Thursday, March 28, 2019

Chiricahua National Mon., AZ

We are wrapping up our 2 week stay in Willcox, AZ.  Yes, we've been here a couple of times before over the years but it never gets old!  We had to go out to Chiricahua a couple of times for hiking of course, and you may have seen some of these pics before, but it's a different year, time of day and lighting!!!!! Enjoy!

The balanced rock on the right is called "Big Balanced Rock" it is 25 feet tall and weighs approx 1000 tons!

A very unassuming entrance into the monument

Mushroom Rock

On the Heart of the Rocks Trail


Echo Canyon trail

Friday, March 22, 2019

Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw, AZ

We are in Willcox, AZ, for 2 weeks.  Our stay here was primarily planned around revisiting some great hiking areas and wineries.  The sandhill cranes roost in this area during the winter months and are usually gone by mid March so we did not expect to see them.....  When we arrived and heard them flying overhead I was thrilled.  This very cold winter has kept many of them down here longer than normal.

We had to drive about an hour further south to Whitewater Draw to see them during the day.  It sure was worth it!  List time we were here and I took pics of them it was closer to Willcox in The Playa and we could not get very close at all.  As you can see below, we were in a much closer viewing area this time!

It is amazing to not only hear them high above but to watch them land right before your eyes!

we estimated a couple of thousand in this group

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Stay in Tucson area

I throughly enjoyed our 2 week stay just outside of Tucson Mountain Park.  It was our 3rd stay there and I do love being in the Sonoran desert!  It is always fun to watch the birds hook up for spring and I managed to get a few pics of some bird couples hanging out;)

the saguaro on the left has the very interesting "crest" or cristate formation at the top

a pair of ladder back woodpeckers

our "backyard" there at dusk

roadrunner couple

taken in Saguaro National Park

love this pic!  A pair of flicker woodpeckers

ocotillo in bloom in the foreground

American kestrals

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Kitt Peak National Observatory, AZ

We are staying just south of Tucson in the Diamond J RV Park.  This is our third visit here over the years so I will try not to repeat....much;)

Brand new this year were the 2 visits we made to the Kitt Peak National Observatory this past week.  We have eyed the large observatory - in particular a couple of large telescopes - up on Kitt Peak the past couple of visits and finally drove up there a few days ago.  It is an hour drive from here and once to the mountain we drove up to the top at an elevation of 6800+ feet.  We really did not know much about the observatory and were surprised to find 24 telescopes up there!  Turns out Kitt Peak is home to one of the largest arrays of optical and radio telescopes in the world!

Many of the telescopes can be/are operated  remotely but there are dormitories up there to house visiting astronomers/students for hands on operation. 

Our first visit up we did a day tour of 3 of the telescopes, one of which is a sun telescope!  Very interesting.  We enjoyed it so much we decided to go back for a night program which would include actually viewing the skies through on of these telescopes.

getting ready to drive up the mountain.  The telescope visible is the 17 story high Mayall 4-m telescope

the visitor center has its own Spacewatch telescope
The McMath-Pierce sun telescope below is no longer in use and being replaced by a sun telescope being built in Hawaii.  We did get to go in for a look however, really interesting!  It will open again for the public in a couple of years as part of the tour.
in the background is the McMath Pierce solar telescope
The book below was found in a long forgotten locked closet in the sun telescope building.  It is a guest book used to sign in visitors back in the 1960s and contains the signatures of the astronauts involved in  the Apollo lunar landing years.  They used this telescope to choose the landing spot of the lunar landing module!!! 
book signed by astronauts from the Apollo lunar missions!

the KNPO 2.1 meter telescope, our second stop 
Our third telescope of the day was the largest, the Mayall 4.0 m telescope.  We had to take an elevator to the top as it sits 17 stories up!
at the top and rising above Kitt Peak is the Mayall 4.0 meter telescope with the odd looking Wynn 3.5 meter scope to the left

from the top of the Mayall telescope looking down on the array of telescopes on the mountain top

the Mayall telescope
 We went back for the night program yesterday and are so glad we did in spite of the weather up there being 32 degrees with the wind making it feel like 20!!!  That high up in a dark sky you feel like you can touch the milky way!  Just gazing up is amazing!  We had a couple of classes, one on learning how to use the planosphere so we knew what we were looking at when we looked up and then got to view 4 different objects through the visitor center telescope, one of which was to see M82 the Cigar Galaxy, a galaxy 12 million light years from earth!
first we got to see the sun set

in the telescope awaiting our turn to look through the eyepiece

US Army Corp of Engineers Park, Iowa City, IA

Mike and I love it when we can find a COE park because they are always on water and our last stop at Coralville Lake was no exception.  A bi...