Photography . . . Travel . . .

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christopher and Connor (Malayan Tiger Cubs)

I stopped by the San Diego Zoo this morning. I was only there for about an hour, but I managed to get a few shots of Christopher and Connor, the 9-month old Malayan tiger cubs.

They really are pretty good looking cats.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas - Holiday Lights at the Hotel del Coronado

Heather and I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and best wishes for the New Year.

We like to visit the Hotel del Coronado this time of year to see all the decorations and lights. As we did last year, we joined a small group from our local photo club ( for an evening of photos and dinner. Here are a few more images from that evening. The view of the setting sun from the hotel is always nice.

The hotel itself is lit with hundreds (probably more like thousands) of lights this time of year.

Long after the sun had set you could still see an orange glow in the distance over by the end of Point Loma. That tiny speck of light at the end of the point is the Point Loma Lighthouse.

The Grinch statue is one of several Dr. Seuss character sculptures on display at the hotel.

Click here to see a few more images from our trip to the Hotel del Coronado on Saturday, December 17, 2011.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Road Trip ! - Southwestern US (Part 8) - Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona

We like variety on our road trips.  On this trip we stayed in quite a variety of lodgings, from the modern Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas to the early 1900's cabin at Bright Angel Lodge.  The Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale was built in 1956, in the Modernism style.  It was completely renovated a few years back, but keeping the now very popular Modernism, or Mid-Century Modern, style very much intact.

The blue mood lighting over the bath was pretty cool.

There were a few things we specifically wanted to do while in the Phoenix area.  One of those, the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix, has one of the best collections of Native American art anywhere.

The other thing we were looking forward to was a walk around the Desert Botanical Garden in Scottsdale.  It had snowed in Scottsdale a couple of days earlier, but by Wednesday it was quite nice, and a beautiful day for a late afternoon walk around the Garden.

There was a series of slightly-larger-than-life insect sculptures placed around the garden.  Okay, maybe way-larger-than-life.  Anyone remember the 1954 sci-fi classic "Them"?

The late afternoon sun made for some great light for photos.

Heather took this next one, and I think it's one of my favorites from the garden.

Since it was close to Christmas they did have some decorations going, including a Santa hat on the Preying Mantis.

On our way back to the hotel on Wednesday we took a little walk around the downtown Scottsdale Art District, checking out the art and taking a few pictures through the windows.

On Thursday morning it was time to head home to San Diego.  We had a big breakfast at the hotel before heading out across the desert.  For some reason I didn't take as many pictures of our meals on this trip as I usually do, but Heather's stuffed french toast looked too good to pass up.

Well that gets us to the end of our little 10-day road trip.  We had a great time, met a lot of interesting people, and saw a lot of interesting things along the way.

Click here to see more images from around Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here to see more images from the Heard Museum and the Desert Botanical Garden.

Road Trip ! - Southwestern US (Part 7) - Cliff Dwellings at Walnut Canyon and Montezuma's Castle National Monuments

Heather and I hiked the Island Trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument in 1994, and we were looking forward to seeing it again.  There was enough ice on the trail that the Park Service had closed about half of the trail for safety reasons (the part on the north side that didn't get any sun), but we were still able to get out to the most impressive parts.  The trail starts out at the top of the canyon and drops steeply down a series of steps to the "island".

This is a part of the Island Trail that wasn't too icy - I wonder what the other side was like.  Probably a good idea to close what they did though, that trail is a narrow shelf in spots, with a fairly deep drop off.

After a while you get to a series of cliff dwellings that have a most impressive view.

On the way back up you can see other dwellings across the canyon.

If you're anywhere near Flagstaff, Arizona this small National Monument is well worth a visit.

Continuing south towards the Phoenix area, we made another stop,this time at Montezuma's Castle National Monument.  This cliff dwelling was open to the public until the early 1950's, today you have to see it from the trail below.  It's a little hard to tell in these pictures, but it has 5 stories of living space.

This too is worth a stop if you're driving south on I-17 between Flagstaff and Phoenix.

