Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tax Day Lunar Eclipse Photos

Lunar eclipses are cool.  You get to watch a normal night sky object change shape and color in the humanly possible time span of a few hours.  This morning's total lunar eclipse was especially cool because 1) I had my best buddy Drew to wait up and enjoy it with me, and 2) Mars and the star Spica would be close, 3) I could try out my newish little camera. 

I made the first-of-the-year rhubarb treat to celebrate the occasion.  

The backyard rhubarb, which I started back at my old house in about 2002 from a sprout carried home on the airplane from my mom's patch and which has been moved 4 times since, once into a pot to wait out the traumatic first winter post move.
Strawberry rhubarb crumble pie has a pie shell on the bottom but crumble top.
We built a fire in the backyard fire pit and ate our pie while we waited for the moon to pass into the earth's penumbra.  I took a picture of the moon to figure out how to make my little Canon PowerShot S120 point-and-shoot into a fully manual machine.

Normal full moon. Cannon PowerShot S120. 1/100th sec, f/8.0, ISO 100, set to 2 second self timer and infinity manual focus.  The lens has only 5x telephoto and then I cropped the files.

First few minutes of the eclipse. 4/14/2013 23:53 MDT. The earth's shadow is encroaching on the left side of the moon.  This picture is a little blurry due to camera, or rather, porch, shake.  1/100th sec, f/8.0, ISO 100.

By the time the fire died down enough that we could think about bed, the shadow was obvious. 4/15/2013 00:14 MDT. 1/100th sec, f/8.0, ISO 100.

By the time we actually went to bed, the moon was more than half way there! 4/15/2013 00:42 MDT.  1/100th sec, f/8.0, ISO 100.
By that time, I was not tired anymore so I just waited until 1:06 to see the moon in full umbral shadow, just in case my alarm didn't wake me. It was very nice. It was also about 45 degrees and pajamas are not appropriate for stargazing at that temp, so even though a had a built in bed heater (Drew), I couldn't warm up to go to sleep.  I was still awake when my alarm went off at 1:40 for the full blood moon. I bundled up this time and took the little camera to the deck and got some pretty decent shots for a camera that fits in my jeans pocket.

See how tiny.

So here is my best shot of the Tax Day Blood Moon in full lunar eclipse.  The star Spica is the speck down to the right. 4/15/2013 01:43 MDT 6 seconds, f/8.0, ISO 125.

And here is the same shot not cropped so far showing Spica down and to the right and also Mars in the upper right corner of the shot.  4/15/2013 01:43 MDT, 6 seconds, f/8.0, ISO 125.

I enjoyed this eclipse especially for the beautiful bright star Spica and orange Mars within 9 degrees of the moon. And also because I had Drew to snuggle up to afterwards.  I did not set my alarm to watch the moon come out of the earth's shadow ;-).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spreading the love of dirt

Last weekend Drew and I helped the Utah High School Cycling League pull off a Moab Family Skills Camp.

Camp Coaching

The camp is designed for high school mountain bikers and their parents to learn new technical skills.

We went down early and Friday and got in a ride on a new-to-me trail system called Klonzo.

The lighting was terrible for pictures but I threw this one in so you can see the flowy ribbon of trail in the lower third of the photo on the red dirt. I think the finer grained red in the foreground is Summerville Formation and the white rocky parts are Salt Wash Member of the Morrison. All Jurassic in age.
Klonzo is a series of short, low to intermediate level loops that you can link together for about an hour and a half of riding. 
Primrose in bloom on Klonzo trail

Drew is happy to be on his bike in red dirt country.

I love how the trail goes between these huge rocks.

First ride of the year for us together in Moab. Big smiles!

Sun splashes on the far peaks.
Post ride, we grabbed a growler of beer and some nachos to-go from Moab Brewery and trucked on out to the condo.  Our friends the Binghams were staying with us so we wanted to make sure we beat them home.


The next day we assisted skills camp instructors all day.  The camp is divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced groups that rotate into different skills clinics: 1. Braking, 2. Cornering, and 3. Managing terrain.  Each group also did an hour of trail building a brand new trail linking two parking areas and went on a ride to use all their new skills.

It was a really long day for us because we spend all day watching and assisting kids while all kitted up to ride, but not really riding much at all.  After the skill camp activities were done, we stuck around and did a loop there at Klondike Bluffs. We rode up Mega Steps and down Alaska.  The trail is phenomenally fun, and the views are some of the best in Moab.

Looking off the ridge of Summerville Formation over into Salt Valley, which is a valley because the salt in the underlying Paradox Formation has been dissolved and removed.  I briefly explain the formation of this type of valley at the end of this post. Snow-capped La Sal Mountains in the far background.
Another picture of Salt Valley. We could just barely make out a camper in the valley in the center of the photo.  I wanna be there!
Skills camp again on Sunday morning was fun.  All the participants had rested and were eager to ride and put their skills to use.  We took the beginner-intermediates out on an easy, flowing trail (across Morrison Formation - shale for the most part, which makes for smooth trail) so they could practice ride position, braking and fast corners. I think they had a lot of fun.

Like herding cats at times.
We returned on Dinoflow trail.  They were all much improved over how they started the weekend.

Riders and coaches at Moab Family Skills Camp
For the final ride, we took that same beginner intermediate group on Mega Steps.  They did awesome.
Mountain bike cool factor: Intermediate level high school riders making it up Mega Steps trail.       Geology cool factor: Most of the top of Mega Steps and Alaska trails traverse across Salt Wash Member (Morrison Fm) and Summerville Formation, but occasionally there are erosional windows where Moab Member (Curtis Fm) is exposed, seen here as the flat, white sandstone to the right of the trail.

Coach Lucy and two female high school shredders.

