Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Tough Day on the Mountain

Our day started out quite peacefully as we headed up to Rose Canyon Lake to check it out for the first time. The first realization that the mountain can be a dangerous place came early in the ride when we came across about 20 people by the side of the road where a vehicle had failed to negotiate a curve and had crashed . It was completely out of sight over the edge of the embankment. As we moved higher up the mountain we were able to see the smoke from one of the two wildfires burning on the mountain.
As you can see from these pictures the weather was very nice with puffy white clouds and temperatures that got lower as we got higher on the mountain.
Our visit to Rose Canyon Lake was a waste of time. It was crowded and not really a lake. In fact is was more of a puddle than anything so we quickly moved to higher ground. Not really worth $8 to see.
During a stop at Loma Linda picnic ground we were watching several juvenile western bluebirds when Nancy noticed smoke in an area about 5 or 600 yards down the mountain on a very steep slope. At this point we had had to retreat to the truck a couple of times because of lighting strikes. I moved as far as I could in the direction of the smoke to get a better look as I did not want to call in a campfire. My binoculars revealed a large tree with a pretty good fire about half way up the trunk presumably from a lighting strike. I called 911 to report the fire and was transfered to the county,who transfered me to the Summerhaven fire department.
The Summerhaven truck arrived in about five minutes and I took them to where you could view the smoke. At this point they called the forest service to notify them and left the scene.
I watched the smoke for an hour or so with no change.
I spotted this little guy while I was watching the fire.
The weather really started to take a turn for the worse. We moved to a location closer to the fire but could not get a better view.
The thunder and lightning was getting closer,too close in fact so we decided to move down the mountain.

We came across the Coranado National Forest fire crew a little farther down the mountain. I stopped to see what they were up to and was able to talk to a couple of them as they planned how to get to the fire area. The plan because it was in such a dangerous area was to map a route and wait for first light to descend to the fire. As we talked it was beginning to rain. If it rained enough it would make the treacherous decent unnecessary. They thanked me for calling it in and we headed down the mountain.
Right after we headed out the sky opened up, lightning strikes all around, instant thunder claps and pouring rain which turned into a heavy hail storm.It hailed from 8000 ft down to 7000 feet.
I had been hoping to be on the mountain on just such a day and it finally happened!
As we were about to leave the mountain we came across another accident where someone had left the road in an area of steep canyon drop offs. As there was already a crowd and no safe place to park we continued down as several police and fire fighters from Rural Metro raced upward. It was a tough day on the mountain.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Biosphere II

Arizona still has many "Open Range" areas and the road to Biosphere II is one of them.

This section was built to house scientists and students while they work at the Biosphere.

Originally built as a closed environment the Biosphere is now operated by the University of Arizona for experimentation including work on global warming.

The structure is an amazing piece of architecture with a geodesic design that is built to withstand the harsh Sonoran desert extremes.

The large done is actually one of two lungs that allowed for expansion and contraction of the air inside the Biosphere when it was sealed. As air heats up it expands and in a sealed environment like it was during the original experiments it was necessary to prevent the Biosphere from exploding or imploding.

The original eight biospherians lived inside for two years from 1991 to 1993.

Inside is the human habitat where they lived and grew crops as well as a tropical savana, a tropical thorn scrub, a coastal fog desert, a tropical ocean and the technosphere which contains mechanicals to support the various environments.

One million gallon tropical ocean.

Tropical Rain Forest.

Going inside the lung, which is part of the tour of the Technosphere, is a truly interesting experience. The space is quite large and you can see how the bladder moves up and down allowing excess air to move from the Biosphere and back again as it is needed to maintain the correct air pressure to prevent destruction of the facility.

The size of two and a half football fields it is impressive both inside and out.

Mechanical support buildings that supply power to the Biosphere.

This was worth the adult $20 tour fee and is something that anyone who visits the area should see for themselves. A great experience and very interesting to say the least. Half of the $20 tour fee goes to support research at Biosphere 2, and qualifies as a tax-deductible charitable contribution.

An amazing design.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sabino Canyon

Here are some shots I took in early May on a trip to Sabino Canyon
This is a great place to spend a day. You can take the tram up and down the canyon road and get on and off at several stops.
Sabino Canyon is tucked in the Santa Catalina Mountains and has many spectacular views.
The last stop. Many people get off the tram here and walk back down the road.

Thimble Rock which can be seen from both Sabino Canyon and the Catalina Highway

A great place to swim if there is no threat of rain up on the mountain. Swimmers were swept to their deaths when heavy rains on the mountain rushed down the stream bed this last summer.
The water is very refreshing especially if you have been hiking in the sun.
There are many hiking trails that take you off the road and into the back country. There are mountain lions, bears and rattle snakes as well as rugged terrain but it sure is beautiful.