Sunday, February 27, 2011

Archaeoastronomists in Action

One of our favorite and most interesting sites in the area is the V bar V Ranch. On this deserted ranch can be found some of the most pristine examples of Indian Rock Art in all of Arizona. We have visited this site with company and on our own several times. There are hundreds of pictographs chipped into a rock face.

Over the years, archaeoastronomers have been studying the pictographs, along with the path of the sun over the wall, to try to determine their meaning. Archaeoastronomy is the study of what peoples throughout history and prehistory made of the phenomena in the sky, how they used these phenomena and what role it played in their cultures. Much of what the symbols mean is still conjecture. One thing they have come to agree on is the potential existence of a solar calendar. This solar calendar would be used by the natives to determine times for planting and reaping crops, for example. Shadows thrown by certain rocks sticking out of the wall would point to symbols indicating activities that need to take place at certain times of the year.
Recently, Judy attended a lecture by a local archaeologist, Ken Zoll, who has been trying to determine if the rocks that throw the shadows are naturally in place or have been placed there by the original occupants. He finally arranged to have several Phd's from ASU come to the site to investigate.
This past weekend, a team of 4-5 experts, including Zoll, set up scaffolding to get a closer look at the wall.
They spent parts of the whole weekend getting up close and personal with each crack and crevice.

After close examination of the boulders and the cracks in the wall where they are lodged, the experts determined that there is evidence that the boulders that jut out were origianlly there, but other rocks were placed there or at least arranged there to hold it in its proper place. This was determined because there are types of rocks in the cracks that are not part of the wall itself and were obviously placed there. This gives more credibility to their theories of a man made solar calendar.

This was a fascinating experience for us. Judy was enthralled with it. We could hear the experts discuss things as they examined the wall and were able to spend time talking with Ken to get his take on this research activity and other digs at this very interesting site.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Painting with Michael Chesley Johnson, et al

Recently, I went out painting with Michael Johnson and one of his students who was in town for one of Michael's workshops. As his student, San, was adventersome, we decided to take the Jeep down Dry Creek rd to FR 152. Judy and I had already been down that road this year and determined that the name was accurate as the creek, which is normally over my hubcaps at certain crossings, was bone dry. So, as we would not have any water scenes to paint, we stopped at one of our favorite spots with a 360 degree view of the area. Although Judy and I had been to this spot many times and like to bring our company there, I had never painted there. So, we all set up and attempted slightly different views. Here is my 8x10 version of the backlit side of Thunder Mountain.

From there we drove further down 152 to an open spot, had our lunch and set up for another painting. Here is a photo of Michael and San in the process of creating some masterpieces.
This part of 152 was lower in altitude so we had to look up to compose our potential paintings. We all set up looking in different directions but drove out with each of us carrying another painting. Not sure if this has a name, but here it is.

Michael has been kind enough to invite me to join him and his students any time I can. I'll be taking advantage of that invitation.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Back on line...

It's been an enjoyable week or so here in Sedona. The weather was great for a while, but, of course, when company arrives it is apt to change.

Last week, while waiting for a bay at the local car wash, we met a couple from Manitoba, Jim and Carmen Koepke. He had a Ford 4WD with a winch, so we invited them to take a ride with us out in the outback. First we visited the ruins at Palatki. The site is actually off limits for visitors at the moment. One has to view the ruins from an area about 50 yds away. The docent gives the same spiel but you can't roam around the site at all. A couple of years ago, you could even go into one of the "homes". Last year, that was prohibited as the doorway was collapsing. This year they have heard some cracking noises and fear that there may be a boulder falling soon, so it is off limits.

From there we went to Honanki which has more ruins than Palatki anyway. So, our friends from Manitoba enjoyed that. We took an abbreviated trip through Lincoln Canyon as Jim was a little reluctant to do any damage to his vehicle. (BTW, we heard that scratches in the paint from branches along a trail are called Arizona Pinstripes.)

Our friends, Henry and Gigi, arrived on thurs and we did some of the same things with them. They were blown away by the scenery as you come into Sedona late in the day. The Red Rocks were in their full glory.We also brought them on a hike through Soldier's Pass, which has great sunlight in the morning.

The weather has been a bit of a problem for them, tho. One evening it was beautiful, like in this photo of Cathedral Rock at about 5:00 PM.

The next morning, we awoke to weather like this. It will melt quickly and the scenery will be beautiful again.

