Zion National Park

10/31/17 Tuesday in St. George, UT

Happy Halloween!! Just as we explored a different part of the Saguaro NP this time, so we checked out a different part of Zion this time – the East side, along the top of the canyon instead of the bottom. Later we also walked the Riverside Trail, one of my favorite memories in this park.

Zion -East side, on top of the canyon, below:

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We drove through the 1 mile tunnel that included “air vents” as John put it at various spots along the way – from inside the tunnel they were nice breaks of air (from car exhaust) as well as sunlight.

Checkerboard Mesa above.

Zion -Riverside Trail, on the bottom of the canyon, below:

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Zion, Riverside Walk

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As we left, the Bear Grass was so lovely, I have to share this image.

We rested the next day, noting that we’re headed for 3 long travel days and will be heading into predicted snow. We have lots to do when we get home and don’t really have any travel/fun plans until March, so it’s unlikely I’ll be posting any blogs until then.

Spokane is due to have a low of 25 degrees the first day we are there – Brrr… it will be interesting how we “survive” winter at home!!!

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DeGrazia Gallery In the Sun

10/28/17 Saturday in Tucson, AZ

It looked like we really wouldn’t be able to get parking near the Tucson Art Museum and the Center for Creative Photography, so John dropped me off at the DeGrazia Gallery In the Sun while he visited “Bookmans” for some Louis L’Amour books.

Degrazia is a Tucson oil painter who became famous for his renditions of little Indian children. I wasn’t that thrilled with those paintings, but did enjoy his impressionistic rendition of horses and Pueblo Indians. He built his home, as well as a chapel and gallery on 10 acres outside of Tucson.

DeGrazia’s home is above. He died in 1982.

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DeGrazia’s chapel which burnt recently, thus the cyclone fencing to keep people away

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DeGrazia’s gallery floor, made with cholla cactus, chopped into 6” lengths, then set into the floor

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Mission San Xavier at Christmas celebration

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Paintings. He painted with a palette knife, leaving more for our minds to complete in his paintings.

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Paintings. He painted with a palette knife, leaving more for our minds to complete in his paintings.

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Paintings. He painted with a palette knife, leaving more for our minds to complete in his paintings.

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Saguaro National Park (Tucson Mountain – West)

10/25/17 Wednesday in Tucson, AZ

We were enjoying a presentation at the Visitor Center on Mountain Lions by a Volunteer Naturalist when the fire alarm went off so he continued his talk outside by the flagpole. This was a hot day (over 90), he was looking into the sun and had to talk over the alarm, voices of other “escapees” and soon the fire truck engine. I was as impressed by his perseverance as his knowledge and fun stories.

We learned that this animal has more “common” names than any other – about 80. Among them are: Cougar, Puma, Panther, Ghost Lion. They are the most efficient predator – getting their prey 85% of the time. Wolves only manage 15% of the time. They are proficient in Stealth (nocturnal), Sight, Strength, and Smell. They even have their back paws step into the depression made by their front paws. What they don’t have is stamina, like the predators that run like wolves and lions. Once they’ve “pounced” onto the back of an animal (they most often attack mule deer and javelinas in the Park), they’ll use their powerful jaws to crush the victim’s neck vertebrae.

Don, the volunteer, shared a couple stories. In one, he was hiking early in the morning and spotted what he thought was a mountain lion (later he saw through his binoculars that it was a bobcat, another animal that frequents the park). It was facing off against 2 coyotes. He turned and dashed onto a 2 foot high rock, then leaped onto the 13 foot high egg shaped rock just behind it. The 2 coyotes approached from in front and behind the bobcat. The one in front scrambled to reach the bobcat. As his head came above the top of the tall rock, the bobcat swiped at it’s head. The coyote ran off once it’d tumbled to the bottom. His partner was never to be heard from. After a little grooming (probably waiting to see if either coyote reappeared) the bobcat proceeded off his rock perch.

Our naturalist suggested that we take his favorite hike up King’s Canyon Wash. We’d see lots of petroglyphs at one point on the hike. We did that hike. Boy were we grateful for the winds on this very hot day.

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At the beginning

Petroglyphs below

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Just beyond the area of the petroglyphs. Just below that rock cliff at our feet was a couple gatherings of bees. We skirted them by climbing over at the far right end. The least favorite part for John.

After this we trekked up hill to a picnic area, then returned the way we’d come, grateful for the shade of our car at the ending of our hike. A good place for our picnic lunch.

We determined that this side of Saguaro NP (Tucson Mountain – West) was not nearly as nice as the other (Rincon Mountain – East). Granted there is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum there, but it’s more a zoo of the animals and plants of the desert ($20/person). There is also the Old Tucson Studios, another pay for activities place. Both seemed like places we’ve seen before, so we skipped them.

At this point we’d had enough of hiking, took off for home base, with stops at a car wash and grocery store before crashing at our condo.

