This morning marked the emergence of the 17 year Circada, Magicicada septendecim, also known as the 17 year locust (though not a true locust). These Cicada, (part of Brood IV, or the Kansan Brood) began as eggs laid in 1998. They have spent the years underground as larvae feeding on plant roots and such. This newly emerged guy is spending some time perched on a leaf waiting for his wings to dry out. These Cicadas will live for a couple of weeks before mating and laying the eggs which will appear as adults in 2032.
What better time to get the camera out of mothballs than tonight’s beautiful conjunction of the slender crescent moon and the Pan-STARRS comet, which has just completed it’s pass around the sun. it’s hardly visible to the naked eye, but the camera picks it up nicely. The long exposure shows how the bulk of the moon is dimly lighted with glow from the Earth. More comet fun to come later in the year.
Not too far (50 miles) from the castle location in the previous post lies the tallest sand dunes in North America. Designated as the Great Sand Dunes National Park, it has formed over millions of years thanks to an unusual combination of topography, erosion, winds and weather. It just looks like some giant trucks have dropped massive piles of sand in an alpine valley. The sand grains are very fine and have been carried to this location by prevailing winds over millions of years. This is not something you would expect to find in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. There have been some “Sahara” like movies made here. There were numerous hikers on the dunes, some along the top ridge, but are just too small to make out in my images. My grandson, below, was going to join them…I had to do some wild arm-waving to get him back!
If you are traveling the backroads in southern Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains, you might stumble upon this monument to one man’s (Jim Bishop) perseverance, dedication, vision and hard work. More than forty years ago Mr. Bishop started building this castle by his own hand. It is not intended as a dwelling place, but rather as a monument to poor, hard working people. Working alone, and with the donations from some of the visitors, this eccentric man has personally handled every stone in the structure, mixed the mortar and milled the lumber. The castle is at a 9,000 foot elevation, so work can only be done in the short summer season. Mr. Bishop works at a wrought iron business in the winter months to support his family. His iron work can be seen in the railings and lattice works of the castle. This is still a work in progress and I hope his health continues to see it’s completion. It is truly amazing to see what one man can accomplish when his mind is set.
I will confess, I was only able to climb Sooo high in the structure. It is really scary to get up near the top of those towers! Click the image to see more of the detail.
More information can be found at: http://www.bishopcastle.org
The Durango to Silverton narrow gage railway has been carrying tourists through these Colorado mountains for more than 130 years. Originally built to haul silver and gold ore from the high mountain mines, it has long since only been operated to share the scenic views. The coal fired vintage steam engines are a treat for the eyes, ears and nose. There are some scary spots on the route where there seems to be very little to support the rails, and rock slides are a constant danger. But, it’s a fun trip.