Tag Archives: sightseeing

Off to Belize

Today, Wednesday, I head to the airport to return to the western regions of Belize for a week of cave exploration and mapping. Last time I was there in May we began a cave survey. I am now the cartographer for this project, and this time I hope we can finish it.

I intend to post while in Belize, though it will likely have to wait until each evening when we get back from the caves. I also intend to do my Batchelor appearances, but this time live from Mayan Mountain Lodge in San Ignacio, where we will be staying. The lodge was gracious enough in May to let me use their office and phone, and I expect they will be agreeable again this time.

Anyway, off for more adventure. The world is much too fascinating a place to see it just from my desk by way of the internet. You have to get out and see it for real whenever you can!

Joe Journeys – Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg, Russia

An evening pause: Hat tip Danae. As she wrote, “This next may be in keeping with religious or security undercurrents just now, or as something beautiful to see at any time at all. Tsar Nicholas III was mortally wounded in his carriage by a bomb thrown by revolutionary terrorists in 1881. As a memorial to him, his family built this fabulous church on the very spot in St. Petersburg where the attack occurred. The interior is amazing, walls and ceiling entirely covered with colorful religious mosaics.”

Just watch. You will wish you were there in real life.

Canyoneering in Death Valley

Slabby Acres

This past Thanksgiving weekend I joined some caving and canyoneering friends in Death Valley to celebrate the holiday in the great outdoors as well as explore some of the park’s more inaccessible canyons. We did not camp in the park, since campfires are not allowed and the park has a size limit for groups. Instead, we camped on BLM land just outside the park, in what appeared to be an abandoned RV trailer park that canyoneerers call Slabby Acres.

First a primer. Regular readers will know that I have been doing cave exploration and mapping now for about thirty years. This recreational activity not only involves knowing how to use survey instruments in a cave, you need also to be trained in the vertical rope techniques required to reach some remote places underground, sometimes dropping multiple pits on the way in and climbing those same domes on the way out.

Canyoneering is somewhat similar to caving. Just like caving you need to know how to travel over boulders and rough terrain and also know how to rappel and climb ropes. Unlike caving the canyons are open to the sky, and you rarely climb the ropes to travel up the canyon. In canyoneering the goal is to find the head of the canyon and travel down its many drops to come out at the bottom safely, all the while getting to see some wild, majestic, and rarely seen places. In addition, modern canyoneering rarely involves virgin exploration. Most canyoneerers visit already explored canyons whose details are well documented so that they know what ropes to bring as well as how to find the canyons.

This was our goal this past weekend. Some of the western cavers who have joined my survey projects and learned how to cave survey are also active canyoneerers. While none of us had ever visited the canyons on our trip list, several were very experienced with finding and traversing places they had never been before. My plan was to follow them and enjoy the experience. Below are my pictures during one of this weekend’s canyoneering trips. The canyon is Scorpion Canyon. It was the first we visited and was relatively easy to do, only 4.6 miles long with only six rappels and only an 1,800 foot elevation drop. It would take us over one of the mountain ranges that form the eastern wall of Death Valley. In fact, this was how I was going to enter Death Valley for the first time. Rather than drive in, like most tourists, I would rappel in.
» Read more

The world’s longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge

Link here. Lots of great pictures of this new pedestrian bridge in China, including one of a reporter trying (and failing) to use a sledge hammer to break the glass.

China’s economy might have a lot of holes and might face collapse, as many experts have been telling me for years, but at the same time they seem to be successfully harnessing the success they’ve had in the past few decades to get very creative. That creativity suggests to me the collapse is not guaranteed, and will not be as severe as predicted.

Heading to the Grand Canyon

Diane and I are about to leave for our annual trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This trip will be short, down on Saturday and up on Sunday. As usual, the trip will be grand (pun intended). I should be able to post tonight and on Sunday and Monday, but I will be traveling and will have other priorities (like enjoying myself). Even so, I might post something on our trip, especially considering that this will be second trip in a row to Phantom Ranch where the water system is broken and, though there is drinking water, there will be no showers. More details to follow.

Three stops on Iceland’s golden circle

An evening pause: From the youtube webpage: “The three main stops on the Golden Circle route in Iceland: 1. The magnificent Gullfoss waterfall; 2. Haukadalur geothermal area (widely known as Geysir) – famous for its geysers and termal pools (Strokkur being the most active); 3. Thingvellir National Park, where the Icelandic Parliament was established in 930, and where the continental drift between Europe and North America can be easily noticed.”

The music is “The Most Beautiful Things” by Michael Murphy.

Hat tip Danae, who added “Just chillin’ with sights for a hot summer day.”

Lower Waterholes Canyon, Arizona

An evening pause: Waterholes Canyon is a side canyon leading down into the Colorado River, north of the Grand Canyon. The people canyoneering here are caving friends of mine. The video was created by Kimberly Franke, whom you pretty much only see in the opening still shot, since she was wearing the camera most of the time. Her husband Kevin Franke is also a fellow caver who is the person with the white helmet and thick whitish beard. The woman in the red helmet doing the very long drop near the end is Belinda Norby, also a fellow caver. The music is “Point of No Return” by Roger Subirana Mata.

The world is filled with amazing things to see. This video does a nice job of highlighting just one of them.

Belize and Guatemala

During my caving trip to Belize last week, we reserved one day off to do some sightseeing. The goal that day was to visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal, across the border in Guatemala about three hours from our resort in Belize.

Arranging this trip was not straightforward. We couldn’t simply get in our rental car and drive off. Locals have found it a bad idea to drive Belizean vehicles in Guatemala, as they are more likely to be attacked. So, the resort arranged for a Belizean driver to take us to the border, where it also arranged for us to be met by a Guatemalan tour guide with her own car.

