Tag Archives: Grand Canyon

Down in the Valley


The Grand Canyon is not, strictly speaking, a valley.  But it is big enough that it could be called a valley, in fact, it is larger than many so-called valleys!  Year-round, it is an intensely popular tourist destination.  When you’re there, you are maybe more likely to hear tourists speaking German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and other languages are you are to hear English.  People come from all over the world to see this truly immense, spectacular sight.

You can (if you are the stomach for it!) ride mules down from the rim to the canyon floor (and  yes, mules have fallen, contrary to popular belief!)  You can (if you have the legs and lungs for it!) hike from the rim to the canyon floor.  But if you plan to do that, listen CAREFULLY to the rangers and their recommendations before you head down.  Many, many people have died from cardiac arrest, dehydration, hypothermia and other conditions from the effort required.  You can (if you wish – and I’d love to do this!) raft down the canyon if you make reservations far enough in advance.  But there are MANY who have drowned in the mighty Colorado…even those who were only in very shallow water.  Flash floods can come tumbling down blind canyon offshoots when it rains up on the plateau miles and miles from the canyon.  And the current is swift…and can be very deadly, too.

Still, it is a wonderland.  Today’s photo was taken last May when we visited the canyon.  What a place!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1777, the American flag was flown in battle for the first time during a Revolutionary War skirmish at Cooch’s Bridge, Delaware. Patriot General William Maxwell ordered the “Stars and Stripes” banner raised as a detachment of his infantry and cavalry met an advance guard of British and Hessian troops. The rebels were defeated and forced to retreat to Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania, where they joined General George Washington’s main force.

Three months earlier, on June 14, the Continental Congress had adopted a resolution stating that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white” and that “the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” The national flag, which became known as the Stars and Stripes, was based on the Grand Union flag, a banner carried by the Continental Army in 1776 that also consisted of 13 red and white stripes. According to legend, Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross designed the new canton, which consisted of a circle of 13 stars on a blue background, at the request of General George Washington. Historians have been unable to conclusively prove or disprove this legend.

With the entrance of new states into the Union after independence, new stripes and stars were added to represent the new additions. In 1818, however, Congress enacted a law stipulating that the 13 original stripes be restored and that only stars be added to represent new states.

On June 14, 1877, the first Flag Day observance was held on the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the flag. As instructed by Congress, the U.S. flag was flown from all public buildings across the country. In the years after the first Flag Day, several states continued to observe the anniversary, and, in 1949, Congress officially designated June 14 as Flag Day, a national day of observance.

Even to this day, I think she (the flag) is the most beautiful in the world!

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  In 2008, nearly 50,000 kilos of cocaine were seized in the U.S. during drug arrests. The wholesale street value of this amount of cocaine was approximately $1.5 billion.  (That’s a lot of McDonald’s cheeseburgers!)

A River Runs Through It

Double-click to see a larger version of the photo.

Yes, there was a movie by the title of today’s post, but I’m not going to talk about the movie.  I’m talking about the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide (averaging 10 miles across) and attains a depth of over a mile (6,000 feet).  It is so massive that it is deceptive.  From the Canyon rim, in various locations, one can spot the Colorado River as it snakes its way through the canyon.  What you don’t realize from such a distance is that the river averages 300 feet in width (if you double click the image above, you can see it better in the bottom of the canyon).   It is not the deepest canyon in the world (Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal is far deeper), however, the Grand Canyon is known for its visually overwhelming size and its intricate and colorful landscape.

About 600 deaths have occurred in the Grand Canyon since the 1870’s. Some of these deaths occurred as the result of overly zealous photographic endeavors, some were the result of airplane collisions within the canyon, and some visitors drowned in the Colorado River.

Of the fatalities, 53 have resulted from falls; 65 deaths were attributable to environmental causes, including heat stroke, cardiac arrest, dehydration, and hypothermia; 7 were caught in flash floods; 79 were drowned in the Colorado River; 242 perished in airplane and helicopter crashes (128 of them in the 1956 disaster mentioned below); 25 died in freak errors and accidents, including lightning strikes and rock falls; and 23 were the victims of homicides.