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Mission San Xavier

10/24/17 Tuesday in Tucson, AZ

We were so fortunate to arrive shortly before the 11 am guided tour, which was far more interesting than if we’d just toured on our own.

This Roman Catholic Mission was founded in 1692 by a Jesuit priest, Father Kino, born in Italy but sent by Spain to Mexico, then later here. The current structure was begun in 1793, by Spanish Franciscans. At that time Spain didn’t want to continue spending the money for Catholic priests, so the Spanish Jesuits no longer could afford to come to this part of the world. I don’t know how the Franciscans manged. Work continued for 14 years before the money ran out (loan from a rancher). “The villagers helped from start to finish. They gathered sand, lime, clay, rock and wood; built kilns and excavated trenches. Thirty-three inch foundations were built and brick was laid up for both the inside and outside faces of the wall, rock rubble and lime-sand grout was poured between. Artists from central New Spain (now Mexico) worked to complete the interior.” The walls are super thick. For the towers, the bottom is 6’ thick. They taper as they go up. In the main part of the church the walls are 3’ thick.

Restoration has been ongoing, much by volunteers, even Art Restorers from all over the world, but at this point they need $3 million to complete the restoration. Restorers don’t complete what didn’t get done in the beginning, thus you see the tower on the right doesn’t have the dome that the left one has, since it hadn’t been built in the first place.

This is Baroque style, where everything is matched, that is what is done on one side is repeated on the other.

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Outside-architectural rendering

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Outside-view from the front

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Saint Francis Xavier image. The small medals pinned to the cover are “milagros”, little symbols of the kind of healing that is being requested of the saint.

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Lovely Madonna statue

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Jesus, King of Sorrows

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Mary, Queen of Suffering

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“Man in a Maze” This is a Tohono O’Odham symbol of man and how he makes choices that create the maze that is his life. Did you notice this symbol on the Queen of Suffering statue above this image?

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Verde Valley Javalina and Biosphere 2

10/21/17 Week in Cottonwood, AZ

We rested-went out to dinner twice for liver and onions then for prime rib. We read books and social media. The one exciting event was my sighting of a couple of Javelinas (collared peccaries), wild pigs, that were trying to get into a bucket of shells.

10/23/17 Monday in Tucson, AZ

Biosphere 2

This group of buildings were completed by 1987, with the largess (money) from Mr. Ed Bass, a Texas millionaire. I think it took around $200 million. He wanted buildings that would be completely sealed off from the outside world (Earth/Biosphere 1) so scientific research inside them could be protected from the vagaries of nature. Our earth has 4 spheres: Geosphere (rocks), Hydrosphere (water), Atmosphere (air) and Biosphere (living beings). The buildings include these major Biomes: Rainforest, Ocean, Savannah, Fog Desert and LEO (landscape evolution observatory). Also there are the Upper Habitat (living quarters when 8 scientists lived for 2 years in this sealed environment) and an Energy Center (that ran all the machines that ran these environments). The above ground glass enclosed facility (including all of the above except the Upper Habitat and Energy Center) is 3.14 acres (91 feet tall at the highest point, in the Rainforest).

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Rainforest. See the waterfall?

Below are some of the machines, wiring, ducting etc. that keep everything going. They take up ¾ of the area covered by the glass enclosures that are above.

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It was down below that we got to experience the “Lung”. Note that when an enclosed space like a car is exposed to the heat of the desert, if it is sealed, the air inside expands and must escape. Thus it will explode the glass to the outside of that car. Alternately, in the very cold of the desert night the air the inside of the car contracts, creating less pressure than the air outside, so the glass/windows will implode from that outside pressure, leaving broken glass inside the car. Naturally this couldn’t be allowed to happen in the scientific glass buildings above, so a “Lung” essentially takes in air from the outside and expels inside air when the pressure demands it. Note that the dome (in the image below) has legs. The black material attached to the inside dome is also attached to the wall of the “Lung” building. The movement of air pressure causes the dome to lift and fall (until the legs reach the floor). Before we left, as a door was opened for our “escape”, air rushed out and we could see that dome fall. We also experienced quite the rush of air pulling hats and glasses forward as we walked out. So cool!

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We enjoyed the Habitat area where the 8 people lived. Each had their own 2 story apartment (bedroom upstairs) and daily communication with the outside world. Rotating every day, each was responsible for all the meals in a 24 hour period, starting with the evening meal. I asked why they ended that living experiment. Our docent explained that they’d spend so much time operating the machinery and caring for what would become their food (fruits, veggies, chickens (eggs), goats (milk) and pigs (waste management)). As our docent explained, nature provides our food for free. What costs is having it brought to us. Because they had little time for scientific research, which was what Mr. Bass wanted most of all, then that part of the experiment ended. Originally they’d planned to have people live there for 2 years (1991-1993), then different people on a yearly basis for 100 years. Yes, those buildings are meant to continue for 100 years total. It’s been 30 years at this point. [Note: in the Wikipedia entry on Biosphere 2 it gives other reasons for the ending of this closed environment for people element)].

