Meteor Crater: Impact site extraordinaire

April 18, 2014

Meteor Crater photo Steve Davis

I recently visited one of the most extraordinary places on earth. Meteor Crater or Barringer Meteor Crater is located just west of Winslow, Arizona and east of Flagstaff off Interstate 40.

About 50,000 years ago this area was an unbroken plain. An asteroid streaking at 26,000 miles per hour was on an intercept course with the earth. It passed through the atmosphere with almost no loss of speed or mass. It was about 150 feet across and weighed several hundred thousand tons. Striking the plains it created a crater 700 feet deep and over 4000 feet across, all this in 10 seconds.

Today this is the best preserved and first proven meteorite impact site on earth. Relatively speaking this was a very small object that hit the earth. One can only imagine the result of a much larger asteroid strike. By the way when they are in space these objects are called asteroids, but once they enter the atmosphere or impact they become meteors or meteorites. Shooting stars that you see in the night sky are meteors burning up in our atmosphere, if they pass through the atmosphere and actually strike the earth they become meteorites.

Some comparisons to give you an idea of the size of the crater,

  • If a 60 story building was on the bottom of the crater the top would not extend above the rim.
  • Twenty football games could be played simultaneously on the crater floor, while more than two million fans watched from the sloping sides.
  • The Washington monument placed on the bottom would have its top at your eye level as you stood on the rim.

Native Americans spoke of the crater, but the first written account wasn’t until 1871 from one of General Custer’s scouts named Franklin. It was referred to as Franklin’s Hole for years. It was thought to be just another extinct volcano. In 1886 iron-nickel meteorites were found. These led to the belief that the crater might have been formed by a giant meteorite. It wasn’t until 1902 that a mining engineer named Daniel Barringer visited and was convinced it was the impact site of a meteorite.

The crater is located on private land, but in 1968 Meteor Crater was designated a Natural Landmark by the US Department of the Interior.

The visitor centre has fascinating exhibits concerning asteroid strikes all over the world including on-going attempts at early detection of those which may strike the earth. There is an film illustrating the strike of this particular asteroid. The largest piece recovered from the meteor is also on display. It’s about 4 feet in length and consists of iron. Most of the meteor disintegrated upon impact.

On-site is the Discovery Center, Gift & Rock Shop, rest rooms and a Subway outlet. At the intersection of I-40 and access road (exit 233)there is an RV park, country store and gas station. It is open year round including the RV park, but check the website for seasonal hours.

Admission charges when I visited in April 2014 were,

Adult: $16
Senior: $15 (age over 60)
Junior: $8 (ages 6 – 17)
5 & under Free

My son and I were in awe and fascinated by this natural attraction. It gave me lots to think about, like what happens if a huge asteroid or comet hits the earth. The one that streaked through Russian skies last year causing many injuries and extensive damage was not detected beforehand. That’s scary.


Meteor Crater Enterprises


928-289-4002 RV Park




Great Sand Dunes National Park: An alien world

April 18, 2014

Great Sand Dunes photo Steve Davis

I visited this park in March 2014. The park is located at the base of the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains in south-central Colorado. It is west of Interstate 25, north of US Highway 160, and east of Colorado 17. Access into the park is excellent, but is a little off the beaten track. It’s well worth the drive.

The huge dunes, North America’s tallest, are the focal point of this park. It was a surreal experience. One could almost visualize being in the Sahara Desert. Star Dune at 755 feet (230 metres) is the tallest in the park. At a close second is High Dune at 699 feet (213 metres).

Evidence shows that humans have lived in the area for 11,000 years. In historic times Southern Ute, Jicarilla Apache, Navajo, gold miners, homesteaders, ranchers, and farmers have lived here.

The dunes are a source of local pride and tourist income. By the 1920s valley residents petitioned for protection of the area. In 1932 it was designated national monument status under the Antiquities Act. Finally in 2000 the dunes and surrounding area became a national park and preserve.

The park facilities include a visitor/interpretive centre, hiking trails, picnic areas and campgrounds. When we visited it was still cool and jackets were a necessity. In summer though the temperature can reach into the 100s F (40s C).

