In the winter of 1985 I was driving through the Mojave Desert with a friend, talking about our apparent need for new river gear. As we passed the Twenty Nine Palms Marine Base, a man unexpectedly appeared on the side of the road selling used ammo cans. My friend and I laughed wildly and quickly came to realize that the moment was "All In A Days' Karma". This blog contains the occasional ramblings of a died-in-the-wool westerner who loves seeing, understanding, and being alive upon these landscapes. I cherish the moments of bliss and irony that come to all of us as we explore the planet and its residents (and perhaps visitors) in the short time we are here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Time Lapse Video of the Northern Lights from Alaska

If you have never seen the northern lights (one of the original Seven Wonders of the Natural World) you likely cannot imagine what they must be like. If you have seen them, you know it is a spectacular light show. In this video you can see them like never before in time lapse. Check it out.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Video of Super-Typhoon Haiyan

Posted on Dr. Jeff Masters web site is a guest posting from Josh Morgerman who witnessed the typhoon from Tacloban City, Philippines. You can watch the video here.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Watch a Lunar Shadow Trapse Across Africa

The Moon's shadow approaching Africa during the November 3 total solar eclipse

On November 3 of this year, a total solar eclipse was observed in areas of the eastern Atlantic Ocean and equatorial Africa. Dr. Maximillian Reuter posted a moving image of the moon's shadow going across the Earth's surface on that date. Let the image load here on the Earth Science Picture of the Day web site and watch the magic!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Did Snakes Help Build Our Brains?

Have you ever wondered why you sort of "sense" a snake before you actually "see" it on the trail? This article may explain it. Read it here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Video of Mars Flyover

What would it be like to fly over the surface of Mars? Now, taking digital elevation data, a new video shows the Martian surface like never before. Watch it here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Grass Is Going Away at the EL Tovar Hotel Grand Canyon

NPS Continues Exotic Plant Management by Eliminating Lawns in the Historic District:   Area will be Re-landscaped with Native Vegetation in Keeping with Historic Landscape

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – The National Park Service will begin eliminating turfgrass (lawns) around the historic El Tovar Hotel and adjacent rim lodges as part of a long-term plan to re-landscape the area with native vegetation consistent with the historic Grand Canyon Village rim landscape. Weather permitting; the two-day project will begin on Tuesday, September 17.

The lawns, made up of Kentucky bluegrass, were planted in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when the Kachina and Thunderbird Lodges were constructed. Kentucky bluegrass is not native to the Grand Canyon and requires an unnatural amount of water to maintain. The park’s General Management Plan, Exotic Plant Management Plan, and Historic Village Cultural Landscape Report all call for the removal of non-native species, such as Kentucky bluegrass. Once the lawns have been eliminated, native plant landscaping will be implemented in phases beginning in 2014.

In recent years, the exotic Kentucky bluegrass lawns have become an attractant for non-native Rocky Mountain elk that are utilizing the irrigated lawns as a food and water source creating a more urgent need to remove the lawns. Rocky Mountain elk were introduced into the Flagstaff and Williams, Arizona areas between 1913 and 1929 and have migrated to the South Rim of Grand Canyon in search of easy access to food and water.

Parkwide, there has been a dramatic increase in the number and concentration of aggressive elk encounters requiring staff intervention, especially around the El Tovar and adjacent rim lodges where large numbers of elk are causing human health and safety concerns.

“Visitors are naturally attracted to elk, and often approach too closely or place themselves directly in the path of elk that are foraging on the lawns,” stated Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga. “Elk have become habituated to these lawns, making them dangerous and unpredictable. Although elk can give the impression of being tame, they can quickly become aggressive when protecting their food and water sources, their young, and during the fall rutting season.”

Aggravated and aggressive elk are in close proximity to thousands of people visiting the lodges, restaurants, gift shops, and viewing areas along the edge of the canyon rim. By eliminating the lawns and removing unnatural food and water sources, the elk will disperse away from the rim’s edge to other areas of the park where there is a less concentrated visitor presence.

The lawns will be eliminated using a glyphosate based herbicide, a product found in local stores. The herbicide will be applied by certified applicators early in the morning. Park staff will be in the area, and the area signed and flagged to keep people and animals off the lawn as it dries, normally for a period of two to four hours.

The herbicide cannot be applied during rainy conditions or once overnight temperatures fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In the event that the herbicide cannot be applied in the next few weeks, the project will resume in spring 2014.

For more information about this project, please contact Vicky Stinson, Grand Canyon Project Manager at 928-638-7364. For more information about elk or wildlife safety visit the park’s website at

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Rim Fire in Yosemite - A Time Lapse Journey

 The Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park has consumed a few hundred thousand acres of pine forest and scrub land.  It is a devastation that is all too common out west with over a century of fire suppression (causing forests to become too dense) and a decade of drought. My friend John P. sent along this YouTube link to a time lapse of some of the smoke columns from this fire. Look at it here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Animal Crackers - A Review

My friend and Grand Canyon park ranger Scott Kraynak has just published his book with fantastic illustrations in it. Called "Animal Crackers" the book is reviewed here in one of the latest editions of High Country News. Congratulations Scott and good luck with this book.

You can visit the books web site at:

From their web site:

'Animal Crackers' is a mix of poetry and art, a creative effort by the brothers Kraynak.  While Scott is primarily the artist and Jeffrey is primarily the writer, to say that one wrote while the other illustrated would be a gross generalization.  For our creativity has bridged the divide and neither half would be as good without the input from the other side.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Blackhawk Landslide in Southern Caifornia

Now and then, friends send me items of interest that I find too interesting to pass up. This one is on a little known but stupendous landslide that occurred just south of Victorville California, about 17,400 years ago. You can read the geologic description of the events here. You are sure to be amazed! Other dating estimates and stories can be found here, here (this link will allow you to download Shreves dissertation and geologic map as pdf's), and here is especially good.

Next time I am on my way to SoCal, I will be doing a drive by.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

How Hot Is It?

It's really hot! I gort this from Jeff Masters blog site:

One of the greatest heat waves in North American history peaked June 30 and July 1, and will still bring some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded to portions of the Western U.S. The extraordinary heat wave, caused by an unusually extreme standing wave pattern in the jet stream, brought Earth's highest June temperature ever recorded on Sunday, June 30, when the mercury hit 129.2°F (54.0°C) in Death Valley, California. The only higher temperatures ever recorded on the planet occurred in Death Valley on July 10, 12, and 13, 1913, when readings of 134°F, 130°F, and 131°F were recorded. This 100 year-old record heat wave has many doubters, though, including Mr. Burt, who noted in a 2010 blog post that "The record has been scrutinized perhaps more than any other in the United States. I don't have much more to add to the debate aside from my belief it is most likely not a valid reading when one looks at all the evidence. Normally when Death Valley records its hottest temperatures they occur during region-wide heat waves. On July 10, 1913 the next highest temperatures recorded in southern California (aside from Greenland Ranch) were just 119° at Heber and 118° at Mammoth Tank." If Mr. Burt is correct, then this Sunday's temperature of 129.2°F in Death Valley was the hottest temperature in recorded history on Earth.

June 27, 2013
102° Santa Fe, NM set an all-time heat record for that city
105° Albuquerque, NM: tied 2nd highest temperature on record

June 28, 2013
105° Salt Lake City, UT: hottest June temperature on record
114° Zion National Park, UT: hottest June temp on record, and only 1° short of their all-time record of 115°

June 29, 2013
100° Ely, Nevada: hottest June temperature on record (previous 99° June 22, 1954)
101° Eureka, Nevada: hottest June temperature on record (previous 98° on two occasions)
105° Salt Lake City, Utah: hottest June temperature on record (again, see June 28)
122° Palm Springs, California: hottest June temperature on record (tied June 28, 1994) and 1° short of all-time record of 123° set on August 1, 1993
128° Death Valley, California: hottest June temperature on record (tied previous 128° set on June 29, 1994)
It was 119° in Phoenix, Arizona their 4th warmest reading on record.

June 30, 2013
129° Death Valley, California: Earth's all-time hottest June temperature
115° Lancaster, California: all--time heat record (previous record 114° on July 18 and 19, 1960)
117° Las Vegas, Nevada: all-time heat record (tied with July 19, 2005 and July 24, 1942)

All-time June monthly records were set or tied at:
104° Elko, Nevada (previous 104° June 24, 1981)
103° Tonopah, Nevada (previous 102° on two occasions), this was also just 1° short of their all-time record of 104° set on July 18, 1960).
106° Winnemucca, Nevada (previous 106° on June 24, 1988)

July 1, 2013
127° Death Valley, California
110° Boise, Idaho: tied for 2nd hottest temperature on record

Does Geology Explain the Loch Ness Monster?

Apparently, it does! Read here.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Basha's Grocery Store Fire June 24, 2013 7 PM

We saw black smoke from the front of our house and ran over to the store to take some photos.

