Tucson – January 2023 – A Revisit to Agua Caliente Park

In early September 2022 we stopped by the beautiful Agua Caliente Park, to find the grove of majestic palm trees, detailed here https://rdzphotographyblog.com/tag/agua-caliente-park/ and the photo below.

Sadly about 2 weeks after our visit a lightning strike set fire to a large grove of the trees, resulting in significant destruction.

As with any catastrophic event people are looking for blame. While it was nature that set the fire, one view is the palm trees are not native to Arizona and shouldn’t be left to be wild, with the extensive ‘beards’ you see in the first photo. Many believe this exacerbated the fire.

Regardless, the damage is done. The parks department removed some of the most damaged trees so they wouldn’t unexpectedly fall and hurt someone, but amazingly as you can see there is still growth at the tops of the trees.

The other good news is not all the trees caught fire, so the park, while hurt, is still a beautiful place to visit.

It may take time, but hopefully nature eventually restores the damaged trees to their prior glory. And yes the beards are still there.

Bryce Canyon National Park – September 2022 – Sunset

After a long day of hiking at Willis Creek Slot Canyon, Kodachrome Basic and Bryce spending the sunset hours overlooking the amphitheater area of Bryce was a welcome reward.

These photos, while taken chronologically, were done with different cameras, or pointed in slightly different directions, resulting in vastly different lighting.

Ironically the iphone seemed to capture the lighting and overall look best.

And with that the sun set.

Diné (Navajo) Nation, Arizona – September 2022 – Moenave Dinosaur Tracks

This is Dale. If you arrive in the windswept, Martian looking landscape of northern Arizona at the Moenave Dinosaur Tracks site Dale is most likely to greet you as you drive in.

If you have ever seen a movie that says ‘based on a true story’, and thoroughly enjoyed it even though you know parts were embellished a bit you will love taking a tour of the dinosaur tracks with Dale.

There is no set fee, he just says ‘follow me’, and takes off through the desert chattering away with lots of details about the tracks. (for what it is worth they are indeed real dinosaur tracks, and believed by many to be some of the most important in the country).

As soon as you go down the small hill you see them everywhere.

We continued chasing after Dale trying to keep up and hear what he was saying, Some seemed a bit far fetched, but much is accurate. Is this a fossil that is being exposed?

Dale explains to us that in their culture they won’t dig up, or try and preserve anything so eventually it will all wear away.

For the scientific facts (thanks to the internet) – This is known as the Moenave Formation. It is a layer that sits on the Triassic Chinle Formation, part of Mesozoic rocks. There are dinosaur footprints all over the place here, as well as other nearby locales.

After chasing Dale for about 15-20 minutes we headed back.

We arrived back at the parking lot with a row of small stands. Dale informs us that no payment is necessary but reading before we arrived it is obvious that such a colorful story and tour is worthy of payment.

Afterward we checked out some of the stands. Overall a great way to spend 45 minutes in the Northern Arizona desert.

Lake Havasu City, Arizona – July 2022 – Why?

As most people know the western United States is in the midst of a long term drought, where water is precious. In previous posts I have shown Lake Powell, at historic low levels. The same is true of Lake Mead, sitting behind the Hoover Dam.

Yet here in the middle of the desert is Lake Havasu, made possible by Parker Dam. It is constantly at 97%+ full. Why – because 100 year old water rights says parts of California get the water first, and Havasu is that reservoir.

What to do with that water – create an island out of what was once a peninsula, and use the 200 year old London Bridge to cross the channel.

Havasu City was created by an eccentric millionaire back in the 1960s who bought thousands of acres of desert along the reservoir, only to find that nobody wanted to come.

The city of London needed to replace the bridge since it was sinking into the Thames River, so they held an auction where, as legend has it, had 1 bidder – Robert McCulloch.

Once purchased, he had it disassembled after carefully labeling each block, shipped by boat 1/2 way around the world through the Panama Canal to the Port of Long Beach, then across the couple of hundred miles of desert to Havasu.

