Sunday, July 16, 2017

May 21 -- Bryce Canyon National Park, part 1


Here is a link to the interactive expedition map.

Good morning, May 21!  This is the view looking north from our hotel room. 

We couldn't book a room in Bryce Canyon National Park for the full time we wanted to stay there, so we got a room in the Best Western right outside the park for the first two nights.  We stayed in the big hotel building on the east side of the road that (eventually) goes through the park.  (There are lower hotel buildings on the west side of the street.)  It was very nice, and had a very nice breakfast every morning.  I believe you could walk a short distance from the place we stayed and catch a shuttle into the park.  Parking is limited inside the park, so shuttle riding is encouraged when it's crowded.  We didn't have any trouble parking in the park before Memorial Day, but I bet it's a problem as the season heats up.

There are many view points inside Bryce Canyon National Park.  This one is inside the park, but not inside the ranger station where you pay (or show your pass) to enter the park.   Note the elevation -- getting close to 7800 feet.

The rangers here will tell you that a "canyon" is land that has been carved down by running water over millennia.  The Grand Canyon is a canyon.  Bryce is really not a canyon.  No river was involved.  Bryce was formed by water seeping into the sandstone, and freezing and thawing, causing the porous rock to crumble and tumble.  So -- it's called a canyon, but it isn't one.  Fairyland "Canyon" isn't one, either.

But it's really cool.

It's really hard to get decent pics of the enormous landscapes in the west.  There's something interesting near, far, and in between.  When we are there in person, our eyes switch focus and exposure so easily as we look around a place like this that we aren't even aware of it.  The camera, on the other hand, picks something (perhaps with some guidance from us), and then decides how to focus, how much light to let in, which colors to lean toward.....

Any picture is only a tiny fragment of the experience of being there.

Here's a panoramic video.


These formations are called hoodoos (which is what the first nations people called them).  The water that seeped down, and froze, over the millennia, seeped down in something like a grid.  First a fin would form (or a group of fins), and then the fins would be cut into individual spires.....

Formations something like this can be found all over the world, but Bryce has the most, by far, and perhaps some of the biggest (if I remember correctly).

You can find these big plastic relief maps in many of the western parks.  I really like this bird's-eye view.

Fairyland Point is shown at the top center of the image below.  We all wanted to see it, and our daughter was going to take a hike.  She walked on that dark dotted line along the rim of the "canyon" from Fairyland Point (top center) to Bryce Point (bottom center) and back to the lodge (left, just below center).

Our daughter wanted to walk the Fairyland loop, which goes down into the "canyon" on another day.  She and her dad walked over to the start of the loop trail (which you can see on the map above), and I stayed behind the nice sturdy fence near the parking lot.

This is a tighter crop of the above.  The trail is that lighter line you can see going around the stone wall, upper left, above.  You can see that it follows the side of the "canyon."

This next one is the same image as above, with a magenta line below the line of the trail.  There are many realities here. The trail is gravel.  The drop off isn't too sheer, here, but it's a long way down.  Note how the stone wall below the trail, in the upper left, has fallen down in the not very distant past.

The processes that result in this landscape are still happening.  The "canyon" rim moves back by some number of inches in every time span (it varies, but is noticeable to those whose job it is to maintain the trails).......

The book on my phone (to help me go to sleep when I want to be sleeping rather than thinking about random things) while we were on this trip was A Hat Full of Sky (by Terry Pratchett).  It is a wonderful book, about which I will say more at some future time.  In the course of the book, Tiffany Aching (the protagonist) discovers she's afraid of ... depths.  Not heights -- she is very comfortable looking up at the tallest tree, or the highest mountain.  But she learns she is not at all comfortable flying over trees or mountains on a broomstick.

I learned on this trip that while I am not afraid of heights or depths, I am afraid of falling.

As long as I am enclosed in a nice airplane or skyscraper, or have a nice fence to stand behind, I am just fine looking down at depths.  But put me on a gravel path on the side of a cliff, and I am really not fine at all.  My biology could tell beyond a doubt that one misstep could easily mean disaster.  (I am quite sure a person would not survive a trip (pun intended!) to the bottom in many places.............)

