Dead Horse Point

I always wanted to see this well-known photo destination. Given its popularity, I thought I would get there early to make sure I had a good vantage point for some photos. So I got up in time to be at the entrance when the Dead Horse Point State Park officially opened at 6 AM.

It was about a 40-minute drive from downtown Moab, in total darkness. There was nobody in the gatehouse when I arrived at the park entrance, so I put my ten dollar entrance fee in the provided envelope and dropped it in the designated slot, then drove to the parking lot at the end of the point.

I need not have worried about beating the crowd - the place was desolate. Fifteen degrees Fahrenheit and a bit windy, and still pitch black. So I grabbed the flashlight and walked across the dry layer of crunchy snow to the overlook. Couldn't see a damned thing - just a void between the line of rosy light along the southeastern horizon in the distance and wall marking the boundary of the overlook.

So I went back to the car and rewarmed until there was enough dawn light to try again. I still couldn't see the shape of the land below from the overlook, but the camera could. So I took a couple of long exposures to figure out where to point the camera for the composition I wanted.

Hope you like the photo - waiting until the sun rose high enough to kiss the top of the point, I froze my @ss off to get it!

Dead Horse Point at sunrise.


Southeastern Utah and Castle Valley, near Moab.

Rock formation near Dewey, UT

Rock formation near Dewey, UT.

Fisher towers from the Northeast approach to Moab.

Fisher Towers, framed by mesas notched by the Colorado River, on the approach to Moab, UT from the Northeast. The La Sal Mountains stand in the distance.

Castle Valley.

Castle Valley.

Ghosts #1 - Castle Valley snow showers.

Ghosts 1: The ghost of Parriott Mesa [6155'] rises behind a gnarled tree during a Castle Valley snow storm.

Ghostly rock formations during a Castle Valley snow storm.

Ghosts 2: The ghost of Parriott Mesa [6155'] rises behind a gnarled tree during a Castle Valley snow storm.

Thanks to everyone who asked about me.

Just a quick post to say thanks to everyone who asked if I was OK over the last few days.

I have been in the USA on a business trip since 7 Mar and therefore was not in Japan when the quakes and tsunamis struck. Most of the friends to whom I reached out via email have replied that they are OK. I expect to hear from the rest as they get to work - as I write this it is Monday morning in Japan.

As far as I can tell, there was no serious damage where I live southwest of Tokyo, and I still plan to return to Japan later this week, barring any travel delays or other problems.

My thoughts are with the Japanese people, who have always been kind and hospitable to me in my 10 years of living in their country. Working in their favor is their intelligence, their hard-working nature, their ability to organize and cooperate, and their strong sense of honor and respect towards others.

Please consider doing what you can to support the relief efforts and assistance being provided to Japan by various governmental and non-governmental organizations.

And thanks again for all who asked about me.

Trip from h3ll

Surprise! Instead of leaving at 4:25 PM, we might not go at all - check back at 4:00 PM.

Snow accumulates on the windows - and on the wings - while passengers board.

A snow-covered 747 - going nowhere tonight.

Timeline so far:

12 noon: walk to train station, bag in tow

12:15 PM: arrive station

12:24 PM: train to Atami

12:47 PM: arrive Atami

1:01 PM: board Shinkansen bullet train for Tokyo

1:45 PM: arrive Shinagawa Station, walk across to the Yamanote loop line

1:55 PM: catch a train to Hamamatsucho

2:05 PM: jump on the Monorail to Haneda Airport

2:20 PM: arrive Haneda

2:30 PM: get to check-in counter. Can't check in. Flight delayed due to threat of volcanic ash entity's from thus morning's fresh eruption of Shinmoedake in Kyushu. Asked to check back at 4:00 PM.

4:00 PM: new info says flight will operate but departure time changed to 9:50 PM. (At this point, the Cathay Pacific Web site advises that all traffic between HK and Tokyo is being affected, and they provide a special form on the site to check flight status. Remarkably, this special function still shows this flight departing on time at 4:25 PM.

4:30 PM: checked in. Head for lounge.

9:15 PM: head to departure gate. It is snowing. Hard.

10:10 PM: board aircraft with 365 passengers.

11:20 PM: Captain announces that snow is accumulating on the wings faster than they can de-ice them, so we're going to just sit here until the snow abates. He assures us this is no problem, since "the crew is legal to fly even if we sit here for hours!" Good to know, thanks.

12 midnight: they give up on waiting for the snow to let up and we deplane to the transit lounge.

