Joshua Tree National Park – A Favorite!

Cholla Cactus Garden Sign

Cholla Cactus Garden Sign

Close-up of Teddy Bear Cholla

Close-up of Teddy Bear Cholla

Sun Ring over Cholla Cactus Garden

Sun Ring over Cholla Cactus Garden

Mojave Mound Cactus

Mojave Mound Cactus

Joshua Tree Nicknamed the Telephone Pole

Joshua Tree Nicknamed the Telephone Pole

Bent Over Joshua Tree

Bent Over Joshua Tree

Large Joshua Tree

Large Joshua Tree

Jumbo Rocks

Jumbo Rocks

Close-up of Rock Formation

Close-up of Rock Formation

Joshua Tree Landscape in Infrared

Joshua Tree Landscape in Infrared

We always enjoying visiting Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert of California – it is one of our favorites! 

The spiny Cholla Cactus Garden is a wonderful place to take a careful walk (no sandals or flip-flops allowed). We got extra lucky when we visited because a sun ring formed in the sky above us – amazing!  More info on how sun halos form is at: http://earthsky.org/space/what-makes-a-halo-around-the-moon  

Joshua trees are fun to see because they come in so many shapes and sizes as a result of the environment. They are a member of the lily family. The rocky landscape is quite scenic, and is criss-crossed by multiple earthquake faults.  The San Andreas Fault forms the southern boundary of the park. More info about these faults is at: http://www.nps.gov/jotr/learn/nature/faults.htm   More info about visiting Joshua Tree National Park is at: http://www.joshuatree.org/

 

Fossil Seashells: Hidden Beauty

Florida Fossil Seashells Under Normal Light

Florida Fossil Seashells Under Normal Light

Fossil Seashells Under UV Light

Fossil Seashells Under UV Light

Similar Shells Today

Similar Shells Today

A recent scientific article describes how hidden patterns can be revealed by viewing fossilized seashells under UV light. I had to try this myself! I dug out our box of Florida fossils and looked at the chalky white seashells under a UV blacklight. Like magic – the patterns appeared! Nature is truly amazing. The detailed article on glowing shells is at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0120924.

Iceland: Magical Landscapes

Stunning Low Altitude Rainbow in Landscape

Stunning Low Altitude Rainbow in Landscape

Low Altitude Rainbow Close to Ground

Low Altitude Rainbow Close to Ground

Close-up of Low Altitude Rainbow

Close-up of Low Altitude Rainbow

Glacial Mountain with Field of Lupines

Glacial Mountain with Field of Lupines

Close-up of Fragrant Lupines

Close-up of Fragrant Lupines

Farm with Hay Bales in Field (looks like giant marshmallows), Northern Iceland

Farm with Hay Bales in Field (looks like giant marshmallows), Northern Iceland

Dalvik Peninsula Mountains with Glacial Stream, Northern Iceland

Dalvik Peninsula Mountains with Glacial Stream, Northern Iceland

Tabletop Mountain Formed When a Volcano Erupted Under a Glacier, Northern Iceland

Tabletop Mountain Formed When a Volcano Erupted Under a Glacier, Northern Iceland

Old Volcanic Plug, South Coast

Old Volcanic Plug, South Coast

Volcanic Cone, Northern Iceland

Volcanic Cone, Northern Iceland

Bjarnaflag: Country's First Geothermal Power Station, Northern Iceland

Bjarnaflag: Country’s First Geothermal Power Station, Northern Iceland

Volcanic Moonscape Used for Training Apollo Astronauts, Near Reykjavik

Volcanic Moonscape Used for Training Apollo Astronauts, Near Reykjavik

Three Rock Pillars Said to be Trolls Turned to Stone at Sunrise, South Coast

Three Rock Pillars Said to be Trolls Turned to Stone at Sunrise, South Coast

Laufskalavarda: Tradition Calls for Travelers to Pile Up Rock Cairns to Bring Good Luck on Journey, South Coast

Laufskalavarda: Tradition Calls for Travelers to Pile Up Rock Cairns to Bring Good Luck on Journey, South Coast

Isolated Home with View of Snowy Mountains, Northern Iceland

Isolated Home with View of Snowy Mountains, Northern Iceland

Reykjavik Harpa Concert Hall

Reykjavik Harpa Concert Hall

Close-up Reykjavik Harpa Concert Hall Windows

Close-up Reykjavik Harpa Concert Hall Windows

Departure:  Fly-Over Greenland's Glaciers

Departure: Fly-Over Greenland’s Glaciers

Iceland is one of the top places we have ever visited – we can’t wait to visit again someday!  We were constantly surprised by the stunning natural beauty of this magical land.  And the people are truly wonderful too – they have been voted the friendliest in the world.  It was a great trip all around!

Iceland: Stunning Crystalline Ice on a Volcanic Black Sand Beach!

Crystalline Ice on Beach Across from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon:  Ice 1

Crystalline Ice on Beach Across from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon: Ice 1

Ice 2

Ice 2

Ice 3

Ice 3

Ice 4

Ice 4

Ice 5

Ice 5

Ice 6

Ice 6

Ice 7

Ice 7

Ice 8

Ice 8

Ice 9

Ice 9

Ice 10

Ice 10

Ice 11

Ice 11

Ice 12

Ice 12

Ice 13

Ice 13

Ice 14

Ice 14

One of the most amazing sights we saw in Iceland was crystalline ice on a volcanic black sand beach at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.  The ice floats out to sea with the tide from the lagoon, and some of it washes onto the volcanic black sand shoreline.  The interplay between ice, light, waves is ever-changing.  Nature’s beauty here is stunning!  Do you have a favorite?

