Wednesday

Desert Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

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On 03/30/2011, I captured this flower on a picture taking trip with my cousin to Grapevine Canyon located just north of Laughlin, Nevada. It was growing at the very base of a rocky cliff. Based upon its hundreds of buds, I think it was just starting to bloom and would have been much more beautiful in probably another week.

Description: Sphaeralcea ambigua, commonly known as Desert Globemallow or Apricot Mallow, is a member of the genus Sphaeralcea in the mallow family(Malvaceae) This two foot perennial shrub contains many one inch orange flowers on two to three foot spikes, the number of which increase with the age of the plant.  The leaves are fuzzy and deeply lobed. The fruit is a brown capsule containing numerous seeds. The flowers are apricot to orange in color and bloom in the spring. It grows well in alkaline soil, both sandy or clay, usually in the company of creosote bush scrub.  Desert Mallow needs sun and good air flow. Though mostly a desert plant native to parts of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, it has been seen in the White Mountains at 8000 feet and growing just above Bishop, California.

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Sunday

Furnace Creek Area – Death Valley National Park

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The pictures below and on the associated links were taken on visits to the park on 02/23/2016, 03/28/2015, 01/27/2014, 03/19/2011, and  04/11/2010. They represent the most recognized stopping points within what is known as the Furnace Creek Area. One of the many reasons for visiting this area is that during the early spring months one can often capture pictures of a variety of wildflowers. I have chosen to place these pictures on a separate page. Please click the following link to view … Death Valley National Park Flora.


Dante's View

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Dante's View is a viewpoint terrace at 5,476 feet on the north side of Coffin Peak, along the crest of the Black Mountains. Overlooking the inferno of Death Valley, it is without doubt, the most breathtaking viewpoint in the park. Both of Death Valley’s elevation extremes, Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level and due west to Telescope Peak, 11,049 feet above sea level, can be seen in a single glance. The paved access road is open to all vehicles less than 25 feet in length and starts east of Furnace Creek on Hwy 190. Click here to view pictures and information regarding this location ... 
Dantes View - Death Valley National Park.


Zabriskie Point
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Heading to the park from Death Valley Junction on CA 190, Zabriskie Point is an elevated overlook of a colorful, undulating landscape of gullies and mud hills at the edge of the Funeral Mountains. It is located just a few miles inside the eastern edge of Death Valley, just before you reach the Furnace Creek Inn and the main road that encompasses the park and its major features. The viewpoint is a short walk uphill from the parking area and is surrounded by a maze of wildly eroded and vibrantly colored badlands. From this spectacular viewpoint one can even see the flat salt plains on the valley floor in far the distance. It is by far the park’s most popular sunrise and sunset viewing location. From golden hues to those of chocolate browns, the undulating landscapes here are spectacular. Click here to view pictures and information regarding this location ... Zabriskie Point - Badland Loop Trail.
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Harmony Borax Works
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The Harmony Borax Works are considered an outdoor museum because the natural atmosphere in Death Valley preserves artifacts so well. After “cottonball” borax was discovered on the marsh near near Furnace Creek in 1881, this became the site of the borax processing plant built circa 1882-84 by William T. Coleman, owner of the Harmony Borax Company, to process raw borax ore for shipment to the train depot in Mojave, 165 miles to the south. It operation then made famous the 20 mule teams that were used to transport the ore to Mojave California. Click here to view pictures and information regarding this site … Harmony Borax Works.

Borax Museum
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This is a small museum located 2 miles south of the Harmony Borax Works, a few hundred feet inside the entrance to the Furnace Creek Ranch between the restaurants and the post office. It is filled with photos and artifacts that provide a colorful history and education about the mining era of Death Valley circa 1885-1927. The building was constructed in 1883-1885 and was moved to Furnace Creek Ranch in 1954. It is the oldest wood-framed structure in Death Valley. It was originally the Monte Blanco assay office and later served as a miners' bunkhouse when it stood in Twenty Mule Team Canyon, near the end of what today is the 20-Mule Team Road. Click here to view pictures and information regarding this site … Borax Museum.


