Trentham Stormchasers 2009 USA Roadtrip

Stormchase 27th May 2009: Cortez, Colorado via the Grand Canyon to Needles, California

Report: Clyve Herbert

An early start today from Cortez and to the '4 Corners'. This is Indian country... the day before we were approached by an Indian girl selling jewellery in a Wal Mart carpark, Australians are weary of carpark deals but this girl was not pushy, at first I showed no interest but as the girl walked away with no fuss just a polite 'sorry' I asked to see what she was selling. The Indian girl offered agate and other semi precious stone jewellery she had made them herself...they were good quality I chose a necklace made from agate and paid her asking price of $15 

By mid morning we were arriving at the 4 Corners reserve - this where you can balance on one big toe and be in 4 states at the same time, not a bad trick....The states are New Mexico/Utah/Colorado and Arizona. The area is run by the local Indians and there are numerous stalls selling mainly Indian hand made jewellery...all high quality...there are no pushy sales people here,  whether you buy or not they will greet you with a genuine smile and I saw similar necklaces to what I bought in the Cortez WalMart carpark and for 15 to 20 dollars!. These Indians are honest people and they will make any sort of jewellery right in front of you in what ever colour mineral stone...Dont be afraid to buy here.

We had been watching all morning a developing multicell storm to our north, a splendid backdrop of a brilliant white anvil and the red semi arid country. By midday we were approaching Monument Valley, I recall my kid days and watching cowboys and Indian movies at the theatre...this is that sort of country...but nothing will compare to the vista you get when you line up some of the incredible geology of this part of  America...No photo will do it justice, you stand there and gape... truly magnificent.....Mexican Hat is a small settlement on Hway163...It was run by Indians, the reason it's called Mexican Hat is a weird rock formation near the town...which looks like ...a Mexican Hat !.

In the local garage (Gas Station) we came across a British Tourist overwhelmed by how cheap everything was ?...compared to England that is, what we have discovered about America is no matter where you go in the country Gas Stations don't rip you off, you can buy a cup of coffee for 69 cents and a packeted cake for 99 cents every where!...We like this sort of retailing....

Meanwhile convection was kicking along and deep cumulus were spreading across the sky, the Arizona monsoon had arrived in late May and not July as normal. Storms were breaking out all through the '4 Corners' regions. This country offers different storms to the mid west and great plains - they are high based and produce the most memorable appearances with trailing precipitation trails and fantastic mammatus features. We trundle on through the best of Monument Valley with spectacular pinnacles and buttes, eventually we arrive in an area called the Painted Desert complete with dust devils, nothing grows on the strange sedimentary soil but the region offers a fantastic deal with colours, you also get a good indication of what Mars is like.

After a mid afternoon break in Cameron we head up to the Grand Canyon, its  a great road with towering rocky cliffs on one side and a fantastic chasm on the other, soon we enter Pine country (7000 feet) and take a look at our first view of the Grand Canyon. I dont care what anybody says .....your first view is accompanied by a tendency to piss yourself <g>..especially with a backdrop of an impending storm !...We wander around the South Rim, visit the Geological display and buy another Geology book, mix with the tourists and view a remarkable sight of a storm crossing the Canyon...Gees ! can it get better? Then you meet a few of the strange tourists especially the ones who spend 10 minutes putting on makeup and re-arranging their hair to have their photo taken in front of the gaping hole in the ground....A triple lightning bolt zaps through the canyon and half of the tourists scatter for cover...This is my kind of country...yippee for the USA....

Photography: Jane ONeill / Clyve Herbert

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A high based multicell storm kicks off the day (10am) 4 Corners region Utah

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Within one hour the original storm had expanded. MEXICAN HAT region Utah.

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Cumulus developing over the lower plains (5000 feet) showing the reflective red bases.

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The road to Monument dont need a key.

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The decaying tendrils of a weak storm Grand Canyon, the snow line appears low but the reality is you are more than 7000 feet above sea level.

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The tourists appear everywhere..they scattered after this image was taken after a triple lightning bolt zaps across the chasm.

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A larger storm develops on the north rim.

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A delightful rain curtain spreads across the Canyon drifting southward off the north rim.

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A narrow shaft of rain takes on the appearance of a false funnel.

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The Canyon floor is more than a mile below the south Rim.

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The detail of the falling rain shafts was spectacular.

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The deluge makes it to the near south rim of the Canyon.

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An alignment of base features appears alongside as we head south and the I.40....

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