Category Archives: Arizona

AK2FL One Year Later: Arizona

Tumbleweed on Hwy 89A southwest of Marble Canyon, Arizona. 11 June 2011.

Five photographs from Arizona one-year-after the cross-continent summer trip of 2011. These photographs were originally processed with Apple’s Aperture application and have been heavily edited with Snapseed on the iPad for this post. Original live-blog posts from summer 2011 can be accessed here

ARIZONA: Miles 4706 – 5194 (488 miles total in Arizona). It was great getting back to Arizona, a state that features remarkably fantastic regions. I was last there during winter break of 1996/1997. I’d looked forward to returning for a long, long time. And Arizona did not disappoint on this second trip. Gorgeous blue skies contrasted brilliantly with those deep red and yellow sands and stones. The Colorado carved an electric neon blue shard of lightening through the arid landscape. Meteor Crater stood as a testament of time and energy. The Painted Desert reminded me that erosion is perhaps the greatest artist the world has ever known. The black, volcanic sands of Sunset Crater provided an altogether different kind of ‘beach’ environment. Indeed, Arizona is quite amazing to me in its landscapes, ecologies, and environments.

Meteor Crater, Arizona. 12 June 2011.

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The Colorado River as seen from the Navajo Bridge, Arizona. 11 June 2011.

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The Painted Desert, Arizona. 12 June 2011.

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Near Sunset Crater, Arizona. 12 June 2011.

Saturday 11 June 2011 (Day 12): 

Sunday 12 June 2011 (Day 13):

2011 Begins Wrapping Up

Good day! Yes, so I’ve been a bit inactive on Dust Tracks this past week, partially because of the Holidays and partially because of iNaturalist and Project Noah. I’ve certainly been busy playing with these two sites, checking out what they can do, uploading observations/spottings, and so on. They’re both great sites with different focuses. iNaturalist is for the more-dedicated recorder of data and observations. Project Noah is more for those who appreciate nature photography. I certainly fit into both categories and have thus been somewhat lost in these sites this past week.

Anyhow, with the coming of the new year, I’m starting to shift back into Dust Tracks mode.

2012 is certainly going to be an incredible year in my life, for better or for worse. There’s going to be much to write about and much to explore. January’s going to start with a  massive paradigm shift, as I’ll be returning to school (full time) and working on my B.S. in Biology (with an emphasis/focus toward Ecology and Evolution and, eventually, graduate studies). Meanwhile, Kid A is busy getting her language on. The next year is going to be remarkable in my daughter’s life. It’s a hell of a thing to experience your daughter discovering language. (Cue the questioning!)

Spring is also going to be a manic season for photography, hiking, and wildlife observations. We didn’t leave Alaska until June of last summer and didn’t settle in Valdosta until July. I missed the Spring-Rush, when reptiles are damn near drunk with the urge to procreate. This year, 2012, I’ll be primed and ready to observe, record, and photograph the spring herp-happenings of south-central Georgia (and north/central Florida). Can’t. Hardly. Wait.

Somewhere in the tangles of my mind, I’m still trying to come to grips with everything I’ve experienced in 2011. The drive from Alaska to Florida was, itself, unbelievable. But there was also January through May, all Alaska-time. There was the trip to the Florida Keys. Another trip to Coral Gables, the Everglades, and Big Cypress. Yet another trip to Chicago. Indeed, as difficult as 2011 was on so many levels, it still goes down as one of the wildest years of my moderately short(ish) life to date.

My free time is certainly going to be somewhat constrained in the next year, but I’m still going to have plenty of opportunities to get outside and to experience wildlife. Lots of learning to come — and lots of photography.

Anyhow, I hope your 2011 is wrapping up with relative ease and little discomfort. I know my Holiday season has been tremendous. And I can’t wait for the new year to begin!

Photographs are from the Painted Desert in Arizona, 12 June 2011.

~ janson

The June 2011 Drive from Alaska to Florida

20110624-103522.jpgIn June of 2011, I drove solo from Anchorage, Alaska to Mt. Dora, Florida, taking the long way and cutting south through Utah and Arizona before finally heading east. I drove 7221 miles in 15 days in my beloved 1998 Jeep Cherokee. Lady Cherokee, bless her heart, performed beautifully — though the 100+ degree temperatures beginning in Oklahoma eventually began to unravel her four-year acclimation to the chilly Alaskan climate. With disintegrating lining and an exhausted water pump and belt, she eventually stalled and died fourteen miles from the finish line: my parents’ home in Mt. Dora.

