Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Birthday Jesus

Matthew 1: 18-25

18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Death Valley - Part 4

Day 4 Highlights (Saturday)

1) Darwin Falls

We hiked first thing in the morning Darwin Falls, which is located just past Panamint Springs. This, like so many things in Death Valley, is really interesting. Basically on this mountain there is a spring that creates this small creek that snakes its way down the mountain creating 7 waterfalls. When we were on ledges above the stream it was so easy to tell exactly where it went because everything would be dead except along the stream where there would be trees, cattails, grass, etc. This climb proved to be the most challenging of the trip since we had to climb over the seven waterfalls, but it was well worth the challenge.

First waterfall of seven in Darwin Falls

Without too much of a challenge you can reach the second waterfall, which in my opinion is the coolest one. Shown below is a picture with Troy standing in front of it and at the very top of the fall (can't see it) the fall as a cool little twist in the path.

Second waterfall of Darwin Falls

Then once we reach the very top there is a large relatively flat area, which we hiked back into. All over the place is horse poop from wild horses, but unfortunately we didn't get to see any of them. After a short hike you come to a small ranch that someone once attempted to start. Besides some rusted out cars and building foundations there is a small pond off to the side and in there are tons of goldfish.

Pond with goldfish at the top of Darwin Falls.

After taking a break after the daunting climb to the top and having our lunch we decided to go back down a different way (supposedly easier). Basically for this ranch thing there is a road that leads to it and since Troy had never check out where the road went we decided to just walk down the road. We were pretty sure the road had to lead back to our car because the road continues but 4-wheel drive is required to go on further...after driving on a couple 4-wheel drive recommended roads we knew there was no way we could drive on this road. We assumed it must just wrap around this one range and then head straight down to the car, but after hiking for quite awhile and only going up we really started to wonder if we were correct.

Picture taken after hiking about 20 minutes uphill from the top of Darwin Falls.

The picture above was taken probably half way up to the actually top where we would start going down...the lowest point is where the top of Darwin Falls is. I think Troy and I were getting close to giving up and walking back to the top of Darwin Falls and just climbing back down when we finally saw that the road begins to head downhill. Unfortunately what we were looking wasn't actually the road and the actually road when at a very steep angle to nearly the highest peak in the range. However at this point Troy and I decided that we man as well climb it since once we are at the highest point in the range we know for a fact its going downhill from there. The view was beautiful once we got up there with the exception of the many miles of snaking road that lead downhill. After a couple moments of enjoying the view from this pass we began the decent.

The decent seemed to take a very long time and along the way we found another ghost town but no pictures were taken because all we wanted to do at this point was get off this mountain. We even would jog down some stretches of the road because we just wanted to cut down the time. Plus at this point we were really starting to wonder if this was the road that lead to our car or to some other random location. Then we came around a bend to see our car...oh what joy. Troy took off running to the car and gave it a big hug...we had been hiking/climbing for over 5 hours at this point (we actually thought we had been up there for closer to 7 hours though).

2) Panamint Springs
We then drove to Panamint Springs to get water and have lunch...definitely needed.

3) Father Crowley Point

A few miles from Darwin Falls is Father Crowley Point, which overlooks the southern valley of Death Valley National Park. So we drove up there and took a look.

Father Crowley Point

4) Packed up

We were suppose to stay another night out there but since we did Darwin Falls quicker than expected we decided why not sleep in a comfortable bed instead of on rocky ground. So we drove back to Emigrant, packed up our stuff, and drove back to Vegas.

Last picture before driving back to Vegas.

5) Showered

Once we got back to Vegas I was able to take my first shower since heading out there and then sleep in a very nice bed at Troy's cousin Nancy's place.

Day 5 Highlights (Sunday)

1) Hoover Dam

Since our flight wasn't until late Sunday we decided to drive out to Hoover Dam and take a look. It was here that my camera stopped working (below is the last picture it took). Plus with this quick trip I was able to visit three states (California, Nevada, and Arizona).

Boring side of Hoover Dam

2) Family Christmas Party

I then attended Troy's extended family's Christmas part, which was pretty fun even though I didn't know anyone besides Troy.

3) Gambled

Troy and I got the airport and our flight was delayed some giving us some time in the airport. We agreed that we have to gamble some if we are going to be in Vegas, so we played the slots in the airport. I lost everything (everything = $2) and Troy won big (big = $1.50 approximately).

