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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Horseshoe Bend (Glen Cyn NRA) and Hanging Gardens (Glen Cyn NRA)

10/12/17 Thursday in Page, AZ

We hiked the ¾ mile trail to Horseshoe Bend this morning, but the shadows on the left were so deep that it looked black there.

We went on to hike to Hanging Gardens, where there are lovely ferns flourishing in the seeping water under their cliff.  This hike takes off from Hwy 98/89, just east of Glen Canyon dam.  Look for a hiking icon sign – it won’t say Hanging Gardens there.  You’ll see a more complete sign in the parking area.

Hanging Gardens

In the afternoon, at 2:45pm we again hiked the trail to Horseshoe Bend. SO much better for lighting then. John figures it would be best in the summer, like June.  Also, as you approach the cliff, head for the right end – that’s where you’ll get better photos of the whole river.

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This shot was taken using a “creative” filter that gave the scene saturated color.

Good day, with rest in between hikes.

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Vermilion Cliffs NM, Lee’s Ferry (Glen Cyn NRA), Lonely Dell Ranch Historic District and Navajo Bridge

10/11/17 Wednesday in Page, AZ

On our way to Lee’s Ferry NM, we (John and I plus Nancy and Greg, RV friends staying in Page while we are) saw the Vermilion Cliffs, as well as some cool “balancing rocks”.

Lee’s Ferry is the one place you can enter the Colorado River safely to travel by boat or raft in the Grand Canyon. All river trips begin here.

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There is no ferry here now, everyone just drives to this side of the river. This was originally built by a Mormon, Lee, who was wanted for killing a group of settlers (not Mormon) who he feared would harass/kill his family. So this must have seemed like a pretty out of the way place to escape detection. Eventually he did get captured and executed, but his wife pretty much ran the place even before then. As time went on, others used this place.

American Placer Corporation (gold) had their office here.

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Fort Lee. Because of concern for attacks here, Brigham Young ordered that a fort be set up here. Nancy is waving to us from this Fort. Note the Vermilion Cliffs behind it.

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Scenes of the Colorado River as we hiked to where a cable was set to hold the ferry and pull it back against the current.

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Scenes of the Colorado River as we hiked to where a cable was set to hold the ferry and pull it back against the current.

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Scenes of the Colorado River as we hiked to where a cable was set to hold the ferry and pull it back against the current.

Next we hiked to Lonely Dell Ranch. Another couple lived here after the Lees. They had to be self sufficient, using water from the nearby Paria River to grow their food. In 1965 an orchard was planted that NPS still maintains.

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Can you tell who’s standing by the pole?

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Lonely Dell dugout (root cellar)

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Weaver Ranch House. They had a Hopi stone mason build this lodge to house those coming to travel on the ferry or visit the area. Unfortunately this was during the Depression, so they didn’t make any money and had to leave.

Navajo Bridge, built 1927-1928, over the Colorado River (this is when the ferry ended). The original bridge is now only for pedestrians, the other is for vehicles.

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Next stop: John and I to our motel, Nancy/Gary to their RV to rest up.

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John Wesley Powell Museum and Antelope Canyon – Canyon X

10/10/17 Tuesday in Page, AZ

John Wesley Powell Museum

Not only is this a Museum about John Wesley Powell, it includes artifacts and information on the geology of the area, the Navajo and their ancestors, dinosaurs and more. Plus it’s a great Visitor Center where we learned many tips. We recommend you visit here if you are in Page.

John Wesley Powell was a Civil War hero (he lost his right arm in this war), a scientist (eventually he suggested the creation of and became the first head of the US Geological Society) and an explorer. He was the first through the gorges of the Green and Colorado Rivers, 1,100 miles by rowboat. This was from May 24 to August 30 of 1869. Here I’m whining about my trigger thumb while he managed all this with one arm.

Navajo weaving – when the Spanish came they introduced horses and domestic animals like goats and sheep, from which the Navajo made clothes. Before then they wove yucca and sumac leaves to form baskets.

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(The yellow color is from the lighting-it’s actually white) Basket – The center represents “sipapu” – the belly button, the center from which “The People” came. The white beyond that represents “The People”. The black triangles (bottom) represent darkness, struggle/clouds. The red is for marriage/rainbow, the mixing of the blood of husband and wife, the creation of family. The top black triangles represent the mountains. Note the pathway to light, from center to outer rim.

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Weaving – I was amazed at the complexity of this dress.

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Dinosaur tracks. A fascinating fact – 26% of the known dinosaurs weighed less than 220 lbs. Only 14% were gigantic. Most tracks found in this area are one inch to over 20 inches.

Here we got our tickets for a guided tour of Antelope Canyon, Canyon X, paying $3/person at Powell Museum, then $35/person in cash at the site. The name “X” comes from what you see when you fly over this slot canyon – an X.  I recommend this one because you really get more individual attention. We understand at Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons there are large crowds of people that get herded through, so you don’t have nearly as many chances for photographs. Luckily, John could take photos with our big camera while I took them with my phone. Unfortunately I can’t download my phone pics because I don’t have the right cord. It was a great experience, from the fun sand trip to the canyon, to the “dune buggy” trip down into the canyon, to our sweet, informative, very helpful guide. Besides showing us better settings for our cameras, she showed us favorite views of the Navajo Sandstone that form these slot/narrow canyons. By the way, a huge flash flood 3 years ago stripped sand from the lower 3 feet of these sandstone columns/towers, even revealing an arch.

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Four Corners Monument and Navajo National Monument

10/09/17 Monday traveling to Page, AZ

Four Corners Monument

The only place in the US where you can stand in four states at once: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. It’s actually in thenNavajo Nation, just off Hwy 160. There is a fee of $5/person.


Navajo National Monument

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They have 2 well done tapes on the Ancient Puebloans (Anasazi in Navajo) and one on Navajo basketmaking. There are fun bits of history behind the Visitor Center:


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Sweat house: note how small it is. This was not only a way to feel relaxed, it was also a way to bath in an area with little water.

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Hogan: it’s called forked stick because its support is by 3 poles with their forked ends interlocked at the top. Even today you’ll see modern versions of this, used for curing ceremonies.

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Dinosaur footprints

They have 3 large cliff dwellings, but only “Betatakin” (Bay TAH tah kin) can be seen from an overlook. There are guided tours to Betatakin only once a day and another (Keet Seel) is closed until May 2018. “Inscription House” is not open to the public.

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