On the way, we drove through several small towns of both Guatemala and Belize, as shown by the two photos below, with Santa Elena, Belize on top.
» Read more

Leaving Belize tomorrow

After a week of intense and amazing caving, I will be leaving Belize tomorrow. I will not get home until Saturday, however, as my flight ends in El Paso at about 11 pm. I will drive home on Saturday.

I intend to post several essays about my trip, one describing the caving and why it is happening, one describing the ruins and my impressions (with photos), and maybe a third with my overall thoughts about the experience. Since I have a lot of other work that needs to be done, some with deadlines, it might take a few days to pump all this out. Stay tuned.

In the wild

An evening pause: A beautiful nature video from National Geographic. Though it contains lots of cute animals, it also shows them in the wild, as they really are, hunting and being hunted. I am thus reminded of Tennyson’s description of nature, “red in tooth and claw,” from his poem In Memoriam, written at the death of a close friend.

… A monster then, a dream,
A discord. Dragons of the prime,
That tare each other in their slime,
Were mellow music match’d with him.

O life as futile, then, as frail!
O for thy voice to sooth and bless!
What hope of answer, or redress?
Behind the veil, behind the veil.

Hat tip George Petricko.

El Camino del Rey

An evening pause: I posted this video of El Camino del Rey (The King’s Road) back in 2010, but when Willi Kusche suggested it I thought, why not post it again? It shows a walk along the crumbling walkway high on the cliff walls of El Chorro canyon in Andalusia, Spain and is not for those with any fear of heights. Considering the craziness we are enduring with this year’s presidential election, I think this hike is relatively mild in comparison.

Crowded Mexico City and colonization of space

This week Diane and I are in Mexico with friends doing some sightseeing. As is my habit, I can’t just enjoy the sights I have to ask a lot of questions while trying to get an impression of the place, its culture, its environment, its atmosphere, and its politics. Not surprisingly, the answers to some of those questions pointed me upward beyond the surface of the Earth. To understand why, read on.

Today we toured the inner parts of Mexico City, both on foot and by bus and subway (or the Metro as they call it here). I have spent considerable time in many of the world’s major cities, growing up in New York and visiting at length Moscow, Kiev, Prague, London, Chicago, Los Angeles and others. Mexico City has many of the same features you’d expect for this kind of big city, lots of people, lots of traffic, lots of buildings packed tight together, and lots of wealth and poverty sitting side-by-side.

Mexico City traffic

Mexico City however to me seemed to be most crowded and the most packed of any city I have ever visited or lived in. Its size and population probably rivals that of the entire New York metropolitan area, but somehow the traffic and crowds and architecture seemed more piled on top of each other with far less breathing room.

First was the traffic. Everywhere we went it was wall to wall vehicles. The major highways were never quiet, even at night. Nor could I see much difference between midday and rush hours. The picture on the right shows us heading from in from an outer neighborhood where we were staying to take the subway into the center of the city. Not only was it bumper-to-bumper, but if you look out in the distance the road is bumper-to-bumper as far as the eye can see. My host Alfonso added at one point that in order to avoid this traffic many people routinely leave for work before 5 am and come home after 8 pm. Schools have multiple shifts, including ones at night.

A side note: The tall rectangular structures in the foreground are not buildings. This is a work of art, five several hundred foot tall cinderblock structures supposedly forming a hand pointing up, with the thicker yellow tower in the front representing the thumb.
» Read more

MTNS – Lost track of time

An evening pause: The song, which is really nice, is really just background music to a beautiful video of what it is like to fly fish in Montana. As always, I want to note the sophistication of the human engineering and design that makes this activity possible. It is as beautiful as the countryside and the music.

Hat tip Rocco.

Real clam digging

An evening pause: Rocco had suggested this short video about the joys of going out and digging clams. I prefer the video below, of a real clam doing its own digging, because it shows us something we normally don’t see and that is really amazing. Who would have thought that a clam could bury itself so quickly, with a single digging foot?

Back from the Grand Canyon

Diane and Gang on the Tonto Plateau

Diane and I just got home and are in the process of catching up. Posting shall resume this weekend, maybe tonight! Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised that even with my absence, my thoughtful readers (even ones I sometimes disagree with) have been keeping things lively here with some intelligent debate. Kudos to you all!

And as always, the Canyon was what it always is, magnificent and awe-inspiring. The picture on the right shows us hiking on the Tonto Plateau, about 4000 feet down from the rim but above the Colorado River 1000 feet below. If you look real close you can see the tiny figures of Diane and others on the trail.

Highlights from Dream Lines IV

An evening pause: I haven’t posted a wingsuit video since 2012, so this clip is overdue, especially since the scenery is quite beautiful. My only complaint is that they cut just as one flyer releases his chute for landing. I would have preferred to see the whole flight, including its gentle end.

Hat tip tdub.

The first suspension bridge connecting mountain peaks

Switzerland is about to open the first suspension bridge ever built between two mountain peaks.

The bridge, suspended 9,700ft in the air, will also have a partial glass floor to allow visitors a once in a lifetime view of the 6,500ft drop between the Glacier 3000 and Scex Rouge.

It is scheduled to open in November, and is being built in an effort to attract more tourists to the Swiss Alps.

Out of the Canyon

We exited the Grand Canyon on schedule at about 1:30 on Thursday. The hike out this year took one hour longer than last year, mostly because we took longer breaks.

As always, the Canyon is a sublime place, hard to describe to those who have never been there and unnecessary to describe for those who have. We hiked in, did an 11 mile hike the one day we were at the bottom, then hiked out today.

Posting will resume but will remain light until I return home on Sunday night.

1 2 3 5