Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Weekend adventure

We had a wonderful time this weekend. On the Fourth of July, we drove up to Flagstaff and went for a hike in a lava tube. There was no lava in the tube.

A lava tube can form when a stream of lava runs out from a volcano. The outside of the lava is in contact with the air so it cools and solidifies, making a tube through which the still-hot lava inside continues to flow. Sometimes that solidifies too, but sometimes the source of lava is cut off at the top, and so the remaining lava flows out and goes on with its business, leaving the solidified tube empty. The empty tube may get filled with something else, it may collapse, or it may remain empty.

This lava tube made a cave about ¾ of a mile long in which the temperature was in the 40s. The inside was made of homogenous brown rock and the floor was quite uneven most places. But it was cool and it turned out to be a very good hike to do, since this awaited us when we got back to the entrance:

It was hailing with lightning striking close by. We ran for the car and drove out through cold, foggy forests, where in some places there was four inches or so of hail. It scraped the bottom of the car as I drove over it. It was the Fourth of July but it looked like the middle of winter.

We made it back to town and enjoyed some of Flagstaff's fine cuisine, and stayed in an overpriced motel for the night. The next day we drove up to Tusayan and took the free shuttle into the Grand Canyon. We walked up to Mather Point to take in the scene. In front of us was the north wall of the canyon, blue with distance, looking like a giant temple of terraces built by some unhuman consiousness. It didn't look quite real. We walked along the rim trail and Kate, our new roommate, took a picture of Katie and I:

Kate is another paleontology intern here for the summer. She bought the book Death in Grand Canyon and could not put it down. Here she reads it while standing up on the shuttle:

She had just finished the chapter on falls by the time we got to the canyon. Many of the fatal falls in the book occurred when visitors decided to hop the guardrails and walk right up to the edge, then lost their balance. When I read the book myself I imagined somebody would only try to hop the guardrails, oh, every once in a while. But as we walked we saw hundreds of people walk right up to the edge. Here a group of tourists wanders around above a drop of several hundred feet. Kate could not turn away.

When we got to the general store we bought some hot dogs and had a tiny cookout on my tiny backpacking stove.

We made some s'mores too, and then took the shuttle east for a brief hike down the South Kaibab trail. This trail is one of the few in the canyon that follows a ridge instead of a gully, making for some very nice views. Here are the switchbacks in the beginning part of the trail:

And some of the views from "Ooh Ah Point," ¾ of a mile down:

I'm including that second one because it's funny. It looks like a model shoot, especially with the strap to Kate's shirt falling down. We pose for a (less candid) picture before the hike back up:

There were very cute squirrels in the canyon.

The administration at the canyon is very keen on people not dying from heat stroke. Unfortunately, the only way to educate the large crowds is through intimidating signs. This sign about knowing your limits found us just in time.

Actually, we had a very moderate hike in beautiful weather and were not suffering in the least. It was one of the nicest days I've had in a long time. Here is a final picture as the sun starts to sink:

On a less upbeat note, my network card on my laptop has stopped working. There is a community computer, but it's rarely free when I am, and anyway the network seems to have been getting slower and slower throughout the summer. It's taken me about 3 hours over the past week to get all the photos for this entry uploaded. Understandably, this is somewhat de-motivating in terms of getting new posts up. But I would like to continue, so keep looking for new entries!

1 comment:

Mom said...

What great views and pictures!

Glad you're having some fun, sorry about the computer problems.

Love, Mom