My wife and daughter had flown directly to Mt. Dora, leaving me with two and a half weeks to explore North America as I made my way southeast. I camped in a tent or out of the Jeep all but two nights along the way and ventured into innumerable parks and preserves. Among these hiking/photo stops were (to name a few): Denali National Park, Stone Mountain Provincial Park, Muncho Lake Provincial Park, Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Petrified Forest National Park, the Painted Desert, Meteor Crater, Red Rock Canyon State Park, and the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge. By the time I reached Oklahoma, the trip accelerated as I found myself closer to home and with an obviously heat-stroked vehicle.

Despite frequent difficulties with attaining decent 3G coverage, I photographed and live-blogged the entire trip with my Nikon D90 and iPad 2. Forcing myself to stop and write about what I was experiencing in real time provided me with a kind of internal rhythm by which I could better soak in these experiences. Indeed, it was ultimately more experience than my tiny hominid mind could handle and now, looking back, I’m grateful to have these on-location notes and testimonials for reference. Otherwise it would all be an incredible blur.

In general, I strove to not box myself in with a rigid timeline or concrete plan — other than to arrive home no later than Sunday the 19th on Father’s Day. Still, my modernistic ways kept pushing me to calculate and to box myself into itineraries. In hindsight, breaking free of my own self-mandated scheduling proved more difficult than the drive itself. It took great effort to break myself from “The Plan” from time to time, to follow an unknown road or to veer slightly off course.

In the end I consider the trip an astounding success and an absolute gift of experience. While others dream of exploring other continents, I find myself constantly in awe of my own home continent. North America is vast, dynamic, and extremely diverse in the beauties it affords. For everything I have seen of this continent in my life, I know there is still so much more to discover and to experience. I did some damage to my bucket list on this trip and fulfilled several life goals in travel, but I still feel like I’ve only begun — says the man in his late thirties.

Below you will find a chronological listing of liveblog posts written during this trip, with shortcut links to each and every post. Also mote that all posts on this blog are categorically tagged by state or province. These tags can be accessed via the main “black bar” menu at the top of this page under “Locations.”

Special props and gratitude to all those who read and commented along the way, either directly on the blog or via email. You helped make the trip feel much less lonely — and there were indeed some very lonely nights.

If you have any questions about this trip or any of the photos or information provided within, p,ease feel free to contact me via the blog or my email (jansonjones -at- me -dot- com). Also note that the photographs featured during the trip itself (beginning 31 May 2011) were taken with a Nikon D90 in RAW format and processed solely on the iPad 2. I did not have any laptop available during this time. I was strictly mobile in the true sense of the term.

UPDATE: Images in these posts have since been upgraded (in May and June of 2012). During the trip, I had no computer. Just the Nikon D90 and my iPad 2. All images were originally imported directly to and processed with the iPad 2. I was somewhat limited in what I could upload and usually only posted one or two images per post. Since then, I’ve fully processed the photos and revised these posts with the higher grade images in full.

THE DRIVE FROM ALASKA TO FLORIDA:
INDEX TO THE ORIGINAL LIVE-BLOG POSTS

Pre-Trip Posts:


Tuesday 31 May 2011 (Day 01):
ALASKA 

  

Wednesday 01 June 2011 (Day 02):
ALASKA, YUKON TERRITORY 

  

Thursday 02 June 2011 (Day 03):
YUKON TERRITORY 

    

Friday 03 June 2011 (Day 04):
YUKON TERRITORY, BRITISH COLUMBIA 

    

Saturday 04 June 2011 (Day 05):
BRITISH COLUMBIA, ALBERTA 

Sunday 05 June 2011 (Day 06):
ALBERTA 

  

Monday 06 June 2011 (Day 07):
ALBERTA, MONTANA 

    

Tuesday 07 June 2011 (Day 08):
MONTANA, IDAHO 

  

Wednesday 08 June 2011 (Day 09):
IDAHO, UTAH 

    

Thursday 09 June 2011 (Day 10):
UTAH 

  

Friday 10 June 2011 (Day 11):
UTAH 

  

Saturday 11 June 2011 (Day 12):
UTAH, ARIZONA 

  

Sunday 12 June 2011 (Day 13):
ARIZONA, NEW MEXICO 

  

Monday 13 June 2011 (Day 14):
NEW MEXICO, TEXAS, OKLAHOMA 

  

Tuesday 14 June 2011 (Day 15):
OKLAHOMA, LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI 

  

Wednesday 15 June 2011 (Day 16):
MISSISSIPPI, ALABAMA, FLORIDA 

  

Post-Trip Posts:

Alternatively, you can also view a thumbnailed archive list of all posts listed above here: http://dusttracks.com/category/series/summer-2011-the-drive-from-alaska-to-florida/.

