Monday, April 6, 2015

The Siren call of home

We had contemplating spending a week or so in New Mexico (we have a coupon to use at "The Ranch" Escapee park between Artesia and Carlsbad), but home is just a day or so away, and we have many things to do there, so we're heading that way.

Today was a LONG day of driving for us - from Roswell, NM to Ranger, TX - almost 400 miles. We are generally in the max 200-mile range, so this was a long day for us. The winds were also difficult - at times Miss Daisy seemed very "squirrelly" (sp?).

At one point, we stopped at a picnic area to change drivers. We'd been seeing pretty little blue flowers, but they didn't look like bluebonnets, and they weren't.

One type of pretty little blue flower - isn't it tenacious, holding on amongst the rocks?

These were the ones that looked like bluebonnets along the side of the road, but up close, they aren't.

And there were pretty little orange ones too!

A mound of them on the little hillside next to the little pond. US 84 is just beyond the guardrail.

There were pretty blue and orange flowers - just not the anticipated bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed!

What a wonderful truth - the basis of our beliefs! That Jesus came to earth, fully man and fully God, lived a sinless life, and yet took on the penalty of my sin (and your sin too!) and suffered death and separation from His Father due to the consequences of my sin. Three days later, He rose from the dead, triumphant over death, and is enthroned next to His Father in heaven. He makes me clean and right with God through His own sacrifice; God reached out and in His sovereignty, made a way for me to receive the righteousness of Jesus; I only need to accept Him as my Lord and Savior. What an amazing truth that I get to live in this confidence!

We are in Roswell, NM, today, and I had the opportunity to worship with the church family at First Baptist Church in Roswell. The pastor was our youth pastor back at MacArthur Boulevard Baptist, and our dear friends, Burton and Nancy Hill, are here in Roswell also. We got to be with Burton and Nancy this afternoon along with several other folks from their church family. What a blessing to be with our "family" today!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Trinity Site

Since we entered New Mexico back in December, and stopped at the visitors center and found out that the Trinity Site would be open the first Saturday in April, we've had a target to visit the Trinity Site on this date. We stayed last night in San Antonio, NM and left a little after 8am to make our way to the Stallion Gate. We found ourselves in a long line of cars (probably about 3 miles from the gate when we got there about 9am).

There was even a longer line behind us...
Eventually we got through the Stallion Gate, and then drove the 17 miles to ground zero. The road was REALLY rough since we had Miss Daisy and she was really rockin' and rollin' on the drive in!

We first took a bus to the George McDonald ranch house where the bomb's core was assembled. We got into line for the bus before the caravan from Alamagorda arrived, which was good on the timing!

We took the bus back to ground zero and walked about 1/4 mile to the ground zero site.

There is a large oblisk at ground zero

There were a LOT of people there with us!

All in all, we had a good time and got to see the Trinity Site just as planned!

On our drive east, we drove through Capitan, NM - which is where the Smokey Bear Historical Park was located. The baby bear Smokey was found after a forest fire in the Capitan Mountains nearby.

We didn't take time to go through the park, but I got this picture from the outside!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Places along the way - Part 2

As we were driving across New Mexico toward Socorro, I had noticed something called "Very Large Array" on the map. Way back at the end of December, someone at the campground with us in Deming, NM, recommended that we visit that. We started seeing the dishes many miles away as we came into the San Agustin valley. We decided to go ahead and see it at that time instead of trying to drive back.

The antenna are spread across a wide area:
This is about 1/3 of them - from the center of the Y out one limb
 Each antenna is HUGE:
That's Dwayne just under the left side of the antenna.

It was really really windy yesterday, but fascinating to see. The visitors center has a neat video about what is accomplished with the VLA (collecting radio waves of space objects - can give a different point of view about stars and other light producing items in space than optical telescopes). It is generally used in conjunction with other optical telescopes (like those at McDonald Observatory in Texas, or on the big island of Hawaii, or the Hubble Space Telescope). I think they said that because radio waves are much longer, the total collection area needs to be much bigger - there are 27 active antennas placed in a Y pattern. The most interesting thing to me is that the antennas are not fixed in place - there are 4 different configurations, called A, B, C, and D. Each of the configurations presents a different view.
Information from the display:
 Each of the VLA dishes is actually larger than the biggest optical telescope in the world. However, a single VLA antenna cannot see as clearly as its optical cousin.