1:10 AM: still waiting for customs to come back on duty so we can be admitted back into the country, collect our luggage, and be bused to a hotel in Maihama.

New departure time: tomorrow noon.

Update 3:00 AM: just got on the bus. By the time we get to Maihama and get checked in, there won't be much time before the bus comes back at noon to drag us back to the airport - departure now scheduled for 3 PM.

Last update for this entry: arrived hotel 4 AM. Back at airport at 12:30. Canceled my trip. Got back home 27 hours after leaving.

Tassie NE to SW

Cradle Mtn to Hobart

Long drive yesterday heading south from Cradle Mountain through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers area, across the the southern savannas of Tasmania to Hobart.

Doneghy's Hill

Another beautiful day.

Stopped for to stretch my legs on some brief bush walks; one at Nelson Falls, and another at Doneghy's Hill.

[At left: the view from Doneghy's Hill.]

Crossed a lot of country, from the rugged hills around cradle mountain into the rain forests full of giant ferns, across broad grassy plains bounded by stands of eucalyptus.

More photos will come later, over at my home page. For now, here are a few glimpses.

[Below right: a stand of eucalyptus trees.]


The road was narrow with no shoulder in most places, but in really good condition. And almost no traffic - every few minutes I would pass a vehicle going the other way, and once or twice I passed or allowed to pass another vehicle going my way.

Got into Hobart at about 7:30 PM - turned what would have been a 5-hour drive into a 9-hour trip, but the stops and detours were worth it.

Up early this morning to shoot some photos around the harbor at sunrise.

Hobart harbor sunrise.

Onboard "Spirit of Tasmania", Melbourne to Devonport

Spirit of Tasmania II alongside Melbourne's Station Pier.

Above: "Spirit of Tasmania II" alongside Melbourne's Station Pier.

Driving onto the ship - parking belowdecks."Spirit of Tasmaina I and II" run between the port of Melbourne on the south coast of the Australian mainland, across the Bass Strait, to Devonport, on the north coast of the island of Tasmania. They run every evening all year round, but during the peak Summer months also do day runs several days a week.

Check-in starts at 6:30 AM, and I arrived at Melbourne's Station Pier just before 7:30 to see the ship already taking on cars and passengers. After an inspection for compressed gases, jerry cans of fuel, and other items that might represent a danger on board, the line of cars snake around the pier and climb a ramp towards the bow of the ship, then drop down into its gaping maw to parking belowdecks.

Lock the car, grab my camera bag, and then climb up to the passenger decks to watch the cast-off.

Leaving Melbourne in our wake.We depart Melbourne on time at 9 AM, and the Captain announces that we'll make Devonport at around 6:40 PM with an average cruising speed of 27 knots. It will be more than 2 hours before we even clear the mouth of Port Phillip, Melbourne's huge harbor. Once we do, 20-25 knot winds are expected for our crossing of Bass Strait, a famously treacherous 240 km-wide and 50-meter deep slot of water between the mainland and Tasmania. The number of ships wrecked along the Strait number in the hundreds and the Strait is said to be twice as rough as the English Channel.

11:40 AM: We sail beyond the headlands of Point Nepean and Point Lonsdale into Bass Strait. The seas are not rough, but there are some white caps, and the ship is shuddering and rolling a good bit more than in the protected waters of Port Phillip.

Passing Melbourne-bound Spirit of Tasmania I.1:50 PM: We pass "Spirit of Tasmania I" heading in the opposite direction, back to Melbourne from Devonport, about a mile west of our track. The wind on deck is very stiff, but it is a clear sunny day with scattered clouds.

5:00 PM: We are advised over the ship's intercom that our arrival time in Devonport will be 7:00 PM. I am glad we will still have a couple hours of daylight after we arrive.

6:15 PM: Disembarkation procedures are announced.

7:00 PM: We tie up alongside the pier at Devonport, and after an hour waiting in line to drive off the ship and get through Tasmania's quarantine inspection, I make for the motel, drop my bags and rush "downtown".

At Sharky's restaurant, they were closing the kitchen, but the Mom/waitress out front gets an approving nod from the Dad/chef back in the kitchen - and I'm able to get a late dinner.

Happy New Year from Melbourne!

Melbourne is a really pretty city, with some great gardens, old buildings, bars and restaurants, and more - with the Yarra River flowing through the center. Great fireworks shows tonight. An "early-bird" family episode at 9:15 - about half an hour after sundown, and then the midnight shows for the adults.

Here are a couple of shots from the late show, with fireworks going off from the tops of many of the buildings around town.