~ janson.

NOTE: This post was substantially revised and completed on 11 August 2011.

Day 13, Mile 5150: Painted Desert National Park, Arizona

12 June 2011 @ 7:42 pm MDT (5150 miles). Note: This post and the prior (“Petrified Forest”) were begun at 7:42 pm, 5150 miles, as I concluded my tour of the park couplet; however, these posts were not completed until much later that night.

Another National Park! Well, sort of. “Painted Desert National Park” isn’t really a distinct national park. Judging by the NPS documentation, it’s now (or always has been?) a part of the Petrified Forest National Park. If you enter Petrified Forest from the south, on Highway 180, and travel north, you’ll eventually cross Interstate 40 and find yourself on the Painted Desert park-side. You can also work the other way around and enter on the Painted Desert side (via I-40) and make your way south to 180 through the Petrified Forest.

So, two parks are essentially one. And what a couplet they make, geology, physics, biology… Man, this place is painted a heavy coat of awesome.

Lepus californicus (Black-tailed jackrabbit).

Whereas the Painted Desert of the Petrified Forest is primarily a desert-prairie, the view west from the north side of the park is anything but a desert-prairie. We’re talking epic, hardcore, kick-ass, desert action. Texture, color, depth, vigor, verve. It was breath-taking. Utterly breathtaking. At some point in my life I have to get back here for some backcountry hiking. I can only imagine what that experience would be like.

Unidentified Plant., perhaps sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia) or something similar?

On this trip, however, my experience was limited to quickly rooting around a number of pull-outs, namely Lacey Poing, Nizhoni Point, and Chinde Point — all equally soul-wrenching. It’s quite a contrast to go from the Painted Desert south of Interstate 40 to the one north of the freeway. The elegant grace and smoothness of the desert-prairie buckles and gives way to the ferocious texture of the rugged desert terrain up north.

Again: breathtaking.

- janson

Day 13, Mile 5150: Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

12 June 2011 @ 7:42 pm MDT (5150 miles). Note: This post and the next (“The Painted Desert”) were begun at 7:42 pm, 5150 miles, as I concluded my tour of the park couplet; however, these posts were not completed until much later that night.

The Petrified Forest National Park is located in a vast prairie-like swath of the Painted Desert. It’s difficult for me to describe this region.

I only had about two hours to tour both the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert National Park couplet (they’re two parks essentially merged as one) — and I saw a ridiculous amount in those two hours. When you first arrive, however, the Petrified Forest may seem underwhelming. Why? Because there’s no “forest”. There are no trees. Not living, anyway.

The “forest” is composed of innumerable “logs” of fossilized tree trunks adorning the desert plain. They have crystallized in any number of ways, so the colors and textures vary wildly.

This place is a rock hounds paradise — but beware! Taking *anything* from the Petrified Forest is highly penalized. I think $350 was the first penalty fee for molesting or taking any rocks/fossils of any shape or size. My oh my. As badly as I wanted to grab a couple of samples, all I took with me were my photos and experiences.

I’ll definitely have to revisit the Petrified Forest on the blog. Heaven knows I shot more than a few photos during my short time there. It was quite magnificent.

To be continued…

- janson

Day 13, Mile 5035: Meteor Crater, Arizona

12 June 2011 @ 4:09 pm MDT (5035 miles). 50,000 years ago an iron-nickel meteorite approximately 150 feet across slammed into the coconino sandstone bed of central Arizona at speeds of up to 26,000 miles per hour. The resulting impact instantly carved out a crater in the desert flats three-quarters of a mile wide.

For years it was believed that this crater was volcanic in origin. In the early 1900s, Daniel Barringer believed the site to be of meteoric impact origin, but he was unable to prove his theory in his lifetime (though many did believe him, even without conclusive evidence). He attempted to mine and discover the mass of meteoric core below the center of the crater; however, it was later discovered that the meteor did not impact straight down. It struck from the northeast at an angle. The crater’s meteoric origin wasn’t proved conclusively until the early 1960s by Eugene Shoemaker (a name I remember fondly from the Shoemaker-Levy-9 event from the late 1990s).

I first visited Meteor Crater in December of 1996. I was driving to Phoenix with my dear friend from college, Tara, from Norman, Oklahoma. I remember that day fondly, the day we came to Meteor Crater. It was cold and the wind raged with a ferocity I was unprepared for. I don’t remember any other visitors being there that day. Just me, Tara, and a couple of staff folk. We gawked at that massive hole in the ground, learned about how NASA’s Apollo astronauts were trained at the base of the crater, and simply admired the vast sense of space and time collapsing in at that particular location and at that particular time.

Ever since that trip in 1996, I’ve wanted to return here. Finally, I have — only this time the temperature’s in the early 90s and it’s a brilliantly sunny June afternoon.

I am so damn happy I made it back to Meteor Crater. This place just rocks — pun not intended.

Also, here’s a dust devil I saw just before arriving at Meteor Crater:

- janson

Day 13, Mile 4960: Doney Mountain, Volcano!

12 June 2011 @ 11:57 am MDT (4960 miles). I just climbed one of the four cones of Doney Mountain, a remnant volcano that ceased erupting 30,000 years ago. From atop the volcano cone you’ve got a stellar view of the surrounding region.

Up top is a view of the dominant Doney cone, one of 600 volcanic features in this region.

Here’s a view to the west of the San Francisco Peaks:

And here’s a few to the east, toward the Painted Desert:

I am surrounded by awesome.

- janson

Day 13, Mile 4953: Desert Patch-Nosed Snake, Salvadora hexalepis hexalepis

12 June 2011 @ 11:08 am MDT (4953 miles). I pulled up to my next stop, the Wukoki Ruins (dating back to 1120-1210), and immediately found a Desert patch-nosed snake, Salvadora hexalepis. I was even able to catch the little trucker before it disappeared into a bundle of sand sagebrush. Yay!

This the first time I’ve caught or photographed a desert patch-nosed snake.

First impression? This dude is feisty! Think of a cross between a ribbon snake and a southern black racer — add a patch-scale to the nose for digging and then a hell of a lot of pissed-off attitude. The dude was fast, agile, and never quit moving or striking. Granted, the (non-venomous) snake never really bit down hard — and certainly didn’t draw any blood — but it sure never quit thrashing. Photographing it in dim light (of course the clouds are blocking the sun intermittently and to varying degrees right now) was a bit difficult.

I noticed the snake waved his head back and forth, right to left, again and again. It reminded me of the twitchiness of a dusky pigmy rattlesnake, only more controlled.

An archeological group is here doing some work and some of them came over to take pictures. At that point, I hadn’t looked up what the snake is (I don’t know the local snake species very well), but guessed it was some kind of “desert patch-nosed snake”. Heh. Score one for the English Instructor. I knew it was a patch-nosed snake, but didn’t know the subspecies. Just guessed it would be something like desert. I like it when common names are guessable and rational. Never would’ve guessed it’s taxonomic trinomial, however: Salvadora hexalepsis hexalepsis. Good lord. Say that three times. I dare you. I triple-dog-dare-you.

Wondering about the patch on the nose? I assume it’s for digging. The snake, I’ve learned courtesy of my Audubon Reptiles app on the iPad, is very active on hot days, when other reptiles and mammals are burrowed and hiding from the afternoon sun. The snake hunts out these small snakes and what-not and eats ‘em. The patch-nose, I assume, makes this easier. Awesome.

Right now, I am very, very happy.

- janson

Day 13, Mile 4950: Wupatki National Monument: Wupatki Ruins

12 June 2011 @ 10:17 am MDT (4950 miles). Located just west of the Navajo Reservation, the Wupatki Ruins is actually only one of many ruins in the area. It is, however, the most impressive — and hence the National Monument status.

The Wupatki Pueblo Ruins is an agricultural townsite. The location started to be built in the early 1100s and by 1190 about 2000 folks lived within a day’s walk of this agricultural center (as the handy trail guide informed me). By 1300, most people who lived here moved on elsewhere.

