Tag Archives: Flagstaff

lowell observatory

Lowell Observatory’s 3-D Mars Exhibit Extended to Feb. 24

Lowell Observatory’s Mars exhibit, “A New Perspective on Mars: The Red Planet in 3D,” began in October and was set to end January 13. As of October, more than two million people have viewed this powerful 3-D exhibit at the observatory, located in central Flagstaff on Mars Hill. So due to popular demand, the stunning exhibit has been extended to Sunday, February 24.

Created and constructed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the exhibit features large 3-D topographical images of the surface of Mars. The European spacecraft called the Mars Express has been orbiting the planet since 2004, equipped with a German-made High Resolution Stereo Camera (HSRC). The images the Express has captured over the years have provided essential, invaluable information regarding the geological evolution of the Red Planet. The exhibit and tour guides at Lowell explain some of the recent discoveries the camera has made.

For instance, the HSRC has found erosion patterns that suggest glaciers once moved across the surface, and networks of valleys indicate that water once flowed from rainwater or glacial meltwater. These findings are remarkable, considering the fact that Mars’ current high temperatures prevent water from existing there now. Researchers are analyzing the images to identify how much water flowed over Mars and when, which would provide a much better idea of the history of the planet. Further study also suggests that volcanic activity could still occur there. On DLR’s Mars Express site, photos of these features and many others, including Mars’ moon, Phobos, can be found. There is also a breathtaking animated movie based on 3-D images taken of the Valles Marineris, which flies the viewer among mountain peaks and valleys.

The incredible detail of the pictures makes viewers feel like they are actually touching the surface of Mars. Lowell Observatory has a long history of astronomical research and discovery. Established in 1894, Lowell was the site where galactic redshifts were first observed, Mars’ canals were first sketched, and where Pluto was discovered. It boasts the 6,500 square foot Steele Visitor Center, featuring multimedia shows, presentations and a portable 3-D planetarium. Visitors can look through the original telescopes that were used to make significant breakthroughs in the field of astronomy and learn about the new Discovery Channel Telescope, located nearby.

When visiting, remember that Lowell is situated at 7,200 feet, so bring plenty of water and dress in layers. Because the observatory is only one mile west of Downtown Flagstaff, the two-hour trip from Phoenix provides the perfect opportunity for an educational day trip. While there, make sure to stop by the Starry Skies Shop and check out some of the upcoming events at the Observatory, including Uncle Percy’s Tykes Camp, a day camp meeting once a month where kids can build, learn, play and observe through science.

“A New Perspective on Mars: The Red Planet in 3D”

Mon., Wed., Fri., Sat.: Noon – 9:30 p.m.
Tues., Thurs., Sun.: Noon – 5 p.m.
Where: 1400 W. Mars Hill Rd., Flagstaff
Adults: $12
Seniors, AAA, college students: $10
Kids 5-17: $5
Kids under 5: Free
Members: Free
Admission covers all programs; no reservations necessary
Contact: (928) 774-3358
Groups and private viewing: Mary DeMuth (928) 233-3235
Lowell Observatory’s website | Mars Express site


Red Mountain trailhead, Photo: Kristine Cannon

The Fall And Ensuing Therapy Session On Red Mountain

The walls of Red Mountain feel entirely too far apart at this point. I could feel myself breaking into a cold sweat. The orange-hued walls tower above me; the sunlight receding until it leaves me in the mountain’s chilly shadow.

That’s all this place was anyway – a large cave, it felt. Really, it’s a volcano with a natural amphitheater cut into it. And I felt trapped. I was left battling for my bones, even my life, to be spared.

Red Mountain, Photo: Kristine Cannon

Red Mountain, about 25 miles north of Flagstaff, is where Frank and I decided to spend our Saturday afternoon. This popular hiking site is definitely a kid-friendly, easy stroll, but this trail had never scared me quite this much before — because I decided to take a risk.

My footing slips a little bit, setting loose tiny rocks and kicking up a small cloud of dirt and heightened fear. My breathing and heartbeat quicken its pace. The rocks descending down the slick, steep slope aren’t nearly as audible now. They’ve been falling for a while, it seems …

Frank reminds me to hold on, that he’s going to pull me back up. I had to muster up the courage to move from my face down, arms-and-legs-outstretched position, clinging for dear life.

And then I lose my footing.

A shrilling shriek echoes through the amphitheater.

“Hold on!”