4) Flew back to Michigan

We then flew back to Michigan on the red eye. We landed in Michigan at 6am Monday and got back to my apartment at 8am.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Death Valley - Part 3

Day 3 Highlights (Friday)

1) Badwater (lowest point in Western Hemisphere)

First thing in the morning we drove to Badwater where there is a small amount of water that looks very gross (see picture), a sign saying you are 282 ft below sea level, and behind you is a mountain with a sign on the side stating where sea level is. The water isn't actually "bad", but its really, really salty. One funny thing about this place is all over the place where there is land people have dug small holes...so they are a little lower.

Picture of water at Badwater. At the top is dried up ground just leaving white salt.

Mountain next to Badwater that on the side has a sign showing where sea level is.

2) Natural Bridge

We than traveled to a canyon that has a bridge crossing that was natural formed by falling rocks. Several interesting things happened at this place. First we had breakfast before hiking up there in our car, but as it turns out the milk we had got a hole in it and leaked all over. Then while cleaning that up and drinking as much milk as one can drink a can of Guinness also began to leak. So not wasting what food we had we drank milk and Guinness beer as fast as we could at 7am...good way to start the day.

Once that was cleaned up we made the couple mile hike into the canyon where this bridge is. We obviously decided to climb on top of the bridge (it’s about 20 to 30 ft tall). I was just about to the top of the bridge when my camera fell out of my pocket and went plummeting to the bottom (not before bouncing off a few rocks on the way down). So the picture below is the last picture taken with my camera before it got smashed. Even though the case was cracked open it still managed to take pictures through the remainder of my trip…pretty lucky.

Natural Bridge...plus the last picture prior to dropping it off the top of this.

3) Awesome dry fall

About 50 yards further into the canyon where the natural bridge was there was a cool looking dry fall. It was over 40 ft tall (not in the picture that Troy is standing at the bottom...in the bottom corner is a zoomed in view of Troy). We thought about trying to climb it but the ground in front of it was all loose rocks and would have been too dangerous.

Dry fall in the canyon with the natural bridge...Troy is standing at the bottom of the fall (zoomed in view in the corner for clarity).

4) Devil's Golf Course

Just a mile or so down the road was the Devil's Golf Course . The sign in front of it says "Crystallized salts compose the jagged formations of this forbidding landscape. Deposited by ancient salt lakes and shaped by winds and rain, the crystals are forever changing. Listen carefully. On a warm day you may hear a metallic cracking sound as the salt pinnacles expand and contract."

Devil's Golf Course

5) Artist Palette

Artist Palette is not far from the Devi's Golf Course and is a few mile loop that takes you through a range of mountains that are all different colors. Pictured below is from the main view, but in reality all along the road are very colorful mountains. The one I told Troy reminded me of a huge mound of ice cream of various flavors.

Artist Palette...we decided to not hike this one.

6) Explored unmarked canyons

Troy and I hiked for quite awhile to check out two canyons that from the road looked pretty cool, but once we made it up to them we found out that it was impossible to get further than about 10 ft into them.

7) Found cool unmarked canyon

Third try was the charm. We were able to hike for miles into this canyon (we actually climbed to a peak and couldn't see where the canyon stopped). Quite a ways into it we found several abandoned mines that were really cool. Below is a picture taken from the entrance to one of the mines...we didn't explore them because that would be stupid.

View of mountain range from the entrance to one of the mines we found.

Then right next to the mines was a pretty steep side of a mountain that we could see had a trail cut across the face of it. Troy and I decided to climb up there just to see how crazy the path actually was. Turns out its really crazy...I had to stop half way across it because over half the "trail" didn't exist. It was just loose small stones, but as long as you walk standing straight up you won't slide...if you lean you fall. Troy is fearless and practically ran all the way to the top and around to the front of the mountain...I waited to see if it was worth it...it wasn't.

Crazy path cutting across the face of this mountain...I made it half way Troy went all the way.

8) Zabriskie Point

We went to Zabriskie Point that overlooks part of ther region we were hiking as well as Golden Canyon. We were going to hike Golden Canyon but were too tired after several hours of hiking in the morning.

9) Rest

After so many adventures in the day and half in the desert we decided to spend the afternoon relaxing and doing some reading at Furnace Creek. This was definitely needed since even when we tried not to have an adventure one would find us everywhere we went.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Death Valley - Part 2

Today I'll share the highlights from day 2 of the trip (i.e. first full day in death valley). I plan on going in order of the things we did, but first I have to show my two favorite pictures from the entire trip...Troy and I riding rocks (read on for details).

Me riding the rock (note that the ground is level and the rock is over 100 lbs).