Of course, when offered the possibility, people are found in all sorts of places where no one is supposed to be.  It was a constant issue for me to NOT look at them and NOT think about where they could just as well end up in the next matter of seconds.  I did not take pictures of those people, but I wished they would stay on the path as we were all admonished to do...............

People do fall, and people do die as a result (and I suppose a lot more are maimed than die).  One wonders what those numbers are.  Given the numbers of people I saw doing all kinds of risky things, and the fact that I believe no one fell while I was present, people must be better at moving in this sort of landscape than seems likely to me.  But still.  One misstep.....................

Ok.  Turning our minds away from people being stupid about edges.

My family went toward the loop trail a little ways, and I stayed up here behind the nice fence and looked out.

This little tree is living on the edge.  Maybe just a bit over the edge.

This is a closer crop of the upper left of the above, to show that there are more and more hoodoos back and back into the distance.....

Hooray for zoom lenses.  My current camera has only 6x optical, but that's a LOT better than 0x.....

Here go my better half and daughter, on their way to check out the beginning of the trail she will take.  CB -- note clothing.  I think it was in the 60s this day.

In case you've been feeling impatient at how long it's taking me to work on these pics, here's why.

With a view this big, it's pretty much impossible for the camera to expose the whole image properly.  This one has the sky exposed nicely, which makes everything else too dark.

Here's the same image after substantial doctoring.  I selected just the sky, and made it a new layer.  I believe I left it alone.

Then I selected the land in the background, which I brightened up and sharpened up a bit, and probably lowered the blue.  (I find when you try to de-haze images, they end up too blue....  At least with my camera they do.)

Then, having selected away the background and the sky, I messed with the foreground, lightening and sharpening (and lowering the red, which often gets to be "too much" in this situation).

The *changes* are really a piece of cake, for the most part, but the breezy "I selected" can take a really long time.  Sometimes it's quick, but other times, I know what I want, but Photoshop Elements just can't see what I want.  I think the selection is probably better in a newer version, and that would be worth the price of admission.....

Anyway, the point is it can take me more than an hour to do one pic.

Back to the regularly-scheduled program.  Is this an amazing landscape, or what?

The trees here have learned to manage in this harsh environment. They grow their roots deep, and they concentrate on growing those roots up hill.  This can help them survive when the ground falls away from their roots.  The tree at center, top, is still alive, despite the fact that it is standing on tippy-toes to reach the ground.

Above you can also see the nice sturdy fence that was helping me feel secure about 6 feet or less from the precipice.

Looking back at my family again.  With all the zoom I have, they are barely visible in the upper left quadrant.

This next image is a closer crop of the above.  My camera's sensor really doesn't have enough pixels to be comfortable about this close a crop, but you can see what's going on.  In addition to the people, you can see that there's a sign to help people decide which way they want to go.

I wasn't there when this was taken, but I think the rocks she's standing in front of might be visible just left of my better half in the above image.

Walking back to where I was.

She's gone off on her hike, and we are headed for the car.  This looks like phlox to me....

I bet it's easier to grow when you land farther from the edge.

Cool bark.

Lots of pine cones.  And shed needles.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

another map -- MeL interlibrary loans


In between working for my volunteer gig, and picking up trash when I walk, and editing trip photos, and various and sundry other activities, I'm still playing with Google Maps.

Here is a link to our within-Michigan inter-library loans map.

When we get a book from someone else's library, I stick a pin in the map, and send the library a postcard to say "Thanks for participating in MeL!"  (It takes a lot longer to write the postcard than it does to stick a pin in the map.....)

This image is a screen capture.  If you are interested, I encourage you to click through to the real interactive map rather than trying to look at the screen capture.  (I think clicking on the map image will get you to the real map, as will clicking on the link which is the previous paragraph.)

Blue is the default pin color when you make your own map.  It took me a while to figure out how to change it, and I only know how to change it pin by pin, so I'm not going back and changing all of those (to orange, say).  We've only recently started adding my better half's MeL borrows.  They are the green ones.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

May 20 -- moving from Valley of Fire to Bryce Canyon National Park


Here is a link to the interactive expedition map.