After a full day of sightseeing, starting from Grand Canyon in the morning, stopping to see the Flintstones at Bedrock City, and then two different cliff dwelling sites, we pulled into the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona a little after dark, where we would stay for the last two nights of our trip. 

Click here to see more images from Walnut Canyon National Monument and from Montezuma's Castle National Monument.

Road Trip ! - Southwestern US (Part 6) - Bedrock City (Arizona)

The southwestern US has all sorts of roadside attractions (otherwise known to some as "tourist traps").  Some of them are better than others.  Bedrock City, located about halfway between I-40 at Williams and Grand Canyon, has to be one of the most entertaining.  I've heard it was built in 1972, and I'm not sure they've done much to it since.  Heather and I drove up to it in 1994, but we didn't go inside then.  We did this time.  The Flintstones was always one of my favorites, and still is even today.

I tried to call in to the office to check my voice mails, but for some reason it didn't work.

We were the only ones there, and it didn't take us long to come to the conclusion that the light covering of snow on the ground probably helped the appearance of the place greatly.  Still, it was worth the $4 each to get in just for the high entertainment factor.

After we checked out all the buildings, and went across the street to fuel up the Xterra, it was time to move on.  Our next stops would be at Walnut Canyon and Montezuma's Castle National Monuments, to check out the cliff dwellings.  Our final stop for the day was Scottsdale.

To be continued . . . 

Click here to see more images from Bedrock City in Arizona.

Road Trip ! - Southwestern US (Part 5) - Grand Canyon

After a day of driving between Zion National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, we arrived at Bright Angel Lodge a little after dark. We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Bright Angel Lodge restaurant and settled into our little cabin for the night.  Outside, Grand Canyon was experiencing record low temperatures, but the cabin was warm and dry.  In the morning, we woke up to this.

I've only been to Grand Canyon once before, in about late May of 1994.  I don't remember much except for crowds.  Now that I've been there off-season, I'm sure that this is the time to go there.  The views there are always impressive, but the snow really makes it.  Temps were in the mid-20's during the day, and single digits at night, but there was plenty of sun on Monday to make it a great day for a long walk along the rim of the Canyon.  We kept hearing that the low temps were record setting, so maybe it's not normally quite that cold in early December.  We are thinking that either Grand Canyon or Zion might be a fun place to go for Christmas one of these years.

In between our walks along the rim trail we stopped to check out the various historic buildings, including the El Tovar Hotel, the Bright Angel Lodge, the Hopi House and the old Santa Fe Train Station.  Here's a shot of the Hopi House.  Designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter, it was built by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1905, and managed by their concessionaire, the Fred Harvey Company.  The building was intended to be a marketplace for Native American crafts, and it's still used for that today.   Colter also designed the Bright Angel Lodge in 1935, and several other historic buildings in the area. 

The El Tovar Hotel, also built by the railroad, opened in 1905.  It was, and still is, marketed as a destination hotel.  The dining room is reservations-only for dinner, all year round.  We had dinner there on Monday night.  

Tourists have been arriving at the El Tovar by train from Willams, Arizona since the early 1900's.  Today the line, and the lodges, are run by Xanterra Resorts, which does a very nice job of providing accommodations and food service.  Every meal we had in Zion (they run that one as well) and Grand Canyon was excellent, and good value for the money as well.  Same for the lodging.

There is a 3/4 mile long section of the rim trail that is now a geology tour of sorts. All along the paved path there are plaques, signs and rock samples that take you through the geological history of the Canyon, describing the various layers of rock going from oldest to newest.  The National Park Service did a great job with this.

We really enjoyed our stay at the Grand Canyon.  Was it better than Zion?  Hard to say, they are both special, and in a way the opposite of each other.  At Zion we were down in the bottom of the deep narrow canyon (except for our hike up to Scout Landing) looking up - at Grand Canyon we were on the rim of the canyon looking down.

As we walked back to our cabin to get ready for dinner we could see the Moon rising over the El Tovar Hotel in the distance.  A little later that evening we walked back over to the El Tovar and had a great meal in their dining room.

