Park Avenue, intending to reconnoiter some in preparation for possible night sky shots, later that evening. However, I wound up chatting with an older couple, and got nearly nowhere. But I did take a few shots. Most were terrible because I had used my 20mm lens a few days ago for night shots, which meant I turned off the autofocus and didn't notice that until I had taken a number of shots.

I then went back to my motel room in Moab to eat dinner. I microwaved some store-bought fried chicken and ate a few boiled eggs, and an apple and a banana. I watched some television and waited to see if the clouds would clear. When it finally began to clear, I drove back into Arches and parked at the Courthouse Towers lot. Some people were already set up there, taking some shots and painting various rock outcroppings. I gathered my equipment and crossed over into Park Avenue.
I just went far enough to get away from the road lights, and took a whole slew of shots. Little did I know at the time that this would be my only successful night sky shots of the trip. The next two nights were wetter and/or cloudier than this night, which was mostly clear. I was pretty happy with a few of the shots, at least.
Went back to the motel, slept, got up the next day, ate a hearty early breakfast, then drove back a third time into Arches. The plan here was to get some hiking and photography around the Windows section of Arches, then get back to the motel, pack up, and head over to Canyonlands and Deadhorse Point State Park. That'll be my next post, I hope!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Delicate Arch trail, Arches National Park, UT, Sunday, October 7, 2018

Spent several days in eastern Utah around the Columbus Day holiday. Sunday, October 7 was my first day there, after having spent the previous night in Cedar City. It's really too far to get to Arches in one day, so I did a stop over.
My initial plan had me staying in Capitol Reef National Park on this night, but the forecast looked very poor: Rain all day, so I'd be driving a narrow mountain road in clouds and rain, then have to either pitch my tent in the rain or sleep in my car, which sounded pretty crummy.
So, instead, I burned 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points for a free night in the Days Inn in Moab. Rooms are expensive in Moab, and the cash price would have been over $150, so this seemed like a good time to use points, instead. And, in fact, it was raining when I got there. But the rain eventually stopped, and I managed to get a hike up to Delicate Arch.
It's a relatively straightforward 3-mile roundtrip with a decent altitude climb to get there. NPS says 470 feet.

Starts out level, and walking over sand. An old ranch house is near the start. You cross over an area undergoing rehabilitation (removal of tamarask trees and regrading of the wash), then begin to climb. After a short climb and descent over dirt, you soon begin the main part of the climb, over exposed sandstone.
It's the exposure that makes this a strenuous climb in the heat of summer. There's no shade, it's pretty steep, and there's no shade. But it's not particularly dangerous, otherwise.
The trail levels off again at the top of the sandstone. You're in a wash, again. Some gnarled juniper trees grow here. Then, up along some more sandstone, pass two smallish arches in that sandstone, and you're at the opening of the amphitheater. Delicate Arch, likely larger than you expected, is before you.
Unfortunately, there's likely a continuous line of people, posing under the arch, because God-forbid you can't all just appreciate this from a distance from a distance. Only way around this is to shoot the arch from the opposite side, or wait until really late, and hope not many other people get the same idea.
On my return to the car, a partial-rainbow spread, from the passing showers. It was a pretty cool end to my little hike, though not the end of my photography for the day.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Observation Point, Zion National Park, Utah, September 8, 2018

Hiked Saturday, September 8. Heavy rains in mid-July caused severe erosion on several roads and trails in Zion National Park. When I visited, the trail to Angel's Landing was closed. I hiked that trail last year, and also about 20 years previous, so I wasn't planning to do that one, anyway. However, what that meant was that anyone seeking a seriously long hike out of Zion Canyon was going to have to go up Observation Point. Additionally, the detour to Hidden Canyon was also closed. I'm pretty sure that meant much more people than usual heading up to Observation Point.
Not long after that long-ago trip up Angel's Landing, I had previously been up to Observation Point. But that was long before I had a digital camera. Not sure where my photos from that trip are, now. Nonetheless, having gotten up this morning and feeling up for a serious hike, I opted for Observation Point.