Golden Canyon
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Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail is a 2 mile R/T hike with an elevation gain of about 300 feet. This hike is a geologic wonder. Along its one mile stretch you pass conglomerate rock, light mud and sandstone rock, and oxidized cliffs of conglomerate rock that are millions of years old. Click here for more pictures and info on this hike … Golden Canyon (Death Valley).

  
Artist’s Drive
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The Artist's Palette, shown above, is a spot on the Artist's Drive, that is especially photogenic in late afternoon light. Here you can see a fabulous array of variously colored hills full of greens, reds, purples, and pinks. It is quite unbelievable. You can carefully follow the steps down and walk among the hills to see more. These colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals (red, pink and yellow is from iron salts, green is from decomposing tudd-derived mica, and manganese produces the purple). Click here for more pictures and information on the unique site ... Artists Drive - Death Valley National Park.

Devil’s Golf Course
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On my first visit to this area, I opted not to drive out to this area on the valley’s floor. After driving out there on my latest visit, I learned that this amazing surface can only be truly appreciated when viewed close up.  This immense area of large Halite salt crystal formations, eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires, is so incredibly serrated that “only the devil could play golf on such rough links.” This name came from a line in the 1934 National Park Service guide book to Death Valley National Monument, which stated that " Only the devil could play golf " on its surface, due to a rough texture from the eroded salt crystal.
                           
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Directions
: It is located west off CA 178 (Badwater Road), just a few miles south of the entrance to Artist’s Drive, again south of the Furnace Creek junction and highway 190.

Area Description: The Devil's Golf Course is a large salt pan on the floor of Death Valley. Lake Manly once covered the valley to a depth of 30 feet. The salt in the Devil's Golf Course consists of the minerals that were dissolved in the lake's water and left behind in the Badwater Basin as the lake evaporated. With an elevation that is several feet above the valley floor at Badwater basin, the Devil's Golf Course remains dry, allowing weathering processes to sculpt the salt there into complicated forms. The crust of salt is 1.1 to 2.2 yards thick and changes form after rain in the winter season dissolves the salt, to be recrystallized as the water evaporates. Through exploratory holes drilled by the Pacific Coast Borax Company, prior to Death Valley becoming a national monument in 1934, it was discovered that the salt and gravel beds of the Devil's Golf Course extend to a depth of more than 1,000 feet; later studies have even suggested that in places the depth ranges up to 9,000 feet.

Natural Bridge Canyon
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Natural Bridge Canyon is one of the few canyons with an official trailhead. The natural stone bridge itself is accessible after a fifteen-minute walk up a gentle but constant gradient, along a pebble floor that leads from the trailhead at the parking area.
                         
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Directions
: Natural Bridge Canyon is found on the east side of the park, four miles south of the Artist's Drive scenic loop, and is reached by a spur road off CA 178 (Badwater Road), again south of the Furnace Creek junction and highway 190.
Area Description: The natural bridge, which extends across the whole canyon is quite impressive though not as graceful as many of the smooth sandstone arches found in Utah. The bridge is made of conglomerate and looks somewhat unstable from beneath, with deep cracks running through the span. After the bridge the ravine bends a few times and enters a layer of red rock where the canyon narrows, climbs over two small dry falls and at one point is partially blocked by a large boulder, but with room to pass underneath. Next is a much bigger fall about 30 feet high, not easily scaled though this can be avoided by scrambling up the weathered cliffs on the left side. Above, the canyon seems to gain elevation more quickly, becomes shallower and branches several times.  Other points of interest in the main canyon are several smooth vertical chutes in the walls, formed by flood waters flowing from hanging side canyons.

