Friday, May 17, 2019

Petrified Forest

I drove to Tucson last month to visit my son Brian and his wife Laura.  On the way back I took an extra day to explore Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, Arizona.  There are two main attractions there, the painted desert and the petrified forest.  Here is the story of the Petrified Forest.

Some people think they are going to see a standing forest here, but the trees turned to stone after they fell and were washed downstream and buried during the late Triassic period around 200 million years ago.

As millions of years passed, the buried logs absorbed water and silica from volcanic ash which crystallized into quartz which often kept some of the logs’ details.

Spectacular colors were added by various minerals.  The colors in this photo have not been altered.

The crystallized logs were harder than the soil where they were buried.  Over time, erosion removed the surrounding dirt and the logs surfaced.  Sometimes the logs helped reduce the erosion under them, leaving them balanced on a narrow ridge.

Many of the huge logs look like they have been sectioned with a chainsaw.  This happened when they were still buried and earth movement caused forces that snapped the crystallized logs like breaking glass rods.

The petrified logs are mostly in the southern part of the park, but if you go be sure to see the painted desert in the north as well.

I hope you enjoy the photos, but remember they are copyrighted.  Please don’t use them without permission.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Bear Lake Monster Encounter

I should have written about my encounter with the Bear Lake monster just after it happened, but I didn’t want trouble from the skeptics.  But since Idaho Magazine published my article about the event in the February 2019 issue, the secret is out.  I might as well talk about it.

It was a dark and stormy night.  Well actually, evening just after sunset, and Linda and I were camped at Bear Lake State Park on the east side of the lake in Idaho during July 2018.  A storm was dropping beautiful sheets of rain on the western mountains across the lake.  I set up my camera on a tripod to photograph the storm and hopefully get a lightning strike.  It got darker and darker, so my exposures got longer and finally I got a photo of some lightning.  The wind got stronger, indicating the storm was getting closer, so I knew I had to leave to avoid the lightning.  But just as I got ready to pack up the tripod I saw something leaping and bounding across the water coming right at me!  My first thought was the famous Bear Lake monster was coming to get me.  What else could it be?

I started taking photos as it got closer and closer, but it was dark and my photos of the charging monster were all blurry because of the long exposures.  The monster hit the beach nearly at my feet.  It was a giant black inflatable turtle that must have blown all the way across the lake from the west shore eight miles away.  Heart pounding, I packed up my gear and returned to our trailer just as the rain hit.

During the night a second thunderstorm hit, and when I looked for the turtle the next morning it was gone.  The wind must have blown it to Wyoming.

I’m glad the folks at Idaho Magazine thought enough of this yarn to publish it, and I got a kick out of telling the story.

Please remember, my photos are copyrighted and must not be used without permission.  I usually charge a reasonable fee to use them, except for charitable or academic purposes.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Sun Dog

A sun dog is an atmospheric phenomenon that creates patches of light about 22° to the side of the sun.  Usually we see them on cold clear mornings here in the Bear Lake Valley, but this one showed up in the middle of a misty afternoon.

Suns dogs, or parhelia, are created by sunlight refracting through icy clouds of hexagonal crystals.  I was out looking for photo opportunities with Bruce Grayum when we saw this one from a back road near Georgetown, Idaho.  The cows didn’t seem impressed by the huge apparition in the sky near their pasture, but they did provide scale to show the size the sun dog.
It was a cold day, 9° F as we continued to explore.  We stopped at the bridge over the Bear River on the Nounan road and saw the sun dog again, but this time no clear sky was visible at all.  I liked the reflected light in the river.
Sometimes the arcs of light form a complete halo around the sun, and some have faint rainbows of color like this one.  Photographing them can be tricky because the camera must be pointed directly at the sun.  A clean lens is needed to prevent flares, and there is danger of getting a burned retina.  If your camera has it, live view might be a good option.
Our last stop was along Creamery Lane between Georgetown and Nounan where the sun dog appeared in icy mist over a winter landscape of drifts and sagebrush.  Shooting into the sun causes the lens to stop down, darkening the photo, but if the exposure is lengthened, the sun dog seems to blend with the sky and disappear.  I think the darkened exposure presents an other-worldly appearance anyway.

Why are they called “sun dogs”?  No one knows for sure, but the term has been around since the 1600’s and the origin seems to be lost in time.  Some say it is because the "dogs" follow the sun around.

I hope you like this post, but please do not use my copyrighted photos without permission.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Comet, Montana Ghost Town

The last ghost town we visited on our summer camping trip, Comet, Montana, was one of my favorites.  Comet’s first mining claim was in 1869 by John W. Russell and the town was started in 1876.  The area was called the High Ore Mining District.

A row of old cabins greets visitors as they enter town.  There were about 300 people here until the mines started to play out and Comet was described as a ghost town in 1913.