Now, two things struck me about this site — and the trail guide addressed them both.

First, a burial site is located within this structure. Is there a conflict of native cultural respect regarding gravesides? To have one function as a kind of historical attraction? It wouldn’t be too hard for somebody to step over the small rock lining the path and desecrate this burial room… Turns out the official site guide does indeed acknowledge this conflict exists and then continues, “As tribes exert more control over their heritage, diverse opinion about appropriate treatment of archeological sites emerge. As an example, most Puebloan groups believe if human creations were made to last forever and not let to die, ‘the world would get filled up, and the purpose of living would disappear.’ This philosophy challenges National Park Service mandates to preserve and perpetuate the physical remains of the past.”

Second, if this place started building around 1100, that’s just after the time of the nearby Sunset Crater eruption. I wondered if there were any connections. According to the park materials, it’s not really known if there was a direct causal connection between Sunset Crater’s eruption and the development of Wupatki, but there is speculation that the two are connected. It could be that the founders of Wupatki moved down from the higher grounds closer to Sunset Crater (which were, of course, magmatized!) — or they could have been attracted to such a geological event.

It’s all very, very cool.

~

~

- janson

Day 13, Mile 4943: Strawberry Crater Wilderness in the Coconino National Forest

12 June 2011 @ 9:57 am MDT (4943 miles). Geez, I need to find 3G soon. These posts are starting to really pile up! Okay, so I’m heading north/east on the US/AZ-89 Loop Road that goes from Sunset Crater (on the southside) to the Wupatki National Monument (on the northside). Between is the Strawberry Crater Wilderness area.

Not too far west of the Painted Desert, try to imagine a black-sanded dune environment. It’s pretty remarkable. I stopped and walked around for a bit, hoping to find a gopher snake — or any snake for that matter. No dice, though I did see a rabbit. Still, this place is remarkably beautiful and strange.

- janson

Day 13, Mile 4934: Sunset Crater National Monument

12 June 2011 @ 9:24 am MDT (4934 miles). Just spent some time playing around the Bonito Lava Flow just west of Sunset Crater. It’s pretty awesome, this landscape.

Sunset Crater is a part of the San Francisco volcanic system (no direct relation to California that I know of). The last eruption of this system was Sunset Crater itself — and that was a mere 1000 years ago, or so. They don’t know the exact date, but 1000 years is the estimate.

Sunset Crater is a 1000 foot cinder cone. Lava-flows and cinder-chunks adorn the surrounding landscape. I didn’t realize it, but I was sleeping on pulverized cinder magma last night. Heh. I’d hoped to hike up to the actual crater, but they’ve closed the trail due to ecological protection. I can dig that and settle with the landscapes down below.

Going to keep heading north/west and check out Wupatki. If I’m lucky I’ll find a rattlesnake!

- janson

Day 13, Mile 4929: Welcome to Day 13!

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12 June 2011 @ 8:02 am MDT (4929 miles). Good morning! So, yesterday was a bit of a bust with my EPIC FAIL. At least it ended with an epic fail. It certainly didn’t start out that way. Hell, you know what? It didn’t even end with an epic fail because I’m at Sunset Crater, man. It’s hard to complain when you’ve seen what I’ve seen in thirteen short days. And today? Today shall be good.

Today I’m going to start with Sunset Crater National Monument. Then I’m backtracking north a bit to Wupatki National Monument. Both promise spectacle — and also the possibility of snakes. According to the ranger dude I talked to, gopher snakes are common throughout this entire region and Wupatki apparently has a good population of rattlesnakes.

We’ll see if my eyes can adapt. So far I fear I’ve been missing snakes. I’m not conditioned to watch for them. They’re not like lizards who bolt when they see you and are easy to spot. They’re a bit more elusive, restrained. Often, at least.

So, let’s get going!

Here’s a photo of the Bonito field with Sunset Crater in the background:

And a couple more photos from Bonito Field:

Note: In the photo below, the mound in the background is not Sunset Crater (which is to the left of this framed perspective)

- janson

Day 12, Mile 4798: The Navajo Bridge and the Colorado River

11 June 2011 @ 6:34 pm MDT (4798 miles). A quick post to make myself feel better for having been such a jackass with the Vermilion Cliffs confusion:

This is the Navajo Bridge crossing the Colorado River — the same river, of course, that carves out the Grand Canyon a bit further to the west. Built around 1927/1928, the Navajo Bridge is on the United States National Register for Historic Places.