Climbing the dunes is an experience not to be missed, even if you only go part of the way. Carry lots of water and a jacket. A good pair of athletic shoes is all you need, but be prepared to get sand in your shoes. From the visitor centre you have to walk a couple of hundred yards across a flat, beach-like area to get to the dunes.

Being on the dunes is like being in an alien world. As a photographer I was challenged to take the time to find new perspectives, it cries out for a picture every time you look around. It’s possible to slide down the dunes on boards similar to snow boards, these can be rented at a store a short distance outside the park entrance. The ranger told me that normal toboggans, snow boards, or saucers won’t work on the sand. Something about the consistency and make up of it. My son met some kids who let him try it and he was thrilled. They were from Colorado and told us they came here often to try out their skills. The dunes are steep, but forgiving if you fall, you’ll be filled with sand but not injuries.

If you’re looking for an unusual experience then this park is a must.


Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
11999 Highway 150
Mosca, CO 81146-9798



Alberta Birds of Prey Centre – Coaldale, Alberta

August 16, 2013

My daughter handling a Great Horned Owl which is the Provincial bird of Alberta. His name was Gordon.

Located in Coaldale, 10 minutes east of Lethbridge, Alberta on Highway #3 is a gem of an attraction. It’s the Alberta Birds of Prey Nature Centre. This is a nationally recognized conservation centre.

When injured, orphaned or distressed wildlife need help the centre offers a place to go for help. Volunteers are on call every day of the year to respond. The centre makes every effort to rehabilitate and release to the wild, but if this is not possible then they have a home and are well cared for. The resident birds serve to educate the public and raise awareness of the value of these predator birds.

Visitors experience close-up encounters with hawks, falcons, eagles and owls. They get an opportunity to see first-hand the centre’s rescue, captive breeding and public education programs. Daily flight demonstrations will awe the visitor. Wait until you see one of these magnificent birds fly. Interactive experiences are available. You can hold one of these birds on your arm and marvel close-up eye-to-eye.

I recently visited the centre with my children and came away thrilled by the experience, more than that we gained a greater appreciation of these birds.  I invite you to visit and have this experience for yourself.  You’ll be enriched for it.

Admission Prices: (as per the latest brochure – August 2013)
Adults                   $8.50
Seniors 65+         $7.50
Students (6-18)   $5.50
Youth (3 – 5)        $4.50
Under 3                No charge

Note: The centre operates without subsidies. Donations are needed to ensure the good work continues.
(Charity BN/Registration # 896535895RR001)

Hours of Operation:        9:30 to 5:00 p.m.  May 10th to September 10th

Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation
P.O. Box 1030
Coaldale, Alberta  T1M 1M8


Grand Canyon National Monument 1908

January 11, 2010

Grand Canyon

On this day in history President Theodore Roosvelt designated the Grand Canyon a “National Monument” giving it partial protection. Later on February 26, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed a law making it a National Park.

I have personally visited the park on three occasions. I consider it one of nature’s greatest marvels. It never ceases to amaze me. I especially like it at sunset with the various shadows and angles of sunlight falling on the rock formations.

Ancient Native Grannaries within the Canyon

The Native peoples considered the canyon sacred. They lived and worked in and around the canyon. There are still several Native reserves close to and in the Canyon.

Travels with the Gang: Are We There Yet? God I Hope So.

March 21, 2008


My Loving and understanding wife with the gang. 

Our family is used to traveling in our Dodge Caravan minivan. There are five of us. Two adults, a 6 year old boy, and twin girls 4 years old. We love to travel, but five persons in the van is getting unmanageable. Road-tripping is Mom and Dad’s favorite thing to do, that is, move from place to place seeing the country. The kids don’t mind staying in one place, but I want to show them various attractions in Canada and the United States. Well we bought a motorhome this year and hope to use it to explore this summer and in the future. This should give the kids more room to play games, watch TV, or read books as we travel. It’s got to be better than our typical travel day in the van.

