Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Arches--WOW! Arches National Park

The Arches area was first brought to the attention of the National Park Service by Frank A. Wadleigh around September 1923.  The following year, additional support for the monument idea came from Laurence Gould, a University of Michigan graduate. Finally in April 1929, shortly after his inauguration, President Herbert Hoover signed a presidential proclamation creating Arches National Monument, consisting of two comparatively small, disconnected sections.


In late 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a proclamation which enlarged Arches to protect additional scenic features and permit development of facilities to promote tourism. In early 1969, just before leaving office, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation substantially enlarging Arches. Two years later, President Richard Nixon signed legislation enacted by Congress which significantly reduced the total area enclosed, but changed its status to a National Park.

The colossal monoliths, outcropping, fins, bluffs, and fallen rubble are a testament to the ever-changing landscape, and their time humble the meager 80+ years that we might be around to witness it.  One can stand in front of the many iconic monuments, read their name, learn their geology, but standing there hardly allows for the comprehension of the wonders that abound in this national park.

Up high on a rock a lone individual sits in the sun, oblivious to those around him as he finds ways to connect himself to this magical setting.  From where I am I can't hear him, and that's another marvelous thing about these great outdoors...there is a solitude that blankets you.  Your eyes drink in an overwhelming array of sights, but somehow the body slows things down to give all the senses a chance to coordinate.

Everywhere one turns, a new and different experience.  On the cloudless day that we were in the park, the palette of colors was dominated by reds, oranges, greens, and blues.  Many shapes had names...Park Avenue, The Three Gossips, Sheep’s Rock, etc... and yet there were many where the imagination allowed for your own personal observations and naming.  This was part of the joy of touring the was reminiscent of those days as a child lying on your back looking up at the clouds and seeing many things...this was so similar.

A drive through this national park presents many opportunities to view spectacular geological formations from the roads and parking areas.  In addition, many miles of hiking were available to those who want to get away from the crowds and enjoy the peace and solitude that national parks are famous for. 

Our trip included a most special opportunity—a ranger-led tour through a permit-only area referred to as the Fiery Furnace.  This maze of vertical fin structures is navigable by squeezing through openings, straddling fissures and openings, and scrambling and climbing over a variety of physical obstacles.  This hike is not for the faint of heart, nor for those not accustomed to physical exertion.  It was difficult to judge one's readiness for the hike based on the video that the Park Service has on their website, and consequently there were a couple people on our group that would probably not go on this hike again given the chance.

What was supposed to take approximately three hours took nearly double that.  Yet, there was never a time when I got bored or ran out of things to look at or photograph.  The payoff for being in the Fiery Furnace is a view that few see--hidden arches, panoramic glimpses, rare plants, and an abundance of twisting and turning "paths".  That's the other thing...there are not really paths in the Fiery Furnace.  One really needs to be with a guide or risk getting lost.  What an adventure!

Arches National Park is a place I will return to again.  Like so many places one visits, a couple of days often is just not enough.  So it was here too.  Not only were there more things to see, but being the great outdoors, there are seasonal patterns that would change the conditions and present completely different experiences.

To see my entire collection of images from Arches National Park, visit my website gallery at:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Anticipating Moab, Utah

Reflecting on a fantastic week in Moab Utah, the "base camp" for photographic excursions around the area including Arches NP and Canyonlands NP.  I will share the highlights from my trip on a series of posts, beginning with this first post which will include the history of Moab.  Subsequent posts will expound on our adventures in the two national parks nearby Moab as well as “special places” that we also visited.  I drove through Moab over 35 years ago and was struck by its natural beauty.  It’s taken me this long to return…if you haven’t been, make sure it’s up on your bucket list.

This was a road trip that started in Albuquerque (after having flown in from the west coast) and headed north along Highway 550 which was quite beautiful but then quickly became a bit more treacherous with snow and slush.  I knew from having checked the weather, that our destination in Utah was to be sunny with clear skies, but how much further would we continue through this snow?  Thankfully road conditions improved after only a few more miles.  