Badwater

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The low, salty pool at Badwater basin, referred to mostly as just Badwater, is just beside the main park road is probably the best known and most visited place in Death Valley. The actual lowest point (-282 feet) is located several miles from the road and is not easily accessible. There is not much else to see apart from an orientation table, identifying many of the surrounding mountains. High in the rocky cliffs above the road, another sign reads 'SEA LEVEL', giving a good indication of just how low the land is. As you can see from the people in these two pictures who look like ‘ants’, this is a vast expanse that covers a huge area. Click here for more pictures and info ... Badwater Basin (Death Valley).

Ashford Mills Ruins
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Directions: The Ashford ruins are located west side of CA 178 (Badwater Road), 45 miles south of the Furnace Creek junction and highway 190. The site of today’s ruins are all that remain of the extensive milling operation that was built to process the gold mined in the Golden Treasure mine that was located in the mountains more than 5 miles northeast of the site. Click here for more information and pictures of this site ... Ashford Mill Ruins - Death Valley.


Monday

Japanese Koi at The Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo Casino, LV

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I took these pictures on 03/08/2011 within the outside Wildlife Habitat located at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. There must be at least 30-40 of these beautiful fish throughout the habitat ponds and waterways.
Description: Koi are ornamental versions of the common carp species. They originated in China and then spread to Japan and have been cultivated mainly there ever since. The word “koi” is Japanese for carp, and the word “nishikigoi” means ornamental carp. It was in the nineteenth century in the Niigata prefecture of Japan that koi breeding emerged. According to history and legend, the farmers of that prefecture noticed colourful carp varieties in their rivers, that they were more easily snapped up by the birds because of their attractive colors, and began breeding them. Over time, a classification system developed according to their color variations and qualities, and now, there is an accepted categorization by which koi varieties are known by. There are approximately 30 different varieties of koi. Depending on the quality of their colors, rarity, patterning and sheen, the price of koi vary from a few dollars, to thousands of dollars each.
Apart from their beauty and sturdiness as fish, koi has become legendary because of the fact that they can grow to very large sizes, and are limited relatively by the size of the pond that they reside in. They are also renowned for their ability to live very long years. There’s a story about some koi found in a pond in the mountains of Mino Province of Japan, where upon some scale samples of the fish were examined by Prof. Masayoshi Hiro in the 1960s and it was concluded that, to his surprise, that the koi was estimated to be 215 years old. I suppose we’ll never be sure of how accurate this is, as it was based on light microscope studies at the time.
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Sunday

The Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)

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I photographed this beautiful Black Swan on 03/09/2011 inside the Wildlife Habitat area while staying at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Amid the neon lights, slot machines and the hustle and bustle of the Strip less than 300 feet away, the Flamingo offers an oasis that will make you feel like you have been transported to a tropical island. Full of photo opportunities, the habitat is filled with lush foliage imported from around the world including many varieties of pines, palms and magnolia. As you stroll its winding walkways alongside streams and waterfalls, or on bridges over lagoons and ponds, you get to view more than 300 birds, including Impeyn and silver pheasants, Gambel's quail, a Crown crane, two ibis, various swans, ducks and parrots, Chilean flamingos, African penguins, turtles, Japanese koi, albino channel catfish, plus grackle birds, house sparrows, mallard ducks and hummingbirds in the menagerie.

Description: Black Swans are primarily black-feathered birds, with white flight feathers. The bill is bright red, with a pale bar and tip; and legs and feet are greyish-black. Cobs (males) are slightly larger than pens (females), with a longer and straighter bill. Cygnets (immature birds) are a greyish-brown with pale-edged feathers. A mature Black Swan measures between 43–56 inches in length and weighs anywhere from 8 to 20 lbs. Its wing span can be between 5 to 6-1/2 feet. Their curved “S” shaped neck is the longest neck among the swan family. Generally it utters a musical and far reaching bugle-like sound, but can also make a softer crooning notes. It can also whistle, especially when disturbed while breeding and nesting. When swimming, Black Swans hold their necks arched or erect, and often carry their feathers or wings raised in an aggressive display. In flight, a wedge of Black Swans will form as a line or a V, with the individual birds flying strongly with undulating long necks, making whistling sounds with their wings and baying, bugling or trumpeting calls. E-P1030136

The Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)

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I photographed these Mandrin Ducks on 03/09/2011 inside the Wildlife Habitat area while staying at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. These are without a doubt, the most gorgeous ducks I have ever seen.  In China it is often customary to give a pair of Mandarin Ducks, such as those above, as a wedding present.

