Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I've been on hiatus...

for a while now, my hectic work and summer travel schedule finally catching up with me, so I decided to take some time away from my daily blogging routine.  I'm very sorry to disappoint my regular readers.

However, do not fear.  I will be back!

RELATED:  Just returned from leading a terrific field class at Mounts Rainier and St. Helens, and it's off to the Bighorn Mountains in late August/early September as part of a research project testing the use of ground penetrating radar to prospect for caves.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The night before...

my penultimate day in southern Utah the nearly-full Moon rose dramatically over the La Sal Mountains (click images to enlarge):

As clouds grew above the high peaks, a partial double rainbow flashed brightly overhead:

The clouds grew more menacing by the minute into sunset, but never dropped any rain:

I will be spending tomorrow closing down the house and packing the vehicle for the migration north to greener (and cooler) landscapes.  It's always a melancholic time for me as these visits come to an end.  Yes, I love it here that much.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Breakfast at Goosenecks State Park...

was spent in the company of this fellow (click images to enlarge):

But the real focus of my attention was the deeply incised San Juan River, more than 1,100 ft from rim to river, flowing lazily through the tortuous meanders that inspire the name of this viewpoint:

Most of the stratigraphic section you see in this image is comprised of the Honaker Trail Formation (Pennsylvanian).  In fact, the type section is a short distance down canyon from this vantage point, and in 2006, I hiked the trail down to the river and back.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Muley Point offers a commanding view...

of the deeply incised San Juan River canyon, with Monument Valley in Arizona on the distant skyline (click images to enlarge):

Various lichens create a painted and textured surface on a block of tilted sandstone:

I spent the night here alone, in grandstand seats, watching the light change across the dynamic natural mural before me:

Later, to the west and toward the setting Sun, storm clouds grew and dropped curtains of rain, making for a colorful end of the day:


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Enter Owl and exit Fish Canyon...

was the plan as I set off on a two-day solo backpack exploration of a remote part of the Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah.  Here I am in a rare self portrait taking the first steps on the 17 mile-long trail that would eventually loop back to the parked vehicle  (click images to enlarge):

It was no messing around from the start.  The drop into Owl Canyon was a plunge down steep slickrock, with the trail navigating around several large pour-offs, ultimately reaching the canyon bottom after about three miles:

At about five miles, the impressive Nevill's Arch (~ 80 ft high, ~ 140 ft wide) is encountered high in the canyon wall:

After rounding the so-called confluence between Owl and Fish Canyons (the water course in both was bone dry this time of year), I continued my walk until about 11 miles where I scratched out a simple bivy on a high sand bar:

This delicate yellow primrose opened in the night and provides a colorful treat in the cool morning air, but by mid-day will be wilted and baked in the sweltering sun:

On the second day of the hike several pools of water were encountered after heading further up-canyon in Fish, and given the exceptionally dry winter and spring in the area, must be sustained by springs:

A cairn marked the exit point, and the 600 ft climb/scramble to the rim went quickly, as did the last 1.5 miles to the trailhead, where I reached the car and cool drinks shortly after noon.  Next:  On to Muley Point!

RELATED:  Here's a good description of the route.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Natural Bridges National Monument...

is featured in my guidebook project, and so I spent a couple of days in the quest of representative images of this small and isolated park.  Lit by the setting sun, brilliant Indian paintbrush (genus Castilleja) ranks among my favorite wildflowers (click images to enlarge):

Owochomo Bridge may not technically be a natural bridge at all, but an arch, since it doesn't span a valley of erosion (a stream course).  Here the rock span (106 ft high, 180 ft wide) is seen beneath gathering storm clouds:

Multiple storms swept across the desert in the early evening, and this is the view from my hammock as an energetic  thunderstorm rumbled off to the west:

Lastly, here's a canyon rim view of Horsecollar Ruins:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Never miss an opportunity...

to explore a slot canyon. It's a lot like caving with all the climbing and scrambling, but without the ceiling.

So following that wise adage (which is my formulation, by the way) I planned to spend a half-day dropping into Frylette and Fry Canyons.  Here's a shot looking back across the first pool in Frylette, and since this is a solo expedition, I don't have anyone to place in the image for scale (click images to enlarge):

Here's a close-up view of mud curls, an extreme form of mudcracks, an important sedimentary structure that indicates subaerial dessication:

Spectacular cross-bedding is displayed everywhere in the canyon walls, in the Cedar Mesa Sandstone (Permian):

Here's the slot that drops into the deeper Fry Canyon, necessitating a short (~ 70 ft rappel):

RELATED:  Here's the beta on Fry Canyon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I am now sipping...

a delightful Portuguese red wine in Lisbon after a relentless voyage for nearly a month at sea.  I am sorry I wasn't able to make more timely posts along the way, but will make it a priority to back-post daily entries after my head hits my pillow in the States.  I have an early hop to Heathrow tomorrow morning, and then a long flight to Dallas, then another hop to Grand Junction, Colorado still to come.