We proceeded north, through Farmington New Mexico and into the southwest corner of Colorado.  Skirting past Durango, we turned due west and headed into Mancos where we enjoyed a lunch break.  I could have spent all day exploring this small, quaint, and very scenic town, but Moab was calling, so we hit the road... 

The anticipation was palpable as we began our final approach as we descended towards Moab. For a while now we've been seeing the La Sal Mountains on the horizon, but as they loom larger we realize we're almost there... next stop Arches and Canyonlands National Parks!

Wilson Arch located outside Moab (from the south):

According to Wikipedia, Moab is located just south of the Colorado River, at an elevation of 4,025 feet, and is 18 miles west of the Utah/Colorado state line.  Moab’s population was 5,046 at the 2010 census and attracts a large number of tourists every year, mostly visitors to the nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The town is also a very popular base for mountain bikers who ride the extensive network of trails including Slickrock Trail, as well as off-roaders who come for the annual Moab Jeep Safari. 

The Biblical name Moab refers to an area of land located on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Some historians believe the city in Utah came to use this name because of William Pierce, the first postmaster, believing that the biblical Moab and this part of Utah were both "the far country".  However, others believe the name has Paiute origins, referring to the word "moapa" meaning mosquito.  Some of the area's early residents attempted to change the city's name because in the Christian Bible, Moabites are demeaned as incestuous and idolatrous. One petition in 1890 had 59 signatures and requested a name change to Vina.  Another effort attempted to change the name to Uvadalia.  Both attempts failed.  Moab was incorporated as a town on December 20, 1902.

During the period between 1829 and the early 1850s, the area around what is now Moab served as the Colorado River crossing along the Old Spanish Trail.   Later, other places to cross the Colorado were constructed, such as Lee's Ferry, Navajo Bridge and Boulder Dam. These changes shifted the trade routes away from Moab.   Soon Moab's origins as one of the few natural crossings of the Colorado River were forgotten. Nevertheless, the U.S. military deemed the bridge over the Colorado River at Moab important enough to place it under guard as late as World War II.

Moab's economy was originally based on agriculture, but gradually shifted to mining. Uranium and vanadium were discovered in the area in the 1910s and 1920s. Potash and manganese came next, and then oil and gas were discovered. In the 1950s Moab became the so-called "Uranium Capital of the World" after geologist Charles Steen found a rich deposit of uranium ore south of the city.  With the winding down of the Cold War, Moab's uranium boom was over, and the city's population drastically declined. By the early 1980s a number of homes stood empty and nearly all of the uranium mines had closed.

 To see my entire Moab, Utah collection of images, visit my website gallery at:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

When is a Full Moon a Supermoon?

The full moon of November 14, 2016 was not only the biggest, closest and brightest supermoon of the year, but it’s also the closest supermoon since January 26, 1948. This full moon instant happened in the morning hours before sunrise.  The moon won’t come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034.

Astronomers call this sort of close full moon a perigee full moon. The word perigee describes the moon’s closest point to Earth for any given month. Five years ago – when the closest and largest full moon fell on March 19, 2011 – many began using the term supermoon, which we’d never heard before. In the following years, we heard this term again to describe the year’s closest full moon on May 6, 2012, and again on June 23, 2013, and again on August 10, 2014, and yet again on September 28, 2015.  The full moon last month on October 16, 2016 – was also a supermoon, but this November supermoon was even more super because the time of full moon fell even closer to the time of the moon’s closest point to Earth.

So when the alarm goes off at 4am you question why you thought it was such a good idea to wake up early and head out to photograph the setting of the supermoon…  But once out on the sand at the Huntington Beach Pier, it became clear…wow! 

And after the moon finished setting and the sun came up, the beach began to get populated with surfers.  I believe in Heaven, and I sometimes wonder if it’s pretty close to where I live…

To see more images from my Huntington Beach collection, visit my website gallery at: