Monday, 14 January 2008

I'm sure it's getting greener!

Every so often it helps to get a proper 'fix' on the GPS by zooming out and having a look at 'the bigger picture'. Today, it is reassuring to note that after 19 days in the saddle on American soil, it looks as if Mark is about half way to the Atlantic coast.

However, from his starting position outside Kent in west Texas yesterday, the Atlantic probably seemed a long way away. I have mentioned before about the Panoramio layer in Google Earth and the route which Mark followed yesterday is represented by many good images, some of which are reproduced in this posting. It is well worth looking at the route in GE as besides the images, the facility to produce an oblique view also gives a better understanding of the terrain. Mark's starting point yesterday just west of Kent is represented in Panoramio with the following image....

At Kent, Mark left the Interstate 10 and headed south on the 118 facing a long climb from about 1300 to 1900m through the Davis Mountains before a descent into Fort Davis. As the map (right) shows, this is probably the last bit of high relief which Mark will have to encounter in Texas before the much lower terrain of the centre and east.

The mountains of west Texas act as a barrier to the the inland passage of moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and so, as Mark heads further east, not only with the relief be 'kinder' but the climate will become noticeably wetter and the natural vegetation will lose its desert characteristics. At present Mark is in an area where average annual precipitation is around 300mm. Within a couple of days, when he is nearing San Antonio, it will be 800mm and a further day or two beyond that it will be 1200mm.
Shortly after leaving Kent, Mark passed this long (apparently black)feature which no amount of investigation has been able to identify. I am not often 'stumped' but I have no idea what this is so any suggestions would be gratfully received! It measures 1.89km long if that is any help.

Posted 16.01.08 - Many thanks to 'Marsh' (see comments) who has solved the mystery of the black line. It's a runway!

The morning climb yesterday took Mark to an altitude of 1900m in the Davis Mountains where the summit is crowned by another astronomical observatory to add to the several we've encountered along Mark's route. This oblique view captured from Google Earth gives a good impression of the location of the McDonald Observatory. A few days ago we discussed 'location factors' for an observatory and here on Mount Locke the themes of clear air, high ratio of cloudless nights and distance from concentrations of artificial lights are doubtless repeated.
Here, one of the telescopes which, if you click the image, will link to the visitor information pages of the McDonald Observatory website and below a view taken from the observatory looking south giving a good impression of the terrain.Is it my imagination or is the landscape getting greener?!

Beyond Mt Locke, the route decsends to Fort Davis which probably has more historical than geographical interest. The local chamber of commerce website has a lovely image and logo on its homepage which emphasises the clarity of the skies! (Click image to link.)And though it pains me to say it, the history is wonderful and involves the essential ingredients of any Western film - cowboys, cavalry, Apaches, Comanches and stagecoaches! There is a good account here and some wonderful images of the old Fort Davis in Flickr.

The Artemis web diary yesterday described the 'wilderness' feel of this part of Texas - mainly the impression of very few settlements - and certainly for the remainder of the day yesterday there were a lot of ranches like the one below and not much else in the way of large settlements.

It is definitely not my imagination - it is getting greener.

End of day yesterday for Mark was just beyond the town of Alpine.... gateway to Big Bend country but that's a story for another day!


marshm1d said...

I was also stumped by the identity of the straight black line near Kent. The 'google'marker indicates it is 'KZ Rancho Del Cielo'. A search on Google indicates this is Kent airport. e.g.

I have also been using Google Earth to examine the countryside & weather during Mark's epic voyage. However, your information has added another dimension.

Keep up the brilliant work.


Mrs V said...

Well done, Marsh! I suppose it's obvious when you think about it although 'airport' is a little generous, don't you think?!