Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Palm Springs Tramway

Earlier this month two of the State of Washington's newest newlyweds, Chris and Sheila Knappson, honeymooned in Palm Springs, California.

During the course of their honeymoon the Knappsons decided to take a twelve and a half minute ride on the Palm Springs Tramway, from the floor of the Coachella Valley, at 2,643 ft. above sea level, to the Tramway's Mountain Station on San Jacinto Peak, at an elevation of 8,516 ft. above sea level.

Above you are looking at one of Chris and Sheila's pictures of a tram heading down while they were heading up.

An electrical engineer named Francis F. Crocker came up with the Palm Springs Tramway idea way back in 1935. The idea of building an aerial tram up the steep face of Chino Canyon was soon dubbed "Crocker's Folly."

It was to be another 25 years til Crocker's Folly went from folly to fruition with construction beginning in 1960.

The unprecedented use of helicopters in the construction of four of the tramway's five towers is part of why the building of the Palm Springs Tramway is considered one of the world's greatest engineering feats.

The Palm Springs Tramway began hauling people and goods to the Mountain Station in September of 1963.

By the time the Palm Springs Tramway hauled Chris and Sheila to the Mountain Station in November of 2014 the original tram cars had been replaced with tram cars whose floor rotate.

The rotating tram floor, in addition to the steep climb and dropoffs, are what had Sheila letting out the scream and scared look you see in the lower right of the screencap from Facebook.

The new rotating trams started spinning in 2000. The floor of the tram is 18 feet in diameter, rotating steadily throughout the ascent and descent, making two complete spins, allowing everyone aboard the 80 person capacity tram car to see the various views, without walking around in the moving tram.

Once at the Mountain Station visitors quickly discover that the temperature is much cooler, by as much as 40 degrees, than the temperature below in the valley. There are hiking trails which lead from the Mountain Station area. After working up an appetite, from hiking, visitors will find two restaurants in the Mountain Station, along with a gift shop.

The Palm Springs Tramway website is a good source for any information you might need to help plan your visit, including ticket prices, hours, restaurant details, along with special events, like what is planned for Thanksgiving at the Mountain Station.


Regarding Sheila being a bit scared while riding the rotating Palm Springs Tramway, there have been a few unfortunate incidents over the Palm Springs Tramway's 51 year history.

In 1963 a tram was stuck for 13 and a half hours due to an electrical mishap in the tram's control room.

In June of 1984 a tram was heading down from the Mountain Station when a shock absorber bolt snapped, sending a 30 pound chunk of metal crashing through the tram's glass roof, striking a passenger from Ontario, California named Elaine Tseko, resulting in a fatal injury.

A few months later, in September of 1984, while  undergoing routine maintenance a cable snapped and wrapped around the main cable. Luckily this snapped cable wedged itself in a way which saved the tram from being knocked off the cable and plunging down the mountain.

In October of 2003 a steel cable broke leaving more than fifty passengers hanging mid-air for 4 and 1/2 hours, along with more than 100 visitors stranded at the Mountain Station.

Sheila has said one time on the Palm Springs Tramway was enough for her. I don't know if Sheila is aware of the history of Palm Springs Tramway mishaps. If not, she is now.

If I were she, I still would not let that stop me from enjoying that Palm Springs Tramway ride to the Mountain Station again, if the opportunity presented itself...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

In The Linq Getting High on the Las Vegas High Roller Tallest Observation Wheel in the World

That is not a spaceship you are looking at on the left. What that is is a passenger cabin, also being called a capsule on the High Roller, in Las Vegas, currently, at 550 feet, the tallest Ferris type observation wheel in the world, 9 feet taller than the previous tallest, that being the Singapore Flyer, and 107 feet taller than the London Eye.

The Las Vegas High Roller began loading the public into its capsules on March 31, 2014.

Each of the High Roller's 32 capsules, can hold up to 40 passengers. The High Roller never stops spinning at its slow speed of one foot per second, as passengers board the capsules.

You can book a private party, for weddings, and such, with a bar and bartender. You may consume alcohol while rolling in a capsule, but only alcohol purchased in the High Roller wheel house. It is a big no-no to sneak booze onboard, so don't even think about it.

There are no restroom facilities in the High Roller's capsules.

It takes a half an hour for the High Roller to complete its rotation. The current cost for that 30 minute ride is $24.95 during the day, $34.95 after 6pm.

