Saturday, February 22, 2014

Valley of the Fire State Park

After 2 days of our little photo troop traipsing around Death Valley amongst inspiriation, we journeyed over to in City, or Lost Wages, or Las Vegas, whichever you call it.  Checked into a small casino resort (only 20 floors, 750 slot machines, etc).  and walked the strip.  But I get ahead of myself.
Some interesting rock formations
The main reason we came to this area was to visit the Valley of the Fire State Park about an hour east of Vegas and just north of Lake Mead.  Last year, when Sraddha and I were headed back to California into the face of a storm we drove along the shores of Lake mead to try to bypass the urban area as much as possible and we saw the turnoff to Valley of the Fire.  The area didn't look appealing and boy were we wrong in this assessment.
Great Campgrounds.  We will come back 
This time, fortified with a good strong Starbucks coffee purchased at the Casino (it's only redemptive feature). we drove out into the "wilderness".  I had found a good article on what to shoot in the area so we began to search for locations which provided some interesting landscape and rock formations.
Positioning camera in a cave.  

Here are some iPhone shots.  I will return to add additional photos when I get them processed.

Steve contemplating the shot in the cave
Sraddha and I definitely want to return to this place to camp, explore and photograph some more.
Rock Formation

Bebe looking for a photo op

Elephant Rock  Can you see it?

Piano Rock

The elephant rock.  Easier to see now.

Artsy instagram shot

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Rhyolite near Death Valley

Today is Day 1 of a Camera Club of Tucson photo trip to Death Valley and southern Nevada. We (5 of us in 2 cars) departed Tucson at 6:30 AM. We arrived late afternoon with about 45 minutes of light.  shot a few pix.  Headed for Beatty, Nevada nearby for motel and bad dinner.

Bebe is shooting the Caboose
Rhyolite is an old mining ghost town east of Death Valley.  Not much left here.  No people for sure.

Steve Dell Shooting the Caboose.  Me on this end shooting him.
 Several skeleton buildings left from 140 yrs ago.  Not much to shoot.  I am a railroad guy so enjoyed shooting this caboose.
HDR shot of Caboose
 A couple of bikers touring the country stopped for a little visit.  They collect stickers from their destinations.
This motor bike has seen a few states in USA.  Wow.
 One other piece of architecture caught our eye.  An old house whose walls were made from glass bottles stuck in the cement.  This is a lot of bottles.  I didn't take a picture of the house itself, prefering to get a couple more "artsy" shots for you.
Can you see me in the window shooting this house

House made of glass bottles all sides.  Here is a sample
Time to head to bed as we have a 5 AM departure for Zabriskie Point to shoot sunrise.  Stay tuned.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bear Canyon and 7 Falls Hike

Each year, while in Tucson, we have visited Sabino Canyon in the Santa Catalina over in NE section of town.  It is not a park, rather part of the Coronado National Forest.  Thousands flock here each year and it gets real busy with a lot of walkers and hikers in the main part of the canyon where you can see amazing flora and sometimes fauna.

Click on any of the photos to expand and enjoy.

Gazing west into Downtown Tucson at the 2+ mile marker
What really brings us back each year is the smaller canyon to the east of Sabino.  Bear Creek Canyon offers a more rigorous hike of about 700 ft elevation gain over 6 miles round trip from shuttle stop or even further (9+ miles) if you begin and end at Visitor center.  Today we took the shuttle both ways.

Turning around from previous photo you look up the canyon towards our destination
Her:  "gorgeous, simply gorgeous!!"
Him: "Yup"
Her:  "Gorgeous, simply gorgeous!"
Me:   "Yep"
Her: .......... you get the picture.

The destination is 7 falls at upper end of this canyon.  As we approached the canyon end, we could see over to the falls area. Yikes.  Must've been 75 hikers over there.  Talk about a crowd.  Not to worry, I say,  I think they are hiking club and have been there a while which means they will depart soon.
Looking out over 7 Falls
 Sure enough, by the time we arrived at the pools, the clubs were beginning to pack up after their lunch.
Gazing back at the trail in distance.  Resting the feet.
Some people (you know who) took off their shoes and soaked.
 We found a rock near the main pool, leaned back, and snacked on nuts and dried berries (like a bear).
Resting at the Pools
 We actually found someone to take our photo also.

Click on this iPhone Pano of the 7 Falls area to see it in its glory.
I climbed up above our lunch spot to see this falls.
one of the upper falls
 Then looked down on the pools  That is Sraddha in the red next to pool down there.
Can you see Sraddha down there?

A "broom" flower
A few little wildflowers begin to bloom along trail
Narrow trail and geology of the canyon
 As we returned down the canyon we finally realized that, if we really press, we can make it back to the shuttle which runs only once per hour.  So a forced march back was great cardio as we pressed hard.
Stopped briefly to catch this little scene along Bear creek.
Yes we did make the shuttle.  Felt real good.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Model Railroad Fanning in Southern California

Broke away from the sun in Tucson to fly to the left coast for a long weekend with some model railroad freinds.  For the past few years, the guys have been visiting me in Northern California, however, now that I no longer have my model railroad layout, we all decided to head to Southern California for some sun.  Just in time since it snowed a foot in Portland which made flying both ways real fun. I had a smooth flight from Tucson.
Me in the hole dispatching the railroad
Click on any of the photos to expand.