Adrenaline is pumping through my veins; I can’t feel anything but my feet sliding against the wall while trying desperately to stop this epic fall. I can’t hear anything but the rocks from above, below and alongside us falling rapidly down the slope. I can’t see anything but Frank clouded in the kicked-up dirt, tightly gripping my arm.

My eyes close, and suddenly we’re stopped, about 25 feet above level ground. It felt like it lasted minutes, but I’m sure it lasted a mere 15 seconds … maybe even less.

Our heavy breathing slows to a steady pace. “Well, we’re not dead,” I thought to myself, “But, whoa, what a rush!”

Red Mountain, Photo: Kristine Cannon

I’m not an adrenaline junkie by any means, but that was the first time in my life I had experienced something so frightening yet thrilling and exciting. I swore I would walk away with at least a broken finger. Instead, I walked away with an incredibly painful gash in my forearm, cuts and scratches all over my legs, and a newfound respect for safe hiking.

I can safely say this was the most amazing, exciting, scary, wonderful, fun experience I’ve ever had in Arizona. Yes, I walked away bruised and battered, but aren’t those technically the most memorable experiences one could have?

And I mean really memorable … you remember the pain, the fear, the rush, the innocent hike preceding the horrendous fall, the nervous laughter afterward and overcoming the fear of taking a chance and stepping foot onto that mountain ever again. [I eventually did.]

Red Mountain, Photo: Kristine Cannon

But that’s life.

You never know what will happen the next minute. You never know you’ve made a mistake until you’re experiencing the repercussions of it. But the real test is how you handle it all — the fall and the aftermath.

On Red Mountain, I didn’t expect a cathartic experience. I expected to have a few hours of “getting away from it all” but ended up with a different take on life.

So, Frank helped me stand up on my shaky, unstable legs; I brushed myself of the dirt and debris, took a sigh of relief and thought to myself, “I’ll get back on this mountain soon … and this won’t happen again. And if it does, then I can call myself an idiot.”

I-17 Traffic

I-17: The Worst Place To Be Stuck In Traffic

I headed up to Flagstaff Friday evening in attempt to escape the heat and regain my sanity. The two are not mutually exclusive. Also, my roommate was moving out. Insert cynical comment here.

The weekend went beautifully; a comfortable mid-70 degrees at the day’s high point. Saturday and Sunday morning were perfect for sitting in my mini-forest of a backyard with a cup of strong coffee and my book (Fifty Shades of Grey, have you heard of it?). It’s cathartic and very much needed. Those Ponderosa Pine trees just get me every time.

I finally mustered up the motivation to remove myself from the two lawn chairs I was sprawled out on around noon on Sunday. After showering, packing, and an extra drawn out goodbye to my dog ― forget my roommates ― I left for the Valley, under the assumption it would take me two and a half hours, as usual.

Boy, was I wrong.

About 65 miles out of Flagstaff I hit traffic and I hit it hard. I have never been stopped, or even slowed below 50 mph, on I-17 before. Two lanes, no exits, but a nice view of a line of cars for as far as I can see. And, as these things always go, now I have to pee. I can practically hear my empty Starbucks cup laughing at me.

A sign I passed several miles back said there was a fire and I can’t help but think I have the worst timing in the world.

I crawl at a steady 5 mph for a while then just park on the interstate. I’m driving alone and have been sitting in traffic for a solid 30 minutes at this point. I’m getting nothing but static on the the radio and my auxiliary cord for my iPod is broken, of course. So, I pull out my book. Twenty pages later I was able to start rolling forward again.

The sluggish progression went on for about another 45 minutes. When I finally turned the radio back on I caught Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. I rolled my windows down, blasted it and sang like there was no tomorrow. For about three and a half minutes I didn’t hate my life for sitting in traffic.

By the time I got to the actual fire, it was out. I sat in all that traffic for almost two hours and didn’t even get to see what all the fuss was about? Like I said, worst timing in the world.

I learned a valuable lesson that I will never forget since it was seared into my brain over two hours. Always check I-17 road conditions ― even when it’s not winter!

When I got back to the house I told a friend about my drive and all she said was, “Didn’t you check the road conditions online?” No, I clearly did not. But from now on I certainly will.

Always check traffic conditions. And never get Starbucks before embarking on an interstate with limited exits.

Downtown Flagstaff

Flagstaff: A Day Of Discovery

Every year before Christmas I take a trip to Flagstaff. This trip has happened so often it has turned into a tradition for me, so this year was no exception. However, this was the first time I ended up venturing into town rather than just staying in the snow on the outskirts of Flagstaff. My visit definitely left an impression on me.