The capsules are attached to the High Roller's outer rim, with electric motors rotating the capsules to maintain a cabin floor horizontal with ground level.

What happens during a power outage I can not help but wonder?

I was at the top of the Stratosphere Tower during a two hour power outage. That was not a pleasant experience as the 110 degree temperature quickly penetrated the interior space.

The High Roller's capsules are air-conditioned.

The High Roller is the centerpiece of Caesar's Entertainment Corporation's development known as The Linq.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Queen of Wink Roadtripping to Taos New Mexico

The Queen of Wink, Joely, is today's Durango Roadtripping Guest Blogger. Joely recently spent 3 action packed days in Taos, New Mexico. What follows is the Queen of Wink's description of her Taos experience, with the first thing described answering my question as to what makes for the wonderful smell one encounters at the Taos Pueblo....

The smoke at the Pueblo?

Sage.

I arrived early Saturday morning, found a campsite, not the one I wanted, but doable. I planned on moving up the road, next to the river, once a spot opened the next day. On the way to my camping spot, I passed a vineyard.  Small, but beautiful. After setting up camp, I ventured up to the little store that promised espresso and rafting. I signed up for both. I headed into town, and stopped on the way to pay the outfitters for my rafting trip the following day. Got into Taos and needed another cup of java, the Taos Java Shoppe did just nicely, as I needed a place to sit and figure out my new digital camera.

In the Shoppe, there was a trio of musicians doing some harmonica and guitar playing. I chimed in when they did a favorite of mine, I'll Fly Away.

After spending about an hour drinking Taos Java, I headed on up to the Pueblo.

Let's see, at the Taos Pueblo...

First I met Rafael, and bought a turquoise wrap around bracelet.

Then I met Bobby and purchased one of his small water color paintings.

Then I met Juanita. She being the smiling one who always waves and asks "where's your honey?" Which is what she did with each newcomer.

I ventured into Sunflower's little shop and purchased a tiny pottery piece painted in sunflowers.

Finally, I met Pat. She made small dream catchers made from deer skin and sinew. I also purchased one of those beauties. All in all, the Taos Pueblo was interesting, with the most interesting part, to me, being their newest edition, the church.

After the Pueblo, I ventured out of Taos, looking for the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which eventually I did find. I parked on the west end, at the rest stop, and then walked slowly across.

Gosh, it's far up and vibrates when the cars go over. Got some vertigo and had to stop looking down into the river.

On the way back, I noticed that the Mesa Taos Brewery was celebrating their one year anniversary with free samples and live music. I partook of both.

Then I decided I should head back to camp before I lost the light completely.

Losing daylight, I did get lost, but got un-lost, eventually and made it back to camp, right as the rain started.

I sat in my car for a little while, hoping the storm would quickly pass over, but it didn't. So, I did what brave campers do and zipped myself up in my tent, hoping it was actually water proof. The rain, thunder and bolts of light came down furious and hard.  Yes, I had leaks, but not enough to drive me from my little shelter.

The next morning, I packed up and set up in a different camp spot. This one had a shelter, just in case I caught myself in another storm.

I had a 9:30am raft trip scheduled and I went up to the Pillar Yacht Club (fancy name for that little store up the street) to have breakfast and coffee while I waited. While I was dining al fresco, I met Patrick, not to be confused with Pat.  Patrick happens to be the owner of the small vineyard I had passed on the way to the campground.  He was there also enjoying breakfast and coffee with his dog, Smokey.

Patrick and I conversed for a while and he invited me to tour his vineyard and maybe go for a ride, once I was finished with my rafting stuff. I agreed.

Rafting was a blast!

But...

I did join the honorary Rio Grande swim team. I fell into the river at the Sleeping Beauty Rapids. My 6'5" guide, pulled me briskly back into the raft once I made it out from under it and back to the surface. Everyone was a bit shaken and thankful I had made it back. Blake, the eleven year old, said it was "cool". He liked my falling in. We all agreed that the story would be I had taken a swim, voluntarily.

Rafting is hard work! Lots of paddling and plenty of exercise. I was exhausted and found myself back at the Club for lunch. I hadn't eaten so much in ages! The local rafting guides were also there eating lunch and invited me to join.  I met Ben, who has this strange entertaining laugh. Susie, and her two young sons. Eric and Jeff, plus Bradley, Rayna, Anna, Cherry, and of course my guide was, Scotty. I was invited to take a second trip as a guest, during which I was given the important task of handing out life jackets, which they call PFD. After some time I figured out that PFD stood for Personal Flotation Device. Pretty clever.