And yes, there are fish in the river…kinda like in the movie!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  with all the excitement about California Chrome’s failed bid to win the Triple Crown of horse-racing this past weekend, I thought this was appropriate for today:

On this day in 1973, Secretariat wins the Belmont Stakes to become the first Triple Crown winner since Citation in 1948. Secretariat ran the mile-and-a-half race in 2:24, a world record that many believe will never be broken.

Secretariat, the son of Bold Ruler and Somethingroyal, was raised in Doswell, Virginia, at Meadow Stable by owner Penny Tweedy. He won seven of nine races started as a two-year-old and was the first horse of his age to be named Horse of the Year. After winning the first two races of his three-year-old career, he lost the third, which was also the final tune-up before that year’s Kentucky Derby.  Afterward, a painful abscess was found under the horse’s lip, which supporters hoped was the reason for his unexpectedly slow performance. Secretariat did not disappoint at the 1973 Kentucky Derby, where he set a track record of just over 1:59 to beat Sham by two-and-a-half lengths. Secretariat then won the Preakness, and though unofficial timers and spectators insisted the horse had also set a new record there, the official time keeper clocked Secretariat a few seconds slower.

Secretariat came into the Belmont Stakes in Long Island, New York, at 1-to-10 odds, making him the overwhelming favorite. Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte, however, expected a close race with Sham at the longer Belmont. At the beginning of the race, Sham and jockey Laffit Pincay kept pace with the so-called “super horse” but expended too much energy in the process and eventually faded to last place, while Secretariat pulled away from the pack. Secretariat crossed the finish line an amazing 31 lengths ahead of My Gallant and Twice a Prince in a show of speed and endurance horse enthusiasts had never seen. Turcotte later said of the race, “I know this sounds crazy, but the horse did it by himself. I was along for the ride.”

Years later, Secretariat’s dominance as a race horse was attributed to the size of his heart, which was found to weigh 22 pounds, more than twice that of a typical thoroughbred.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released on July 21, 2007, and sold 11 million copies on the first day of its release, breaking J.K. Rowling’s earlier records for the fastest selling book of all time.



Hey…I was at a meeting last week (all week) and we had HORRIBLE internet and email connectivity while I was there (up in the mountains), so that’s why there were no posts last week.  But, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health (oh, wait a minute – that’s something else!) I’m back!!!!

Today’s picture was taken about three weeks ago at the Grand Canyon.  It was our second day there and we had gone out the east road along the south rim of the park as we’d never been out there before.  On our way back, we stopped at some overlooks that we’d bypassed on our way eastbound.  At one such spot, we found the critter featured in my picture for today.

If you have read my posts for a while, you know I’m terrified of heights.  I mean…T.E.R.R.I.F.I.E.D.  But here was this little pip-squeak of a rodent, perched on the edge of oblivion, surveying what he probably thinks is his canyon.  The wind was strong and gusty and I think it could have blown this beast over the edge, but he (she? – I didn’t get that close!) didn’t seem to have a care in the world.  As we stood there, it actually turned and lay lengthwise along the very edge!  I don’t know, but I suspect it was demented.

A bit later, we stopped in one of the gift shops and my eye was drawn to the title of a book right beside the check-out stand.  The title was: Over the Edge – Death in Grand Canyon, and it purports to document every known fatality in the Canyon (of course, that can’t possibly be true going way back into history, but it goes back into the 1800’s).  What a FASCINATING read!!!  People have drown (of course), fallen over the edge (of course), died of dehydration and heat stroke, died of freezing to death, driven over the edge a la Thelma and Louise, committed suicide in various ways, been murdered, died in airplane crashes, etc.

But, bottom line: as spectacularly dangerous as the Canyon can be, it is still worth visiting and seeing it first hand.  Truly stupendous!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1913, two farmers walking near a quarry outside of Edinburgh, Scotland, found two small, dead bodies floating in the water, tied together. Although the bodies were so waterlogged that authorities could barely confirm that they were human, Sydney Smith, the century’s first “Quincy,” was able to use forensics to help solve the crime.

