Tag Archives: sightseeing

Glacier: Why I am not posting this week

The picture below will help explain why I am not posting much this week. My wife Diane and I are in Glacier National Park, and today we did a 12 mile hike on the Highline Trail, considered by many to be one of the best trails in the U.S. I’ve done a lot of hiking in my life, and I have to agree.

I hope good internet access will return next week, and I will be able to post regularly again. Until then, make sure you look real close at the picture. On the right, at the end of the trail line, is a person. This will give you a sense of the scale here.

Highline Trail

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At Zion on the way to the eclipse

At Zion

As I have mentioned several times on my radio appearances with John Batchelor, Diane and I today began a two week trip to Glacier National Park followed by several days at Capital
Reef. The trip’s date however was pinned to Monday’s eclipse, with the plan being that we are stopping in Idaho Falls on the way up to Glacier to see it.

Today Diane and I drove from Tucson to a hotel right outside Zion National Park. This was not in my original plans, but when I realized the drive to Idaho from Tucson would be more than 15 hours, I looked to see if there was a nice place midway that we could also do some sightseeing. To my delight I discovered that Zion was perfectly positioned, and that there was a La Quinta hotel at its entrance that I could book practically free by using the points I had accumulated by staying at this chain previously. We had been to Zion previously, but it had been a number of years, and this would give us a chance to do a quick extra sightseeing trip.

After we checked in around 4:30 pm, we ate dinner, then took the shuttle bus into the park. The picture on the right above was taken from a short trail at the Court of the Patriarchs bus stop, up to a look out. When I saw the sun eclipsed in this manner by one of Zion’s many pinnacles, I thought this to be a very appropriate picture for the trip. The picture below is the main view from the lookout of the three pinnacles dubbed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from left to right. We didn’t see much as we didn’t have much time, but still, the place remains as beautiful as ever.

Tomorrow we head up to Idaho Falls.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob peaks in ZionA

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At the rim

at the rim

On a lark, last week I called Xanterra, the vendor that runs the hotels on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, to see if they had any rooms available anytime during the summer. Diane and I wanted to do a day hike down the Hermit Trail, and to do it we needed to stay at a hotel the night before and the night after.

To my surprise, they had a rim view room available in Bright Angel Lodge, for tonight and tomorrow. The picture on the right is taken from our room, right after we arrived earlier today. I am right now sitting at that window, watching the sun set on the canyon buttes even as I type. Yowza!

I will post more tonight, and some tomorrow night as well. I will also do my podcast with John Batchelor tomorrow, live, from this room. Most cool, I must say.

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Mucking about off-hours in San Francisco, California

An evening pause: Hat tip Edward Thelen, who writes, “A brief tour of the Jeremiah O’Brien engine room (an operational Liberty Ship) and other San Francisco sights. The narrator mentions the degaussing coils that they started to use on ships during WWII to prevent magnetic mines from sinking them. The slight of hand is especially good; I think I figured it out. There was a time, before the 1980s, when the passengers helped to turn the cable cars.”

I like these comments by the videographer at his youtube website: “This WW2 Liberty ship only took 50 days to build! Vid includes random shots between getting pissed on by a homeless dude and avoiding that guy wearing nothing but a gold sequined sock.” Well, no one should be surprised. This is in fascist California.

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Another Grand Canyon tour

On the Tonto Platform

Because I live in southern Arizona, I take advantage of this location to make an annual trip to the Grand Canyon. On my previous trips I’ve talked about the right way to hike the canyon (slowly!) and then provided some suggestions for proper preparation.

This time I am simply going to suggest two hikes. One is very easy and should be done by every visitor to the south rim. The other hike is for those who go to the bottom, and reserve themselves one day there for a day hike.
» Read more

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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