They then set to it building a bridge in the middle of the desert (water to come later). This photo is off the internet.

Legend also says that McCulloch thought he was buying Tower Bridge, but this has been debunked. Eventually he had his bridge, and it was a success – thousands of tourists came, and now Lake Havasu City is home to over 50,000 people, with probably 3 times as many here for the 4th of July weekend.

While you are there you can enjoy the sound of hundreds, if not thousands of people on boats and jet skis that have been towed hundreds of miles to this remote location by their giant trucks and SUVs, to cruise around and complain about the cost of gas.

The Colorado River leading up to Havasu is similar.

Another of the attractions of Havasu is a collection of replica lighthouses. There are 28 of the houses scattered around, many of them on private property (behind gates), so the only way to see them is by boat. We chose to drive to those we could get to.

The sun set on the roar of engines and the London Bridge.

As we left Havasu early the next morning we passed the solitude of a nature preserve. Ahhhh.

Nevada & Utah – June 2022 – Great Basin and Cedar Breaks

Our southbound trip continued with brief visits to two National Park Service units. The first was Great Basin National Park in Nevada.

Great Basin National Park’s claim to fame is Wheeler Peak, a 13,000′ high mountain, as well as Lehman Caves.

We were too early in the day to visit the cave, so we headed up the Wheeler Peak drive. Unfortunately as we got to the 9000′ level the road was closed as there was apparently snow further up. Still we had some nice views.

Our trip south continued into Utah, where we headed up into the mountains for a visit to Cedar Breaks National Monument. In my opinion Cedar Breaks is more worthy of National Park status than Great Basin, as the views were amazing.

Patagonia, Arizona – April 2022 – Birders Paradise

The small mountain town of Patagonia was named when Welsh miners who had gone to Patagonia in Argentina migrated to the area to work in the silver mines of Arizona. They thought (correctly) that it resembled the area they came from in Argentina so they named it after their former home.

The entire area is well known as a birders paradise, with Patagonia Lake, a creek and a hummingbird sanctuary drawing people from all over the country. We stopped by for a brief visit, and was entertained by the birds, and the people.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument – April 2022 – A Look Before The Wildfire

On a recent long weekend road trip around Arizona we stopped by Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. We were fortuitous in that a week later the ‘Tunnel Wildfire’ impacted the area. Fortunately it did not damage the visitor center but much of the forest was burnt.

Sunset Crater is a result of an eruption approximately 1000 years ago, leaving this impressive landscape.

Tucson – August 2021 – Saguaro National Park

The Saguaro Cactus is present throughout much of central and southern Arizona. The Saguaro National Park has two areas around Tucson, one west of town, and one east – we visited the eastern one.

Saguaro cactus can live to 150 years old – the older they are the more arms they have, although they can grow old without growing arms.

In addition to the Saguaros there are numerous other natural Sonoran Desert plants, all of which were at their peak color because of recent monsoon rains – probably the greenest desert you will ever see.

White Sands National Park – August 2021 – Amazing Setting

From 1934 until 2020 White Sands was designated a National Monument, but in December 2020 it was upgraded to a National Park.

While being one of the country’s great natural wonders it has for years been used for military activities (White Sands Bombing Range) as well as Hollywood backdrops. Hopefully with National Park status it will remain a natural treasure forever.

We arrived late afternoon after a day of thunderstorms in the area, resulting in a great sky for the backdrop, as well as a mudslide that added 50 additional miles to our trip to Las Cruces.

Union County, Ohio – April 2021 – Coming Back From the Dead (of Winter)

With winter finally over, and April here, there are more signs of spring. An afternoon out in the country included a stop at the Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery State Nature Preserve. This area is known for it’s native grasses, but they aren’t yet growing.

There are some interesting mid 1800s headstones though.

There are however many signs of life.

Nearby is the Big Darby Creek Headwaters Nature Preserve, one of the few nature preserves that allow dogs on the trails.

There are many examples of early bloomers.

It is nice to get out of the house and into nature again.