Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another fascinating landscape

Last week we took another drive northeast of Flagstaff with Jacques and Claire. We planned on visiting Sunset Crator and the Wupatki Ruins. We packed up a lunch and made sure we had our Senior National Park pass and took off. This pass is the only thing great about getting old, so far. It costs $10 and it gets us, plus 3 people and a car, into any national park FOREVER. The only snag is that if we lose the pass we have to go to the place where we got it to replace it for free. That would be Scranton, PA. I don't think so. I'll pay the $5 to avoid Scranton.

Anyway, we stopped at the visitor center and got a map and headed to the first scenic view. As we drove along, out of nowhere, we noticed a huge, long pile of what looked like torn up highway from the Big Dig. It was a thousand year old lava field from the volcanos that existed in the area. The lava rock still looked very jagged and rough. A park ranger said it is because there is so little topsoil and rain that there isn't much erosion of it, if any.

At Sunset Crater, we parked and took a 1 mile walk through a lava field. There are many volcanos in this part of Arizona. There are several explanations for why there are so many in this area. You'll have to read the guide book to get the explanation, but it has something to do with the fissures between the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range Province to the south. Got that? There are also different types of volcanos which are also explained in the guide. Speaking of which, the guide can be borrowed and returned or bought for $1. Pretty good deal. The San Francisco Peaks,seen in the background of the photo above, are the remnants one type of volcano. They are about 12,500 feet high now but were probably over 16,000 feet before erupting.

There is very little vegetation in the ashes from the lava. But what there is has adapted to survive. In this photo, you can maybe see the roots of a Ponderosa Pine that has toppled over. The trees face challenges of finding enough soil to root in and in capturing enough water as it drains out of the soil. They do this by spiraling the grain so it can bring enough water to all the branches and leaves evenly. It makes them more flexible but also reduces their strength. So, the are susceptible to toppling due to wind and soil erosion.

From here we drove out of the lava field and ash covered hills into a part of the "Painted Desert". It was an amazing site to see the grey ash end abruptly and see the multi-colored layers of rock in the distance. This is where the Wupatki Ruins are. They are one of a number of ruins located in this area. It appears that this area was built and occupied after the eruption of the volcanos. Maybe the eruption drew people to the area. Wupatki was settled by the ancestors of the Hopi and had 100 rooms, some for collecting scarce water, some for storage, some for community activities. They lived by farming and trading. There was no irrigation system so they may have carried water in some of the many pots found at the site. Archeologists think that upwards of 2000 people lived within a days walk of the ruins. Evidently, this ruin is more typical of the homes of the time as compared with the cliff-dwellings of the Sedona area.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jerome Junkers

Just in case some of you are wondering if I am doing any painting at all, here are a couple that I did in the old gold mine/junk yard in Jerome. The place is full of stuff like this which I enjoy painting. These two were next to each other and I may do one with both. I had to cram myself between a few other junks to set up my easel and by the time I was finishing up, a sand storm blew up and nearly knocked everything over. Another one of the plights of plein air painting.

A Unique Discovery

It's been a few days since the last post. We've been busy with company, touring, painting, snoozing, eating, etc.

However, today, we "discovered" something really unusual and impressive. Our friends, the Sullivans, told us about the spot where the Little Colorado River flows over some falls on its way to join the Colorado and go on to the Grand Canyon. We had to find our way from Winona, east of Flagstaff, off of I-40, to the Navajo Reservation. Bill and Sarah had given us directions to follow like "turn left where there is no marker, go 8.5 miles and turn left again between two piles of basalt." The landscape was absolutely barren. I had figured if someone needed to use "facilities", they could go behind a tree, as usual. But there was not a tree nor blade of grass in sight. I was wondering when we would come to the falls as the land was totally flat and we could see no indication of any water. Finally we found the path between the two piles and I drove down the path in 4WD as it was quite bumpy. We saw what looked like a litte viewing area in the distance and headed for that.

When we got there and got out of the Jeep, we were presented with this awesome sight of tons of muddy Little Colorado water pouring over the rocks and making a hard right heading to join the Colorado. We had no idea what to expect and it was truly an amazing sight. The wind was fierce, but we manged to get out of the Jeep without having the doors blown off and took a bunch of pictures.
This is something that only lasts for several weeks before this section dries up. So, we feel fortunate that we were able to catch it in this small window.

Did I mention the wind? I thought the finish on the Jeep was going to get blown off and we didn't dare get too close to the edge of the canyon as the wind was blowing us off balance. We kept our distance. Here are a couple more photos of the area. One of the falls and maybe you can make out the sand storm in the other.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ancient Graffitti

Back to tourism. My boss from our days in Paris, Jacques, and his wife Claire are visiting us. Some mutual friends from Chicago, Syd and Mitzie Eisen, have also come to Sedona to see Jacques and Claire.

We decided to visit one of the best sites for petroglyphs in all of Arizona. The petroglyphs are rock carvings made by the natives up to 1200 years ago. This place is in an old abandoned ranch, called the V-V (Vee bar Vee) ranch. All that is left of the ranch is a chimney from the house. A short walk along a Sycamore lined trail leads to a wall of petroglyphs. A guide there explained the significance of many of the carvings as well as explained how the natives had created a solar clock to mark the seasons. The wall is just a few degrees off of due north. There are a couple of rocks that conveniently stick out from a crevass on the wall which causes light and shadow to appear on the wall when the sun hits it right.