Stay tuned.  It was a fantastic adventure to countless volcanic islands, including great geology, terrific travel companions and wonderful cultural experiences, that will all be highlighted in the days ahead.  As enjoyable as it was, it was still a lot of work with lectures, zodiac driving, herding people and occasionally catching up on sleep.

Okay.  One more glass and then I'm turning in.  Gotta make that flight in the morning.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The largest volcano in the Atlantic...

is Pico del Teide, rising to a  12,198 ft (3,718 m)-high summit, on the island of Tenerife.  It's the third largest volcano in the world (when measured from its base on the sea floor), following Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii.  Here's the spectacular view as we emerged from the mist (click images to enlarge):
Pyroclastic deposits reflecting its recent eruptive history are well-displayed in a road cut near the viewpoint for the image above:
A small group of hardy walkers joined me for a several mile-long hike at about 7,000 ft in elevation that looped around the Roques de Garcia, a volcanic dike, and then dropped down onto the floor  of the Caldera Las Cañadas:
Later in he day we descended the north side of the island to Puerto de la Cruz for lunch, followed by a walk through the magnificent botanical gardens:
We rounded out our full day with a quick visit to the historic village of La Oratava, where I snapped this flock of pigeons in flight:

Monday, April 30, 2012

Prior to our arrival at La Palma...

we chugged past El Hierro early in the morning, where months before there was an ongoing submarine eruption.  Its activity has since subsided and there was no floating pumice seen from the ship, but the nautical chart for the area had this added notification recently pasted in the lower-left (click images to enlarge):
La Palma is the northwestern-most island in the Canary archipelago, and its volcanic origin is easily seen on the east coast where a cinder cone is being eroded by wave action:
A large number of our group made the short hike along the rim of another cinder cone on the southern tip of the island, near the Teneguia vent that last erupted in 1971:
This volcanic bomb landed on the rim of the cone, and that's RP (a marine biologist and part of the Zegrahm staff) standing next to it for scale:
After our volcanic explorations, we headed to a local bodega and eagerly participated in a wine tasting and tour of the winery:
Finally, our day was rounded out with a tour of a local pottery artisan's shop:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

For two days we fight...

the southward directed Canary Current, driven by the trade winds off the Azores High, as we push north to the Canary Island group.  During these long days I like to spend time on the bridge, and here's a snap of the nautical chart at nearly the midway point (click images to enlarge):
A number of lectures were presented on board these two long days at sea, including mine on hot spot volcanism with a preview of the island geology to come.  During a mid-day break, a chocolate dessert party was held, and here, JF, one of the Zegrahm staff, reacts joyfully to the sweets:
During the second full day at sea there were several more lectures and, JM, another staff member, conducts a wine tasting seminar in the lounge:
Several pilot whales and dolphins were sighted during our long push north, but they were fleeting encounters and I didn't have my camera at the ready to capture their playful behavior off the bow of the ship. Tomorrow we make our first landfall in the Canary archipelago!

Friday, April 27, 2012

São Vicente Island...

provided a great opportunity to examine the volcanic geology of the Cape Verde archipelago. We used a local guide and driver to transport us to about 2,000 ft on Mt. Verde where our small group enjoyed a nice view of Porto Grande, a collapsed caldera that is used as the harbor where the Clipper Odyssey is moored for the day (click images to enlarge):
We hiked down the narrow cobblestone road for several miles, examining outcrops of ash flow tuffs along the way, with our driver collecting us near the bottom:
On the way to lunch in Bahia das Gates, the northeastern rocky coast with bright sandy beaches - comprised of sand blown in from the Sahara - dominated our attention:
My lunch with a locally brewed beer was quite delicious after our walk (even the fish head):
After exploring the town of Mindelo for several hours, we depart the Cape Verde group and are setting a northerly course for the Canaries.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wise words...

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel's sake.  The greatest affair is to move.

-- Robert Louis Stevenson

São Tiago Island...

greets us in the morning as we arrive in the Cape Verde islands, and in this location Charles Darwin spent some time in 1831 and 1836 on his famous voyage around the world (click images to enlarge):
After we were cleared by customs officials we set off for the central market in the port town of Praia, finding it filled with friendly female vendors, and these three ladies were particularly proud of their clever stacking of bananas:
This island, the largest in the Cape Verde chain, is crowned by Antonia Peak which rises to 4,500 feet above sea level (seen in the distance).  The basaltic geology in the foreground reminded me of eastern Washington:
On the way to the Botanical Gardens and Horticultural Institute we encountered school children playing a game of tag, and I was captivated by the time-intensive beadwork in their hair:
Here's a splash of color on display in the botanical garden:
And I managed to get a good shot of the colorful national bird, the gray-headed kingfisher:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The day at sea...

today provides an opportunity to settle in to my private cabin, which doubles as my home office for the next month (click images to enlarge):
A visit to the bridge at noon shows our  position about midway to the Cape Verde archipelago, our destination for tomorrow's explorations:
Several lectures were presented by expedition staff, and here our ornithologist talks about bird migration:
Late in the day the expedition leader briefs the guests on the next day's itinerary:
And lastly, it is traditional that during the first evening at sea the captain will host a cocktail party and introduce the ship's officers: