Moab Weekend

Over the weekend of May 14-17 we flew up to Canyonland Airport outside of Moab, Utah for a visit to Arches and Canyonlands National Park, Moab, and Deadhorse State Park. It was an easy flight from Phoenix to Canyonland Airport in the Cessna 182 across the high desert and along Marble Canyon and then over Lake Powell.

After a lunch and settling into our hotel in Moab we set out for late afternoon and sunset in Arches National Park. Arches is a smaller park with unique geologic formations created by wind, water and the uplifting of the Colorado plateau.

Pine Tree Arch

Dead Horse State Park Utah

Katmai Wilderness and Brown Bear Expedition

I recently returned from a photography trip to the Katmai National Park and Wilderness Preserve in southern Alaska. Katmai was declared a national monument in 1918 and designated a National Park in 1980. In the summer brown bears gather at streams to feast on salmon and fatten up on the sedge grass.

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We started our trip with a seaplane flight from Kodiak across the Shelikof Strait landing in Kukak Bay to board the Natural Habitat’s  Ursus. The Ursus  is a converted Crab ship from the Bering Sea and had a starring role on Discovery’s Dangerous Catch as the original Time Bandit. We landed on a beautiful sunny day on Kukak bay on of the coastal inlets along the Katmai peninsula. The is a ridge of volcanic peaks forms by the coalition of the Pacific and North American plates.

The last major eruption in historical times was the simultaneous eruption of Mount Katmai and Novarupta in June 1912. Novarupta’s eruption produced a pyroclastic flow that covered a nearby valley with ash as much as 300 feet (91 m) thick. At the same time the summit of Katmai collapsed into a caldera. As the valley deposits cooled, they emitted steam from fissures and fumaroles, earning the name “Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.”

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Katmai is the home for brown bear is one of the most omnivorous animals in the world and has been recorded consuming the greatest variety of foods of any bear.[85]  Certainly no other animal in their given ecosystems, short perhaps of other bear species and humans, can claim to feed on as broad a range of dietary opportunities. Food that is both abundant and easily obtained is preferred. Their jaw structure has evolved to fit their dietary habits. Their diet varies enormously throughout their differing areas based on opportunity.[7][246] In July, we saw bears eating a lot of  grasses, shoots, sedges and forbs. They were like lawnmowers or bison working their way through the sedge. In other areas fruits, including berries, become increasingly important during summer and early autumn. They also hunt for clams along the beaches of the Katmai coast. 

Brown Bear Cubs

The newborn cubs are born after a relatively short gestation allow the mothers are hibernating only weighing about a pound at birth and nurse from their sleeping mother until they emerge in the spring. The female is solely responsible for raising the cubs and they remain with her for about 3-4 years.

Brown Bear Cub (1 of 1)

Kukak Bay in Katmai National Park

Summer is also the time for new lover and procreation. Female bears go into estrus after they have separated from their cubs and are receptive to the males. Large boars will fight over the rights to mate and the fights can be very brutal until one give up the right to mate. The females delay the implantation of the embryo until the winter and if she has not gained enough weight it may not occur at all.

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Katmai is also home to a large number of sea birds and other migratory birds. One of the most colorful is the Puffins.

Tufted Puffins Pair

These colorful sea birds make their nest in the soil at the top of rocky cliffs. Both the female and male incubate the single egg that is laid and feed the newborn chick born after an incubation of 45 days. After fledging the young puffins spend the next few years at sea until they are ready to breed. The puffins are not great flyers but their short compact bodies are excellent for diving for fish.

 

Iguazu Falls

Starting to wrap up our trip to Argentina with a stop in Iguazu Falls. Amazing place now listed as a wonder of the world and UNESCO site. The Falls and Parana river is a dividing line with Brazil which we can see across the river from our hotel. Yesterday we did an all day adventure following the lower and upper circuit followed with a hike up to the Garantu de Diablo. There are over 270 falls and water was at about 70 percent level now. The river and falls are feed from rains across Brazil and not from the Ande mountains and travel into the Atlantic via a large estuary. Tropical area with black face capuchin monkeys, Coati, multiple butterflies and birds. The monkeys are real characters and you have to keep your window and doors closed when you leave room. The monkeys will enter your room and open minibar taking coke and breaking open the bottle, as well as, taking any food. They skip the small bottle of alcohol I guess for health reasons or they just didn’t like the feeling, silly monkeys. 

Quebrada de Humahuaca

We have had a busy three days traveling through the valley of Humahuaca in Jujuy province of Argentina with our in Pumarmarce. Route 9 goes from Buenos Arias to Bolivia winding up the Quebrada past small and large towns with people descended from Inca population. Beautiful landscape of amazing geology formed over 400 million years of beautiful white composed of limestone, purple of lead and calcium, yellow of iron hydroxides, reds of iron oxides and green of copper oxides. We drove up to over 14,000 feet and did a short hike to see Paleta de pintur or Painter’s Palette. Also hike to the gargunta de diablo or devil’s throat.

Pumarmarca is a lovely town of 6,000 which is a Argentinian and international travelers destination usually busier in the summer months. We have been blessed with great weather sunny and warm. This area receives very little rain and most of agriculture in from river and high mountain runoff. Landscape is similar to Arizona with arroyos, erosion and a cactus very much like Saguaro but arms start lower and are more numerous. Would love to see them blooming later in spring like our saguaros.

Aconcagua 

Today drove up Argentina route 7 heading towards Chile and Aconcagua the highest summit in the Western Hemisphere at over 6000 meters or about 23,000 feet. Still winter down here and the climbing season doesn’t start for a few more months. We were traveling with Lena are guide, who’s husband is a teacher and works in the summer as a climbing guide on Aconcagua. Route 7 is the main east west highway to Chile and there is tremendous amount of large truck traffic on this 2 lane highway. It was windy and cold at the ranger station at the park and a few tourist looking toward the towering summit above us which require 3 or more days to climb usually depending on the weather. 

Driving back we stopped in the small town of Uspallata which seems to be entrance to the mountain area with a number of small hotels, restaurants and store outfitting hikers, some skiers and climbers. We had lunch at a popular restaurant for typical Padrilla meal with is a grilled meats cooked over a wood open air fire. We had carne Assada, pollo (chicken), sausage and ribs following the first courses of empanadas, salad and papa fritas. Excellent lunch but a lot more then we could or should eat. Tomorrow we are off to Salta de Linda another beautiful area of Argentina.

Buenos Aires Ciao

After spending 3 days in BA we are off to Mendoza wine range and enter ace to the Mountains. We had a fun 3 days touring this interesting capital of Argentina and home to about 14,000,000. We went to the beautiful Teatro Colon opera house built in early 20th century unfortunately first opera off year starts next week.

We staying in the Palmero Soho area with many millennials strollng the streets shopping and eating. Monday was a holiday celebrating the birth of San Martin the liberator of Argentina, Chile and Peru. Also took in the Recalote area and visited grave of Eva Peron.