At the end of the camp on Sunday, many of the students seemed to have progressed quite a bit in technical skills and they all seemed to have had a positive experience.  It is my sincere hope that we were part of a weekend that infected these riders with the slick rock mountain biking bug.

Coach no more

After out duties were done, we stayed a couple of more days.  Monday we had a chance to ride Captain Ahab.  We had wanted to ride this trail since it opened last year and we watched the video of how the Moab Trail Mix crew built the trail.  It is a completely amazing video. Watch it here on Vimeo.

The way to access Cap't Ahab is on a very fun, techy new trail called HyMasa, which lets you avoid riding the Amaza Back Jeep road.  I highly recommend HyMasa.

On HyMasa
The top of HyMasa or maybe we were already on Captain Ahab at this point.
Plants grow where they can in the desert.

We found the bat cave!  At least I think this is bat guano on the underside of an overhang.

Views off the south side of the trail.

Captain Ahab is really fun.  Lots of technical riding. Quite a few places I walked, but after coming off teaching and practicing skills for two days, I found I was doing better than ever on the technical stuff.  My new 2x10 drive train and 170 mm cranks may have contributed too.

Here is a silly 17 second video of me coming down a series of rollers.

 On lower Captain Ahab, there is a section that goes around a cliff.

The sign says "Walk Your Bike".
So I walked that section, but also filmed it.  Watch the 20 second video of that cliff section.

After the ride we headed into town for a milk shake but ended up with smoothies.  Bonus health points for D and L.

It's not all fun and games in Moab.  We spend a fair amount of time doing maintenance and deep cleaning the condo, which is how we spent Tuesday morning before driving back.

The end result of the weekend: awesome time teaching high school kids to ride slickrock and I love the new trails!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Escape to Florida Part 6: I love you Florida Style

Day 6 of Florida Vacation was Valentines Day!

What better way to celebrate one's love for your spouse than to get in a small boat and take off into uncharted waters? Excellent!

Day 6 was all about kayaking mangrove forests on Caladesi Island State Park

To get there we were told we could drive to the residential neighborhood north of our motel and walk a couple of miles, which we tried to do, but there was no where to park. So we had to drive back across the causeway to the "mainland", north for 5 miles, and then west again to Honeymoon Island State Park.  Once there, the nice retired volunteer ticket booth lady told us it would be $14 for the ferry to the park and then $10 each park entrance fee.  Screw that. We backed out of Honeymoon Island and found an independent kayak rental joint on the causeway.

A lot of driving to get to nearly where we were.

 He was a one-man-show with nice kayaks.

But the catch was we'd have to paddle a lot farther than if we ferried to the island.  But, hey, Drew and Lucy like to do outdoor activities together, so Let's Go!

Clear shallow waters of the bay.
 The bay was so shallow in places we had to pole with our paddles. 
Lone Oak Point was home to herons. Protected sea grass habitat.
 Bucking a headwind, we eventually made it to the marina.

The marina at Caladesi Island State Park

 From there, we slid into the shady and unknown mangrove forest.
Instead of rock cairns marking the way, they have kayak trail signs!

Paddling the kayak trail.
We hit the trails at low tide. Notice the aerial roots.

 Here is  video of our boats sliding through the mangroves.

The roots that are growing up are called pneumatophores. These specialized aerial roots enable plants to breathe air in habitats that have waterlogged soil. The roots are negatively gravitropic, meaning they grow up and away from the ground.

We mostly paddled through the quiet shallow canopy of mangroves, but at some of the more open areas, we saw cool birds.
What bird is this?

See the bird!

 Disney was fine, but THIS is vacation! 

Tired and hungry with evening coming on, we popped out of the cover of the forest and realized we were quite far from home base.

After 3+ hours paddling through the trails, we still had to get back to the rental place.  The arrow in the pic above is not pointing to the dark strip of land, but rather to the very far off nubbins on the horizon. Zoiks.
Um, yeah. Whose idea was it to paddle from the causeway again?

The waters are shallow so a channel is dredged and signed.

FINALLY, after paddling a total of around seven miles, we reached shore, turned in our kayaks, and said good bye to friendly rental dude, Dave.

Dave was our friendly kayak dealer.

Eager to sit on a bar stool instead of a kayak, we found Dunedin Brewery. 
A great spot after a long day paddling.

The DJ was really into the music and was fun to listen to.
Is it OK to photobomb your wife's attempt to document life? I guess so if it is on Valentine's day.

We left tired, full, and happy.  A great Valentine's Day!

The next day we packed up and said goodbye to our friendly hoteliers, drove to the Tampa airport, and flew back to winter.  We will be back, Florida.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Escape to Florida Part 5: Escape from Orlando

On Day 5 we really were going to get out of Orlando. With our Chrysler 300 (not getting any smoother), we motored west to Tampa Bay.

We checked in to our booked-last-minute hotel, the North Sunrise Motel in Clearwater Beach.

This place was the ultimate opposite from the mega resort time share at which we stayed in Orlando.  This place was small, quaint, uber friendly, and homey, but with an I-am-definitely-not-in-Utah kind of feel.  We loved it.

The pool at North Sunrise Motel.  The beach is on the other side of the five-story hotel in the background.

Our room. Small but comfy.

Drew lived in Florida during his Navy days.  He spoke fondly of the Tampa area and Gulf coast. I see why.  Laid back. Sunny. Nice beaches. We walked on the beach a lot.

Who needs fish when you have a fish eye lens.

Chilly and breezy but mostly sunny. Better than Salt Lake's pollution inversion!

You can't go wrong with giant turtles.

We grabbed some late lunch of grouper, a tasty buttery fish that I had never eaten, at Frenchy's.

Then sunset on the beach.

Before a wonderful dinner at The Columbian restaurant.

 You can say you had a good day when you end with flan.  Gotta love flan!