Category Archives: Fun Fact Friday

Fun Fact Friday, August 5, 2022: Exfoliation

It’s #FunFactFriday

Ok, be honest. What comes to mind when I write the word “exfoliation?” To me, a picture of dry, flaky skin first comes to mind. However, exfoliation has a geological context to it, too. It’s a weathering process and one of the best places to see this process is along Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park.

As you drive that road, take a look at the granite hills and domes all around you. Notice that interesting sort of “onion peel” effect on the rock layers? That’s exfoliation! It’s a type of weathering and is common in granites.

You see, granite formed beneath the earth’s surface, under immense pressure. So, when the surface sediments and rocks – collectively termed as overburden – covering that granite are eroded or removed and that granite is exposed, the pressure beneath which the granite lay is gone and the granite begins to expand, forming all sorts of fractures (joints). Weathering (like frost heaving) causes plates, or flakes of rock to strip away the surface rock much like onion skin peels away from the onion.

And now you know.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Fun Fact Friday, Geology, National Parks, Photography, Yosemite National Park

Fun Fact Friday, May 6, 2022

One Heck Of A North Rim View, Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

It’s Fun Fact Friday, and since the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is set to open this month, I thought I’d put a few fun facts out here about this part of Grand Canyon National Park:

The North Rim is 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the South Rim. That means it’s cooler, wetter, and there are far more trees – so many, in fact, that I found it difficult to get an unencumbered photo of the canyon landscape because of all the trees.

If you are standing at the South Rim looking toward the North Rim, the distance (as the crow flies) is about 10 miles. If you choose to hike from the South Rim to the North Rim, the distance to get there is 21 miles. And if you want to drive from the south to the north, you’ll be taking the “scenic route” and it will take you about five hours to get to the North Rim.

Only about 10% of all visitors to this national park ever make it up to the North Rim, so it’s much less visited – although that doesn’t mean it won’t be crowded at times. Plus, there is only one lodge up there: Grand Canyon Lodge, and one campground (although there are other campgrounds outside the park boundary).

This image was captured at one of the two small view areas below the Grand Canyon Lodge. I spent a couple of days at the North Rim during my move from Texas to Washington state.

Click on the image above if you are interested in purchasing a print.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Fun Fact Friday, Grand Canyon National Park, National Parks, North Rim, Photography

Same Park, Same Spot, Different Season, Different Camera

A 2022 winter morning view of the landscape between Hellroaring Trailhead and Tower-Roosevelt Junction in Yellowstone National Park
A 2018 summer view of the landscape between Hellroaring Trailhead and Tower-Roosevelt Junction in Yellowstone National Park

Yeah, yeah, I know – another one of those posts? Well, why not! Besides, I happened to be in the same spots (deliberately) in Yellowstone so I could capture similar shots. Granted, the cameras are different and the focal distance is different, too. With the winter shot, I used a focal length analogous to 48mm, and with the summer shot, I used a focal length of 70mm, so there’s a slight difference in the amount of landscape you are seeing. I tried cropping the winter shot so that it was a little bit closer to the view of the summer shot.

This may be a similar shot, but with the weather conditions / season you can see how visiting the same spot can yield different results to make it look almost like a completely different landscape.

This location is going downhill on what is known as the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone National Park. It’s between Hellroaring Trailhead and Tower-Roosevelt Junction. Since it’s Fun Fact Friday when I post this, here’s a bit of trivia for you:

During the summer and warmer days, in general, there are more water molecules in the air. During the winter (cold temps aside), there are far fewer water molecules, which is why it generally feels much drier, your hands and lips get chapped easier, and your photos are much clearer. Aside from the differences in camera resolution, this is why the winter shot here seems to be “crisper” than the summer shot, which appears softer due (at least in part) to the sort of “smoggy” morning with all those steam and summer water molecules in the air.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Fun Fact Friday, January 21, 2022

A telephoeo view of the top of the lower falls of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
The powerful turbulence of the lower falls of the Yellowstone River
The lower falls of the Yellowstone River in an autumn snowstorm.

Hey,it’s #FunFactFriday ! If you’ve ever visited any of the view areas along the lower falls of the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park, then you’ve probably noticed a green streek of water at the top of the waterfall.

As you know, the water from the riverbed, when it falls over the edge of the cliff, becomes a mixture of spray and turbulence, much like when water flows over a shallow, rocky portion of a riverbed, streambed, or creekbed. So, there’s a notch in the Yellowstone riverbed, right at the lip of the falls, extending down a little bit past the edge. This notch allows for a short, deeper flow of the riverwater to maintain its beautiful, clear green color before ultimately changing to spray / turbulance as it falls over and then outward from the cliff edge.

And now you know!

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Fun Fact Friday, National Parks, Photography, Waterfalls, Yellowstone National Park

Fun Fact Friday August 20, 2021

Cooling down on a hot day in Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)
Just a pair of ravens chilling out on a snowy winter day in Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

It’s #FunFactFriday ! I have always liked ravens. I like crows too, but ravens more. So, here’s a few interesting facts about ravens. These birds are super smart and very curious. They are also quite acrobatic when flying, turning somersaults mid-air. They’ve got a vocabulary of about 30 calls (including flight calls, hunger calls, and danger calls) in addition to non-vocal communication (like snapping their beaks). Once mated, it’s for life, and they usually nest in the same location year after year.

You can tell the difference between ravens and crows in that (among other things), ravens are larger, have uneven tail feathers (which you can see when they fan them out) and have curvier beaks. Ravens usually travel in pairs while crows travel in larger groups (called “murders” as in a murder of crows).