Smith was at the beginning of his 40-year career and working as an assistant to Professor Harvey Littlejohn at Edinburgh University. The first thing he noticed about the body was the presence of adipocere, a white and hard type of fat. The level of adipocere in the bodies, which takes months to form inside the human body when exposed to water, led Smith to believe that they had been in the quarry somewhere between 18 to 24 months.

The adipocere had preserved the stomachs of the bodies and Smith saw that the children had eaten peas, barley, potatoes, and leeks approximately an hour before they died. Given the seasonal nature of the vegetables, Smith figured that the kids had died at the end of 1911. Most importantly, Smith found an indication that one of the children’s shirts had come from the Dysart poorhouse.

With this information, law enforcement officials quickly found the killer. Patrick Higgins, a widower and drunk, had placed his two boys in the Dysart poorhouse in 1910. When he didn’t pay the small fees, Higgins was jailed. He eventually took the young boys out of the poorhouse, but they had not been seen since November 1911.

Higgins was arrested and pled temporary insanity at his trial in September 1913. The jury rejected his defense, and, on October 2, 1913, he was hanged.

Sydney Smith went on to be a pioneer in forensic medicine.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: a shark’s jaw is not attached to its cranium. Because its mouth is situated on the underside of its head, a shark can temporarily dislocate its jaw and jut it forward to take a bite.

…in the Canyon


There are few places that change their color as dramatically as the Grand Canyon throughout the passing hours of the day.  As part of the title for today’s post, I coined the phrase “Sun-seep” to describe the phenomenon.

This HDR photo (shot that way to capture more of the range of light present in the scene) was shot toward the end of the day as the sun was getting low in the west.  The image is looking primarily east/northeast, and the lighting was wonderful for photography (though it could have been better if it hadn’t been a thinly-clouded and hazy day).  This was taken toward the “golden hour” when the angle of the sun’s rays are warmer and slanted across the landscape rather than pointing mostly downward.  The light during mid-day is rather harsh and unforgiving, more white than golden.  That’s why photographers are often early to rise kinds of folks: the golden hour really happens twice each day – once just before/after sunrise and the other just before/after sunset.

I’m ready to go back and shoot some more!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  it was in 2005 that Carl Edward Roland, 41, wanted by police in connection with the murder of his ex-girlfriend Jennifer Gonzalez, spent his third day perched on a crane 18 stories above Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood.

Police in Pinellas County, Florida, discovered the badly beaten body of Gonzalez, 36, in a retention pond on May 24. She had been last seen with Roland, for whom police issued an arrest warrant after he did not return to his Clearwater, Florida, home. The next day, Roland showed up at an Atlanta construction site, where he told a worker he had “hurt someone” before taking the crane’s elevator up 18 stories and crawling out onto its horizontal arm.

For the next day three days, area business and traffic was disrupted while authorities attempted to convince Roland to come down. To keep him from falling asleep and off the crane, authorities positioned a bucket underneath him with a loud siren, which Roland eventually disassembled. Finally, after ignoring the authorities’ offers of food and water for more than 56 hours, Roland agreed to accept some water at about 12:30 a.m. on May 28. He edged toward police, who then tasered, tackled and restrained him. He was then wrapped onto a stretcher and lowered down the 350-foot crane. After a visit to a nearby hospital, Roland was taken to the Fulton County Jail to await extradition to Florida.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Yellowstone covers 63 air miles (101 km) north to south and 54 air miles (84 km) east to west and is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined.  It experiences 1000-3000 earthquakes daily as a large portion of the park is situated above a super-volcano (hence the hot springs, geysers, etc., that all help make the park a tourist attraction.)

…the Canyon


I don’t believe that there is anything else on earth like it.  It was fascinating to listen to foreigners and Americans alike as they came up to the rim of the Grand Canyon and saw it for the first time.  “Oh!”  “Oh, wow!”  “Holy cow!” (and a few other choice words).  It is stunning.  It is breath-taking.  It is spectacular, colorful, immense, frightening, beautiful.  It is, as I said, unique on the earth.

