April 1, 2013
Arizona, exploring, geocaching, GPS, Grand Canyon, landscapes, National Park, photography
GPS coordinates, Grand Canyon, photography, virtual geocaches, winter landscape, Yavapai Point
NOTE TO READERS: In keeping with our philosophy of lifelong learning, we are now on Twitter as @cachemaniacs. If you’re interested, there’s a Twitter follow button over on the sidebar or you can just click the link above.
The view from Yavapai Point on a winter’s day. We came here for a virtual geocache and left with some great photos. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon 10 times or more over the last 30 years and it never ceases to amaze me. Since I’ve taken up photography, it has been a never ending source of material. Sunlight, shadows, color, clouds and terrain make the canyon landscape a natural kaleidoscope. Take a shot, wait five minutes and another great shot will appear. In case you were wondering, this photo was taken at GPS coordinates N36.06599, W112.11670.
March 20, 2013
Arizona, back_country, cameras, exploring, ghost_towns, GPS, history, mines, nature, off_the_beaten_path, outdoors, safety, travel, tunnels, wildlife
Arizona, exploring, ghost_towns, gold mining, GPS, HDR photo, history, Mexican freetailed bats, Montana Mine, nature, Nikon D3100, photography, Ruby
NOTE TO READERS: In keeping with our philosophy of lifelong learning, we are now on Twitter as @cachemaniacs. If you’re interested, there’s a Twitter follow button over on the sidebar or you can just click this link.
This is the long abandoned Montana Mine in Ruby, Arizona, a ghost town about 75 miles south of Tucson and five miles from the Mexican border. Starting in 1877, a succession of owners spent 40 years carving out a meager existence mining gold and hoping to strike it rich. None of them did and by the early 1920′s, Ruby and its mine were on the verge of becoming a footnote in Arizona history. Then in 1926, a mining corporation from Joplin, MO came in and converted it into a successful lead mine. During the Great Depression, Ruby was a full fledged boomtown. At its peak in the 1930′s, it covered 400 acres and had 1,200 people, 300 of whom were miners. Mining went on 24×7 with an average wage of $3 a day. When the mine closed in 1940, the town died.
The mine was dug into a ridgeline called Eggshell Hill overlooking Ruby. There was a single shaft that went down almost 1,000 feet and nine levels of subterranean tunnels, along with secondary shafts in many directions. There were so many that the entire hill became unstable to the point where several decades ago, a portion of the southeast end of it collapsed. This exposed a cross-section of the mine – just like someone sliced off the end of the hill so you could see inside.
I call it The Bat Cave. From May to September, it’s the home of an estimated 200,000 Mexican free-tailed bats. They swarm at dusk and dawn, blackening the sky above Ruby for almost five minutes. Biologists estimate they eat several tons of bugs every night.
You can clearly see the honeycomb of shafts and levels of the Montana Mine. They keep going down into the darkness but the edge was too unstable to risk a closer look. I was already past the warning sign. With binoculars and proper light, you can see timbers, hopper cars, wooden ladders and railroad track. This is where the Mexican freetail bats swarm in and out of from May to September.
I was never much of a photographer but have become increasingly interested in it as we continue our adventures in retirement. As such, I’ve always got a camera with me primed and ready. You never know when you’ll run into the mythical “Place That Nobody Knows About and Few Have Seen.” This one definitely qualifies.
Here’s a closeup of the top of the cave in. You get a much better view of the remnants in the shafts. With binoculars and some favorable light, you can see even more.
Almost all of my pictures are done on the move and on the fly, with little planning and setup time. You come upon some great shots but grabbing them can be challenging. Neither of these pictures really do the area justice. It’s a massive cave in and it goes down into the blackness almost 1,000 feet. There’s a single strand of rusty barbed wire fence around the top and a warning sign – both of which I ignored. Anything for the shot.
I took both pictures with a Nikon D3100 on automatic settings, an 18-270mm lens and a circular polarizer. It was about 4:00 PM in January and the light/shadows were not helpful. In the original photos, the mine area is pitch black and the sunny slopes are almost whiteouts. I edited them in Picasa to bring out as much detail as I could. By altering the light and saturating the color, they came out pretty well. If we go back, I’ll try a series of shots for an HDR photo.
Ruby is a fascinating place. If you like ghost towns, you’ll love Ruby. You can read all about it on our website.
Here’s another recent blog posting about Ruby that you might like.
To the batcave … Boris and Natasha
March 8, 2013
Arizona, blogging, cameras, landscapes, photography
Arizona, desert, Nikon D3100, palm trees, photography, sundown, Tucson
I was sitting on the balcony of our snowbird condo in Tucson a couple of days back, enjoying the evening breezes. As I watched the shadows start creeping up the nearby palm trees, it almost looked like a painting. So I fetched the trusty Nikon 3100D and snapped away. It’s simple and uncluttered. The contrasts, colors, shadows, shapes and light all make this an interesting shot.