Our poor hummingbird had to chip away at the feeder for her breakfast. We really needed the rain/snow as it is very dry here. All the creek beds that I love to splash through are totally devoid of any water. I'm looking forward to getting a little red rock mud on the Jeep.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Our new digs

Our 2011 digs are at 141 Purtymun Lane in Sedona. Purtymun Lane is named after one of the early setters, as is much of the stuff around the area. We are located about .5 miles north of uptown Sedona on the way up Oak Creek Canyon. This was the first time we actually saw the rental before we booked it. We met with the owner, Linda Cohen, last April and liked the place so much we decided to lock it in then. In fact, many of the places we looked at before finding this one were already booked for the following year. This was a complete change in style of house, neighborhood and location. We thought we would give it a try and we are really happy here. As the weather warms up, we will really enjoy the deck and the sunsets over Cathedral Rock in the distance.

Here are some photos of the place.

Here is the entry way to the home. There is a slight lip to the porch so Judy laid down some stones and a bone we found on the trail as a reminder not to trip.

You go through the French Doors to the living room where we have comfortable chairs and an HDTV.

Through the windows behind the couch we have a perfect view of Thumb Butte or Giant's Thumb. The sun comes up behind it and it is in full glory in the afternoon.

To the right of the living room is the kitchen. It is narrow but has everything we need, even a wine cooler.

Next to the kitchen is a dining area with sliding glass doors out to the deck. The deck has comfortable chairs and a fire pit that we hope to enjoy.

From the deck we have a great view of Cathedral Rock about 4 miles away in the distance.

In the hall behind the kitchen, there is a master bedroom with bath and a guest bedroom with a full bath in the hall. Here is the master bedroom with the sliding doors to the deck.

That about covers it, except for a lower level with a sitting area and small bedroom. We can use this for overflow. Here is the spiral staircase leading down to the level.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another Government Cover-up

We stopped in Roswell, NM last Friday night. It was the nearest town to Carlsbad Caverns with a cheap Marriott (98 miles). What we discovered there was shocking.

It seems that in the 40's, a UFO crashed in the desert nearby with aliens on board. The goverenment refutes this fact and claims that it was only a weather balloon and not a UFO. There was no evidence of any weather balloon in the area on that specific day, so I don't know what the government was talking about.

Here is the proof as shown in this giant shoe-box diarama of the analysis of an alien.

At the UFO Museum, you can follow the newspaper accounts of the crash landing as well as do research by watching some Hollywood movies made about the landing. Also, there are many photos of UFO's and accounts of alien abductions.

We were hoping to get a ride in a space craft, but had another 598 miles to go to get to Sedona. Oh well....

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fun Fact

Fun Fact: Something we learned about the Horsehair worm...

The adult Horsehair worms mate in the small puddles in the cavern. The female lays eggs in the water. The eggs have a coating on them. Then a cricket or other insect comes along and innocently drinks the water and swallows an egg. The cricket hops away to enjoy life in the darkness of the cavern. Meanwhile, the egg gestates and enzymes in the cricket's stomach eat away at the coating around the egg. The egg "hatches" and the baby Horsehair worm eats its way out of the unsuspecting host.

Lesson Learned? Don't drink the water in a cave.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Things started out a little shaky this morning. We were on the western end of the central time zone, so it was still dark at 7:00. We decided to wait a bit for daylight as it would not be a good idea to drive on ice in the dark. The first hour or so was like the day before, but then about 25 miles west of Abilene, the ice started to gradually disappear. Free sailing to Carlsbad Caverns from then on.

Carlsbad Caverns was truly awesome. To get to the caverns, you take an elevator down about 750 feet to the entrance to the Big Room. At first it looks fake around the entrance, but then you walk into this immense cavern which is the size of 6 football fields. There is a paved walkway that takes you on mile or so tour. The cavern was "discovered" by a kid named Jim White in the late 1890's. He saw the bats flying out of the natural opening in the ground and decided to take a look inside. Going down into that void in the dark with only a lantern must have been daunting. Not sure if anyone would know anything about it if I had been the first to discover it.

We also took a tour of the King's Palace cavern. This was a great tour and our guide, Mark, was very informative. He was not only a park ranger, but also a caver and a geologist. So, he could cover all the bases. He told a story of when Jim White left his lantern on the ground while he went off to do some investigating. He heard a slight "puff" as his candle went out. He had 3 matches left to use to find the lantern and make sure he could light it. If he failed at relighting the lantern, he would never have been able to find his way out of the cavern. Here is a photo of what Jim's view would have seen without his candle.....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It Finally Hit the Fan!