Troy riding the rock. This one must have been more wild since Troy is riding it like a bull.
Day 2 Highlights (Thursday)
1) Mosaic Canyon
First thing in the morning we hiked Mosaic Canyon. This was a real adventure since Troy and I managed to get higher into the mountain than we're suppose to but didn't know how to get back down. After an hour or so of hunting for ways down we managed our way out.

View of Death Valley from Mosaic Canyon (dots at the end of the trail in the lower left corner are cars where we start the hike)

2) Titus Canyon

Drove through Titus Canyon...this wasn't suppose to be but turned out to be quite the adventure. The sign says 4-wheel recommended, but we were told it was freshly graded and we assumed that the sign is probably overly cautious. Turns out that Death Valley isn't overly cautious about anything and our convertible PT cruiser definitely was feeling a little strained making threw the mountain range. There were numerous times Troy and I asked ourselves who thought it was a good idea build a road over this mountain range...there were so many beautiful views, but I didn't take any pictures because I was too focused on trying to help Troy drive with my mind control over the car.

3) Leadfield - ghost town

About half way threw Titus Canyon Troy needed a break from the driving and conveniently at about this point was a ghost town (there are ghost towns everywhere around here). So we took some time to explore Leadfield, which lasted 6 months. I don't know if the sign is visible, but Troy and I loved the line in the sign that states the town was "founded on wild and distorted advertising." I'm not sure if that is as funny as we found it at the time, but we really thought it was hilarious.

Leadfield town summary (left) and the actual town of Leadfield on the (right). The mine is in the middle above the mound, the post office is in front of the mound of rocks, and this picture shows the entire town with the exception of another building up the mountain a little ways.

4) Ubehebe Crater

Driving up to this place there appears to be sand dunes in every directions as far as you can see, but the dunes are really dark black. It turns out it is volcanic ash that has formed the landscape and the volcanic material got there from these craters (Ubehebe Crater is one of many, but is the largest). Basically the heat from magma under the ground heats/expands the air underground until the ground can no longer hold it in. Ubehebe Crater is 500 ft deep and a half mile wide.

Ubehebe Crater (this picture doesn't capture just how deep and large this thing is)

5) Teakettle Junction

On our way to the Racetrack we had to pass Teakettle junction (shown below). While there isn't anything too special about this place it was at this point that we realized we were nearly 90 miles from a gas station and according to the car we only had about 60 miles of gas left. Since we had driven for over an hour to get to this point and only had a few more miles to the Racetrack we decided to keep going and and just pray to get back...we did.

Teakettle Junction...only interesting thing besides Joshua trees for about 30 miles leading to the Racetrack.

6) The Racetrack

First thing I need to point out is that the rocks weren't actually moving in the pictures above...we were just being funny. The Racetrack was the last place we visited this day...this is the only thing I knew about Death Valley prior to my visit and I really, really wanted to see it. This place is so interesting, but honestly it takes an hour one way to get there and once you look at it for about 15 minutes you just drive back.

However if you've never heard of the Racetrack I'll give the significance of this place. Basically in this valley there is a 7 x 0.5 mile area that is really flat and uniform (it looks smooth from a distance but its actually pretty rough). Then at the far end you walk across about a half mile of this ground to the corner where a mountain comes up right next to the playa (that's what the surface is called). Stones from the mountain fall onto the surface and then they move across the surface by some unknown phenomenon. Impressions in the ground are only made when the ground is wet so they know the ground is moist when they move because of the grooves, but no one has ever seen one of these rocks move. While there are numerous theories as to how it happens it still remains somewhat of a mystery to scientists. I looked it up and apparently these rocks move only once every two to three years and the path they leave only lasts for three to four years. Also rough rocks make a straight path while the smooth rocks wander along there path. I really wanted to see this because it is a fluids problem (its assumed the movement has something to do with the surface getting wet and the winds in this area) I figured if I could look at it up close I would at least have some confidence as to how it works, but after seeing it up close I was more impressed/confused than before.

Some rocks from the Racetrack with there path formed in the playa.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Death Valley - Part 1

This past week I visited Death Valley and way too much took place for me to tell everything in one post. So I'm breaking it up and will just give you the basics and details of day 1 (travel from Detroit to Death Valley).