February 16, 2013
back_country, climbing, desert, exploring, geocaching, geology, hazards, hiking trails, national_park, off_the_beaten_path, outdoors, safety, Texas
Balance Rock, Big Bend National Park, climbing, desert, exploring, geocaching, Grapevine Hills, off_the_beaten_path, outdoors, photography
NOTE TO READER: This is the same post I published two days ago. I finally got around to applying CSS to the blog and this post was my guinea pig. There are some new looks coming, so please bear with me while I change things around and experiment a bit. Feel free to like this post again – or not. …Boris
Another adventure in Big Bend. In the northwest quadrant of the park, not far from the Panther Junction Visitor Center, lie the Grapevine Hills. Here you will see rock formations unlike any others in the park. This is igneous rock formed by cooling lava. The word igneous comes from the Latin word for fire – ignis. When solid material cools it shrinks, tearing itself apart. The result is a valley full of huge boulders that have been exposed to erosion and weathering for millions of years. Now it is a barren landscape with fantastic rock formations that look almost impossible to create.
This is the view looking back down the Grapevine Hills Trail from Balanced Rock.
The most famous of these is “Balanced Rock”. Located in a saddle about a mile and a half from the trailhead, it is exactly what it says – a huge boulder precariously perched between two others. In addition to a hike through the valley, some basic bouldering is required at the end. This area got its name from grapevines that used to grow here on the valley floor. The entire Big Bend area was once much more livable than it is now, with good grass, clean water, trees and crops. Overgrazing by sheep and cattle killed the grasslands and all the trees were cut down for firewood and construction. I guess they call that progress.
Balanced Rock and Ground Zero for the cache. Now all we have to do is get a picture with one of us in the window.
This is a back country desert hike, not recommended in the summer. Take water, sun screen and a hat. We hiked out in the early morning and, once again, had the place to ourselves. In the picture, Natasha is getting us credit for the virtual cache located here.
Natasha at Ground Zero getting us credit for the cache.
Photography is a challenge at Big Bend. It’s all bright light and dark shadows. I’m not much with filters and all that but I’m pretty good with Picasa and Photoshop. Both came in handy on this trip.
Cheers … Boris and Natasha
October 8, 2012
back_country, blogging, diners, dining, exploring, forts, geocaching, ghosts, ghost_towns, GPS, hiking trails, history, national_park, off_the_beaten_path, outdoors, photography, travel
adventure, Alabama, Arizona, benchmark_hunting, bike_path, Black Hills, caves, climbing, desert, diners, dining, exploring, geocaching, ghost_towns, GPS, history, lifelong learning, math, Minnesota, Mount Rushmore, national_park, nature, NCTM, off_the_beaten_path, outdoor activities, outdoors, photography, South Dakota, teaching, travel, Tucson, vacation, waterfalls, Wisconsin
NOTE TO READERS: We are now on Twitter as @cachemaniacs. There’s a Twitter button over on the sidebar.
Be sure to check out our new search functions in the sidebar. We’ve also added a Geocaching Storefront to the sidebar with links to our favorite geocaching products.
Also in the page bar at the top of the blog are five pages of background and instruction on geocaching. The titles are self-explanatory. These short pages are more than enough to get you started.
Cheers … Boris and Natasha
Hi and welcome to the geocaching and exploring blog of Alpha6 and KidsRN. Those are our geocaching handles. We also use them for other activities such as letterboxing and orienteering that require you to have cool names. We’re also known in some of those circles as the Cachemanian Devils but we affectionately refer to each other as Boris and Natasha, usually with “dahlink” at the end.
Natasha is relentless in her quest for geocaches. Here, she gives it her all in the Black Hills. Mt. Rushmore is in the upper left hand corner.
Our vision for Off The Beaten Path is a family friendly blog that promotes interest in outdoor activities, curiosity about the world around us and lifelong learning. Our vehicle for that is geocaching and related activities, plus all that goes with them.
You would be hard-pressed to find another activity which is more fun, positive, educational and family friendly than geocaching and its siblings. My 85 year old mother and our two year old grandson have both been out with us. Some of the best times I ever had as a Dad were with my youngest son hunting down geocaches in the wilds of Montana and Wyoming. When I was teaching school, I used it in my math classes to teach all kinds of NCTM objectives before taking the students out to the park to do the real thing. One thing you can be sure of – geocaching will develop skills and take you places you would have never known about otherwise. The only adverse effect we’ve encountered is G.A.S. – Geocaching Addiction Syndrome. Once it gets in your blood, it’s hard to walk away.
Our adventures have taken us to ghost towns, caves, mountain tops, waterfalls and more out of the way places than we can recall. It’s been a hoot. We’ve geocached in 38 states and have a plan in place to finish all 50 by the end of
2012 2013 2014 (or thereabouts).
You never know what you might find here. We love forts, battlefields, ghost towns, one of a kind diners, cheeseburgers, skin-on French fries, anything to do with National Parks and anything else that’s off the beaten path. The tougher, longer, higher, creepier or more calorie-laden it is, the better we like it. Of course, we do normal stuff, too. We’ll mix things up to keep it interesting.
Mission accomplished safe and sound. No humans were injured in the production of this blog.
This is an open blog for families, adventurers, explorers, vagabonds and anybody else who might share our passions. There’s no arm chair traveling here. We’ve been to all the places we blog about and most of the pictures are ours.
See you in the blogosphere. …Boris and Natasha