On Tuesday morning we would leave Grand Canyon and head south towards Scottsdale for our last two nights on the road, with a few stops along the way of course.

To be continued . . . 

Click here to see more images from our stay in Grand Canyon National Park.

Road Trip ! - Southwestern US (Part 4) - From Zion to Grand Canyon

We left Zion National Park on Sunday morning, heading east on UT 9 and then south on US 89.  Our route would take us through Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, across the Colorado River via the steel-arch bridge at Glen Canyon Dam, through Page, AZ and into the Navajo Nation until we got to AZ 64 and the road that would take us to the east entrance of Grand Canyon National Park.  It's about a 260-mile drive, and we added on a bit more with a little off-road detour outside of Kanab.

The stormy weather of the last few days cleared out overnight, and Sunday was a beautiful day for a drive across the high desert.  The eastern side of Zion National Park looks very different than the Virgin River canyon where the Lodge is.  We saw a group of bighorn sheep alongside the road as we were leaving the Park.  People were doing some really stupid things in the roadway to get a look at them.  We kept moving.

Heading south on US 89 outside of Kanab, UT the scenery changes again.  From the 1930's to the 1990's over 300 movies and TV shows (mostly Westerns) were filmed in the Kanab area.  One of the filming locations was a set comprised of 3 buildings, at a site called Paria, very near the location of late-1800's town of Pahreah.  The site is about 5 miles north of the highway, down a graded dirt road.  The sets were destroyed by fire a few years back, and all that remains of the original town is the cemetery.  We spent some time exploring around there.  It seemed as if we were the only people for miles around. 

We made a brief stop at the Visitor Center for Grand Staircase/Escalante NM, and then continued on south to the Visitor Center for the Glen Canyon Dam at Page, Arizona.  You get a nice view of the dam from the old steel-arch bridge.

We got out and stretched our legs a bit with a walk across the bridge and back, and then stopped into the Visitor Center.

One of the great things about traveling the way we do is all of the interesting people we come across.  When we stopped at the Grand Staircase Visitor Center one of the people working there introduced himself, and told us about how many dinosaurs they have been finding in the National Monument lately.  He told us his name was Merle Graffam and mentioned that he had discovered the toe of a previously unknown species, and that it had been named after him.  He insisted that we stop at the Glen Canyon Visitor Center to see his dinosaur, Nothronychus Graffami, so we did.  Here he (the dinosaur) is. 

About 5 miles south of Page, AZ the road gets to a spot that is just a 3/4-mile walk to a sharp bend in the Colorado River.  Known as Horseshoe Bend, the drop off is a very abrupt 1,000'.  There are no guardrails or anything, really, the trail just sort of ends at this view. 

US 89 continues south through the Navajo Nation, crossing over Antelope Pass, with some spectacular views along the way.

By the time we got to AZ 64 and started heading east towards the village on the south rim of the Grand Canyon it was getting dark, and the road was getting icy.  We saw a beautiful orange sunset as we climbed up towards the Park entrance, and then later we spotted a mountain lion and some elk along the road.  I was concentrating more on not running off the road on the ice than I was on taking pictures, so nothing to show.  By the time we got to our little cabin at Bright Angel Lodge it was dark, but with the half-moon or so we could still see that we were only about 50 yards from the rim of the Grand Canyon. 

To be continued . . .

Click here to see more pictures from the part of our drive between Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks.

About Me

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San Diego, California, United States
About me . . . When I'm not working I like to be out exploring and photographing. I do this blog just for fun, and to be able to share these images with friends. I hope you enjoy viewing these images as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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All of the content and images on this site (c) Frank B. Baiamonte. If you would like to use any of these images please contact me via email at to discuss terms of usage. Note that images from the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are not available for commercial usage. You can also see more on my Instagram page @frankbaiamonte.

Header image: Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, Cibola, Arizona. End image: Downtown San Diego, California skyline from Coronado Island. Profile picture: Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, by Heather Baiamonte.