Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dark Shadows and Soggy Shoes

Roger here...  With apologies to Johnny Depp, I will start with Dark Shadows.  (I will explain the mystery of the opening photo in a bit.)

A few days ago we discovered that we would be just a few miles from the epicenter of the Annular Solar Eclipse.  This was totally an accident. Isn't serendipity great?  With a little investigation, we learned that there are special eclipse glasses -- cardboard contraptions that resemble the 3D glasses in movie theaters.  I checked at the campground office to see if they knew where we might find some and was given an innocent, "I don't know."   On the way out of the office, I noticed a small poster advertising a workshop for creating a solar eclipse viewing device.  The lady at the front desk evidently did not know about the activities in the campground.

In the meantime, Dianne watched a short segment on TV that showed a step-by-step procedure for making a reflecting device to watch the eclipse.  She immediately got busy and made two of them.  My favorite was the one made from a wine box that we were ready to discard.

We attended the workshop at the campground, but were disappointed to learn that they had just sold the last pair of eclipse viewing glasses.  Had we known they would be for sale, we would have purchased them earlier, or at least been first in line to buy them.  Crap.

So back we went to the campsite.  The viewers that Dianne made did work, but looking at a reflection was not the same thing as looking at the real thing.  As a former science teacher, I ALWAYS told my students to never look directly at the sun.  Direct sunlight will indeed burn the retinas of your eyes.  I knew that even the darkest of sunglasses would also not be safe, so we resigned ourselves to looking at the reflection in the wine box.  We could see the shadow of the moon in the sun's reflection in the box as it began its journey between the Earth and the Sun.

We did notice that it was getting a little darker.  I took a "before" picture of the trees behind us.  The photo below shows the slight difference in sunlight at the height of the eclipse.  It is most noticeable in the color of the sky.

Kinda interesting, but not the spectacle that I had hoped for.  Then --serendipity -- our neighbors in the motor home next door asked if they could watch the eclipse from our site.  Trees were blocking their view.  We, of course, said yes.  AND, guess what?  They had a pair of eclipse glasses that they had purchased in St. George.  We all were able to see the ring of fire, as they generously passed the glasses around. 
I shot the photo above directly at the sun (without looking at the sun).  I knew it would not depict the event, but it turned out better than I expected, giving a surreal picture of the eclipse and our small group.

There was no way to get a photo of what we were seeing; however, here is a link to Diana Tolerico's excellent blog with some great photos of the ring of fire. 

Life on the Open Road - Solar Eclipse
The best moment occurred when one of our neighbors pointed out the multiple reflections of eclipse on the back of another neighbor's travel trailer.  The opening photo shows the same phenomenon on our motor home, as does the picture below.  Very cool.

The next morning, Dianne and I had an early breakfast and headed to Zion National Park for a slog up the Virgin River.  The Narrows Trail is a Zion classic.  We did this hike fourteen years ago, but this time we were better prepared --- we brought an extra pair of shoes, and hiking poles.

We rode the amazingly efficient shuttle system in the park to the trail head.  The first part of the fun involved a 1.2 mile hike on a paved trail along the river.  We managed to get past the trail head, just in front of about 100 excited elementary school students and their teachers.  I was happy for the kids, but really wanted to get ahead of them on the trail :-).

We saw a couple of deer in the river bottoms area next to the trail.  Then we saw another young deer perched precariously above us on the cliff side.  How'd he get up there?  He was eating some of the abundant plant growth that thrives on the sides of the vertical walls.  The deer was not the least bit fearful of the parade of humanity passing by.  I wonder what he did when the school group saw him?  We didn't stick around to find out.

The paved trail eventually ended at the side of the river.  We joined several others wading across to a rocky point, but first we stopped to make sure that we were ready for a possible spill.  
-  wallet in a sandwich bag in a velcroed pocket
-  camera and watch in a water-proof box in a back
-  iPhone safely back at the car
-  "froggies" holding our sunglasses firmly in place
-  changed into water shoes
-  put hiking shoes in a garbage bag and then                       into my backpack
-  extended our hiking poles 

OK, ready, set go!   Ohhhhhhhhh!  The water was cold!  However, it did not take long to get used to it.  The hiking poles were invaluable in helping us to keep our balance in the current as we carefully placed each foot in the best place among the rocks in the river bottom. 

This really was a unique experience.  We crossed the river multiple times.  Each time seeking the shallowest route.  Each footfall carefully considered.  Picture taking was difficult.  For each photo, the camera was removed from its water-proofed layers.  It was necessary to attain a firm balance so as not to fall into the water.  It was not a spontaneous activity, but it was not impossible.

As we moved further up the river, the distance between the canyon walls grew narrower, and the water depth grew deeper.  We were wading in thigh-deep water.

We watched a group in front of us as the water reached their waistlines as they turned a bend.  We decided to save some of the more adventurous exploration for a repeat trip when our daughters and granddaughter visit next week.

So, we headed back for the paved trail.  Neither one of us fell into the water, but I had a couple of close calls.  Dianne looks none the worse for wear in this pic.  River slogging may be her thing :-)

We left on our wet water shoes for the return walk, hoping that they would dry out as we walked.
This time, we took our time  on the paved trail (no school kids to stay ahead of; they were only allowed to look at the river and turn back).  It was really a nice hike.  The flowers and ferns growing out of the vertical walls of the cliffside survive because of the water that seeps out of the rock. 

Dianne took a few close-ups of the flowers growing out of the rocks.

When we reached the shuttle, we changed back into our dry hiking shoes.  After a pleasant ride back to the car, we decided to have lunch at one of the many restaurants near the park entrance in the appealing town of Springdale.  We ate outside under an umbrella among the towering vertical cliffs.

The pet picture of the day is not really one of our pets.  Technically, this creature was, however, living on our patio rug until Dianne carried it to a grassy area where Tequila was not as likely to eat it.  This is a tobacco hornworm larva.  When it morphs, it will be a variety of sphinx moth.  It was about three-and-a-half inches long.  Interesting looking little guy.


Gin and Syl said...

Nice hike and the eclipse reflections are interesting.

Diana said...

You are definitely more daring than I am with the Narrows hike. I won't even think about it until September when the water warms up. Thanks for the link to my blog. I love your pictures of the reflections. That is sooo cool!

Nancy and Bill said...

Oh my... That water had to be COLD!!! Look like fun:o)

Jennifer said...

Beautiful Photographs!!

Royal ABCS said...

So jealous of your "Narrows" adventure! We were at Zion last summer, but the Narrows were closed for high water... guess that just means we'll have to go back :)

Happy Hiking!
Stephanie King :)

Royal ABCS said...

So jealous of your "narrows" adventure! We were in Zion last summer, but the Narrows were closed due to high water... guess that just means we'll have to go back! :)

Happy Hiking!
Stephanie King :)