After people living in that sealed environment ended, various Universities did experiments there until Columbia University purchased the area. They experimented with increasing the CO2 in that environment, learning that plants died, along with the coral and fish in the ocean area. This was the first definitive scientific experiment to prove what we will experience as climate change progresses.

Later (2011) Mr. Bass gifted all this land and buildings, along with $20 million to the University of Arizona, to continue it’s mission of scientific research. This facility is the research arm of the U of A now.

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Wupatki National Monument

10/15/17 Sunday traveling from Page, AZ to Cottonwood, AZ

On our way to the TT Campground Verde Valley, near Cottonwood, we stopped at one of 3 National Monuments that are north of Flagstaff. We’d seen Sunset Crater Volcano and Walnut Canyon last year when we had coolant hose repairs done at Freightliner in Flagstaff, but didn’t have time for Wupatki. It’s sort of fitting because Wupatki is all about early Puebloan dwellings, just what we’ve been seeing the past month. Apparently these square style buildings were far more prevalent for that time period than the cliff dwellings.

Here are some that were perched above a box canyon. Since a box canyon is blocked at one end, lots of rain water and silt gather at the bottom, making it a great place for farming.

Box Canyon and Lomaki Ruins

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Box Canyon

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Lomaki Ruin

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The Citadel Ruin was built on a huge rock base, the only one found. It seems well positioned for defense as well as a great view. Below are some buildings for families, with terraced (by rocks) land on the other side for farming.

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Nice view

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Nearby sinkhole. The mountain in the distance to the left is the Sunset Crater Volcano.

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They liked to use the black volcanic rock for decorative purposes, along with forming their walls.

Visitor Center Ruins

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Large collection of buildings. Those at the front were built with lower walls. Not sure why – a better view?

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Another group of buildings. You see the ceremonial, group gathering circle as well in the foreground.

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The Ballcourt, used for games (no seating as the other had)

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A Blowhole where air moves either into or out of the hole in the ground, based on the weather/temperature. There is no indication that the people who lived here made use of it. There was quite a breeze going into it when we felt over it. Sorry, no photo of the hole.

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Navajo Sandstone. Note the “Swiss cheese” look at the top of this rock. It happens when rain water (with acids in it) pelt the soft rock. Below you see how it can crack over time, leading to slate like pieces falling away.

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Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, Vermilion Cliffs NM, Wahweep Marina and Glen Canyon Dam (Glen Cyn NRA)

10/13/17 Friday in Page, AZ


Today we ventured into the Grand Staircase-Escalante NM. It’s Escalante name refers to the Dominquez-Escalante (two Catholic priests) expedition to find an overland route from Sante Fe, NM to their mission in Montery, CA.  It’s Grand Staircase name refers to the 5 different geologic layers (staircase) descending from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon. Pink Cliffs (Bryce Canyon), to Gray Cliffs, to White Cliffs (Zion), to Vermillion Cliffs, to Chocolate Cliffs and then on to the landing or rim of the Grand Canyon. “The alternating configuration of cliffs, terraces, and slopes is due to varied erosion rates of different rock types.”  We also learned that every since 1996, under President Bill Clinton, when a president signs land into a National Monument, it is then administered by the BLM, not the NPS.  Both of which are under the Interior Dept.  These new monuments are to be preserved; no roads paved, no buildings put on them, largely left primitive.

Below are photos of Cliffs seen on our trek to the “Toadstools”.

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On this trek we had quite an adventure keeping on the path.  We didn’t see the marker for the final turn to get to the Toadstools, so it was a hard scramble.  John got way ahead of me, where I couldn’t see him, but we managed to find one another eventually.  Then we didn’t see the turn to get back to our car, but we managed there too.  Primitive must mean VERY little trail markings….


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We had to take this path because the wash we generally followed was stopped by (see next photo):

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This layer of rock that meant a very large leap/step for us hikers.

Toadstools – “a spine like feature with a boulder perched atop a pedestal rock, like a mushroom. It forms when softer rock erodes away leaving a column sheltered from wind and water.”

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Pahreah – a town first settled in 1865, followed by more arrivals. “Considerable progress was made in farming and stock raising until repeated floods (of the Paria (Pah REE ah) River) destroyed property, forcing the inhabitants to leave.” Same story as that at Fruita.

Cliffs seen on our drive to Pahreah Town (now gone). There even an old movie set there, but that was burned down by vandals. The only building there at this point was an outhouse/pit toilet for us tourists. Lovely views of the Cliffs though.


On our way back we stopped for some views around the Wahweep Marina, where Nancy/Greg are staying.

Nearby, Glen Canyon Dam. Here are some statistics:

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These are the Helios boats that Nancy/Greg got to ride on from the dam to Horseshoe Bend yesterday.

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Helios boats below Glen Canyon Dam on River side.

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