We get up after a night at the hotel, usually in an uncomfortable bed, and rush downstairs to take advantage of the “continental breakfast” offered by most chains now. To their credit, these are now more than just danishes and toast. Cereal, fruit, waffles, muffins, and even eggs are now provided.

After breakfast I start packing the luggage down to the van, making sure to remember teddy bears and other stuffed friends. This usually takes a couple of trips.

It’s time to head out for the day. Before leaving we make sure the movie players are loaded with the selected entertainment. This is decided after a heated debate amongst the viewers. By this time Dad is ready to head back to the room and let them take off by themselves. However, with a large coffee in hand, provided by a loving wife, I am trying hard to ignore the sounds of open warfare coming from the rear of the van. Thank God for Ritalin!

The next major point of contention is the choice of cuisine for lunch. Which choke and puke should we stop at? Let’s see,McDonalds has terrible food for adults, but does have Kid’s Meals with a toy for the little ones and a play area to tire them out. It takes Mom and Dad all of ten seconds to wheel into McDonalds. We get a table, order the food, and the kids head for the play area. My wife and I actually get to talk to each other one on one for a few minutes. After some downtime we take the kid’s food with us, they don’t eat in the restaurant because they’re too busy playing. They eat in the van. Oh by the way this gourmet meal costs around $30-$40 for the five of us. But hey, the kids burned off some energy and have “food” to eat, Mom and Dad had conversation, but the downside is my stomach now feels like a garburator.

Finally as the day draws to a close, we start looking for a hotel. It has to have a pool and continental breakfast. This way I can take the kids to the pool to tire them out and give Mom a break. Because generally we don’t know where we will end up, reservations have not been made. Luckily finding a room isn’t too hard if we stop a little early. I manage a workout session consisting of unloading the van and manhandling the luggage into the hotel and up the elevator, or sometimes the stairs. I can’t believe that some of these places don’t have an elevator. It’s clear to me that the designer never had to pack the luggage for five people up to his room at the end of a long day.

Next we find a fast food or family restaurant and take the desparados for supper. If you’ve never taken three little ones to a restaurant, you haven’t lived. First we wait for a table, then wait for our order to be taken, then wait for the food to come, and then wait for our bill. All this time the kids are amusing, and I use that term loosely, the patrons and staff with screaming, throwing things, and running wildly from table to table. I’m sure that as soon as we leave the manager calls all the other restaurants in his chain and warns them of our approach. That must be why they always ask where we are headed.

To close out the day the kids get ready for bed and watch TV in the room. Never have I appreciated the power of the boob-tube, than at this time. Finally we all go to sleep ready for another day in the jungle of fast food, paved interstates, and hotel/motel accomodation.

The motorhome just has to be better than this. Come back soon for another episode in travels with the gang.

Crosswords – My Wonderful Addiction

September 6, 2007


Time for me to lighten up a little and talk about some fun things.

The crossword puzzle – I just can’t stop doing them.  Everyday they are published in newspapers and even on-line now.  Temptation is everywhere it seems.

I started thinking who invented the crossword puzzle so after some quick research here are some facts:

– The first crossword was published on December 21, 1913 in the New York World newspaper. They became a regular feature of the paper.

– Arthur Wynne, a Liverpool journalist, was the inventor.

– At first it was called a “word-cross” puzzle. Later the name was changed.

– The first book of crosswords was published in 1924 by Simon & Shuster. 

– Crosswords became the craze of 1924.

– The word “crossword” was first in a dictionary in 1930.

– New York Times crosswords are the most prestigious and known to be the most difficult to solve.  Take it from me they are very tough.

– In Britain the Sunday Express newspaper was first to publish a crossword November 2, 1924.

– During World War II British Intelligence recruited several crossword experts to work on code-breaking.

In 1944, prior to D-Day, the Allies were stunned by the appearance of crosswords in The Daily Express Telegraph that were using top secret code names related to the “hush-hush” planned Normandy landings. “Overlord” in particular was of great concern because it was the code name for the entire operation and known to only a few people.  The author of the puzzles was arrested and interrogated.  After an extensive investigation it was found that the use of these words was only coincidence.  Believe it or not I guess!

I remember as a child in elementary school racing to get the morning paper before my Dad so I could attack the crossword.  It is one of my favorite memories of him.  He too was a compulsive crossworder.

Feeling Like a Pro

June 5, 2007


It was a sunny but cool day in the Rockies. I was playing the pristine 18 hole layout at the Golden Golf Club in Golden, British Columbia. Golden is three hours west of Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway. It is one of my favorite courses. Scenery and fresh air more than make up for any wayward golf shots. It is a wonderful place to experience golf. My golfing ability level is “recreational”, I play well enough to enjoy the game, but not well enough to challenge the pros. Usually I shoot scores in the mid-80s to low 90s. My game can best be described as “flashes of brilliance and moments of despair”. I have been playing since my late teens and am now over 50. Enjoyment of the game is now paramount in my golf goals. This particular day I was playing with two local men I met in the clubhouse. The weather was great for golf, not too cold or hot, with just a whisper of wind.

The tenth hole at Golden is a par 4 of 370 yards from the White tees and is uphill all the way from the tee box to the green. The slope of the fairway is more severe in the last 150 yards to the hole. It is relatively straight away with maybe a very slight dogleg right.

No.10 at Golden, B.C.

Hitting my driver off the tee, I sliced into a fairway bunker located 198 yards out on the right. The dreaded slice is one of my weaknesses, as it is for a lot of recreational golfers. Usually I manage to control it. Most of the time it manifests itself as a slight fade. This drive had to be classified as a moderate slice.

Approaching the hazard I saw that the ball was in the sand towards the front. The golf ball was sitting up on the white sand. As I scoped out the next shot I noticed the 150 yard marker was just ahead of the bunker. While I was waiting on my playing partners’ shots I walked to the marker and paced the yardage back to the ball. The distance was about 22 yards. This meant the total distance to the center of the green was 172 yards. The top part of the flagstick was visible, but not the green or the hole.

My club selection was a number 7 metal fairway wood out of the sand. Ideally this would have enough club loft to get out of the trap. Hopefully I would also be able to advance the ball. I stepped into the trap wriggled my feet around until my stance was solid in the loose sand. I decided to concentrate on the one golf tip that came to my mind – keep your eyes on the sand just behind the ball during the swing.

I felt comfortable in my stance, so I took a full swing. At once I realized I had made excellent contact with the ball. The feeling was very sweet as we golfers like to say. The ball streaked out of the sand on a mission. It had good height and was arching directly at the pin. Eyes glued to the flight of the ball, I realized I had hit the ball too well. Surely I thought it would end its flight beyond the target, likely in the rough.

Pessimistically, I approached the green and did not see the ball anywhere. Behind the green was an open area covered with long grass. This can be best described as thick, moderate rough. Balls tend to nestle down and become invisible in this type of golf course terrain. I started to look here right away but could not locate the ball.

Finally in disgust I gave up the search and sheepishly headed for the flagstick. I wanted help my partners by removing it so they could concentrate on their putts. As I pulled the pin, I looked down and there was my ball! My heart racing with excitement I reached down. Removing it from the hole, I examined it in detail. Sure enough it was my “Ultra 500”. I looked at them, they looked at me. Then my excitement could not be contained anymore. They rushed over to congratulate me as I let out a jubilant cry. I had scored a two on a par 4. This is known as an eagle (two strokes under par). To play this hole and score even a four (par) would be considered outstanding.

My golf day was made and I felt like I could do no wrong. Golf was an easy game or so I thought. The next hole was a short but difficult par 4. Confidence exuded from my psyche. With new found prowess the tension I usually felt when approaching the hole evaporated. I proceeded to take six strokes to complete this hole. A double-bogy! The golf gods had sent me a message and shocked me to reality.

In the final analysis, what did I care? I had scored an eagle. Very few recreational golfers ever achieve this feat, especially on a golf course of this level of difficulty. For one brief moment I was as good as Tiger Woods.

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