My second trip down the river didn't find me swimming, fortunately. I was teamed up with Bradley, a young 28 year old.  He went on and on about how much I helped him. I don't know if he was just being nice or if he really meant it. The river ride was gorgeous.  Some huge rocks/boulders were pointed out to me, with an explanation that they had come crashing down the side of the mountain to land just in those precarious spots.

Once that was finished, Bradley invited me to go into Taos for some night life. I agreed and picked him up from the boat yard, which is where he lives. In a small boat, with a tiny sleeping compartment. What a life.

We went into Taos, parked and walked all over. Went into a bunch of galleries. Interesting, beautiful, weird...  tons of sculpture, paintings...  and very EXPENSIVE! We ate at Lamberts, I had the wild salmon, and yep... more coffee. I was wore out! More music, and then back to the boat yard to watch the meteor showers. I stayed out there with Bradley until 2 AM, just talking and watching the skies.

He invited me to sleep in one of the rafts, but I declined and made my way back to my camp. No rain, but a HUGE SPLASH in the river around 5am. I didn't get back to sleep. I kept thinking about those bears the camp host told me about.

For some reason, though, that morning, I felt I had had enough. I packed it all up, headed to the store for some coffee.

And then drove home to Wink....

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fire Destroys Much of Canon City's Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge & Park

To the left is what Royal Gorge Bridge, over the Arkansas River, in Canon City, Colorado looks like today, after being burned by a wildfire which Canon City and Royal Gorge Bridge and Park officials describe as leaving a tragic, devastating, cataclysmic, demoralizing, desertscape, moonscape.

As of late Thursday the Royal Gorge Fire's estimated 3,100 acres was 20% contained.

Of the 52 structures on the park's property, only 4 remain unscathed by flame. Those structures which have been burned by the fire, include the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park's visitor's center, tramway building, carousel and multiple restaurants.

The Royal Bridge Suspension Bridge is 956 feet above the Arkansas River, making it one of the highest bridges in the world. Over 1,000 wooden planks make up the bridge's road bed. Of those more  than 1,000 planks, 32 were burned  on the south end of the bridge.

Park  officials plan to have the park reopened within months and rebuilt within a year.

Below is the same view of the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge, as above, in its pre-fire state, back when I had my one and only visit to Royal Gorge, back in the last century. My memory of the Royal Gorge area does not include a lot of flammable foliage of the sort which would make such a catastrophic fire. Clearly my memory is faulty on this subject.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Giant Sequoia Crashes To The Ground In California's Sierra Nevadas

Decades Ago Among Giant Sequoias
I have only walked among the giant Sequoias of Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park, once, decades ago. I remember being very impressed over how HUGE the trees were in the General Grant Grove, I think that is what it was called, in Kings Canyon National Park.

This week I got a mailing from the Sierra Club with an urgent plea to act to help stop proposed logging in the Sequoia National Forest.

I was appalled at the idea that California would allow Sequoia forests to be logged.

And then this morning I learned that, almost in protest, a 1,500 year old Giant Sequoia toppled over, crushing a bridge and blocking a trail, creating a 300 foot long roadblock.

The Fallen Giant Sequoia
Now a debate has erupted over what to do with the dead tree. Callous sorts are suggesting it be turned into a massive amount of firewood. Others want to leave it where it lies. Some want to tunnel under it, or bridge over it.

A Sequoia has not fallen in the Sequoia National Forest, previously, where its falling has created such a dilemma.

The fallen tree was part of the Sierra Nevada's Trail of 100 Giants, and was one of the biggest, previously standing in Long Meadow Grove in the Giant Sequoia National Monument.

Giant Sequoias can live 4,000 years, give or take a year, making this newly fallen Sequoia not even middle-aged.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park

You will find the tallest sand dunes in North America in Colorado in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Sand too heavy to rise with the wind is blown northeastward across the flat desert floor of the San Luis Valley til it comes to the Sangre de Cristo Range, where sand deposits have piled up for around 15,000 years.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve covers 130 square miles, including the 39 square miles of sand dunes, plus land surrounding the dunes. Great Sand Dunes National Park was originally designated a National Monument. President Bill Clinton signed the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act of 2000, with the ultimate goal of National Park status achieved by act of Congress on September 13, 2004.