New Year's eve fireworks along Melbourne's Yarra River. New Year's eve fireworks along Melbourne's Yarra River.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!

Oysters and "r" months

Melbourne skyline from the southbank.

above: the skyline of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Where I grew up on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland, I was taught only to eat oysters in months whose name had the letter "r" in it. The reason being that the local oysters were growing in pretty warm water during the "non-r" months - May/June/July/August - and warm-water diseases and spoilage would be more likely to be a problem.

I was thinking that maybe the rule still works here in Australia because there is no "r" in "DEE-SEM-BAH". And that I shouldn't eat oysters because it is the middle of summer here - the highs today are supposed to reach almost 40° C!

However, I still think there is an audible "r" in January - even if it gets pronounced "JAN-YER-REE" around here. So - I gotta wait a couple more days?

But yesterday, as I was trying to decide whether to chow down on a half-dozen here in Melbourne, a little further consideration convinced me that "Chesapeake rules " shouldn't apply here. The temperature of the waters these oysters are coming from is a lot colder - at around 20° C - than the Chesapeake, which hits 30° C in Summer.Oysters from Tasmania.

And the oysters were from Tasmania anyway - a bit cooler still - only 1600 miles from Antarctica.

So I enjoyed some mid-Summer December oysters along with a glass of "Moo Pale Ale", also from Tasmania, which the brewer calls an "American style Pale Ale" and "a quintessential microbrewery beer". Very nice - just no comparison to the dilute pee that the biggest breweries in America call beer: "We start with pure mountain water - then we take the purity out!"

Know why they spend millions on sponsorships and ad campaigns? Because nobody in their right mind would drink the stuff unless it was hammered into them that it would make them cool.

Thank God for microbreweries everywhere.

Enroute Australia - and already running late?!

Notwithstanding the reliable on-time performance of Japan's public transportation systems - especially Japan Railways - the Shinkansen between Atami and Shin-Yokohama was 5 minutes - FIVE MINUTES! - late arriving in Yokohama today.

Doesn't sound like much, but everybody gets so used to the accuracy that when you buy tickets, it's not at all unusual to have razor-thin connection times.

Odoriko - local trainMy trip to Narita Airport, for example, typically involves three separate trains- there are other options available, but this way is the fastest and most convenient: the local line up the coast from Ito to Atami, then the Shinkansen from Atami to Shinagawa, and finally the Narita Express from Shinagawa to Narita.

And today my train connection times were: 6 minutes at Atami, and 11 minutes at Shinagawa. But, there was some issue with the train ahead of us between Atami and Shinagawa, so we arrived at Shin-Yokohama, the last stop before my transfer at Shinagawa, 5 minutes late.

That cut my connection time down to 6 minutes - any closer than that and I would have had to hustle a bit.

But one of the reasons I change from the Shinkansen to the Narita Express at Shinagawa is the tracks are really close together - at Tokyo Station, it's a 10-minute cross-station, multilevel trip. Once I get off the Shinkansen, I only need to ride up one level on the escalator, pass through the ticket gate, and go another 30 meters before I reach the escalator that descends to the track for the Narita Express.

Shinkansen at AtamiSo - it wasn't a problem - but it did mean there was no chance for me to swing through Starbucks for a latté. I can find one at the airport.

It is a typical early Winter day in Japan - dry, sunny, and clear. The sun is shining, but days are short, and because we are on the eastern edge of our time zone, the sun goes down by 4:30 PM - so I will be flying in the dark to Hong Kong. And then flying through the night to Australia.

Rice fields lie in wait for the next Spring planting.

Narita Airport, from whence I am posting this, is moderately busy - I think I am a day or two ahead of the mad rush by many Japanese to get out of the country for a few days over the upcoming New Year holidays.

Next stop - Hong Kong.

Tassie, here I come.

Within a few days - back to mid-summer.

Tokyo to HK to Melbourne

Two flights totalling over 10 thousand kilometers. South. First from Tokyo to just across the Tropic of Cancer to Hong Kong, then the long haul from Hong Kong to Melbourne, crossing the equator around Indonesia's Molucca Sea. Southward, southward, crossing the northern coast of Australia around Darwin.  Down, down, and under with the last third of the eight-and-a-half-hour flight over the Australian outback.

Then, after a few days in Melbourne, a ferry ride to the end of the civilized world - the other end.  The island of Tasmania.

It will be mid-summer there, but I expect some cool weather and maybe even some rain, especially on the western side of the island.

And, I'm hoping for some open roads, some long hikes, some clean air, and some good views.

If I can, I'll post some photos along the way.