Looks like only the front fa├žade in the roof area was burned.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Birds of Paradise in New Guinea

This video is just awesome. It could even make a die-hard geologist forget about rocks and start looking at birds!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Flooding on the Danube River

An amazing image of the Danube River in Grein, Austria on June 6, 2013. There is a lot of trust placed in the strength of that flood wall!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Marble Canyon Lodge Burns To The Ground - 1:30 AM June 19, 2013

Undisclosed photo
We received word this morning that the Marble Canyon Lodge, originally established in 1920, caught fire at 1:30 AM and burned to the ground. Initial reports on exactly what buildings were involved confused us. I guess it had been awhile since I used the Post Office at Marble Canyon, and when the article stated that the PO was OK, I thought of its old location in the main lodge. This was not to be the case however as the picture clearly shows the main building. These photos are courtesy of Allison Leigh Schmidt who operates the small jewelry shop east of the lodge. Her structure was saved!
Photo courtesy of Allison Leigh Schmidt
It must have been quite a sight in the dark of a rural Arizona night to see such a structure completely engulfed in flames. The motel section of the Lodge is apparently intact and perhaps no one will lose their reservations at the inn. Who knows. But all of those books and chicken grease are now gone.

Photo courtesy of Allison Leigh Schmidt

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Cost of Doing Nothing

In June, 2010, the Shultz Fire ripped across the southern flank of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff and charred 15,000 acres of Ponderosa pine forest. Now a monetary figure has been assessed to the fire and it is a staggering $147 million dollars. Read the report here. Sadly, the report mentions that if $15 million dollars in forest restoration work had been done before the fire, it would have been more easily contained and perhapos not so catastrophic.

Dr. Wally Covington, a forest researcher at NAU in Flagstaff offers his insight on the cost of "doing nothing." Read his assessment here. We are at the brink of fire season here and so far so good. But one good day can turn on a dime and the whole scenario changes.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Obituary - Dr. John Dohrenwend

I loved the colorful posters of satellite imagery that this man produced. His web site has a sampling of the stunning images that captured our attention before the onslaught of internet information.

I was saddened to learn of his recent passing. You can read his obituary here. Travel on dear colleague!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Emerald Mile

Listen to an interview with author Kevin Fedarko on the 36 hour run of the Grand Canyon by Kenton Grua. Listen here.

400 Milestone Reached

On May 10th, measurements of CO2 in our atmosphere reached the 400 ppb level. It has been steadily rising for about 250 years. Check out the story here.

Quantum Field Theory with Sean Carroll

If you have an extra 28 minutes, check out this TAM (This Amazing Meeting) video of Sean Carroll talking about quantum physics and the nature of morality. It is outstanding.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bright Angel Trailhead Reconstruction Nearing Completion

Press Release

Grand Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon Association will dedicate the renovated trailhead for Bright Angel Trail, one of the oldest and best known trails in the National Park system. This
renovation encompasses a 3.5 acre area at and surrounding the Bright Angel Trailhead and is focused on creating an accessible and comfortable area for visitors that complements existing historic buildings including the Bright Angel Lodge and Rim Cabins designed by Grand Canyon architect Mary E. J.
Colter.  Having not had much significant development in the past 100 years, many people have had a hard time finding the trailhead and there was no convenient or comfortable place for people to sit to either enjoy the view or prepare for hikes.  The renovation will greatly improve conditions at and around the trailhead, providing a much better experience for park visitors.

Located in the heart of Grand Canyon Village, Bright Angel trail was one of the first entryways into Grand Canyon originally built by the Havasupai people and then popularized to the burgeoning tourist community by John Cameron in the early 1900s.  Historic Kolb studios, home to the Kolb brothers’ photography business is located overhanging the Bright Angel Trail and is also currently undergoing reconstruction.  Today, Grand Canyon National Park is visited by nearly 4.5 million people a year; several thousand people pass through the Bright Angel Trailhead area on a typical summer day. It is used by day and overnight hikers, mule riders, shuttle bus riders and rim walkers. In addition, visitors park in this area to access lodging, visitor services and the trailhead.

The new design for the area includes a paved parking lot around the Bright Angle Rim Cabins for approximately 87 vehicles; new restrooms and a plaza area with shade structures for visitors to rest or prepare for their hike; a new accessible path from the shuttle bus stop to Kolb Studio; reconstruction of two stone walls; burial of the overhead electrical and phone lines; removal of an underground storage tank; and an etched rock sign for the Bright Angel Trailhead, so visitors can find it and celebrate it!