For me, I don’t know that I would ever get tired of seeing it.  I could go again and again and again.  The colors in the canyon change with the shifting play of daylight, cloud, sunrise and sunset.  I have never photographed it by the full moon, but I would love to do so.  Perhaps someday I will.  Though it is ageless, it is ever changing, shifting color and hue, crumbling rock and roaring river, ripping winds and changing with each season.

I am also terrified of the canyon.  It is beautiful to behold but also a serious place.  There is no wall that runs along the edge of the canyon.  With over 1300 miles of canyon on the south rim, it just isn’t feasible…and it would destroy the incredible beauty of the place.  The winds are often strong.  People lose their balance…they do foolish things.  Some die and others are shattered for life.

But there is something about the place that draws us to its majesty and grandeur.  Today’s photo was shot just about 10 days ago.  I focused on the trees in the foreground and purposely threw the background cliffs out of focus. It is as if the branches of tree may be waiting for an unwitting passer-by to grab him/her and hurl them to the rocks far below.

I was pleased with the result…it hints of the mystery of the canyon beyond the rim and whispers an invitation to take a closer look.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1897, the first copies of the classic vampire novel Dracula, by Irish writer Bram Stoker, appear in London bookshops.

A childhood invalid, Stoker grew up to become a football (soccer) star at Trinity College, Dublin. After graduation, he got a job in civil service at Dublin Castle, where he worked for the next 10 years while writing drama reviews for the Dublin Mail on the side. In this way, Stoker met the well-respected actor Sir Henry Irving, who hired him as his manager. Stoker stayed in the post for most of the next three decades, writing Irving’s voluminous correspondence for him and accompanying him on tours in the United States. Over the years, Stoker began writing a number of horror stories for magazines, and in 1890 he published his first novel, The Snake’s Pass.

Stoker would go on to publish 17 novels in all, but it was his 1897 novel Dracula that eventually earned him literary fame and became known as a masterpiece of Victorian-era Gothic literature. Written in the form of diaries and journals of its main characters, Dracula is the story of a vampire who makes his way from Transylvania–a region of Eastern Europe now in Romania–to Yorkshire, England, and preys on innocents there to get the blood he needs to live. Stoker had originally named the vampire “Count Wampyr.” He found the name Dracula in a book on Wallachia and Moldavia written by retired diplomat William Wilkinson, which he borrowed from a Yorkshire public library during his family’s vacations there.

Vampires–who left their burial places at night to drink the blood of humans–were popular figures in folk tales from ancient times, but Stoker’s novel catapulted them into the mainstream of 20th-century literature. Upon its release, Dracula enjoyed moderate success, though when Stoker died in 1912 none of his obituaries even mentioned Dracula by name. Sales began to take off in the 1920’s, when the novel was adapted for Broadway. Dracula mania kicked into even higher gear with Universal’s blockbuster 1931 film, directed by Tod Browning and starring the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi. Dozens of vampire-themed movies, television shows and literature followed, though Lugosi, with his exotic accent, remains the quintessential Count Dracula. Late 20th-century examples of the vampire craze include the bestselling novels of American writer Anne Rice.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The most intensive Holocaust killing took place in September 1941 at the Babi Yar Ravine just outside of Kiev, Ukraine, where more than 33,000 Jews were killed in just two days. Jews were forced to undress and walk to the ravine’s edge. When German troops shot them, they fell into the abyss. The Nazis then pushed the wall of the ravine over, burying the dead and the living. Police grabbed children and threw them into the ravine as well.


Feeling Expansive

Have you ever had one of those days when it seems that the entire world is your oyster?  That there are unlimited possibilities almost within reach, just around the corner?  Where you think you can finally get a glimpse of really good things in the future?

Days like that make you feel expansive, don’t they?  Maybe not.  But I love GOOD days!!!!  And today was a good day…and I’m feeling expansive, so I thought, “What would be a good photo for the kind of expansive feeling I’ve got going on inside me?”

Voila!  The Grand Canyon!  There’s not much that’s more expansive than that incredible canyon in Arizona. The canyon includes 277 miles of river, at points it is over 18 miles wide, a mile and a half deep.  It isn’t the deepest canyon in the world, nor the widest…but if you’ve ever seen it, there’s no denying it is overwhelming in size, grandeur, and its ability to produce awe in even the most hardened fan of scenery and the great outdoors.  If you’ve not been, it is something the belongs on your bucket list.