When I stayed for a couple of days at the North Cascades Institute back in 2019, they talked about a pair of ravens they’d named Bonnie and Clyde. These ravens could unzip backpacks in their efforts to get at hikers’ food. I believe I actually met this pair one day while photographing at the Diablo Lake Overlook. They had landed on the fence railing and were eyeing my camera pack, then hopped down next to the pack. I had a feeling they were trying to figure out where the zippers were, so I had to shoo them away.

The one raven with its mouth open in the top photo is doing something you’ll see other birds doing: it’s called gular (goo-lur) fluttering and they do it to cool down on a hot day since they cannot sweat like humans do.

Oh, and while I am on the subject of fun facts, my latest quiz and trivia piece has been published in the National Parks Traveler. It’s all about “August notables.” To read the article, click on either of the images above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under birds, Fun Fact Friday, National Parks, National Parks Quiz, National Parks Traveler, nature, Photography

Fun Fact Friday, July 9, 2021

Hey, it’s #FunFactFriday ! So I posted an image of a redwood tree with a “goose pen.” That’s what those triangular openings are called. As I was wandering the trails in Redwood National and State Parks, I kept seeing these things and wondered what on earth they were. Then, I happened to park next to one on the shoulder of the road and there was a placard there. Goose pens are hollow openings caused by some sort of damage (like wildfire) or decay, but where the top of the tree is still alive. Back in the day, settlers used those openings as literal goose pens, in which to corral their geese. Now, this particular opening pictured here wouldn’t work that well as a goose pen because of all those holes in the back, which would allow the geese to escape.

And now you know! Happy Friday, folks!

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under California, Fun Fact Friday, National Parks, Redwood National and State Parks

Fun Fact Friday – June 4th, 2021

Denali Mountain And Landscape, Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

It’s Fun Fact Friday! So, here are a few facts about Denali Mountain and Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Did you know that only about 30 percent of people visiting the park ever get a glimpse of the mountain? Like Mount Rainier, Denali Mountain makes its own weather and these conditions can hide the 20,310-foot tall mountain behind a wreath of clouds and fog most of the time. The first climb to the top of this tallest peak in North America was done in 1913, and a member of the climbing party – Harry Karstens – would later become Denali’s first superintendent.

There’s an interesting article in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler about Denali Mountain. Climbing rangers out there are voicing concerns about inexperienced climbers trying to summit the mountain, and after reading the article, I see there is very good reason for them to be concerned. To read that article, click on the image above.

I visited Denali National Park and Preserve for five days several years ago, and was lucky to have been able to see Denali every single day I was there. This image is the result of one such day of clear viewing.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Alaska, Denali National Park, Fun Fact Friday, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Travel

Fun Fact Friday, April 30th, 2021

Here’s something interesting you might or might not have known about life in Denali National Park and Preserve, in Alaska. There are 39 species of mammals in the park, including the Big 5 (moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, grizzly bears), and 139 species of birds. But, only one amphibian has managed to adapt to life under the harsh conditions of the park’s landscape. The wood frog can actually freeze itself solid during the winter! It’s heart stops, it doesn’t breathe, but there are cryptoprotectant chemicles that keep the frog’s cells alive, and when spring arrives, the frog thaws out and starts searching for a pond and a mate. Pretty cool, huh? (pun intended).

As for this image, it was captured during my 5-day stay at Camp Denali, located near the end of the one and only road through the park. There’s a little pond right outside of the main camp building called Nugget Pond, and on this particular day, I captured three different shots of it as the morning lightened up. The first shot you can see if you look at a previous post. This is the second shot, captured a little later during sunrise, and I’ll post the final shot later on.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Alaska, Denali National Park, Fun Fact Friday, National Parks, Photography, Travel

Fun Fact Friday 3-19-2021

A Leaf-Strewn Carriage Road, Acadia National Park (Maine)

Ever heard of “mud season?” It’s a term used in northern climates and starts around the end of March, lasting through the beginning of May, more or less – it starts when the weather becomes warmer, snow and ice melt, and the rains begin. It can really, literally, muck up roads and trails, creating potholes, ruts, and exacerbating erosion of those roads and trails.

Right now, it’s the start of mud season at Acadia National Park, so park staff are closing the carriage roads until things dry up a bit. There’s even an article about this in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler.

To read the article, click on the image above.

The image above was captured many years ago. I was telling my sister the other day that someday, when I actually feel like flying and cramming myself in with a jillion other coughing, sneezing, hacking people on a plane, I may take another autumn trip out to that national park. And while I’m there, stuff my face with as many lobster rolls as I possibly can. 😉

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Acadia National Park, Fun Fact Friday, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography

Fun Fact Friday: Big Bend Geology

It’s #FunFactFriday so I thought I’d write about the geology seen in Big Bend National Park (Texas). The Chisos Mountains (part of which you see in the image above) are volcanic in origin. One of those volcanic things you’ll see while driving the road through the park are intrusive dikes. Igneous means the rock is volcanic in origin. Dikes are igneous, and they are called “intrusive” because the magma intrudes upon and into the existing rock layers above it. You can see a long stretch of dikes exposed and sticking up out of the ground in this shot. The rocks around the dikes eroded away, leaving those flat-looking walls of rock, sort of like a zig-zaggy-edged rock fence running over the hillsides and up into the mountain flanks.

I’m looking through past Big Bend (as well as other parks) images to see if there are shots I have not edited, or – at the time – didn’t do as good a job of editing. I honestly can’t remember if I ever posted this image or not, back in 2013 (can it be 7 years ago??) captured during my December visit to this national park in southwest Texas. It was my first (out of four) trips there.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Big Bend National Park, Fun Fact Friday, Geology, National Parks, Photography, Texas, Travel