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.


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


The Painted Desert, Arizona. 12 June 2011.


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.


Pre-Trip Posts:

Tuesday 31 May 2011 (Day 01):


Wednesday 01 June 2011 (Day 02):


Thursday 02 June 2011 (Day 03):


Friday 03 June 2011 (Day 04):


Saturday 04 June 2011 (Day 05):

Sunday 05 June 2011 (Day 06):


Monday 06 June 2011 (Day 07):


Tuesday 07 June 2011 (Day 08):


Wednesday 08 June 2011 (Day 09):


Thursday 09 June 2011 (Day 10):


Friday 10 June 2011 (Day 11):


Saturday 11 June 2011 (Day 12):


Sunday 12 June 2011 (Day 13):


Monday 13 June 2011 (Day 14):


Tuesday 14 June 2011 (Day 15):


Wednesday 15 June 2011 (Day 16):


Post-Trip Posts:

Alternatively, you can also view a thumbnailed archive list of all posts listed above here:

~ 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