Iceland: Glaciers in “The Land of Fire and Ice”

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Blue Ice Streaked with Black Volcanic Sand

Blue Ice Streaked with Black Volcanic Sand

Vatnajokull Ice Cap

Vatnajokull Ice Cap

Small Iceberg Floating Downstream

Small Iceberg Floating Downstream

Couple Viewing Icebergs in Lagoon

Couple Viewing Icebergs in Lagoon

Arctic Terns Flying Over Ice

Arctic Terns Flying Over Ice

Iceland contains the largest glaciers in the world outside of Greenland and Antarctica. This “Land of Fire and Ice” has 11% of its landmass permanently covered in ice.  Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon on the country’s south coast is especially beautiful. The icebergs in this lagoon come from the Vatnajokull ice cap (jokull at the end of a word means “glacier” in Icelandic).  The colors and beauty of this area are stunning!  A live webcam is at: http://www.livefromiceland.is/webcams/jokulsarlon/

Iceland: Volcanoes in “The Land of Fire and Ice”

Kerid’s Volcanic Caldera

Kerid’s Volcanic Caldera

Blesi Hot Spring

Blesi Hot Spring

Strokkur Geyser’s Blue Bubble (nicknamed “The Churn”)

Strokkur Geyser’s Blue Bubble (nicknamed “The Churn”)

Strokkur Geyser Erupting

Strokkur Geyser Erupting

Seltun Volcanic Basin

Seltun Volcanic Basin

Graenavatn Explosion Crater Lake

Graenavatn Explosion Crater Lake

View from Bridge Between the Continents – Rift Between the North American Plate (left) and Eurasian Plate (right)

View from Bridge Between the Continents – Rift Between the North American Plate (left) and Eurasian Plate (right)

Iceland sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at the intersection of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.  This “Land of Fire and Ice” has 30-40 active volcanoes and a major eruption about every 5 years.  A new island named Surtsey formed after an eruption in 1963-1967.  Homes on the offshore island of Heimaey were suddenly covered up by lava and ash in 1973 (thus giving it the nickname “Iceland’s Pompeii”).  A new volcano museum named Eldheimar opened there in May 2014 (http://eldheimar.is/en/).  Worldwide air travel was disrupted for days by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010.

All of this volcanic activity means that there are numerous places to see geysers, mud pots, fumaroles, and volcanic calderas in Iceland.  Our favorite geyser was Strokkur outside of Reykjavik.  It makes an unbelievable blue bubble for a split second before the water gushes up.   The English word “geyser” comes from Iceland’s original “Geysir” (which means gusher).  All of the places pictured are within an easy day trip from Reykjavik.  An Icelandic web page with links at the top to current earthquakes and earthquakes in 3-D is at:  http://en.vedur.is/   A live webcam at the Bardarbunga Volcano, which became active in August 2014, is at:  http://www.livefromiceland.is/webcams/bardarbunga-2/   A great fly-by video of the Bardarbunga Volcano is at:  http://www.ruv.is/frett/eldstodvarnar-i-holuhrauni-myndband  An incredible video of the Bardarbunga Volcano at night on September 4, 2014, is at:  http://vimeo.com/105365343

Iceland! Arrival and Blue Lagoon

Swimming in the Blue Lagoon's Steamy Water

Swimming in the Blue Lagoon’s Steamy Water

Water Outflow Entering Lagoon through Volcanic Pumice Stone

Water Outflow Entering Lagoon through Volcanic Pumice Stone

Blue Lagoon's Milky Blue Water within Black Volcanic Landscape

Blue Lagoon’s Milky Blue Water within Black Volcanic Landscape

Green Moss-Covered Lava Field

Green Moss-Covered Lava Field

We recently spent 10 days in Iceland – what a beautiful landscape!  This tiny island is one of the top locations in the world for nature photography. It was voted Best in Travel in 2012 and 2013 by Lonely Planet.  It was voted World’s Best Travel Destination in 2012 by National Geographic, and a world top destination by CNN in 2016.  It has also been voted friendliest country to travelers. It is one of the “greenest” countries in the world because of its use of geothermal power – the air and water are crystal pure. Tourists can expect to see black sand beaches, glaciers, waterfalls, volcanoes, geysers, and boiling mud pots. Every town has its own geothermal-heated swimming pool. Whales are abundant in the waters offshore (activity peaks in June). It is one of the top places in the world for seabirds (half the world’s puffin population nests in this region May to June). Purebred Icelandic horses and sheep graze in the meadows. It is a photographer’s paradise!

Our first stop of the trip was the Blue Lagoon – the number one tourist destination in Iceland (near Reykjavik).  The lagoon’s steamy blue water is popular among bathers for both recreational and therapeutic purposes. The water starts off in superheated form beside a lava flow over a mile below the surface. A geothermal power station vents it from the ground, and the steam is used to run turbines to generate electricity, and to provide heat for the municipal water system. The power station’s outflow of water is released into the Blue Lagoon. The water contains fine white silica silt that is used for spa treatments and beauty products, and is said to be especially beneficial to the skin. A soak in this 99 degree water is exactly what is needed after a long flight.   The landscape’s colors are especially striking – milky blue water, black lava rocks, and green moss. Mosses account for half of all vegetation in Iceland.  Many more posts are coming!

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