In 1926 the Basin Montana Tunnel Company built a 200 ton concentrator which became the second largest mining venture in Montana.  Local mines went on to produce over 20 million dollars of silver, gold, lead, zinc, and copper.  The mill shown here with the bunkhouse was closed in 1941 and the equipment salvaged.

There are lots of wonderful old buildings like this boarding house.  Miners stayed here for 75 cents room and board.

There wasn’t enough left of this truck to identify it, but my guess is it was used to haul ore, based on the 16 leaf springs.  Comet is privately owned and there is one occupied house, so private property must be respected.  However, buildings can be viewed from the road.

There are still a few houses scattered across the hillside.  The town once had a school with 20 pupils, but they were outnumbered by the 22 saloons.

We had some pretty good clouds that day, and some of them worked well with the collapsing buildings.

There is usually an opportunity for interesting detail photos in places like Comet.

Comet was built on mining, so I will end with a photo of a mine headframe with a trestle connected to an ore bin. There is still a winch in a small building with a cable leading to the shaft on top of the hill.

Remember, these photos are copyrighted and should not be used for any purpose without permission, and usually a small payment, unless used for charitable or academic purposes.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Granite, Montana Ghost Town

I knew that Bruce Gregory and Stephen Johnson would enjoy Granite, Montana based on my visit there in 2005 with my wife and our neighbors.  So, Granite was one of our destinations on our summer camping trip.

There was a silver bonanza in the 1880’s on Granite Mountain, and soon the mountaintop was packed with buildings.  The centerpiece was the magnificent Miner’s Union Hall, now a big brick ruin.  The elegant building once had a dance floor / auditorium, lodge room, office, library, and more.

Mae Werning’s house is down the street.  She was the watchman and last resident of Granite and died in 1969 at age 75.  Most houses now are just piles of lumber or overgrown rock foundations.

Granite Mills A and B together ran 80 stamps until the 1890’s.  In the 1950’s the buildings were intentionally burned for safety reasons, leaving these gigantic foundations.

Just down the road along the face of the mountain ruined structures of the Ruby Mine are on the verge of collapse.
Granite has some of the biggest ghost town structures we have found on our camping trips.  It is amazing to think about what it was like to live and work here more than a century ago.
I hope you enjoy these photos, but please be aware that they are copyrighted and can not be used for any purpose without permission and reasonable compensation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Elkhorn, Montana Ghost Town

I am still trying to catch up on reviewing photos from our annual camping trip to Montana.  So, here are photos of Elkhorn, Montana, one of five ghost towns we visited in July.

 This silver mining town was established in 1872 and had a peak population of about 2500.  Now the population is 10, but I’ll bet most of them are part time residents.

The big attraction for ghost town hunters is Gillian Hall (left) and the Fraternity Hall (right).  These buildings are now preserved as Montana’s smallest state park.

The National Register of Historic Places states that the Fraternity Hall (built in 1893) is perhaps the most photographed ghost town building in the United States and lists it as number 1 of 12 western structures that should be saved.  This room was used for dances, meetings, and theatrical shows.

Elkhorn is a mix of abandoned and restored buildings.

The beautiful cemetery is on a quiet isolated hillside.  A large number of children were buried there after a diphtheria epidemic in 1888 - 1889.

Mining relics and ruins are scattered around, but most are in areas posted “no trespassing”.  The mines opened and closed several times and were finally closed for good in 1937 after producing about $14 million of silver.  Except for the two Halls, most of the town is private property but can be photographed from the road.

Please be aware that these photos are copyrighted.  If you would like to use them for any reason, please contact me.  My fees are very reasonable, and often free for charitable purposes.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fantasy Canyon, Utah

Fantasy Canyon is a strange area of eroded gray sandstone about 40 miles from Vernal, Utah.  It covers about 10 acres and has an easy trail.

The entire site is covered with fantastically eroded pillars and gargoyle-like figures.  Early names were the “Devil’s Playground” and “Hades Pit”.

The quartzose rocks of Fantasy Canyon were deposited 38 to 50 million years ago during the Eocene Epoch.  This area was once prehistoric Lake Uinta.

These rocks were on the shore of the lake and different minerals have weathered at different rates, creating the fantastic figures here.

Fantasy Canyon is very fragile.  As old formations erode away, new ones will be formed.

You should be aware that Fantasy Canyon is the territory of pygmy rattlesnakes, although I didn't see any.

Getting there can be tricky.  After driving on good roads for about 35 miles, you turn into a maze of dirt roads in a desert gas field, but the BLM has posted very helpful signs.  We have been told than even a small amount of rain makes these roads impassable, so stay out if clouds are moving in.

As usual, my photos are copyrighted, so please ask for permission before you use them for any purpose.  In most cases, a small fee will be charged.