Friday, June 7, 2019

Lava Tube Caving

El Malpais National Monument. We were there mid May. 

From the park website: "The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails.

Rough road to get to the Big Tubes Area where Big Skylight Cave is located. I think the run-over Four Wheel Drive sign in this photo is a nice touch.

Before starting out, it is necessary to decontaminate your boots in hydrogen peroxide to remove any trace of the fungus which causes White Nose Syndrome, deadly to bats.
We bring our bike helmets to be used as caving helmets.  

Life finds a toehold in the inhospitable lava 

Big Skylight Cave
It is necessary to climb down to the entrance

The big skylight in Big Skylight Cave is where part of the ceiling collapsed

Lava shelves behind me from successive lava flows. 

Reflective tape shows a way through the lava rubble 

Junction Cave 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Very Large Array (VLA)

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) radio telescope has 27 huge dish antennas which pick up radio and microwave emissions from space.  Many astronomical discoveries have come from data collected here.
The “Award-Winning Documentary Narrated by Jodie Foster,” shown in the auditorium, unfortunately dumbed down the science (it described radio waves as “invisible light”). It also had a lot of artsy shots of the night sky (irrelevant to a radio telescope), and was more interested in the movies filmed at this location (Contact! Terminator Salvation!)  In fact, “Movies Filmed Here,” was a recurring theme in NM. After all, what is more important- Great Advances in Science, or Movies Filmed Here! 

Unfortunately the only people on hand to answer questions were the people manning the gift shop and they were not very helpful. At least to answer the questions we had.

Themed bathroom wall tile

Bob standing next to dish (bottom left) for a sense of scale. You may need to click on the photo to enlarge

Not sure if they do research here on methane's effect on the Ozone Layer.
We were here on May 14th. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Adding Insult to Injury, Palo Duro Canyon,Texas, and Lollipops

Although we are now home, I will continue posting about our trip. This was from early in the trip, May 6th.

Various Native Americans lived in Palo Duro Canyon,Texas from prehistoric times until 1874. The battle of Palo Duro Canyon in 1874 was the last major battle of the Red River War, during which the surviving southern Plains Indians (Comanches, Kiowas, Kiowa Apaches, Cheyennes, and Arapahos) were evicted from their land and forcibly relocated to reservations in Oklahoma.   

In the battle of Palo Duro Canyon, an overwhelming US force attacked the Indians, who fled for their lives, leaving everything behind. The US forces destroyed the Indians’ belongings, homes, and food reserves. On top of that, the US forces slaughtered over 1,200 of their horses. Destroying the Indians' means of survival insured a complete surrender.  

A short time later, now that the land was available, two ranchers drove 1,600 cattle to the canyon and it became part of a much larger ranch across the Texas Panhandle.  

In 1933, the state bought the canyon, (the rest of the ranch is still run by the original ranchers' decedents) and made it into a park. The CCC build a lodge which is now a gift shop, where we saw this display selling lollipops.

The Plains Indians who lived here lost their lives, their land, their way of life, their horses, and their dignity.

This just adds insult to injury. No wonder he looks angry. 

For more info: The Battle of Palo Duro Canyon 

Interesting bit of trivia: The famous crying Indian from the 1971 "Keep America the Beautiful" ad campaign was really an Italian-American.  

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Was in a Little Too Much of a Hurry to Get the Heck Out of Dodge

Bob wants me to be clear that I was the one driving. 

But really, going only 12 miles above the speed limit in NJ will get you rear-ended. 

On the way home but will continue to post about the trip. 

Monday, May 27, 2019


I know all of of you who know me well have been wondering, "Where are the flower pictures?"
The truth is, there were too many to choose from, and the longer I waited, well, that problem got worse.

So I am finally posting just a few. Believe me when I say just a few. At some point, I plan on putting together a google album just for flowers. To be fair to all of them. Like I did for for Southern California Wildflowers 2010


Sunday, May 26, 2019

In the Footsteps of a Million Other People Who Also Had the Great Idea to Hike Kasha-Katuwe on Memorial Day Weekend

After packing out of Bandelier we drove to Kasha-Katuwe National Monument just in time to get in line at the “Approximate Wait Time from this Point 90 Minutes” spot. Which was a pretty accurate estimate. Had plenty of time to eat lunch, put on our hiking boots, and watch the line get longer and longer behind us. 
After 1/2 an hour on line

I considered asking the folks in the Cruise America RV that was about 12 spots behind us if I could use their bathroom, but was too embarrassed.

Fantastic volcanic tuff formations on the hike ...


Followed by a fantastic view from on top 

Bandelier, where we had come from that morning, off in the distance, about 20 miles away as the crow flies and about an hour and 45 min and 84 miles by car.

Saw that “Weather was coming”. Wind picked up and was blasting us just as we got into the slot canyon. A sand and gravel windstorm! Must have gotten 10 years’ worth of wrinkles sandblasted from my face. And as much sand and gravel in my hair as if I had done a headstand at the beach. Wind was followed by a hail/rainstorm. No point in running as we were going to get soaked anyway. Skipped the other hike in the area and decided not to camp that night. Needed a hot shower to wash the sand out of our ears and various other places.