This was on a Saturday. I unexpectedly managed to get a campsite at Watchman just a few days in advanced, so it was somewhat spur of the moment. BTW, this stay was in the C-loop. Tents only. What I discovered there is that seemingly everyone in the tent area wants to burn a campfire so I was annoyingly over-smoked the night before. Also, everyone in a tent needs to use the restrooms, so those are almost always occupied. On my previous stay, I was in the A-loop, which permits both tents and campers/rvs. For an extra ten dollars, you get an electrical outlet (which I didn't really need, but which you might want to use to charge your phone or laptop) and a restroom that was little-used, because all the camper and RV people use their own restroom. I've decided it's probably worth the extra ten bucks to camp there.
So I woke up, ate breakfast, packed up the tent, and drove from my campsite to the day-parking area (because I was leaving after my hike). Then I took the mandatory shuttle bus from the visitor center to the Weeping Rock shuttle stop. From there, there are two trailheads. One is for the short trail to Weeping Rock, while the other is for the longer trail, to Observation Point. I took the latter.

This trail starts out steep, because you need to climb out of Zion Canyon. It's basically one switchback after another. You look up and seek these sheer red-washed rock cliffs, above you. I.'d estimate a mile or so of that, before you level off into a side slot canyon. Because you're heading up the east side of the Canyon, you'll be in shade in the morning, the whole way up.
The relatively level section seems way to short, but the slot canyon you're walking along is quite impressive. The views down into the Canyon are similarly impressive. There were scattered wildflowers along most of the trail so far, even in early September.
More climbing follows the slot canyon, but now you're walking over exposed granite. Then more switchbacks. This last slog is tougher, because now you're somewhat exposed to the south, and the sun's catching you. Later, you'll discover why you're so exposed: The trail is just blasted into the rock. No shade.

Finally, you level off, and it's a largely-flat, 3/4 of a mile or so. Again, outstanding, wide open views over the main Canyon, and also to the East, in spots. If you didn't already know, you'll discover yourself way above Angel's Landing, further down canyon.
The Park Service lists this trail as four miles long, with 2148 net feet of altitude gained. By contrast, Angel's Landing is said to be 5.4 miles and 1488 feet of altitude gained. Estimated hiking time is given as six hours for Observation Point, versus 4 hours for Angel's Landing.
Since I am not hiking as much as I have in the past, I found this hike more difficult than I remembered it, and I'm pretty sure the last time, we included a detour into Hidden Canyon, which was not possible, this time. Then again, I'm 20 years older!

I had semi-forgotten the slot canyons along the way to Observation Point, and that shaded section can be a welcome break, especially if you started late, or it's midsummer.

Made it back fine, and drove on down to the Las Vegas area. Easy 2 1/2 hours or so. Still, I'm looking forward to the scheduled opening of a couple of more truck stops between Saint George and the Mesquite area. As it is, if I take a restroom break in St. George, it's still a little long to drive all the way to Las Vegas without another stop. So I usually stop either at one of the casinos or at the kind-of-rundown-looking gas station near one of the easily-accessible casinos. I prefer the regular truck stops (Pilot and Flying J, in particular).

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Oak Glen Preserve, Yucaipa, CA, Sunday, September 30

It's apple season in Oak Glen. Made my first trip of the season up there. It was really crowded in the shops, but the trail was still pretty empty, all things considered.

Too early for fall color, and mostly way too late for wildflowers, although there are still some blooming. Lots of sunflowers, near the entrance. I took lots of shots, but nothing special resulted, so I posted none, here.
These bee shots were right near the pond, at the top of the trail. Probably half a dozen shots. I cropped three of them, to get nice and close to the bees.
Then I walked down the trail to where it splits between the return trail and the trail to Preservation Point, then came back through the park, completing the loop. I only had an hour to walk, and, even with lots of stops for pictures, no problem with that.
The oak trees are just beginning to change color. I took a few shots, playing with the back lighting. ANd then there was this vine, that hung vertically over the trail.
Probably head here a few more times this fall and winter. It's a nice place for a little walk, to break up the drive down to Yucaipa. Probably a 90 minute drive from home.
Still need to blog Observation Point, in Zion. Not sure when I'll have time. Plenty more pictures of the Hogle Zoo, too.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Pallas Cats and Pallas Cat Kittens, Hogle Zoo, Salt Lake City

My wife was in need of cheering up over the Labor Day weekend, so we made a short-notice trip up to the Hogle Zoo, in Salt Lake City.

