The Great American Road Trip (Southwest)
The whole trip really revolved around the total solar eclipse that occured on August 21, 2017. Below is a picture of totality (one of many) as captured with my Meade 2045 + OMD-EM10 MK II on a manual mount (SIRUI L-20S 2 way Pan/Tilt Head on a Benro A1190T Travel Flat tripod). I am considering getting a motorized mount (it'd be helpful for long exposures of the milky way) but my point is that you don't necessarily need a fancy mount to get fancy pictures.
Still amazed I was able to capture this shot of the "diamond ring."
And with my OMD-EM5 mk I and the 12mm Rokinon, I was able to get a wide angle view of totality as we saw it in the parking lot of the hotel in Torrington, WY. (And if you're curious as to what's out in Torrington, the answer is farmland, and lots and lots of flying insects/flies/cows/corn. Walking around a lit parking lot in Torrington during the summer is not for anyone who doesn't like bugs.)
But that aside, we had to fly to meet up somewhere, and luckily, Torrington was about 2 hours away from Denver. Since we had a few hours to kill, it seemed like a reasonable thing to do was to drive up to see some dinosaurs at Dinosaur Ridge. (Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to walk all the way up to see the dinosaur bones in the cliff, but we did see some footprints!)
**Note: Bring water, it's pretty dry at this altitude.
Dinosaur Ridge, Denver: Crazy that you can just walk up the side of a mountain to see fossilized footprints!
Nebraska: State of some rolling hills (Nothing)
Other than the railroad tracks going through the state, there wasn't much around.
South Dakota: Way more interesting than I gave it credit for.
There were multiple parts of this drive that made me stop and realize that the mountains of Disney's Frontier Land and parts of Knott's Berry farm actually had their roots in small towns like the ones of Hot Springs, South Dakota. It felt really silly to think of the real thing as the fake mountains I was so familiar with from growing up in LA....
Places I'd recommend going to:
- Black Hills Research Institute: Great collection of fossils, though it's really a hobbyist's museum. (And has an equally sketchy history-- just google Dinosaur 13.)
(You can then eat at the Hill City Cafe, which has great personality and pretty damn good food, and free wifi in a pretty much dead cell zone. I guess I shouldn't be shocked that they have a website.)
- Crazy Horse Monument: Really amazing mountain where the head alone is the size of Mt. Rushmore.
- Mt Rushmore: Much grander than I thought it would be, and it's pretty at night (although be aware that the museum closes around 8pm).
- Tatonka (buffalo): Just roaming the plains... pretty neat sight to see.
- Wish I had time to go down some caves (There were plenty of signs for them)
- Wish I had time to stand outside and look at stars in one of the large swaths of park (Tons of prime dark sky territory here.)
Crazy Horse Monument, South Dakota: Everything is in this picture, from the model of what this area will one day look like, to what the mountain will look like, to what the mountain currently looks like. They have a long way to go on Crazy Horse.
Arizona: Who knew it was so pretty?
- Grand Canyon South Rim: More touristy side, but there are plenty of sections where you can be by yourself. Hiking Advice (to avoid seeing other visitors): walk from the Grand Canyon Village towards the visitor center, or walk from the visitor center towards Yaki point, or take the red line bus out to the other end of the south rim.
Stargazing Advice: Go at night (if it's clear). Dark sky friendly area, and it's stunningly beautiful.
(They also have a star party every June.)
- Meteor Crater: You have to pay to go in but it's pretty neat that some ranchers discovered the place in the late 70s. (Like, how did it stay undiscovered for so long?) The scale is pretty awesome.
- Painted Desert: If I had more time, I would have explored the petrified forest. Unfortunately it's about a 30 min drive from the main entrance into the National Park.
Grand Canyon, AZ: Out here, it's the squirrels you have to watch out for.
The Painted Desert, AZ: Absolutely gorgeous at sunset.