The natives carved images on the wall when the sun hit at times of the year to indicate the season they were in. For example, when the sun hit a certain spot on the wall, it was the season to plant the corn. So, they put a symbol for planting corn on the wall. Then they would know when to plant the corn the next season. Here is the symbol for planting corn. It looks like fish bones. Can you find it in the larger image? There are many other symbols that represent animals, festivals etc.

Next we stopped at Monezuma's Well which is close by. This is a huge sink hole that contains a constant level of water at a constant temperature and a constant outflow of thousands of gallons per minute. They are not sure how it works. The white people who first stumbled on it thought they were in Mexico so they named it after Montezuma. The water has a high concetration of CO2 so there are no fish in it. The life cycle in the well seems to be plankton, algae, insects and leeches. Yikes, no skinning dipping at night here. They natives used the water to irrigate their crops and lived around the well or in cliff dwellings in the wall of the well. This was a very interesting surprise.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Full Disclosure/Self Exposure

In the interest of self-exposure, I feel obliged to post these semi-candid photos that our friend, Sarah Sullivan, took of Judy and me at the Tucson rodeo. I say "semi-candid" as Judy seems to be aware that the phot is being taken and I am either reacting to a guy getting thrown by a bucking bronco or have just sat on a prickly pear cactus someone slipped onto my seat.

This photo shows the depths that some companies will go to entice customers. Yes, guys, you too can get a gal like this if only you'd dip a little bit of Copenhagen chewing tobacco. Makes me almost want to stuff a pinch between my cheek and gums.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Over the last few days...

I guess you all figured out that we went to Vegas last week. Our friends, the Kobeys, who live across the street from us, were visiting and we decided to make a quick trip to Vegas and take in a show. We got a great rate at the Belaggio Hotel and got tickets for Cirque Du Soleil, "O". The show was an unbelievable display of technology, athleticism, grace, strength, creativity, you name it. It was terrific. This was the second one we have seen and they both were great. On the way to and back, we passed over the Hoover Dam. What a sight and the scenery around it is other-worldly. We may go back to take a tour of the dam.

We got back to Sedona by 4pm. David did his best to take 18 minutes off of the GPS systems's estimated time of arrival. Nice job, David. While Judy, Lynn and David went to the trendy shopping area called, Tlaquepaque, I went to the Sedona Art Center. It was First Night for galleries in Sedona, so I stopped into their gallery. I met a woman who heads up a plein air painting group and she invited me to join them on thursday. I was already commited to go back to Jerome with Michael Johnson and Bill Cramer, who won the best in show at the gallery. Check out his web site at http://www.billcramerpaintings.com/ . After I left the gallery, I picked up the 3 stragglers who were at a real nice gallery where Dustin Payne, a western sculpturer, was in residence for the month. He is 26 years old and already a very accomplished sculptor, like his dad. http://www.dustinpayne.com/ . What a nice kid. He was on a rodeo scholarship to college. His event was the team roping.

Saturday, I stayed back to paint/noodle while the other guys went to Jerome for the afternoon. They had a great time and so did I.

On sunday, we decided to take one last Jeep ride and then go on a hike. I took the Kobeys to the Broken Arrow trail. They, especially, Lynn, loved it. It is a pretty grueling trail in places and has some great vistas to soak in the scenery. Here is a photo of Lynn on the "stairs" that you have to come down to exit the trail. I bottomed out a couple of times here as I really couldn't see over the hood to pick my way down.

Lynn took this photo of the Jeep after climbing over some slick rock to get to the top of this little hill. It was a tight squeeze around the top to go out the "trail" on the left. A little further from this spot, I actually had to get out of the Jeep to walk over the rocks to find where the trail went.

Our last hike of the week was to Devil's Bridge. It is a fantastic rock formation not far from a main hiking trail. It got to be a fairly difficult climb to get the top but it was worth it. The trip down was a bit tricky too. Sliding on your butt was helpful at times. This is a popular place so there were lots of people coming and going. Definitely a good way to end up the week.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros - aka Tucson Rodeo

We had an interesting weekend. We drove to Tucson to take in the Tucson Rodeo. It was the 84th time for this terrific event. It is held in a rodeo grounds that holds about 14000 people. It is the largest outdoor rodeo. There is a pretty nice carnival atmosphere with all kinds of food and clothing for sale. Of course, we had to buy hats (to protect ourselves from the sun.) There were plenty of events like the bucking bronco, right. A pair of announcers kept a running dialog of what was about to happen, what was happening and what just happened to keep things interesting. The riding skills of the people is truly amazing and the strength to hold on to either the horse or an ornery bull is incredible. I must admit, I didn't quite get the scoring system but most people did seem to understand what was going on. They even booed some of the results.

While, the bucking broncos and bulls were something, we especially like the team roping where one guy lassoed the head of a bull and the other guy lassoed both the rear feet of the bull (the same bull). About half of the teams succeeded in this. Pretty impressive. ( I forgot to mention, the bull was running at the time.) Even more so was the women's barrell racing. The control these women had over their horses and the way the horses reacted to their direction made me want to take up horseback riding.

Our neighbors, the Kobeys, arrived in Sedona on Monday afternoon. They left Boston a day early in anticipation of the storm. Good move on their part. When they arrived, we went out for a little ride and took in the setting sun over the red rocks. Today we took a leisurely hike, ate lunch in Fay Canyon and then went for a "joy ride".

Tomorrow, I am going back to Jerome to do some more painting. I got an email from Michael Johnson letting me know that he and Peter were going back to Jerome and asked if I wanted to tag along. I jumped at the chance. Not sure what I will do, but there are plenty of choices. I have worked some more on the two I started last week and feel pretty good about them.