Walking through Flagstaff is a breath of fresh air — and not just in the literal sense. Flagstaff’s quaint, small-town feel, friendly inhabitants and specialty shops are a refreshing change from the Phoenix city setting. There is also another major difference between Phoenix and Flagstaff — at an elevation of 7,000 feet, Flagstaff receives an abundant amount of snow during the winter months, adding to the charm of this beautiful town.

I arrived in the early afternoon. After taking a stroll around the town, admiring the breathtaking view of the snow-capped mountains and chuckling over the witty shop names (Late for the Train Coffee Roastery and Granny’s Closet Bar and Restaurant just to name a few), my boyfriend and I decided to stop somewhere for some hot chocolate.

We came across The Sweet Shoppe and Nut House located on 15 E. Aspen Avenue, which offers a variety of homemade fudge; their flavors range from apple fudge and peanut butter fudge, to the indulgent Reese’s Pieces fudge. They also offer other sugary confections, many of them hard to find and sure to make you experience a blast from the past.Starrlight Books, Flagstaff

With our sweet tooth satisfied, we continued to browse the shops in Flagstaff. To my delight we came across a bookstore selling used books. Starrlight Books offers a large selection of both old classics and newer fiction titles. These books are priced at around half their retail price and are in excellent condition. The dark wood bookshelves and cozy reading corners make this the perfect setting for any bookworm. Also, make sure not to miss the amazing case of rare books containing a signed copy of a Virginia Woolf book.

As the trip came to a close I noticed a large marquee counting down to the new year and a large metal pinecone beside it. Flagstaff’s annual Pinecone drop is held on the last night of the year; it’s Flagstaff’s version of New York’s Time Square Ball Drop. Although I didn’t get the chance to attend this event I’m sure it’s just as memorable as everything else that makes Flagstaff such a wonderful place to visit.

For more information about the Flagstaff businesses mentioned in this blog, visit the following websites:


Downtown Flagstaff

Flagstaff: Through A Massacusetts Native's Eye

Flagstaff may be known for snow, skiing and various other winter activities but what really makes the city unique is the atmosphere. It has a cozy, relaxed feel and the people are nothing but welcoming.

I first experienced Flagstaff last October when a friend invited me on a weekend trip to check out the third annual Oktoberfest. I had previously heard of Oktoberfest but only about the festival held in Tempe. And let me tell you I’ve heard some wild stories.

I debated going because I didn’t want to go to another wild boozefest, especially outside. Too many drunken college kids can make a field very gross, very fast. But to my surprise my experience in Flagstaff was very pleasant and relaxed.

I was unaware of the diversity of climate and culture in Arizona because I recently moved here from Massachusetts. Can you say culture shock one more time! The Arizona I knew consisted of desert, cactus and year-round sun. I knew it could snow in Flagstaff but I guess you could say I didn’t really believe it. I was amazed the city reminded me of a ski town in Vermont.

I was fascinated on the drive when the mountains began to morph from desert sand and a few scattered cacti to being covered in pine trees. I was in awe much like a child that saw a plane takeoff for the first time. It ‘s something that is normal to people who have grown up with it but it was completely new to me. I was amazed the climate could change so drastically so quickly.

As we walked to Oktoberfest the first thing I said was, “grass, it’s been months since I walked across a patch of grass.” Flagstaff not only looked like New England but it felt like it too. It was brisk, overcast and a perfect day to zip-up in a hooded sweatshirt.

The festival itself was not what I was expecting. It was small and laidback, which was very refreshing. There was beer, wine and music as with every Oktoberfest but it had more of a feeling of enjoying a couple of casual drinks with close friends opposed to a rambunctious college party.

The Flagstaff Oktoberfest was intimate and hosted several local artists and companies that set up in tents for festival-goers to peruse at their leisure. But the icing on the cake was the Flagstaff natives. They were friendly, laid-back and happy to share the best of their town with visitors.

I would recommend Flagstaff to anyone who wants to get out of the desert for a weekend or even a couple weeks. It’s a great way to experience a cooler climate right here in Arizona. And be sure to visit Flagstaff’s Fourth Annual Oktoberfest at Wheeler Park on Saturday, Oct. 6 from 11a.m. to 8p.m.

For more information about Flagstaff visit flagstaffarizona.org