We had read of the birth of Pallas Cat kittens back in early spring, and made some abstract plans to go see them. But, the fact is, it's a pretty long drive to Salt Lake City, so making this a weekend road trip can be pretty exhausting, even if it's a three day weekend.
So we made the drive. And despite the three day weekend, the drive up there wasn't bad, at all.

For logistical reasons, we spent two nights in Beaver, Utah. The rationale was that was we could get from Las Vegas to there quite easily, even after work, on Saturday, but it would still be close enough to get from there to the zoo then back on Sunday. Then I'd just have to make the drive back south, through Las Vegas and on to Los Angeles, on Monday, to be back at work, on Tuesday. It worked, but, yeah, while the drive up to Beaver on Saturday and to Salt Lake and back on Sunday were not bad, the drive back to Los Angeles, on Monday, was ridiculous.
Somewhat ironically, this was just over a year since our previous stay in Beaver, on the way to the total solar eclipse. I never really managed a proper write up of that trip, though.
The Pallas cat lives naturally in the high altitude lands of central Asia. That means they do well in moderate altitude like Salt Lake, and you don't find them in zoos in southern California. Hence, the crazy drive.
The cats and kittens were as cute as advertised. And, yes, we saw other things. But I took probably 100 pictures of the Pallas Cats, so they get a post of their own. I'm still pretty behind on other posts, but I figured this one would be a quickie.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Canyon View Trail, Zion National Park, Utah

Hiked Friday, September 7.

This is a short, 1 mile roundtrip hike. I first hiked this almost 20 years ago, and intended to come back here later this night to photograph the night sky. But I forgot a tripod part, so the night hike got scrubbed. Took night shots at Canyon Junction, instead, which worked out mostly better.

The trailhead is right at the east entrance to the tunnel on the Zion-Mt. Carmel highway. If you're coming from Canyon Junction, there's a small parking lot on the right, immediately after exiting the tunnel. If you miss that, or you're not driving a compact car, there is limited on-the-side-of-the-road parking, mostly on the north side of the road. If you're coming from the east and you don't park soon enough, you're forced to drive through the entire tunnel before you'll find a place to turn around, so don't do that!
The tunnel, according to the Park Service, was built between 1927 and 1930, and was not intended for oversized vehicles, so if you're a large camper or RV, you'll have to pay an extra fee and schedule your passage through. If you're a commercial vehicle, you'll have to go some other way.

But that means everyone who drives may need to wait for a convoy including an oversized vehicle passes one way or the other. I was waiting in just such a queue when I snapped the first shot of this post with my phone camera. Yes, I was stopped.
The trail is highly engineered, with steps cut or blasted into the rock, and railing or bridges at a few crossing areas, and at the end of the trail.

Right after passing the overhang above, I ran across a small herd of desert bighorn. They were still in the area when I walked back, maybe an hour later. Even without trying, they were no more than twenty yards from me as I passed.
The reason for the long gap in time for such a short hike is that I, like many others, waited for sunset. The canyon view looks more or less to the west, so the sunsets in the distance. On the night I was there, there were plenty of fluff clouds that I thought made the sunset pretty spectacular. But someone while I was there pronounced the sunset "a dud." I'm not sure if he was being ironic. It's hard to tell with people, sometimes.
The other thing people apparently like to do now is, rather than take photos or enjoying the sunset directly, they want to stand on a rock and be photographed as though they are somewhere precipitous. Fortunately, they apparently are good enough at Photoshop that they can just edit you out, so you don't actually have to care if they keep crowding behind you to stand on a rock and strike a pose while their friends take their pictures.
In the old days, you could just take a picture of a place, and people could tell by your having taken a picture that you were there. Now, however, it's apparently required to place yourself in the picture, with that very special pose. Even the "I'm gazing out and enjoying the sunset in solitude" shots need to be posed, reviewed, and reshot, which would seem to me to make it really hard to actually "enjoy the sunset." But that's just me. I spend the time around sunset watching the changing colors and shadows of the clouds and landscape around me. These moments are fleeting enough that I don't want to be distracted with how I or someone else looks in their selfie or "candid" moments. Yep, grumpy old man!