Here are a few photographs taken on some recent hikes and trail runs in Sedona.
First was a hike across the top of Mescal Mountain. There are well-defined trails that go around the mountain but only faint tracks that go up and over the top. There are even a few spots that require some basic rock climbing moves—but nothing too difficult.
From the top of Mescal Mountain one can see across Long Canyon into the Red Rock-Secret Mountain wilderness area. One can also see two dark openings in the middle distance. The one on the left is the so-called “birthing cave.” Note in the second image the crowd of people entering and leaving the site.
A few days earlier a small group of trail runners had done “Earl’s Loop” trail run. You won’t find this on any modern maps but you might find it on some older maps. It does not see much traffic and the trail is faint in spots but it has some great views into the Red Rock-Secret Mountain wilderness area. And, of course, the obligatory group jump— with some jumping on the count of 2 instead of 3.
The canyons that surround Sedona are known to contain many Native American dwellings and other artifacts. Visiting these sites can be an adventure—especially if you don’t actually know where they are.
So we have been visiting and re-visiting some canyons in the area and trying to determine where dwellings might exist. There are several ways to do this. One is to look carefully at the cliff walls and decide if these might support a dwelling. The next is to look for faint paths created by others that lead to the hidden sites within the canyon. And the third is ask a friend who did manage to find the location!
Methods two and three above worked in our favor recently and we visited this set of dwellings. The first structure we visited was small and looked like it might have been used for storage. There were several small caves and alcoves nearby and these may have provided additional storage. There was also a ladder providing access to some upper caves and clefts. The ladder, although fairly modern, showed significant signs of weathering and we declined to use it.
The second structure was a well-preserved dwelling—although there was no longer a roof covering it. Inside, visitors in the early 1900’s had scratched their names and dates in the walls. That may have been acceptable then; not so much today.
As we were leaving a fairly large group approached the ruins. Time for us to leave as the quiet moments were over.
The changing of the colors of leaves continues to march from the higher to lower elevations. The higher elevations and aspens peaked in mid October while places such as Oak Creek Canyon hit their peak a few weeks later. Peak color is just now reaching Sedona and similar locations. Here are several photos of leaves taken over the past few weeks in and near Oak Creek Canyon.
With a weak short-wave trough and residual monsoon moisture moving across Arizona there were possibilities that this would be a “monsoon transition” event. The vertical wind shear was in place but instability was marginal. The end result was a general lack of supercells—but that didn’t mean that the convection wasn’t interesting.
Multiple waves of thunderstorms moved across Grand Canyon with the earliest storms appearing before noon. With each wave, there was rain with some lightning followed by clearing and even some rainbows.
The first rainbow occurred while the sun was high overhead resulting in the rainbow appearing almost directly below in the canyon. This rainbow did not have brilliant colors but being able to see a rainbow over the Unkar Delta was interesting.
More showers…more rainbows. That was how the afternoon played out.
Late in the day I relocated to Yavapai Point for sunset colors and hoped for another rainbow. A partial rainbow appeared over the South Rim—but the arch did not continue up and over across the canyon.
The data and models suggested there would be convection from the San Francisco Peaks northward to Grand Canyon and into far northwestern Arizona. At best, however, these would be weak storms and would probably dissipate by late afternoon. With that in mind, I headed to the south rim of Grand Canyon. And the models were right about both the location and weak character of the storms. After shooting for a short time I left well before sunset.
As I was leaving, radar data showed a strong storm well to the southeast of Flagstaff. Leaving Grand Canyon National Park, I was able to see the storm in the distance and hoped I might get a few good photos at sunset. I stopped at Wupatki National Monument to take a few photos just as the sun was dropping behind the hills to the west. A moment later, I saw a flash of lightning. Then another…and another. These flashes were almost 40 miles away but were clearly visible.
I spent the next 90 minutes shooting lightning photos from this spot. The storm was moving towards me and the lightning bolts were getting closer, larger and brighter. There were lots of cloud-to-ground strokes with multiple branches and leaders lighting up the sky. Because these lightning bolts were south of the San Francisco Peaks and the Cinder Hills, there are no photos showing the bolts in contact with the ground.
Above is a plot of 24-hour lightning ending the morning of 10 September 2021. There are two distinct clusters of lightning around the San Francisco Peaks. The cluster to the northwest occurred during the afternoon. Many of these were visible from the South Rim of Grand Canyon. The cluster to the southeast of the San Francisco Peaks occurred during twilight.
And what of the time spent at Grand Canyon? Yeah, this is what I saw.