Why is that? Bigger telescopes do reveal finer detail, what astronomers refer to as having greater "resolving power". But radio waves are much longer than light waves, so a much bigger telescope is needed to resolve finer details.

How big? A radio telescope needs to be many miles across to rival the resolving power of an optical telescope. We can't build one dish that big, but the connected array of 27 large antennas of the VLA creat a telescope that is 22 miles in diameter!

Configuration D: 0.6 miles across
 This view is not sharp, but it shows us huge funnels of gas on either side of this galaxy. Where did they come from?
Configuration C: 2 miles across
 Now, we learn that these lobes are fed by strong jets coming from the central galaxy itself.
Configuration B: 7 miles across
 Although blurry, we start to see knots and bubbles in the jets. What could cause them?
Configuration A: 22 miles across
 At our highest resolution, we spot very stringy and lumpy features of these huge jets -- the signature burps of an active supermassive black hole!
The combined image of configurations A, B, C, and D

Our array of 27 radio antennas spans a huge "Y" shape (called the Wye). Every four months, we move antennas to different stations along each arm of the Wye. At its most compact configuration, the array has a wider field of view and maximum sensitivity to diffuse gas. At its most extended, we zoom in on finer detail. For complex objects, such as the huge, knotty jets of gas shooting out of radio galaxy Hercules A, we combine perspectives to build a complete picture.
To move the antenna, they have a railroad system and a neat car that can be made to go at right angles by raising the wheels and putting them onto perpendicular tracks:

It was super that we got to visit the Very Large Array!

Places along the way - part 1

It is amazing the things you can find if you just stop when you see something interesting!

I had heard that the town of Show Low has an interesting story behind its naming (from presentation by Nick Russell at the Escapade), so I knew to go looking...

The plaque says:
In 1876, Corydon E. Cooley and Marion Clark, two ranchers who had both laid claim to, and eventually became partners in managing 100,000 acres of land at the northwest edge of the White Mountains determined that the land could not support two families. Neither man was willing to buy the other out.

To settle the matter, Cooley and Clark engaged in a friendly game of Seven Up. The game was played at the kitchen table of Cooley's two story home atop the hill directly south of this monument where a church now stands. As the game neared completion Cooley needed just one point to win. With nothing else to lose, Clark, holding a three, exclaimed, "Show low and you win the ranch." Cooley drew the Deuce of Clubs. He renamed the ranch Show Low and the main street became known as the Deuce of Clubs.

A statue commemorates the game and naming of the town - Dwayne is attempting to take one of Cooley's cards and win the ranch, I guess!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Petrified Forest National Forest

The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest are all part of one National Park. More of the petrified wood is in the more southern part of the park, though it is all over this area. The film we saw at the visitor's center indicated that there is petrified wood in every state in the US - I didn't know that. We had seen a stump in Yellowstone that was indicated as being a petrified tree, but I don't recall seeing it anywhere else.

Information from the Visitor Center:
Researchers believe that the life cycle of a petrified tree is something like this:
1) A living tree on the edge of a stream.
2) The tree dies and loses its leaves, branches, and bark.
3) The river undercuts the dead tree.
4) The tree topples into the water and is transported (5) a short distance downsream.
6) The log snags on a bank and is buried (7) under sand and mud in the stream channel.
8) Deep burial seals the tree away from bacteria and oxygen preventing decay. Eventually silica in the ground water infiltrates the tree replacing the organic material with quartz crystals. The log is "petrified".
9) Erosion of the surrounding rock layers re-exposes the petrified log.
10) Further erosion undercuts the log causing it to crack, break into segments, and eventually roll down the hill.

Trees to Stone: The colorful logs underwent a fascinating change. Buried beneath layers of silt, mud, sand, and volcanic ash, the logs were protected from decay. Mineral-laden ground water percolating down through layers of sediments carried silica, from the volcanic ash, and other trace minerals, saturating the absorbent dead wood.

Silica crystals (quartz) grew within the porous cell walls, continuing to form on the inner surface of the walls, and finally filling the central cavity (lumen) of the cells. If the process of petrification stopped, perhaps due to lack of water, the organic cell walls remained intact, thoroughly embedded with silica. This type of preservation is called permineralization. Permineralized petrified logs are tan and brown and tend to resemble modern wood. Touch the surface, however, and you will discover that they are indeed stone. (These were the type we saw at Blue Mesa - see Painted Desert entry.)

