Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Kitt Peak National Observatory June 2017

                                    Inside the 4 meter Telescope

  Kitt Peak National Observatory is one of my favorite day trips near Tucson, Arizona. It is located about 57 miles south of Tucson, Arizona,  off of Route 86. At 7,000 feet the temperature is about 10 to 20 degrees cooler than in Tucson so it is bearable when Tucson is over 100 degrees. Kitt Peak can also be quite cold during the winter months. The mountain has the largest number of astronomical instruments in the world with 24 optical and two radio telescopes.

 Visitors can walk around the mountain and visit two of the telescopes- the 2.1 meter and Solar- without a docent; during summer of 2017, the 4 meter was only open during docent led tours. There are also nice picnic tables to eat lunch.  Docents lead tours to three of telescopes including Solar Telescope, 2.1 meter Telescope, and the 4 meter Mayall Telescope. The tour of the Solar Telescope is the first one of the day at 10 am and the 4 meter is 1:30. I would recommend the tours because all the docents I have had so far are knowledgeable and visitors learn about the history of Kitt Peak, how a telescope works and past as well as future projects. If you go bring a lunch, snacks and drinks because there is no food up on the peak. During the Summer Monsoon (July through September) storms can occur at Kitt Peak during the afternoon some of which can be intense. Watch the weather and bring an umbrella. Last summer I was caught on the mountain in a sudden thunderstorm that drenched both my son and I.

                   At the 2.1 meter looking across Kitt Peak. The 4 meter is in the distance.

                           The 4 meter has a 360 walkway that gives views all directions

                                     Looking inside the 4 meter

                         Storm blowing in over Kitt Peak

                          The top of the Solar Telescope

Visit during the winter with 4 inches of snow on the ground


Flandrau Science Center University of Arizona July 2017


My wife recently bought a Groupon membership to the Flandrau Science Center on the University of Arizona. On a day in Tucson when the temperature was well over 100 degrees and my son was bouncing off the walls; we decided to activate our membership.  What we found were over a dozen games and puzzles related to science and the solar system, a gem and mineral collection and planetarium with 10 different shows. The games and activities are engaging for all ages. Since our first visit we have been back four times. Each time we have seen a  different planetarium show with Mysteries of the Unseen World and Asteroid Mission Extreme among our favorites.

If you go to the Flandrau Science Center without a membership it costs $16 per adult and $12 for kids as well as military members and senior citizens. Each admission includes one planetarium show.

                            Playing the game Towers of Hanoi

                                    Mineral Collection



                                     Simulating what a soda can would feel like on each planet

                                             A happy child playing a Fill The Hexacon game

                 Learning about Critical Life Zones and what animals/plants live at each zone

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Tribute to a companion and friend June 26, 2017

      This last week my family's world was turned upside down when we were confronted with the death of our beloved Mini Schnauzer, Nevada. We were lucky enough to have him in our lives for 8 years and over those years he gave us a lot of joy. Nevada was with us for every step of the way including the birth of our son, moving from Nevada to Arizona, and the birth of our daughter. I want to share some of my favorite memories of him through the years.

After we got Nevada in 2009 at a shelter in Salt Lake City, Utah, the first order of business was to give him a name. A few were thrown around by my wife however none of them stuck. I remember saying that he is silver like the silver state so we should name him Nevada. At first my wife thought I was joking, but soon the name would stick and our dog would be known as Nevada and his nickname would be Silver State.

        In 2012 Tara took a science course that required two trips to Northwestern Nevada that summer. The first trip was to Carson City where we camped with friends at a KOA in town. While Tara was at class, Nevada and I went hiking up at Lake Tahoe. The longest hike we took was out of the Spooner Lake Trailhead along the Tahoe Crest Trail. We hiked 10 miles round trip with an extended lunch break five miles in. At the end of the hike Nevada was tired so I tied him to a tree while I packed the car. Soon a couple stopped by worried that I was going to leave him at the trailhead. I assured them that he was part of the family even going so far as to wrap my arms around him.


                               Nevada at our lunch spot

      Later in that Summer we traveled to  Reno, Nevada, for phase two of Tara's science classes. The first part of the trip we spent a few nights in the city. Reno was experiencing a heat wave and day time temperatures were near or over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I did a couple of hikes with Nevada near Mount Rose and visited a number of museums downtown. After the initial first couple of days Tara and her class relocated to Lassen National Park. National Parks do not allow dogs so I decided to return to camp on the southern part of Lake Tahoe near the Desolation Wilderness. I soon discovered that many parts of Tahoe have ordinances against dogs so I realized the Desolation is where we would be hiking.