Area Description: Amid the neon lights, slot machines and the hustle and bustle of the Strip less than 300 feet away, the Flamingo offers an oasis that will make you feel like you have been transported to a tropical island. Full of photo opportunities, the habitat is filled with lush foliage imported from around the world including many varieties of pines, palms and magnolia. As you stroll its winding walkways alongside streams and waterfalls, or on bridges over lagoons and ponds, you get to view more than 300 birds, including Impeyn and silver pheasants, Gambel's quail, a Crown crane, two ibis, various swans, ducks and parrots, Chilean flamingos, African penguins, turtles, Japanese koi, albino channel catfish, plus grackle birds, house sparrows, mallard ducks and hummingbirds in the menagerie.

Description: The Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata), or just Mandarin, is a medium-sized perching duck, closely related to the North American Wood Duck. It is 16-19 inches long with a 25-29 inch wing span. The adult male is a striking and unmistakable bird. It has a red bill, large white crescent above the eye and reddish face and "whiskers". The breast is purple with two vertical white bars, and the flanks ruddy, with two orange "sails" at the back. The female is similar to female Wood Duck, with a white eye-ring and stripe running back from the eye, but is paler below, has a small white flank stripe, and a pale tip to its bill. Unlike other species of ducks, most Mandarin drakes reunite with the hens they mated with along with their off springs after the eggs have hatched and even share scout duties in watching the ducklings closely. E-P1030031

Friday

Wildlife Habitat at Flamingo

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Destination: Wildlife Habitat at the Las Vegas Flamingo
Distance from Point of Origin: 2.5 miles.
Estimated (One Way) Travel Time: 6-10 minutes depending upon traffic
Directions: Head southwest on Las Vegas Blvd and drive for 2.3 miles and turn left onto Caesars Palace Blvd.

General Description: The Wildlife Habitat is a 15 acre oasis hidden within the confines of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino, adjacent to the pool area. It is filled with lush foliage imported from around the world including varieties of pines, palms and magnolia. Its islands, streams and sparkling waterfalls are filled with more than 300 birds, including Impeyn and silver pheasants, Gambel's quail, a Crown crane, two ibis, swans, ducks, parrots, an abundance of turtles and koi, and, occasionally, penguins on loan from the Dallas Zoo. In addition, appropriately enough, it is probably most noted for its flock of live Chilean flamingos.
Special Attraction or Points of Interest: For an added bonus you can see the penguins as they are fed daily at 8:25 a.m. and 2:55 p.m.
Primary Activity: Photographing.
Secondary Activities: Bird Watching.

Elevation: 2,107 feet.
Best Time To Visit: Open daily, 8 a.m. - dusk. A visit there is best done during daytime hours in order to fully see and appreciate the surroundings, although it’s also fun to go at night to see the animals sleeping.
Difficulty: Easy. One can walk through the habitat’s winding walkways, peer over bridges at the colorful koi in the lagoons below, and take a breather by sitting on benches scattered among the palms and magnolias throughout the habitat.
Facilities: Numerous restroom and dining facilities inside the casino proper.
Estimated Round-trip Time: 15-20 minutes driving time plus whatever number of hours you want to spend taking photographs and relaxing in this tranquil environment. Check the links below, and the slideshow at the end, for a glimpse of the type of beautiful photographs this place provides.
To View More Pictures – Click the Following Links: http://kensphotogallery.blogspot.com/2010/03/mandarin-duck-aix-galericulata.html;
http://kensphotogallery.blogspot.com/2011/04/black-necked-swan-cygnus-melancoryphus.html;
http://kensphotogallery.blogspot.com/2011/03/japanese-koi-at-wildlife-habitat-at_14.html;
http://kensphotogallery.blogspot.com/2011/06/black-swan-cygnus-atratus.html;

03/11/2011 Trip Notes: My friend Jim got a comp for two free nights at the Flamingo for entering a promotional Texas Hold’em tournament and gave Connie and I the room for two nights. While there we spent several hours visiting the Wildlife Habitat. After roaming around and seeing all of the birds, fowl and fish, Connie just sat on one of the benches and reveled in the beauty and peacefulness of the surroundings while I wandered around snapping pictures galore.