Most of the logs at Rainbow Forest (pictures below) are colorful agatized wood. If the petrification process continued, the remaining organic material degraded and was replaced by more silica crystals. Eventually, this results in the complete mineral replacement of the wood by silica. This creates a pseudomorph: a copy of wood.

The colors of the Rainbow Forest's brilliant petrified logs are due to trace minerals that soaked into the wood along with the silica. Iron minerals provide bright mustard, orange, rich reds, ochre, and black. Blue, purple, brown, and black, including graceful fern-like patterns, are caused by manganese minerals. Other minerals may be present in small amounts, differing from log to log. The colors are best seen in broken sections of petrified wood.

There weren't any prehistoric lumberjacks and the National Park Service doesn't break up the logs. The logs were broken naturally. Since petrified logs are composed of quartz, they are hard and brittle, breaking easily when subjected to stress. The hard logs are surrounded by softer sedimentary layers. During earth movement and as the sediments shifted and settled, stress on the rigid logs caused fractures. As erosion exposes the logs, weathering widens the cracks, particularly from ice wedging in the winger. Gravity helps the sections roll or fall away from their original orientation, however many of the logs in the area remain aligned.

What kind of trees were they? So far two main groups of trees have been identified. Conifers are cone bearing seed plants. Today conifers include pines, cypress, and cedars. There were also ginkgos, a bizarre group of trees related to cycads. Today there is only one living species of ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba.

 (end of information from Visitor Center)

A piece of petrified wood seen on the Blue Mesa Loop,

Inside the Visitor Center there were a couple of pieces of petrified wood that had been polished. Here is information about one of them.

This is the piece of wood described in the text in the picture above.
One of the pieces of petrified wood on the Rainbow Forest loop.

One of the logs on the Rainbow Forest loop - notice that it appears to be cut apart like my Dad used to chainsaw trees that fell on the farm!

Another view of the log that has broken apart
It was amazing to see these examples of petrified wood. One of the women working in the Ranger Station at the south end said that there is a LOT of petrified wood around outside the park. Indeed, we saw a LOT of it for sale (or even available for free in many places).

Painted Desert

When I was a kid, Granny Hunt brought me a paperweight that had a sand sculpture in it from the Painted Desert (I think she traveled west with Uncle Carl). When I realized we were near the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park, we decided to take a day to visit them. It was a very windy day, but beautiful vistas and interesting things about which to learn!

North of I-40 is the "red" section of the painted desert. Today, the sky was full of fluffy clouds and their shadows on the ground made for a continuously changing view that was beautiful!

The park road wound around and crossed I-40 to the south. It was pretty amazing how distinctly different the land was south of that man-made boundary.
This was on the Blue Mesa loop - from the top - I could see small specks that were moving way, way down there - I figured they were on some *other* trail... no... they weren't...

After we got down into the valley (badlands) we were surrounded by beautiful scenes.

Over to the right center edge of this picture, you can see another couple who was also walking the trail (with their dog) - to give you an idea of how magnificent it was! You may also notice some shadows down along the ground - those are pieces of petrified wood that were scattered around on the ground in this area.

And there's my honey!!!

Desert Flowers

I love the flowering plants that we see in the desert! However, I am not at all sure of the names...

Maybe Crescent Milkvetch?

Maybe Wavyleaf Paintbrush?
Maybe Rubber Rabbitbrush?

They are *still* trying to confuse me, and tomorrow we lose our standard time hour...

We are in the area of Arizona where there are a number of Indian reservations. At the park today, I saw this display of clocks:
Arizona shows 11:45am, California 11:45am, Navajo Reservation 12:45pm, New Mexico 12:45pm
Last night, I noticed that the clock on my phone on the main screen that showed my current location and its weather was different (one hour later) than the time shown on other screens on my phone. The location that it thought we were was Leupp, AZ, which is in the Navajo Nation.

Excuse me if I think someone is deliberately trying to confuse me. I'm not paranoid if they really *are* out to get me!

Tomorrow we plan to travel on in to New Mexico, so we should officially be on Mountain Daylight Saving Time, I think... but who knows! So, we will finally lose the hour that the rest of you lost earlier in March!