So, I dug through my archives and found a picture that reflects my mood for today. It was an overcast, mostly gray, dark day…with even some sprinkles.  But it was OH SO WORTH IT!

I hope you’ve had a good day, too…and that tomorrow will be even better!!!

Feelin' expansive today!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1498, Martin Pinzon, the commander of the Pinta, arrived in Bayona, Spain, and the Old World got its first news of the New World.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Teddy Roosevelt was the first U. S. President to ride in an automobile.

Questions I’d Answer If I Could Fly

Who hasn’t dreamed of flying?  I suspect we all have.  I wonder why that dream is so widespread?  Perhaps it is because we have souls caged in bodies that long to be free and fly.

Most of my flying dreams are really pleasant.  I often dream that all I have to do to fly is to just think about floating and then my body will begin to float up to the ceiling, the top of a tree, or wherever I desire to go.  Alas, I’ve never YET been able to make it work in real life.  Maybe some day…who knows???

Today I’m sharing another picture I shot at the Grand Canyon.  Just after we got to the edge on the south side of the canyon, we pulled out the cameras and started shooting.  As we shot, there were some large birds that were circling and rising on an updraft.  They looked as if they were enjoying themselves immensely.

As I watched them, I couldn’t help but wonder if when a bird perches on the edge of the rim or on a tree above the canyon and then they push off with their tiny feet and spread their wings…I wonder if they ever get nervous when they look down.   I wonder if they ever worry that “This time my wings won’t work,” or “This time gravity will be too much and I may plummet thousands of feet to my death.”  I suspect they never think about that, but what do I know?  Does a bird that is flying across the canyon worry that they’ll tire out before they reach the other side?  Again, I don’t know.  Perhaps we get so used to doing what we do that we all take it for granted – birds included.

Anyway, as I shot pictures all day, I was nearly paralyzed when I’d get close to the edge, or even when I’d be out on a railed-in precipice and the wind would come HOWLING across the outcropping.  It is terrifying.  I don’t think I’d do well as a bird…that is, if they have such fears.  Such are the questions I’d answer if I could fly.

Would a bird be afraid to take off from here? I would be!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1972, Bernice Gera, baseball’s first woman umpire, called balls and strikes in her first game as an ump.  She resigned a few hours later.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: when collecting poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms, they should never be collected together as some poisonous mushrooms can contaminate with the slightest touch.

Swept Away

Well, we’ve been on the road on vacation and haven’t been in a place where I could post for a while.  Hopefully, starting today, I can get back to more regular posting and sharing this road trip adventure with you.  We’ve seen some incredible stuff…and more is “on the horizon”!

What can one say about the Grand Canyon except that it is truly grand?!?!  I’d seen it 29 years or so ago when our boys were little.  I remember how impressed I was with it then…and was glad to find that it was just as impressive today.  We actually got to explore more of the south rim this time than previously, and we shot lots of pictures.  The problem with photographing the Grand Canyon is that you just can’t capture the immensity or grandeur of the place in a photography.   It boggles the mind to the extent that you can’t even “remember” how incredible it is…let alone capture it on a tiny digital sensor.  But one tries anyway.

The day we were there was mostly overcast and cloudy, which was disappointing, as there was no sunlight to cause the colors to “pop”.  On rare occasions, though, we did get a bit of a ray of sunlight and we’d scurry to the edge of the canyon to fire off some shots. Today’s photo was one such moment.

Sadly, as we were on our back to the visitor center, we witnessed a scary sight.  There were several emergency vehicles pulled up on the side of the road with a rescue squad standing at the very edge of the canyon (there are no rails in many areas of the canyon), looking over the edge.  Clearly, someone had gone over the edge.  I don’t know if the person was injured, lived, died, was an adult or a child.  I said a brief prayer for all those involved.

A view of the Grand Canyon from the south rim...

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1982, John Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in his 1981 attempted assassination of President Reagan.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: on a hot afternoon, the atmosphere draws up as much as 5,500 million gallons of water per hour from the Gulf of Mexico.