                                      Camping at Tahoe

     Nevada and I did some fantastic hikes in the wilderness. The first hike I did with him was to Aloha Lakes. This hike is about 14 miles round trip and takes visitors to six plus alpine lakes. It is also along the Pacific Crest Trail which starts on the Mexican border and ends on the Canadian border. I remember stopping at a couple of the lakes for a break. Nevada even put his feet in the water. By around 12:30 we arrived at Aloha Lakes where I ate a sandwich and he ate treats along with some beef jerky. Around four miles from the trailhead Nevada got very tired and lay down in the center of the trail. I tried to prod him to come with me but he would not move. The next four miles I alternated carrying Nevada and having him walk a few feet. Needless to say we were both very tired at the end of the hike. The next day we hiked a short hike to Cascade Falls. For our last hike and day in the Tahoe Area I chose a six mile loop that took us by two lakes Granite and Eagle Lake. The weather was fantastic that day and we ate lunch and spent a significant amount of time at Granite Lake. The trail from Eagle Lake was steep and had a lot of loose rock making it necessary for me to carry Nevada through some tough sections.

                                                      Nevada in the Desolation Wilderness at Aloha Lakes

                                      At Granite Lake

       The final hiking memory I want to share is backpacking in the Goshute Mountains of Eastern Nevada. The Goshute Mountains are near West Wendover, Nevada, and from the top a visitor can see 11+ mountain ranges. Also during the fall raptors fly through the area on their annual migration south. Nevada and I day hiked this a number of times and backpacked it in 2013 before leaving for Arizona. I remember on that trip we made it to the camping spot mid afternoon and we waited a couple of hours for the sun to get low in the sky. Near sunset we hiked the short trail to the very top. I remember how he sat right next to me as the sunset. Later on in the tent Nevada nipped and growled at me when he was eating dinner and I got in his way.

                                  Nevada sitting in shade in the Goshute Mountains

     Most of all it will be the everyday memories that will stay with me. For example, every morning you sat plastered next to me while I drank my morning coffee and read the newspaper or a book. For years we shared three walks throughout the day many of which lasted over an hour. I will also remember how you would flip my hand or somebody else's when you wanted attention. The last week Nevada was alive, he even outsmarted our "Nevada gate"moving a few cushions and squeezing his way through a small hole. You were so proud of your self sitting on the couch when we returned home. In the end Nevada, you left us with many memories both big and small.

                                        The family at Calico, California

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mount Lemmon Aspen Draw and Lizard Rock June 14, 2017

                       At the top of the ski area looking down toward the San Pedro Valley

The trip up Mount Lemmon thi previous week has reignited my passion for the Catalina Mountains. This week I was seeking a hike underneath Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine to cool off and get some shade from the sun. These hikes on Mount Lemmon are surprisingly difficult to find because the Bullock and Aspen fires burned large swaths of the upper Catalina Mountains. From previous trips I remembered seeing nice old growth trees near the Mt Lemmon Ski Valley so I returned to the dirt parking lot above the ski area. I hiked a road along the ridge above the Ski Valley runs and near some transmission towers looking for a trail to its base. Soon I was rewarded with a gem.  The Aspen Draw trail is 1.6 miles one way (3.2 miles roundtrip) with about 1000 feet of vertical drop. It winds its way among impressive old-growth Douglas fir trees with many shady spots to eat lunch- a rarity in the Sonora Desert . There are a few areas where the trail is near a ski run. Please follow the signs and stay off the runs.  At the bottom the trail ends near the Iron Door Restaurant which people have told me has good food.

                                 A nice old-growth forest




                                                    Near one of the ski runs

                        On the ridge above the ski area looking toward Summerhaven. You can see the different color green from where the forest is regrowing after the fires.

I finished the Aspen Draw trail early in the afternoon and had time to hike Lizard Rock. Lizard Rock was made popular by rock climbers since then hikers have been climbing it as well. There is no forest service trail to the top and no sign for the hike. If you are adventurous the pulloff to park your car is on your right (if you are going down the mountain) just passed Mile marker 8. The hike is 0.5 miles long with what I would say is approximately 700 to 800 feet of vertical. There are multiple unimproved trails to the top that hikers have created. I didn't follow one route per say but multiple routes based off of my off-trail hiking knowledge. In sections the trails have loose granite and it is easy to slip. Because of liability I will not be giving my exact route on this blog. The top is truly spectacular and visitors are rewarded with a 360 degree view.