We flew in early Friday to LAX where our mutual friend, Frank Kenny, who is building a wonderful modern era railroad called the CPRX which runs from southern California through the Tehachapi loop to Fresno.  I didn't take a lot of photos.  Others shot more.

Randy running the Amtrak (behind him)
 We worked on Frank's layout all day.  Made some good progress on a number of things and a couple steps back in a couple thanks to my booboo.  Won't go into it here but it's easily fixable.  Whew.  I owe you one, Frank.
Joel, Yardmaster and Dave in background
We visited the Belmont Shores Model Railroad club Saturday morning (see video below) then toured some of the 1:1 size big railroad yards in Long Beach and ate our lunch while watching the big trains drive by.
GP-60 Engines switching out the yard in Long beach.  Ya don't see Santa Fe markings much anymore
Back in the afternoon to Frank's place to operate his railroad.  First time he has fully operated the railroad with a dispatcher.  Dave and I shared the duties, well, mainly Dave.  We worked out a few bugs in the operating plan.
Some of our "crack" crew membes looking for trouble
 Overall the layout runs great with few mechanical or electrical issues.  Afterwards, we debriefed with Frank over our suggestions for improvement.
he thinks he knows what he is doing.  He doesn't
 As a former layout owner, I can attest to the amount of effort Frank has put into building this layout and the effort still needed to make it shine.  He will get there and we look forward to returning next year.
Kent, Phil (very shy) and Frank Kenny, our Host
And what did Sraddha do while I was galavanting around the country?  She had a quiet weekend home.

Sunday we operated on Joel Morse' "New York, Ontario & Western" RR which was real fun.

Yours Truly running a local
Yard work
Now what was I doing?

Mark Lestico adding his bridge over door

New way of doing signals
Staging and yard areas.

We also visited two other layouts, Bob Grech' HO Western Pacific and Mark Lestico's N Scale Cascade Subdivision.  See video's below.

Some videos I shot during layout tours:

Bob Grech's Western Pacfic HO Model Railroad -
Belmont Shores Coal Drag -
Mark Lesticos Cascade Subdivision N Scale Railroad -

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Whitewater Draw, McNeal, Arizona

We had heard about this place south of Wilcox, Arizona, where Sandhill Cranes roost in the winter.  Having spent a few days each of the past 3 Decembers in Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in southern New Mexico, we love photographing the cranes, snow geese, and other water fowl who winter there.
Sunset over Whitewater Draw
We drove south from Roper Lake State Park through old Indian Country, the Wilcox Playa situated between the Chiricahua Mountains on the east and the Dragoon Mountains on the west.  Near Cochise Stronghold which is where, yes, Cochise hide out and foot the blue coats in the 19th century.  Now fertile farmland irrigated from deep wells dot the countryside.  About 40 miles south of I-10 we found McNeal, Arizona then a few miles south and east over dirt roads, arrived at Whitewater Draw.  Nina over at Wheelingit blog had rated this dry camping site as one of their favorites for 2013.  The parking lot can handle up to 3-5 rigs depending upon size.  Stay limited to 3 nights.  We decided to stay for 2 nights.  There were pit toilets, and best of all, the price was FREE!

We arrived mid-afternoon.  Several cars in parking lot area, but no RV's or trailers, yet so we selected our site on the south side facing the pools which were 1/4 mile walk distant.  Later in afternoon a large 5th wheel arrived, then a small RV so plenty of room for all.  A couple other rigs came and went back out due to lack of room so we felt fortunate.  
Sandhill Crane Family: Mom, Dad and Junior (in the middle)

Lovely afternoon with sunshine and warm breezes.  We walked around the pond spotting a few cranes sunning themselves on the beach.  Most were quite distant. 

 Lovely sunset.  
Nighttime felt very still and quiet.  Well pretty quiet other than the owl and the cranes whooping it up all night.  Real party animals those cranes!  Hehe.  Actually a beautiful sound to hear them in the stillness of the night.

Next morning we were treated to an amazing sunrise but the bird photography wasn't so good since the sun stayed behind those beautiful sunrise clouds so I don't have much.

Later in morning the wind freshened to about 25-30 mph gusting to 40 and remained stiff breezes rest of day through the night. Good news is we had decent internet via our new cellular modem from Millenicom.  Woo hoo!

Here is link to my Picasa album

We did see quite a few other birds too.

We were pretty tired by days end from walking around in these winds and the photography light was not great yet I still managed to get a few pix.

Sunset reflections
Another fun thing was Bisbee, Arizona only 35 minutes away so we drove over for a walk and lunch.  Even more windy over there but was fun.

Saturday morning the wind was less but light still not great.  We walked around for a while then headed out for Tucson.

Here are a few more pix.