“Constructing these much needed accommodations at the Bright Angel Trailhead to bring it up to modern standards has been a dream in the works for over a decade,” says Dave Uberuaga, Grand Canyon Superintendent, “With funding available through the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act and generous donors this, we are proud to finally complete this project.”

The project was funded with support from private donations and federal funding that comes from park entrance fees.   “We are greatly appreciative of the donor support we received for the Bright Angel Trailhead Renovation project,” says Susan Schroeder, Executive Director of Grand Canyon Association. “This area of the park is so meaningful to many people in many ways from the exhilaration of climbing out of the Canyon after a long hike to the simple pleasure of enjoying the expansive canyon view with your family.”

Grand Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon Association are thankful to Stewart and Ellen Horesji, Arizona Public Service, William and Elizabeth Sweeny and Rick and Frances Rockwell for their generous contributions.  The Bright Angel Trailhead will now be a place of celebration and enjoyment of Grand Canyon for generations to come.

The project was overseen by Grand Canyon National Park Project Manager, Vicky Stinson with construction completed by Merrill, Inc., out of Cheyenne, WY.   Chevo Studios and Rock & Co., both from Denver, CO, built the stone masonry walls, seating areas and the new identity sign.  A dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony open to the public is to be held on May 18th at 4 pm at the Bright Angel Trailhead to commemorate the completion of this project.

For more images of the project go to this link.

Bright Angel Trailhead Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, May 18th, 2013, 4 pm

Friday, April 26, 2013

Excellent Video on the Colorado River

Pete McBride has developed a video on the Colorado River that is excellent. Voted as the Most endangered River in America by the organization American River, this video says it all. Watch here.

The Power of An Avalanche

Chris Rowan at Highly Allochthonous provided a link to an avalanche that occurred recently in France. You can watch the stunning footage here. It is amazing to see the speed and power of this rushing mass of snow! Of course, if you happened to be in the way of this, there would be no time to react but to only say goodbye.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Democracy For Sale

A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip


Published: April 17, 2013

SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them. On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.

Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.

I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.

Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.

I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.

People have told me that I’m courageous, but I have seen greater courage. Gabe Zimmerman, my friend and staff member in whose honor we dedicated a room in the United States Capitol this week, saw me shot in the head and saw the shooter turn his gunfire on others. Gabe ran toward me as I lay bleeding. Toward gunfire. And then the gunman shot him, and then Gabe died. His body lay on the pavement in front of the Safeway for hours.

I have thought a lot about why Gabe ran toward me when he could have run away. Service was part of his life, but it was also his job. The senators who voted against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to do their job.

They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.

They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.

This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul. Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.

Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.

Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic representative from Arizona from 2007 to 2012, is a founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, which focuses on gun violence.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Space Station Time Lapse Video

 From the folks on the International Space Station comes this time lapse video of our planet. An awesome view of an awesome planet - Earth!

Watch here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Future of Southwestern Water

Thanks to friend BTB who sent this along about the dire situation with water in the Rio Grande in New Mexico. This is a story the like of which we will be seeing all too much in the future, not just years away.

The Rio Grande near the Texas/New Mexico border

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Car and Driver Magazine

Did you know I was featured in an article in Car and Driver magazine? It was actually my second time in the magazine with writer Patrick Bedard using geology themes as a backdrop to the testing of SUV's. You can read the article here.  The "interview" was set near Kingman, Arizona where the middle Miocene (18.5 million year) Peach Springs Tuff makes for a great background for cars.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Russian Meteorite Size Update

New estimates on the size and power of the meteorite blast that occured over Siberia on February 15 are now in. See the story here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Meteorite HIts Earth in Siberia

Wow - it really happened. A meteorite fell from the sky (if traveling at 33,000 miles an hour is falling) and injured 1,000 people. Read it here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Explaining The Complex Simply

I recently took a shot at a suggestion given to me by Anne Jefferson over at Highly Allochthonous. It is an exercise where you can only use the most common 1,000 words to describe complex topics. You can access the site here. Take a crack at it. Note that the program will prompt you when you type an illegal word! Here was my attempt:

“My job is to make hard to understand ideas easier to approach for those who have no training in them. I write stories about things that are studied by the few, in ways that can be understood by the many. I write about the land and how it came to look the way it does today. This deals with what happened here on our home a long, long time ago. Most people never think about such things so it is a real big job to try to make it interesting. I keep trying and that is why I love my job.”

Good luck!