 
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(OPTION 1) Each show is designed to run automatically in place, without leaving the current browser window. If the show is not already running, just click the large "Play" button in the middle of the picture and let it run.

(OPTION 2) Running the cursor over the picture being shown will PAUSE the show and bring up a navigation bar at the bottom of the slideshow window with Pause, Forward and Back buttons, allowing you to start, stop or manually forward or back up pictures one at a time.
                                     

Slideshow Description: The slideshow above contains 63 pictures that were taken on two visits I made to the Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo.

Sunday

Bristlecone Snag

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This bristlecone snag was captured just west of Cold Creek on 03/24/2011. I was hoping to capture pictures of some mature bristlecone pines, but our hike into the mountains was cut short due to a heavy snowfall the night before. I just love the swirling, twisting texture of these ancient trees. Usually found in elevations above 8,000 feet, these trees display a whitish gray bark and have short stiff needles that crowd against the branches with small cones that are only 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches long. I will have more pictures to add here later; stay tuned.


Description: The bristlecone pines are a small group of pine trees (Family Pinaceae, genus Pinus, subsection Balfourianae) that are thought to reach an age far greater than that of any other single living organism known, up to nearly 5,000 years. Bristlecone pines grow in isolated groves at and just below the tree line. Because of cold temperatures, dry soils, high winds, and short growing seasons, the trees grow very slowly. The wood is very dense and resinous, and thus resistant to invasion by insects, fungi, and other potential pests. The oldest living organism known is a bristlecone pine tree nicknamed "Methuselah", is located in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of eastern California, however its precise location is undisclosed by the U.S. Forest Service to protect the tree from vandalism. The age of Methuselah was measured by core samples in 1957 to be 4,789 years old.

Saturday

Growth Rings

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Growth rings on a tree, also referred to as tree rings or annual rings, can be seen in a horizontal cross section cut through the trunk of a tree. Growth rings are the result of new growth in the vascular cambium and are synonymous with secondary growth. Visible rings result from the change in growth speed through the seasons throughout the year, thus one ring usually marks the passage of one year in the life of the tree. For the entire period of a tree's life, a year-by-year record or ring pattern is formed that reflects the climatic conditions in which the tree grew. Adequate moisture and a long growing season result in a wide ring. A drought year may result in a very narrow one. The scientific method of tree-ring dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings is called dendrochronology.  I’m not really sure how old this tree was, but I think I counted nearly 60 rings; which means it was almost as old as me.

Tree Knot

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This picture was taken on 03/11/2005 on a trip to Red Rock Canyon with my cousin John Coxon. It was taken at the Willow Springs Picnic Area located about a 1/4 mile past the Willow Springs Falls parking area. The picnic area is located adjacent to a spring with large cottonwood trees in a deep canyon surrounded by red and white sandstone cliffs.  If you stare at it long enough, maybe you will see the same grotesque face that I see – think the Batman Movie, "The Joker".

Wednesday

View at Corn Creek, Nevada

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Starting with the photograph shown below, I created the above picture by merely increasing the exposure and color saturation using my PaintShop Photo Pro program. I then added one of the program’s stock frames. Different, but not really sure if I really like it?
I took this picture on 02/03/2011 on a hike through Corn Creek located inside Nevada’s Desert National Wildlife Area. There are some really nice meandering trails which take you through some desert meadows, over and along the creek and by several small ponds. This is a pastoral area in which you can see a variety of birds, rabbits, and other creatures. P1010104-2 Stitch