I have to admit that when walking out on that thing… well… It’s really, really high. Impressive. And I’ll leave it at that.

We move on. I have to find a camping spot. I have no idea where I’m going to end up. I was counting on Vermilion Cliffs (punches self in the arm). Probably going to shoot south for Sunset Crater (on my planned route) and if that doesn’t work out, Flagstaff.

Also, I’m backed up on uploading posts again. I keep getting weak signals — they’re fine for the phone, but I need 3G or a really strong standard signal to get these photos uploaded in a decent amount of time. Sorry for these delays. Such is life in the wikiwikiwildwildwest.

- janson

Day 12, Mile 4794: Welcome to Vermilion Cliffs! And Prepare to Cry.

11 June 2011 @ 6:03 pm MDT (4794 miles). Okay, so I’ve been looking forward to visiting Vermilion Cliffs for a long, long time. They apparently have some incredible rock formations: patterns, textures, stuff like that. Eye candy. Nikon candy. Jones candy.

Well, I should have been more specific when I typed “Vermilion Cliffs” into GoogleMaps. Why? Because it brought me to the town of Vermilion Cliffs, not the National Monument. Yeah, um. There’s both a town and a national park called “Vermilion Cliffs.” Heh. What a fuck up.

Wait, it gets better.

You ask, Where is Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Janson? It’s a fine question. You ready for the answer? It’s back in Utah. Right next to Zion National Park. Yup, it’s next to the one national park on my Plan that I skipped today. If I’d just made the short trip over to Zion instead of skipping it, I would’ve undoubtedly seen the signs for Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, and my spider-senses would’ve started tingling, or tinkling, or whatever spider-senses do when they go off.

But alas, I decided to skip Zion — and, unwittingly, Vermilion Cliffs as well. The kicker: I skipped Zion because I wanted to get to Vermilion Cliffs.

Insert deep, sad, and dramatic sigh.

I considered backtracking, but it’s several hours behind me at this point. Better to just chalk this up to Lesson-Learned (be very specific and double-check for accuracy when you search for something using GoogleMaps), enjoy what I do have in front of me, and keep moving forward.

At this point, you might notice I’m getting way ahead of the original plan. It’s true, I am. Part of it is circumstantial and part of it is by design. I am speeding up this trip a bit to arrive in Florida a bit earlier than planned, partly because of money, partly because of energy, partly because of time, but mostly because I want to see my family sooner rather than later.

But no worries. There’s still plenty more to discover! Just please, please, please don’t let me overshoot and miss Meteor Crater…

- janson

Day 12, Mile 4758: Tumbleweed!

11 June 2011 @ 4:59 pm MDT (4758 miles). Tumbleweed! Sweet Merciful Agnar, it’s tumbleweed! Several have blown across the highway in front of me, though I have to admit this photo was staged, sort of. I pulled over, grabbed one of the tumbleweeds (is that how you pluralize “tumbleweed”?), and chucked it into the wind with the camera ready. It was fun.

Felt like a kid.

Beautiful.

~

~

~

- janson

Day 12, Mile 4750: Kaibob National Forest

11 June 2011 @ 4:45 pm MDT (4750 miles). I’ve just cleared the Kaibab National Forest. It’s a remarkable little area. It’s sort of like a natural border or DMZ between the main bulk of Arizona and those thugs up there in Utah. Let me unpack that a bit.

When you come over the Utah/Arizona border heading south, you cross through a fairly broad, flat and plain desert-prairie. I’m not sure if that’s the technical term for it, “desert prairie,” but that’s what it’s like. Not a sandy desert, but a shrubby one. Lots of low-growing vegetation and very little of anything else.

Then, BAM! You’re ascending into the Kaibab National Forest and a fortress-wall of a mountain line. Suddenly you’re in forest again. Breathy, wide-open forest with thick slabs of rock and boulders strewn here and there. That’s where the top photo was taken.

When you come down the mountain on the south side, you’re in Classic Arizona. You know, the kind of Arizona you’ve seen in the westerns and in Raising Arizona. We’re talking wide open land flanked by towering walls of dark red.

