The North American Monsoon is in full swing and is producing daily thunderstorms and heavy rains across the southwest. Lightning is always a favorite subject for me this time of year and I have tried a few times to get interesting photos. Today was a good day.
I stopped briefly at Wupatki National Monument and photographed an interesting rain shaft over the grasslands of the park — but no lightning.
I moved on towards Grand Canyon but made a stop at one of the Little Colorado River overlooks along the way and was able to get a few good bolts.
I arrived in time to watch new thunderstorms develop south of the canyon and then move across the canyon to the North Rim. Capturing bolts landing below the rim is always interesting and I managed to get a few. But the best and closest lightning bolts occurred while it was raining and I was safely watching from the inside of my vehicle.
A few days earlier I was able to catch this bolt of lighting at the Two Guns ruins near I-40. And a few days before that I caught this great sunset from Mormon Lake.
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.