North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula

The North America Nebula is an emission nebula in the constellation Cygnus. It resembles the North America continent with both a Florida-like peninsula and a Gulf of Mexico. It’s a fairly bright object with a magnitude of +4.0 making it an easy object to photograph with a telephoto lens. This image was captured with a Nikon 180mm AIS ƒ/2.8 telephoto.

Adjacent to the North America Nebula is the Pelican Nebula separated by a molecular cloud filled with dark dust.

North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula
North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula
Annotated image of North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula
Annotated image of North America Nebula and Pelican Nebula

Images were stacked using Starry Sky Stacker. The stack was histogram stretched using rnc_color_stretch. The final bit of work was done using the Astronomy Tools actions for Photoshop.

Hiking Pumphouse Wash

Pumphouse Wash is a canyon that is ignored by most of the people who drive past it every day. It is located in the upper reaches of Oak Creek Canyon right at the bottom of the well-known switchbacks. No matter—its best quality is that very few people hike it.

Canyon walls are reflected in a pool in Pumphouse Wash.
Canyon walls are reflected in a pool in Pumphouse Wash.

During heavy rains and snow melt there will be water flowing down the canyon. Otherwise it’s a dry wash with a series of pools. The canyon is narrow with steep walls. It’s full of boulders strewn in the stream bed that have been washed down in great floods. The plethora of boulders makes hiking in this canyon a slow, arduous process. One must hop from rock to rock for miles.

A shady location for a lunch break in Pumphouse Wash.
A shady location for a lunch break in Pumphouse Wash.
Upper section of the narrows in Pumphouse Wash.
Upper section of the narrows in Pumphouse Wash.
The narrows in Pumphouse Wash.
The narrows in Pumphouse Wash.
Lower section of the narrows in Pumphouse Wash.
Lower section of the narrows in Pumphouse Wash.

But the rewards are worth the effort. You won’t encounter many other hikers. Maybe even none. And there are beautiful pools and narrows if you travel far enough up the canyon. Late in the spring the pools are still deep and clear and inviting enough for swimming. By early summer, however, they have warmed and filled with algae and, maybe, not so inviting. Timing is important.

Columbines in the deep shadows of Pumphouse Wash.
Columbines in the deep shadows of Pumphouse Wash.

So we recently hiked up from the bottom of the switchbacks up to the confluence with a small side canyon that comes in from the east. No name is given on the maps for this feature—not to be confused with James Canyon farther upcanyon. This is about 2 ¼ miles from the start and it took us about 2 ½ hours. That’s less than one mile per hour. There was no one else around—although we could hear hikers farther downstream owing to the echoes off the canyon walls. We stopped in the shade and had a leisurely lunch followed by a swim in one of the deeper pools. And then back in the shade for more lounging.

Clear, blue skies are reflected in the waters of a pool in the canyon.
Clear, blue skies are reflected in the waters of a pool in the canyon.

But eventually it was time to go. It was now mid afternoon and the sun had moved around to the northwest leaving us in shade for most of the trip down canyon. Good thing, too, because it had been sunny and hot on the way up and we were worried about running out of drinking water. Also, with the canyon floor in the shade it was easier to take photos of the pools of water and the short section of narrows.

Light reflected from the canyon walls onto a small pool in the canyon.
Light reflected from the canyon walls onto a small pool in the canyon.

And, then, there was that magical moment when the light created a perfect situation. The sun lit up a section of the canyon floor which was reflected upwards to an overhang. The reflected light on this overhang was beautiful—but this illuminated overhang was reflected in a pool of water surrounded by deep shadows. Amazing! Move a little closer and the pool and reflection did not line up. Move a little farther away—same thing. Just one spot—and it was perfect.

Reflections at Pomeroy Tanks

A few weeks ago, we chose to run the Sycamore Rim Trail. Our start location was the Pomeroy Tanks trailhead. From there we headed in a clockwise direction and reached our turnaround spot on the top of KA Hill.

Lily pads and reflections at Pomeroy Tanks, Sycamore Rim Trail.
Lily pads and reflections at Pomeroy Tanks, Sycamore Rim Trail.

We reversed our direction and once again passed by Pomeroy Tanks but kept going for another mile to Sycamore Falls. Alas, the falls were dry and no water was flowing down the stream. But back at Pomeroy Tanks there was water and still some flow through the numerous pools. It was very picturesque but it was now late morning and all I had was a camera phone.

A potential swimming hole at Pomeroy Tanks, Sycamore Rim Trail.
A potential swimming hole at Pomeroy Tanks, Sycamore Rim Trail.
Pomeroy Tanks, Sycamore Rim Trail.
Pomeroy Tanks, Sycamore Rim Trail.

We decided to return a few days later and to shoot photos in the early morning light. The pools were still mostly in deep shadows at this early hour. And, since it had been a cold night, there was still a touch of frost on the abundant grasses around the pools.

With calm winds the surfaces of the pools were like a mirror reflecting the deep blue sky. It was worth the return trip.

An Early-Season Bike Ride to the Inner Basin

A week ago we rode our mountain bikes up Waterline Road to the Inner Basin of the San Francisco Peaks. We were expecting to run into snow so we were not surprised when we did. Most of the snow was easily bypassed—as seen in the photographs below. But not all of it. Just below Jack Spring and the Inner Basin shelter we encountered deeper snow that required us to push our bikes.

Inner Basin and Fremont Peak.
Inner Basin and Fremont Peak.
There's still plenty of snow in the Inner Basin.
There’s still plenty of snow in the Inner Basin.
Mountain biking down the Waterline Road.
Mountain biking down the Waterline Road.

And above the Inner Basin shelter there was quite a bit of snow. More pushing through spring snow conditions to the wide-open expanses of the Inner Basin. Looking at the face of Fremont Peak (Arizona’s third highest mountain) I could see recent ski tracks. It would have been fun to see the skier(s) who put in these turns.

 

Water—Spring 2020

Here are a few recent water photographs in northern Arizona.

Dry Beaver Creek and Jacks Canyon Creek confluence.
Dry Beaver Creek and Jacks Canyon Creek confluence.

This photograph was taken in mid-April after a spring storm brought snow to the Mogollon Rim and rain to the lower elevations. The runoff was sufficient to swell the flow in Dry Beaver Creek from a light trickle back to a noisy roar. This is the confluence of the smaller Jacks Canyon Creek with Dry Beaver Creek. While the flowing water is in late-afternoon shadow, the trees and distant hills remain in sunlight.

Rogers Lake.
Rogers Lake.

A day later I was at Rogers Lake southwest of Flagstaff. The reflections of the clouds in the shallow water is interesting. Getting this shot required walking out into the mud. I was glad I had thought to bring a spare pair of shoes for the drive home.

Headwaters of Sycamore Canyon.
Headwaters of Sycamore Canyon.

A week later I did a morning run along the Sycamore Rim Trail. When finished, I retured to a few spots that would make interesting water photographs. This is typical of the upper sections of the canyon with ponds of slow moving water and grassy edges.

Dry Beaver Creek.
Dry Beaver Creek.

This image was taken on a different location on Dry Beaver Creek about two weeks after the top photograph. Water levels have dropped substantially. A few large pools remain but water flow is down to a trickle.

We are now entering our dry season and the water in these locations will quickly disappear.