Typical Day
1) Get up at about 6:30am
2) Drive out to desired location
3) Hike until about noon
4) Have lunch
5) Climb, hike, visit, etc until about 6pm
6) Drive back to Stovepipe Wells
7) Make soup on a camping stove
8) Go to bed about 8pm

Death Valley Details
Low Temperature ~ 35 degrees Fahrenheit
High Temperature ~ 60 degrees Fahrenheit
Low Elevation = 282 feet below sea level (lowest point in the Western Hemisphere)
High Elevation = 11,049 ft (Telescope Peak)
Our Campground Elevation ~ 2000 ft (Emigrant)
Everything is weird/interesting

Day 1 (Wednesday)
1) Flew from Detroit to Las Vegas
2) Stopped by Nancy’s (Troy's dad's first cousin) to get camping equipment
3) Drove to Pahrump & got groceries...last stop before Death Valley

Troy driving to Death Valley...he did all the driving.

4) Drove into Death Valley

Distant view of Death Valley taken from the car.

5) Saw Harmony Borax Works
6) Saw Devil’s Cornfield (a bunch of weird shaped cactus in nearly rows)
7) Saw an amazing sunset

Sunset from over the Cottonwood mountains.

8) Saw the sand dunes (largest sand dunes I've ever saw...they look pretty big even against the back drop of 10,000+ ft mountains)
9) Setup camp at Emigrant as the sun was setting

Our campground and convertible PT cruiser. These two pictures show pretty much the entire campground, and thus the reason why its free to stay there.

10) Saw the most stars I've ever seen in a night...that's saying quite a bit considering I'm from Pigeon.
11) The first night I snapped this picture of the setting sun behind the mountains and got this weird thing in the picture. I don't now what this is and thus am calling it a UFO, but I actually mean it is an unidentified flying object (not aliens flying through space).

Sunset over the mountains with unidentified flying object.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Flying Dude

I just read an article on the NY Times website about the quest to land a wing suit without a parachute. Basically a bunch of groups are trying to make a suit that you can jump out of a plane in and land without dying. Honestly this is crazy enough that it might work and apparently aerodynamics folks are saying that on paper it seems possible. However the best part about these “projects” are the quotes from the guys that are actually attempting to do it…it obviously takes a very special dude. Here are a couple of my favorites…

Loïc Jean-Albert of France has become known as the Flying Dude for his video’s on YouTube (see video below) and when asked about the quest to land a wing suit he was quoted as saying “You might do it well one time and try another time and crash and die.”

Then in a video that’s part of the NY Times article I read the best quote, which came from Jeb Corliss.
"People ask me, you know, what’s the point, why would you do something like that? And I mean to be honest with you for me the wing suit landing is something that, you know, people have never done before. And it’s hard in this day and age to do something that has never been done before. This will be the first time that a human being has reached terminal velocity and landed on their face at over 110 miles an hour and got up and done it again. That’s a very special thing and as far as I’m concern this is something people have wanted to do since the time of Icarus”

Three Comments about this quote…
1) Apparently in the past it was easy to do things that have never been done before.
2) I’m pretty sure if he lands at 110 miles per hour on his face he will not do it again no matter what he is wearing.
3) Last time I checked Icarus was part of Greek Mythology and thus not really established in history…so how long exactly have people been wanting to land on their face at over 110 miles an hour?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

International Props

I was driving to the office this afternoon and heard this song by Craig Morgan that gave me a chuckle. I've never heard of it before and the little bit I heard sounded a little corny (pun intended) but at least there is a song out there that talks about International instead of John Deere.

International Harvester (Chorus)
Cause I’m a son of a 3rd generation farmer
I’ve been married 10 years to a farmer’s daughter
I got 2 boys in the county 4-H
I’m a lifetime sponsor of the F.F.A.
Hay! That’s what I make
I make a lotta hay for a little pay
But I’m proud to say
I’m a God fearin’ hard workin’ combine driver
Hoggin’ up the road on my a p-p-p-plower
Chug a lug a lugin’ 5 miles an hour
On my International Harvester

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Week of Firsts

This past week I had to first...
1) Gave my first lecture
Thursday morning I taught my first class. It was an advanced fluid mechanics class and I gave them an introduction to turbulence. Fortunately I enjoyed it since I plan on becoming a professor.

Two images I used in my first lecture. (Left) Milk drip into water that's upside down and (Right) atomic bomb going off...check out the similarity.

2) Gave blood
I had planned on giving blood when I was in high school but never did because I didn't want to miss practice. Then in college I just couldn't bring myself to do it, and over time I built a weird little phobia. It isn't that I have a problem with blood or needles, but I really hated the idea of having a needle stuck into my vain in my elbow. Then last month Ciara conquered her fear of flying by flying to Florida and when I was taking her to the airport I told her if she gets on the plane I'll give blood. So her and I went on Friday and gave blood. As it turns out I give blood really fast...it probably took less than four minutes to take the test samples and the pint of blood.