Well, I guess it was bound to happen. With a storm this massive, we couldn't really expect to miss the whole thing. Actually we didn't hit the storm, just it's remnants.

About 100 miles east of Dallas, we started to run into patches of ice on the bridges and overpasses. Then there were more ice patches than clear pavement. It reminded me of hitting black ice while skiing. When you see black ice, you don't break or swerve, just head through it. Of course, not everyone can handle the black ice. See left. Downtown Dallas.

Then things settled down and looked pretty good with only 395 miles to our destination. But it really went downhill fast about 50 miles west of Dallas. We hit solid sheets of ice in every lane. Trucks and cars were fishtailing and spinning off the road all over the place. (BTW, the photos don't do justice to the ice. The ice was 1-2" thick and where there was no thick ice, there was a shiny ice slick. The last time I saw roadways like this was when we went to the Cotton Bowl with the Bronchuks when Flutie played for BC (1985))

When we travelled another 50 or so miles at 10-15 mph, we decided to rethink our plans for the evening. We were 250 miles from Odessa and figured it would take about 12 more hours to get there ( it was 1:30). So we looked up a hotel in Abilene on the Garmin and made a reservation.

We got stuck a number of times as trucks or cars jack-knifed and blocked the road. Several times, while stopped on an incline, the truck behind me or beside me could not get started again. What a mess. It was interesting to start up on a hill and then look in the rear view mirror and see nothing for a mile or so as the trucks behind tried to get traction on the ice.

Only 97 miles to get to that hotel. So, over a covering of 2 inches of ice, we dropped into 4WD and forged on. It was the most harrowing drive in my driving experience (on a real road), but we made it despite all the slowdowns and stoppages for accidents. Who knows what lurks tomorrow. We'll continue heading west and try to make it to Carlsbad Caverns and then Roswell (we'll skip Odessa this time).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Made it to Texas (Texarkana)

After last night's meal of catfish and hush puppies, we felt prepared to take the road again this morning. We watched the traffic reports and decided to loop around Nashville to pick up I-40 on the west side of the city. That worked fine for us. It was cold in the morning but the clouds burnt off. The only snow we saw was flying off the trailers of semis. Other than that, we noticed some small convoys of electric utility trucks from Indiana heading west. Probably going to Oklahoma City which was hit pretty hard.

We crossed the Mississippi in Memphis into Arkansas. From there we passed through Little Rock and picked up I-30 to Texarkana. The hotel (Marriott Fairfield) emailed me a pdf of updated directions to the hotel. Thought that was pretty good service especially as the highway was all torn up and the off ramps moved. Despite that I followed my Garmin and got a bit wrapped around the axle trying to find the hotel. I could see it but not find it....

Tomorrow we have a long day as we cross most of Texas. We pass through Dallas and make our way to Odessa which is on the other side of the state. It will take us all day.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Heading West Again - into the Storm of the Year

Well, here we are again, heading to Sedona. Due to the forecasts of a major storm heading east across the midwest, we decided to head out a little early. After finishing the packing and cramming the Jeep with stuff we left Sunday, the 30th, and stopped at our friend Sandy's house in East Longmeadow. This allowed us to get an hour or so jump on our trip which we used to go about an hour further the past two days to get by the storm. It was 13 degrees when we left E. Longmeadow and the only problem was getting through Hartford at rush hour. Got a bit lost trying to avoid some of the rte 91 traffic.

The first night we stopped in Harrisonburg, VA, home of James Madison University. It was an uneventful trip and we left under cloudy skies. From there we headed to Nashville. The forecast was for a major storm but it seemed to be going a bit north of our route. In fact we had a mostly pleasant ride, even a bit of sun, on the way. We had nice weather until about 2 hours from Nashville. It started to drizzle, then rain and I finally had to actually put on my wipers. So much for the Storm of the Year.
The number one story in the news was the storm with the secondary story the protests and demonstrations in Cairo. It will be interesting to reread this blog in the future to see how things ended up in Egypt and if we actually get to visit the Pyramids in November 2011 as planned.

Thanks to all who texted, called and emailed to express their concern about our travels, but it looks like you guys got the worst of the whole deal.