Arizona: Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Sunset Crater Volcano

Bonito Lava Flow

Yellow-Orange Juniper Mistletoe

Beautiful Weathered Juniper Wood

Tiny White Spider on Lava Flow

Yellow Newberry Twinpod Growing on Cinders

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a beautiful place to visit just north of Flagstaff, Arizona.  The sunset colors reflect the volcano’s composition of silica, iron oxide, and gypsum.  The volcano erupted about 1040-1100 AD .  It is amazing how life returns and survives on the tough conditions of the lava flow!  Information about visiting is at:  https://www.nps.gov/sucr/index.htm  and https://www.livescience.com/50237-sunset-crater-photos.html

Arizona: Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam

Horseshoe Bend Overlook

Horseshoe Bend Photography Viewpoint (click to enlarge)

Prickly Pear Cactus with Flower Buds

Hedgehog Cactus Flowers

Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center

Glen Canyon Dam Overlook

Glen Canyon Bridge (at completion in 1959 it was highest arch bridge in world)

Squares are Support Rod Tips Piled Deep into Sandstone Canyon Walls

Dilophosaurus Dinosaur Tracks Found Nearby

Chuckwalla

Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, are spectacular sights!  Both are located just past the eastern edge of Grand Canyon National Park.  Horseshoe Bend was formed by erosion from the Colorado River over millions of years.  The meander formed when water flowed around harder stone.  Since water flows fastest on the outside of a curve, the meander gets more pronounced over time.

Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1964 and provides daily hydroelectric power to 5 million customers over 7 Western states.  After the dam was built, the newly backed up water of the Colorado River formed popular Lake Powell.  This desert landscape is beautiful!

California: Long Beach Aquarium

Bicolor Anthias

California Moray Eel

Clown Fish

Clown Triggerfish

Rockmover or Dragon Wrasse

Leafy Sea Dragon

Giant Green Anemones

Strawberry Anemones

Moon Jellies

Spotted Lagoon Jellies

Zebra Shark

Fin Whale

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

The Aquarium of the Pacific is a gem in Long Beach, California.  The displays are wall to ceiling and cover a variety of habitats.  You can also go out on whale watching excursions by aquarium naturalists from the dock outside.  An exciting expansion of the aquarium is currently underway.  We definitely will return again!  More info is at:  http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/

Huntington Gardens: Roses

Red and White Striped Rose

Vibrant Pink Rose

Pink and Cream Rose

Pink and Cream Rose

Lavender Rose

Peach Rose

Butterscotch Rose

Red Roses

Huntington Gardens’ historic rose garden contains over 1,400 cultivars covered in thousands of blooms.  Two beds are devoted exclusively to fragrant varieties – joy! Roses do exceptionally well in the area, which explains why Pasedena, California, is home to the annual Rose Parade every New Year’s Day.

Huntington Gardens: Orchids

Showy Lady Slipper Orchid

Pink Lady Slipper Orchid

Spotted Lady Slipper Orchid

Yellow Lady Slipper Orchid

Complex Orchids

Huntington Gardens in Pasedena, California, has gorgeous orchids on display in the Brody Botanical Center.  The variety, complexity, and colors of these beautiful plants are amazing!  Pictures of unusual orchid species are at: https://www.boredpanda.com/flowers-look-like-animals-people-monkeys-orchids-pareidolia/

 

Florida: Epic SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch!

Author Pam with Bill Nye “The Science Guy”

Apollo / Saturn V Center

Space Shuttle Runway

Commemorative Launch Brochure

3-2-1 Ignition Take-off

Falcon Heavy Launch into Space

Close-up of SpaceX Rocket

Twin Side Boosters Returning to Earth

SpaceX Tweeted Photo of Tesla Roadster in Space

On Tuesday I watched an epic SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  It was incredible!   I had purchased the “Feel the Heat” package to view liftoff from the closest public viewpoint at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at KSC (only 3.9 miles from launch pad 39A across the Banana River).  We could hear and feel the rumble of takeoff when the engines ignited and everyone wildly cheered!

While we waited in the viewing stands, we were entertained by Bill Nye “The Science Guy”.  Earlier we got the chance to walk on the shuttle runway.  The runway is so long (~3 miles) that you can’t see from one end to the other because of the curvature of the Earth.  Locals call it a “gator tanning facility”, because alligators like to warm up in the sun on the concrete. 

This launch was the historic demonstration flight of the world’s most powerful rocket.  It launched from the same pad used by the Apollo moon missions.  Nestled inside the rocket was Elon Musk’s personal red Tesla roadster, including a dummy driver named Starman in a SpaceX astronaut suit.  Usually demonstration flights include demo payloads like a block of cement as weight, but Elon Musk wanted to make it more interesting.  And he certainly did, based on camera images beamed from the roadster!  My favorite one, which simply looks unreal, is a picture of the car after payload release showing Starman driving the bright red cherry roadster through space with Earth in the background.  Until the batteries give out, the song “Space Oddity” by David Bowie will play on the car’s stereo.  A display panel in the Tesla says “Don’t Panic” – a reference to the sci-fi classic book “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.  Ultimately the Tesla roadster will endlessly loop around the sun for billions of years in an orbit past Mars and the Asteroid Belt.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, just as thrilling was to see the twin side boosters simultaneously descend to Earth and land on target at Cape Canaveral.  Their speed was so great they generated double sonic booms.  The third core stage was set to return to the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean offshore.  Unfortunately the core crashed into the water near the platform.  But that was a minor hiccup in an otherwise flawless and amazing spectacle.  WOW!

The space center seems to be booming lately with private enterprise, and it is exciting to see new projects in the works.  Hopefully these launches capture people’s imaginations about future possibilities!  A great article about the launch is at: https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/02/07/spacex-debuts-worlds-most-powerful-rocket-sends-tesla-toward-the-asteroid-belt/

If you would like to visit Kennedy Space Center (highly recommended), learn more at:  https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge for more detail.

Florida: Mama Owl is Nesting!

Eastern Screech Owl

Yellow Rose

Mama screech owl has been in her nest box all week – she is here to stay.  Nesting season has arrived – it is spring in Florida!

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