We are still in Valley of Fire State Park (in Nevada).  There were things I'd never seen before, everywhere I turned my eyes.

Closer crop of the above -- I wonder how this was made!  It makes me think of the bottom of a wheel-thrown pot, if you cut it off the wheel with a wire while the wheel slowly spins.....

We stopped at the visitor's center before we left the park.  There were a bunch of big-horned sheep very near the road.

Closer crop of the above.  Two ewes and two lambs.

I said they were close to the road?  VERY close to the road.  Only this one came this close to us.  I'm terrible at estimated distances larger than about 18".  Maybe we were about 150 feet from this one?  (The others were more distant, but still far closer than I'd ever been to any non-captive members of this species.)

When we left Valley of Fire, we went to see "Lake" Mead.  (I'm still having trouble understanding why we can't tell the truth and call it a reservoir.  Mama Nature had nothing to do with putting a body of water here............)

I find it ... creepy ... that there is all this water, sitting here evaporating in this oh-so-dry (and so often SO hot) place.

And I find human behavior creepy in other ways, too.  Why do so many find it ok to dump trash everywhere they go?  Shame on them.  (I picked it up.  I picked up a plastic grocery-bag-full of trash here, though we were only here for a few minutes.  Sigh.)

I had thought I wanted to put my toes in this water, but when I got here, I did not want to.

We are now on our way to Utah and Bryce Canyon.

This was a very confusing trip for "what time is it?"  Nevada and Utah are not on the same time.  Utah and Arizona are not on the same time.  Moving back and forth across state lines meant all of our devices (including the car) probably had the wrong time............  Mostly this didn't really matter, but when it did, it was a pain to keep track of.

This next image taken from a moving car.  (Note blurry vegetation in lower left.)  I continue to be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the images one can collect from a moving vehicle.

We stopped to get something to eat.  Plants at the rear of the parking lot.

Back in that moving car.  The weird light greenish places in the upper left quadrant are glare on the window.

Pretty sure all of this green is vegetation.  I bet this place is not green now.

Here we are, on the interstate, in a place where there just aren't very many roads, and the divided highways are few and far between.

You don't see natural water on the ground very often in these parts.

The river again.

The river, visible only at the very bottom left.  Here's what I believe a river valley is supposed to look like in this part of the country, in late May.

I believe the line of green through this image is where the river is.

A closer look at the sort of red/white/yellow/gray formation we've been seeing.  You can see how the gray parts at the top are crumbling and running down over the red parts below.  And then you begin to wonder about the dark red/brown thing closer to us -- it doesn't match the layers at the same height behind it........  (as always, click on any image to embiggen)

Ok, this is just wrong.  In this dry, dry, dry country, we're pulling a boat?  No.

I didn't see this in the above until I got the image on the big screen.  So much is wrong here.  A lake in the desert.  A *golf course* in the desert.  So many people, in a place which cannot sustain them for long..........

People throw away water, making golf courses in the desert, and then they want the Great Lakes for when they've used up all the water there was in the southwest.  No.  Just.  No.

I am pretty darn sure it is very bad for anyone to get everything they want.  People end up forgetting that everything has a cost.  Taking water that ought to be going downstream has a cost.  Depending on water sucked out of the ground (groundwater is finite) has a cost.  Running air conditioning 9 months of the year has a cost.  And I'm not talking about money............

Let them choose between lakes (and green golf courses) and the magnificent landscapes of the west.  Not have both.  They can't have both in the long run, and they might as well not develop that fantasy to begin with.

It's just wrong.

Sigh.  I suppose the same sort of thinking that enables this sort of disregard for the planet is why people throw trash everywhere, too............................................


We drove through the Red Canyon on our way to Bryce, and saw our first hoodoos.  The camera thought this was very dark.  I've lightened it up a lot.

To our naked eyes these rocks were still light enough to see easily.  They looked a lot redder than this.

We are getting very close to Bryce......... 

Here is a link to the next post about the Grand Canyon expedition.