Sunday, May 28, 2017

18 November 2016 Hiking the South Rim

One of the good parts of many national parks is the lack of connectivity to the rest of the world. My phone occasionally found a signal, but there was no true wifi source to be had. I was free of work responsibilities and reviewing responsibilities for a 48 hour! We were happy to see the Grand Canyon without shadows for the day.

I hope this deer doesn't think all trains sit quietly on the tracks.

Alco FPA's were the last of the streamlined diesels which looked like they were made to pull long passenger trains. Their production ended in 1959 just about the time rail service began to make its exit as a primary means of transportation in the US. 6776 was one of the last to roll from the factory and appears to have made its last run in August 2015. I has been repainted from the forest green color scheme to a more period common silver with accents. The park service runs mostly FP40's now, :( but still have a pair of operational repainted FPA's and two steam engines, a mikado and a consolidation to grace the rails with some beauty and glamour.

The old railroad station is on the Historic Register and a throwback to a different time. I had no idea there was a railway to the park. It would be a great way to start and end a visit, even riding behind an FP40. ;)

We spotted scrub jays multiple times during our journey. They are one of the common birds in the park, but not so for us. They are also quite colorful.

I learned on the journey that the Grand Canyon was once the home of a uranium mine. :-O We passed the old road back to the mine which continues to be used as a access point for clean-up.

The flat cleared area of the above surface mine structure is still visible in the image below. In the canyon 1100 feet below the processing areas, are the two remaining entry shafts, an early one for copper and a later one that served as a uranium mine. While this mine is closed there are still multiple uranium mines around the Grand Canyon area.

We were on the lookout for the Colorado River during our adventure.

Eventually, we made several sightings of the blue ribbon of water winding through the canyon.

Shadows and sunset arrive quickly in November. Despite eight hours on the trail, the day flew by and seemed too short.

Monday, May 22, 2017

17 November 2016 Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon

We stayed the night in Flagstaff and were hoping to find a few caches before continuing north. Ali chose Buffalo Park. I was unprepared for the weather and freezing, but we stuck it out for a few finds. A hat was quickly added to the shopping list for our time in the Grand Canyon.

We weren't expecting to see an Abert's squirrel while on the trail. The pointed, tufted ears made this like no other squirrel we have seen.

We made a stop at The Chapel of the Holy Dove on the way north. The small chapel was an interesting break. Services are performed at a pulpit with the woods and Humphreys Peak visible through the windows. The beams of the church were filled with graffiti. I would never consider writing on the inside of any building acceptable, but many, many visitors apparently do. Beside the look at me scrawls were notes of profound emotions, most of them sad. It was a moving vision.

The nearby view of Humphreys Peak is outstanding.

How do you capture wonder and amazement? Every time we visit Shenandoah I have this feeling of being someplace special and awesome. The first views of the Grand Canyon were like that same feeling intensified over and over. Images don't capture what my brain felt. I was so happy to be able to see this place.

Monday, May 15, 2017

16 November 2016 Return to South Mountain

My conference ended with a few hours of daylight. The rest of the week was ours starting with hopefully time to reach a December 2000 cache and a puzzle Ali had solved. A second visit to South Mountain was as pleasant as the first with more climbing and trail adventures

The clear skies of Sunday had been replaced with the late week haze from the Phoenix traffic.

The 2000 cache was a super hide in a large rock formation. We spent a long time looking for the hide with no success. There is eventually that sinking feeling of being so close to a find with no success. We really wanted to find the December 2000 find. Ali and I climbed over all the rocks and crevices multiple times.

Lots of hiding places and spaces to crawl

Suddenly, the ammo can was found!

We made our way over to a solved, puzzle cache for our last find at South Mountain. Metal tin containers make reasonable cache containers in the desert while these would be short lived near our homes. We left a few volunteer tags around the desert during our Phoenix stay.

I never tired of seeing sunsets

Saturday, May 13, 2017

14 November 2016 A Day in the Desert

We planned to spend the day in Tonto National Forest. We are slowly visiting a variety of the National Forests. This one is much different than my baseline of eastern wooded lands. Our first stop was along the trails in the lower Salt River area. We never reached the river, but it is visible in the distance near the center of the image below.

After a few cache finds, we made our way to Bulldog Canyon and the oldest geocache in Arizona. Saguaros are plentiful in the area and tower over most of the other vegetation.

Most of the desert hides are hides even I can spot.

Finding out Cholla will pierce the soles of waterproof hiking boots was painful in multiple ways.

We moved on to Usery Pass and were treated to a few new bird sightings including the black throated sparrow

and the phainopepla.