Here’s the compare/contrast –

First, looking north from Kaibab, toward Utah:

Now, looking south from Kaibab, deeper into Arizona:

A hell of a difference, eh?

Now, let’s get down off this thing and see what we can find.

- janson

Day 12, Mile 4706: Welcome to Arizona!

11 June 2011 @ 4:16 pm MDT (4706 miles). Welcome to Arizona, y’all! We’re here! But I have to admit, the Arizona state line sign is a bit underwhelming. You know? It’s just sort of, oh, I don’t know… boring. But hey, we’re not on a major road like an interstate and this certainly isn’t the same as the southern Arizona border. I guess they’re so busily focused on the southern border they forget to market to the north? (I tease, I tease!)

Also, apparently Arizona doesn’t recognize daylight savings time — which means… I don’t know what. I’m sticking to Mountain Daylight Time on these posts. I refuse to play special-case time travel to all those rogue mavericks in Arizona! Let Thy Time Be Daylight! And Let There Be Savings!

Arizona confuses me sometimes (but never in the daylight-savings-sometimes-times-sense). Did that make sense?

Regardless, glad to be back in Arizona. Despite their recent political contributions to the national discourse in politics, it is a heavenly state absolutely drenched in arid beauty.

Also: I have my passport ready, along with my birth certificate, Alaska drivers license, and Barnes & Noble frequent shopper card. I should be able to prove my citizenship, if asked.

- janson

June 2011: The Plan

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On 01 June 2011, I leave Anchorage and begin my two and a half week road trip to Florida, where I’ll meet up with Mumpower and Kid A at my folks’ house in Lake County. They’re flying separately to Florida, leaving me to do the drive solo –well, just me and my camera, at least– in the Jeep. Undoubtedly it’s going to be a remarkable trip.

In general, though I have an itinerary planned, this won’t be a trip regulated by rigid and firm deadlines. I fully expect for the “plan” to change and adjust in real-time, in response to what may come. Hell, the plan has changed already…

What follows in this post is the general plan so far for the June 2011 drive from Alaska to Florida.

Admittedly, this post also serves to allow me to pre-structure the new blog with categorical tags for each of these regions… as I do plan on live-blogging the trip as much as possible… You’ll also find a menu option below the banner image for “series”. This option will let you sort collected batches of posts by related by series-content. For example, all “Alaska-to-Florida” Summer 2011 posts will be collected together as one series. Organization is swell!

Alright, here’s the plan so far:

ALASKA. The trip begins, obviously, in southcentral Alaska. I’ll be shooting east for the border and plan on stopping at a few favorite haunts on the way out. Eagle River Valley, Hatcher Pass, and Matanuska Glacier are likely stops on my way to Tok. From Tok, I’ll then bolt east to the Yukon border, cruising the infamous Alaska (“Alcan”) Highway.

YUKON. There aren’t any formal parks I plan to spend much time at in the Yukon, though I do remember some areas from the 2007 drive I want to explore more of, namely the Kluane Lake area around Destruction Bay. I’ve got room to explore here.

BRITISH COLUMBIA. Highlight stops in British Columbia include Liard River Hot Springs, Stone Mountain Provincial Park, and Muncho Lake Provincial Park. Plenty of time is allotted for random wanderings, as this stretch of the Alaska Highway is packed with roaming bison, stone sheep, wild horses, and black bears.

ALBERTA. Alberta is home to the Icefields Parkway, a spectacular drive from Jasper south to Banff. Athabasca Glacier is located here, as are Banff and Yoho National Parks on the southern end (though Yoho is technically just over the B.C. border to the west). Also in this area, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. Amazing region. I thank my Nikon in advance.

MONTANA. Glacier National Park, baby. I loved it in 2007 and I hope I love it again in 2011. After Glacier, this is where my route will break from the one in 2007. Instead of heading east toward the Lewis & Clark National Forest, I’ll be heading south toward Utah. I might stay the night near Lewis & Clark Caverns before skirting the edge of:

WYOMING. My time in Wyoming will be short. I plan on checking out Yellowstone National Park in the extreme northwest corner of Wyoming before continuing south. If it’s too crowded, however (which it is likely to be), I’ll probably save time and continue southward. As much as I’d love to see Yellowstone, I don’t like massive crowds… And I don’t have time on this trip to do much backcountry hiking/camping. So, Wyoming’s up in the air. I’ll play it by ear.

