Monday, February 28, 2011

Saguaro National Park Plus My New Art Studio

After I was done purchasing items for the museum's gift shop at the Tucson gem show, Helen and I headed west of Tucson and visited the Saguaro National Park. There is a five-mile loop drive that we took to get some good cacti photos, plus we parked and walked up Signal Hill to see the petroglyphs etched into the rock by the Hohokam Indians. I've included two pictures of the interpretive signs. If you click (or double click depending on your computer's mouse settings) you can enlarge these photos to better read the interpretive information.

This past fall when I was telling one of my friends that I'm tired of working on my mineral art in a confined space with my inventory of parts and raw materials all over my house -- due to lack of space in my "art room" -- my friend suggested that I swap rooms in my house. I've moved my bedroom into one of the smaller rooms, and my former larger bedroom has now been transformed into my new art studio. It was a huge amount of work, but I am very pleased with the result. I cannot wait to create mineral art in my new space.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tucson Show

The morning after we climbed up the Grand Canyon, friend Fhylster had to get up early and leave to catch her plane in Flagstaff. We had breakfast, packed the car, and hit the gift shops to buy a few souvenirs. Then we drove to Flagstaff to drop Wendy off, who had a 5:30 a.m. train the next day. Here is a shot of Humphreys Peak located in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, which is the tallest point in Arizona at 12,643 feet.

Helen and I continued south to attend the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. If you count all of the satellite shows that have sprung up in the area, there are more than 40 venues which make it the largest gem show in the world. This event has grown from a "club show" to a major exhibit for collectors and enthusiasts from around the country and the world. Showcased here are the best gems, minerals, jewelry, lapidary and publication dealers from around the world. Also displayed are items from private collections and renowned museums worldwide, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

It all started in 1955 when a group of mineral collectors and rock hounds from the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society held a free exhibition at a local elementary school, open to the public. This show was an immediate hit, prompting organizers to make it an annual event.

The most important factors in building the show's early reputation were the variety and quality of the specimens on display. The show is known for bringing in prominent gem, mineral and fossil displays from major museums. Each year, a mineral or group of minerals is designated as the show's theme mineral. In the recent past, the show has highlighted minerals from Asia, Africa and China.

As a result of the interest generated by the original show, satellite shows have proliferated all over the city. These shows cater to the interests of the growing number of people coming to town. First-time visitors to the show are amazed at the number of dealers and variety of things available for sale. We only went to two of the more than 40 venues. In total the showcase attracts an estimated 55,000 people to Tucson in a two-week period.

Amazing mineral statues.

The discoverer and owner of the Ocean Jasper mine, as well as the first Polychrome Jasper mine, had these incredible tables made. They are too expensive for me to hold in inventory, but if anyone is interested in placing a special order, the retail cost is between $1,200 and $1,600 each, plus shipping (and sales tax if you live in Michigan. The first two are made from Polychrome Jasper.

This table top is made from Ocean Jasper.

Ocean Jasper specimens for sale by Paul, the owner of the Ocean Jasper mine. The original deposit has been mined out for several years, but Paul still has some left in his warehouse. The price keeps going up, up, up. This year I only bought 3 or 4 museum quality specimens and one sphere -- all of which are for sale.

One of my other favorite vendors had some amazing Labadorite specimens. I do have several of these that I bought and have available for sale.

I also purchased some new Polychrome Jasper specimens -- not the big one, though, that is the second picture below. That specimen is three feet tall. It didn't even have a price tag on it.

More miscellaneous shots from around the Electric Park venue.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Space Shuttle Launch PLUS Australian Agates

I have always been a NASA fan. I remember sleeping out in the back yard at night to glimpse peeks at what ever NASA was kind enough to orbit over Michigan. Yesterday I took a few minutes from my construction task of painting my art studio to watch the launch. This was the 133rd launch in the space shuttle era. The space shuttle was the first reusable space craft in history. The first launch was on April 12, 1981. There have been five craft including Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavor. Yesterday the Discovery took off for her 39th time. The first was in 1984. By the end of this 11-day mission, she would have flown 143 million miles, spent 363 days in space, and orbited the earth 5,800 times. The total distance flown would be equivalent to going to the moon and back 300 times!

There have been shuttle launches every year since 1981, except for 1987 and 2004 after the two shuttle accidents. The most launches took place in 1985 (9), but there were at least six launches in ten different years.

Here are some pictures I took off my TV screen. I am hoping one day to see a launch in person, but at least the TV pictures were outstanding.

One of my Australian contacts, John Nedwich, recently sent me these photos of what he calls Potato Patch agates from Queensland.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Grand Canyon Photos -- Up We Must Climb

This posting will be the next to last that includes pictures from the out-west trip, and the last with Grand Canyon photos. The final trip posting will include pictures from the Tucson Gem Show and a hike east of Phoenix.

First, here is one photo I forgot to post yesterday. I saw this boulder along side the creek and thought it might be a stramatolite formation. As I've posted on the blog before, stramatolites were ancient algae colonies that grew in boulder-size mushroom formations. If it were not for stramatolites, we wouldn't be here since this organism was the first to photosynthesize the energy of the sun with oxygen as a by-product. Thus, before stramatolites there was no oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere. To the scientists amazement, this organism is still around today after 3.5 billion years of existence. Living colonies have been found in Australia and a few other places. I noticed this boulder and later looked it up -- yes there are stramatolite fossils along the creek and the North Kaibab trail.

The morning that we climbed out of the Grand Canyon, we awoke to a 5:00 a.m. knock-on-your-door wake-up call. We had mostly packed our gear the night before so we could quickly be at the 5:30 breakfast seating. Phylster decided to pay the $64 fee to have her pack brought to the top via mule. She had extra room and weight allowance (maximum 30 pounds) in her pack so all but Helen chipped in to off-load our packs a bit. After dropping off Phyl's pack, we started hiking by head-lamp past the Bright Angel Campground to the Silver Bridge.

After around 30 or 40 minutes the sun came up -- although we couldn't see it since we were hiking a two-mile stretch of relatively flat trail along the Colorado River in the inner gorge. However, you can look up and see some of the rock formations starting to glow with the morning's sunshine.

We came across a solo-hiker who offered to take this group photo for us.

Around an hour into the hike, the mule train passed us. I didn't get a picture of it, but I guess the last mule had Phyl's pack.

Once we made a left turn at Pipe Creek toward the south rim, there was this carin. Apparently other hikers have placed rocks to wish for good luck on the climb out, so we did, too.

Here are some shots from the first part of our tackling the elevation change.

After five miles we arrived at Indian Gardens. As you can see, the temperature was around 39 degrees.

We were visited by yet another raven.

After a long lunch break, we headed the 4.5 miles to the top. During the next stretch we were visited by mule deer and the Mountain Bluebird.

Here is the view of Indian Gardens from the 3-mile house.

Only 1 1/2 miles to go!

Finally you turn around a switchback in the trail and see the Kolb Studio on the facing cliff. At that point you know you are going to make it, even though you still have 3/4 of a mile to go. All you want to do is to get there!

Then we finally made it the 9.6 miles to the top after ten hours of hiking. We received an applause from an appreciative couple, which caused others to take pictures of us celebrating the climb. I would like to thank my friends Wendy, Helen, and Phyl for sharing an incredible experience!