                     Selfie on top

                     Looking toward Tucson

           Top of Lizard Rock and South west along range

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mount Lemmon Meadow Trail June 9, 2017

                                Forest!!

Summer in Tucson, Arizona, can be oppressive with temperatures over 100 degrees most days. To escape the heat the immediate destination for residents is Mount Lemmon where temperatures can be 30 degrees cooler. The downside is that once a driver is on the Catalina Highway it is 27 miles to the top. Today my wife and I are taking the kids to hike the Meadow Trail which is just over a two mile round trip we are also taking a detour to see the Mount Lemmon fire lookout which is still in use by the Forest Service. Most of the trail is shaded Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine making for a pleasant hike. The one change I would make is to hike the Mount Lemmon Trail first because it is uphill and gets hot later in the afternoon. If you stop at the dirt parking lot above the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley visitors do not have to fight for a spot at the main trailhead a little ways up the mountain.

                                 Meadows and towering trees

                          A nice cool forest to spend an afternoon

  Looking towards Summerhaven; much of the forest on Mount Lemmon is recovering from the Aspen and Bullock Fires.

                               Q at the lookout

                             At the lookout looking toward the Wilderness of Rock

                                    Hiking back to the trailhead

Gammon's Gulch May 27, 2017

                                   Reproduction of a mine on site

Recently a friend of mine suggested that I visit Gammon's Gulch near Benson, Arizona. After reading positive reviews on Yelp I booked a Saturday tour at 11 pm. I printed off directions from MapQuest and they took me right to the old movie set. The Internet makes it seem like Gammon's Gulch is  in Benson but it is actually north of town about 15 miles. When I arrived Jay Gammon's greeted me right away and led me into a building where I waited for the rest of the visitors to arrive. The tour itself was about one hour and interesting. Jay took us into each building and described how he had acquired most of the artifacts on sight. Mr. Gammons told many jokes including some at the expense of liberals and Mr. Obama. He also did not hide his utter contempt for Hollywood.  Near the end of the tour Mr. Gammons even played a few songs on piano and banjo. If you visit the Gulch make sure to bring water, food and a hat because there is no restaurant on site. All in all this is an excellent location to spend part of a day and I will be back.

History: Jay Gammons bought property in the 1970s with the sole purpose of creating a vintage 1880s western town. Over the years Mr. Gammons has acquired over 20,000, artifacts from towns throughout Arizona including an old cell door from Tombstone. Over the years numerous actors and actresses have filmed movies at this location. Some of these movies include Illyushin, Three Tickets to Paradise, BlackWood, and Ride the Lightning. Jay Gammons has met and worked with many actors and actresses such as John Wayne and Barbara Streisand. Gammon's Gulch has not turned into an attraction like Tombstone or the Old Tucson so it feels like a true 1880s western town.

                              Outside one of the buildings

                            The Jail

                               Cell door from Tombstone, Arizona

             Mainstreet of Gammon's Gulch

                                  Old wheel
       
                                    Metal working shop complete with tools

                          Old Car

                 Another picture of the old car

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cochise, Arizona April 22, 2017


Cochise, Arizona, is located about 20 miles east of Wilcox off of Interstate 10. The semi-ghost town is located off of Highway 191 which runs south to Douglas, Arizona. Today about 25 people mostly ranchers live in a town that used to have 3,000. There are a number of interesting buildings from the 1800s. If a visitor likes to watch trains the Union Pacific runs through town with about 30 to 40 trains daily.

Cochise is different in that it was created as a water and fuel stop for the Southern Pacific. In 1882 John Rath built the Cochise Hotel to serve railroad workers. Over time the town's population reached 3,000 as more individuals moved to the area to ranch. In 1889 Billy Stiles and Matt Burts robbed a train on the Southern Pacific they were eventually caught by a tip from a informant.  In 1903 the Arizona and Colorado built a branch line to Courtland, Arizona, to the south. The ultimate aim was to build the line all the way to Naco and finally Mexico. In 1909 construction of the line came to a halt in the Arizona desert and was never completed because of declining revenue from the mines around Courtland. In 1931 SP abandoned the line. Cochise, Arizona, declined because of the diesel locomotive and ability to go longer distances between stops. (Information from: Arizona Ghost Towns and Mining Camps by Philip Varney and http://www.abandonedrails.com/Cochise-Douglas_Branch)