IDAHO. I’ll actually hit Idaho before and after Wyoming. I may check out Targhee National Forest after Yellowstone, but for the most part I’ll just be seeing Idaho from the pavement. Another blending of borders is Fossil Butte National Monument. Technically it’s in Wyoming, just over the border, south of Yellowstone — and it looks like a good place to stay the night on my way to Utah.

UTAH. This is the main goal of the trip, short of actually arriving in the southeast alive. Utah. I’ve never been and always wanted to… Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park beckon. I plan on spending several days in this area, soaking up the canyons and arid climate. I will also strive to not become pinned by a boulder in a narrow canyon.

ARIZONA. From Arches and Canyonlands I continue south to and through Arizona. The main objective is to get to the arid region east of Flagstaff, namely Meteor Crater — a mile-wide impact crater formed during the Pleistocene (about 50,000 years ago). I briefly visited Meteor Crater in January 1998 with a dear friend in college and can’t wait to return again. The region is immaculate. It’s a bit out of my way, but completely worth it. (Also note that I’m skipping the Grand Canyon northwest of Flagstaff — there just isn’t enough time!)

NEW MEXICO. Continuing east I hit New Mexico. The goal: the Very Large Array near Socorro. This is another spot I visited in 1998. The VLA is a part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. It’s comprised of three massive (y-shaped) tracks of 82 foot dishes (twenty seven in total). The dishes can be adjusted on these tracks depending on what’s being studied. The array can span about twenty-two miles when fully extended. The region around the VLA is quite beautiful and one I look forward to seeing again.

TEXAS. Texas is but a speed bump on the drive. No offense, Texans. I’ll pass through the panhandle between New Mexico and Oklahoma.

OKLAHOMA. Destination: Tulsa. Purpose: Party. I’m meeting up with a group of old and dear friends in Tulsa for a party. If there was more time, I’d do the Wichita Mountains (one of my favorite regions on earth) and visit Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma. But alas, from the angle I’m coming in from, that would add two days to the trip to do each place justice… So, straight to Tulsa it shall be.

ARKANSAS. This is the part of the drive where distance and making-time starts taking priority over exploring and photography. Having said that, I do hope to be able to spend a little bit of time in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas. Lost Valley is a particular highlight. A favorite place of mine from years past. I miss the Ozarks of Northern Arkansas dearly.

TENNESSEE. I’ll pass through Memphis in the extreme southwest corner of Tennessee, but that’s about it.

MISSISSIPPI. Passing through Mississippi mainly to make time, it might be nice to find a few hours in Holly Springs National Forest. Maybe?

ALABAMA. My time in Alabama is constrained because of my arrival-deadline. I’ll be coming down Interstate 22 and then hopping on 65 at Birmingham (and then highway 82 east from Montgomery). I’ve got some dear friends in north Alabama I hope to meet up with for lunch, but the rest of Alabama-Time will be spend burning tread.

GEORGIA. I’m meeting Mumpower and Kid A in Florida, so humorously I’ll only be blowing through south Georgia, driving right past Valdosta. We won’t actually move to Valdosta until July, after we spend some time with family in Florida and later in South Carolina.

FLORIDA. And then, BAM! FLORIDA!

And that’s the plan.

Again, the “plan” is malleable and I fully expect it to change quite a bit. I’ve mapped out driving distances and times, but absolutely don’t want to regiment myself to any clock (other than arriving in Tulsa in time for the party and arriving in Mt. Dora on the right day). There are a lot of unknown variables in a trip like this. Automobile Health. Weather. Sleep. And on and on. So, who knows how it will actually pan out?

It’s certainly a lot of driving — and, mercifully, I do have quite a bit of time reserved for hiking and photography. Much of the trip I’ll be camping at night, sometimes in a tent, other times in the back of the Jeep. I plan on doing a hotel once every three or four days, maybe, so I can recharge batteries, shower, shave, and do the other things normal human beings do to make themselves tolerable to others.

It’s also going to be the grand test of the iPad. How well will this thing connect to the internet while on the road? Where will my blackouts be? And so on.

Crazy. This trip is going to be crazy. And that’s the plan. So far. As of now. (I’m a little bit excited.)

~ janson

NOTE: The photograph was taken in late 2007 from the window of an airplane somewhere over North America, between Anchorage and Tulsa…