Astronomy forecast for Ivins, UT

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Olympic Peninsula – Salt Creek Recreation Area

We spent a couple nights at the Salt Creek Recreation Area on the Olympic Peninsula.  Its a beautiful spot on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Sitting on a bluff, we could see Victoria BC across the Strait and watch a steady stream of freighters heading toward ports in Washington and the world beyond.  We also took advantage of nearby Lake Crescent to get the kayaks wet.

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New Toys

Cindy and I have been shopping for kayaks, and figured a perfect place to acquire a pair would be in our tour of the Pacific Northwest! We found a couple Eddyline Equinox 14′ boats which fit our needs perfectly, so here they are.  They got wet for the first time in Lake Sammamich near Seattle, and will probably see more in the San Juan Islands.


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Dark sky at Parashant National Monument

I had the opportunity to visit the Parashant National Monument, which is a remote area on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  I accompanied the St George Astronomy Group for a seminar on astronomy and night photography at this superb dark sky site, about 60 miles down a dirt road from St George.  Due to the presence of a semi-moon, it was not a perfect night for astronomy, but a great night for moon photography.  Here’s a couple of shots through my Celestron 8″ SCT telescope – one of the moon, and one of the Sea of Tranquility.

dscn2225b Tranquility

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Antelope Canyon

Truly a photographer’s heaven is Antelope Canyon, on Lake Powell in Arizona.  The canyon can be experienced either by boat on Lake Powell, or by foot.  The slot canyons are truly spectacular.  These photos are from Lower Antelope Canyon.


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Mass Ascension

A daily occurrence (weather permitting) at the ABQ Balloon Fiesta is a Mass Ascension, where hundreds of hot air balloons launch into the clear New Mexico skies.  Hundreds of thousands of visitors are on hand to view the spectacle…

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Cindy launches a hot air balloon!

DSC_1363Cindy wants to volunteer to be a member of a ground crew, so we seek out the registration kiosk (not easy in the dark), and then walk across the huge field to the pilot’s briefing area.  She is soon picked up by Jim and Nancy Lynch, a husband-and-wife ballooning team from Florida, whose mission today is to give a flight to a Chinese television crew.


DSC_1372Cindy gets to work assisting the inflation process, manning the fan which blows air into the balloon, and soon the balloon is ready for flight.  Once launched, she boards the chase vehicle to recover the balloon, wherever it lands…..










Up, Up, and Away!

Up, Up, and Away!

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Dawn Patrol at the ABQ Balloon Fiesta

It is still dark at 4:30 AM as we prepare to go onto the Fiesta grounds, where 548 balloon teams are readying for their morning flight.  Airplanes are circling overhead, gathering data on wind speeds, directions, and temperatures. The morning is crisp and clear, gentle winds, perfect for hot air balloons.

At 5:00 AM, the gates from the RV parking to the field open, and we enter, only to find 10,000 or so other early-rising day visitors already on the field!

A select few balloons launch before it is light enough to see landing sites.   These early flights provide valuable weather and wind information to the rest of the pilots.


Dawn Patrol

Once dawn breaks, hundreds of other balloons are inflated, stood up, and lift off.  It’s a magnificent site.  The gentle winds carry the balloons directly over our Airstreams, and they drift southward toward various landing sites a few miles away.  Some go further than others.  One balloon landed in a field about 100 yards away from our Airstream.


Dawn Patrol



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Elk and Mule Deer at Grand Canyon

We had a beautiful, generously sized campsite at Mather Campground at Grand Canyon.  The first morning we were there, we discovered a family of Rocky Mountain Elk grazing in our campsite.  They were not intimidated in the least by the presence of humans; they simply wandered through our site and several adjoining sites.  There was a bull, his harem of 3 or 4 cows, and two juveniles. Click on any of these photos to enlarge them.


Rocky Mountain Elk bull

Later that day we attended a presentation by a ranger about the elk.  Arizona was once the home of Mirriam’s Elk;  however they were hunted to extinction over 100 years ago.

Rocky Mountain Elk were plentiful in Yellowstone National Park, so between 1913 and 1928 a conservation group transported via train hundreds of Rocky Mountain Elk from Yellowstone, and released outside Grand Canyon National Park.

DSC_1250Despite not well suited to the desert climate of Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountain Elk are thriving in the park, finding food in non-native decorative lawns in the park, and taking advantage of the water stations which were installed to provide water to hikers.

Unfortunately, the elk also consume massive quantities of native vegetation, which is also a prime food source for the native species of Mule Deer, to the point that the deer are now suffering due to lack of food source.


Rocky Mountain Elk cow

The ranger made a key point that decisions made without considering the science and implications – such as the decision to bring a new species into the environment – can have drastic, unintended consequences.

We were regularly visited by this group, and saw many others during our exploration of the park.

Rocky Mountain Elk cow nursing her yearling calf

Rocky Mountain Elk cow nursing her yearling calf








Mule Deer buck







This mule deer was fearless as well.  When i framed this picture, he was on one side of the narrow campground road, I was on the other.  Suddenly he started toward me.  I took the picture, and backed away (quickly)!!!


Mule Deer buck


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Grand Canyon South Rim

On our way to Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta, we stopped for three nights at Grand Canyon, Mather Campground.  We had beautiful autumn weather – cool evenings, but nice warm days.

Canyon views from the rim trail are spectacular.  These photos do not do it justice;  if you have not been – you need to go and see it with your own eyes






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