A National Park visitor center has exhibits explaining the natural and human history of the Great Sand Dunes area. There are self-guided nature trails, plus camping and picnic facilities. Naturalist conducted walks and, in summer, nightly amphitheater programs are presented.

Longtime local legends have told of wagon trains lost in the dunes, along with strange creatures living in the inner reaches of the dunes.

There are several streams flowing on the edges of the dunes. Water is carried downstream, and then when the stream runs dry the wind picks the sand back up and re-deposits it on the dunes.

Of the streams in the park the most notable is Medano Creek, which borders the east side of the dunes, near the Visitor Center. Medano Creek's streambed is constantly meandering. Sand will form dams, which then break, causing mini-floods, which look like waves of water rolling across the sand.

Visitors can play in Medano Creek, as long as no motorized equipment is used. Medano Creek fun includes sand castle building, making sand sculptures, skimboarding, wading and even surfing.

Great Sand Dunes National Park's sand dunes rise as high as 750 feet.

With the help of the National Conservancy, when the National Monument was expanded to a National Park, parts of Baca Ranch were included. The size of Great Sand Dunes National Park is about 3 times bigger than when it was a National Monument. Included in the National Park is Kit Carson Mountain at 14,165 feet in elevation.

Inside Great Sand Dunes National Park you will find 6 peaks over 13,000 feet in elevation, forests of cottonwood and aspen, plus spruce and pine forests, along with grasslands and wetlands providing habitat for diverse plant species and wildlife.

According to a study made by the National Park Service, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is the quietest national park in the lower 48 United States.

In addition to being quiet, this national park is also very windy. You can easily witness the dune building process as you hike on the Sand Dunes being pelted by blowing sand and small rocks.

For detailed current information about conditions at Great Sand Dunes National Park, including the water flow of Medano Creek, visit the National Park Service's official Great Sand Dunes National Park website.

Great Sand Dunes National Park is about 38 miles northeast of Alamosa via US 160 and SR 150. The map below will give you an idea of where the National Park is located in Colorado...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Taking a Roadtrip to Telluride Colorado for the Film Festival and Bridal Veil Falls Hike

Telluride, Colorado is in a box canyon on the San Miguel River on the west slope of the Uncompahgre Range of the San Juan Mountains.

In 1875 mining claims started being staked in the area around a supply camp called Columbia. Soon the name of the supply camp was changed to Telluride, named after tellurium, the non-metallic matrix in which gold and silver appeared.

By the 1890s Telluride began to try to gain some respectability to counter its reputation for being a bit on the wild side. The luxurious Sheridan Hotel and next door opera house were built in 1891.

Famous people such as Lillian Gish, Sarah Bernhardt and William Jennings Bryan appeared at the Sheridan Opera House.

In 1889 Butch Cassidy impressed Telluride with the unauthorized withdrawal of around $30,000 from the San Miguel Valley Bank in what is believed to be his first bank robbery.

Telluride did not turn into a ghost town when the mining began to slow down. Instead Telluride's main industry became tourism. Hippies started showing up in Telluride in the late 1960s.

Telluride Ski Resort turned Telluride into a major skiing destination. Other outdoor activities turned Telluride into a year round tourist attraction with mountain biking, hiking and river rafting.

The Telluride Film Festival, held over Labor Day Weekend, has become an internationally significant film festival.

About 2 1/2 miles southeast of Telluride, Bridal Veil Creek drops 365 feet over Bridal Veil Falls. On the edge of the cliff above the falls sits a renovated 1907 building which housed one of the oldest Westinghouse generators in existence. The generator has been restored and is providing hydro power to Telluride.

Hikers and mountain bikers can take a mining road built in the late 1800s to the power station and Bridal Veil Falls. Another dramatic hike up the canyon begins on the edge of town and climbs 1,100 feet to Bear Creek Falls.

In the Telluride Historical Museum you will find exhibits that chronicle the history of Telluride from the early mining days to the present.

Telluride is at an elevation of around 8,750 feet. The Roadtrip to Telluride involves some mountain driving. From the west, Colorado Route 145 is the main way into Telluride. There are two passes into Telluride, both of which require 4 x 4 skills. Imogene Pass is the less treacherous of the two. Black Bear Pass is considered by many to be Colorado's most dangerous pass. Black Bear Pass can be driven in only one direction due to a tricky stair step section.

The map below shows you were Telluride is located in the San Juan Mountains....