Five Scenes from a Friday in Sedona

An alien on his way for a probing housecall.
Let me get this straight - you can fly through interstellar space, but you can't scrounge up a shirt when you're on your way to probe someone?
bikes agave
Bikes outside a chalet at the bike-centric Red Agave in the village of Oak Creek.
A mountain biker crests a hill.
A mountain biker crests a hill.
A fine view from the Red Agave in the village of Oak Creek.
A fine view from the Red Agave in the village of Oak Creek.
A rider among the red rocks.
A rider among the red rocks.

5 Places to See the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights. Photo courtesy of the US DoD.

I’ve just made a decision: I need to see the Northern Lights. You know … the aurora borealis. Can you imagine how cool it must be to see that dark sky above you light up with multicolored swirls of electrons? The jury is still out and whether you can actually hear the aurora; it occurs about 60 miles into the sky, where the air is very thin for the passage of sound waves. But scientists still don’t discount the possibility that there might be some aural aspect to the aurora.

So here’s the downside: It’s best to see them in winter at high altitudes. And it’s gotta be dark out. That means that, if I want to see it, I’ll have to be fully prepared to freeze my goolies off. So, then, where I should I go to get a glimpse of the lights?

Here are some good candidates:

Jukkasjarvi, Sweden – It’s far north. It’s so secluded that you have to take a dogsled to reach it from Kiruna, the nearest city. It’s also home to the ICEHOTEL. That adds up to a safe bet to check out some serious aurora viewing. And maybe I could schedule a visit when Hammerfall is in action.

Oulu, Finland – The Northern Lights are such an attraction in Oulu that many hotels offer wake-up calls when they’re active. It’s not quite as secluded as some places, offering a lively night scene and lots of museums. Apparently, the light pollution isn’t enough to put a damper on the displays. And there are lots of Finns online boasting about how much Oulu rocks.

Iceland – This island nation is right in the circular path that defines the aurora’s favorite stomping grounds. Combine that with a sparse population, and you have good odds of seeing an unforgettable light show. When you’re not tripping out to the lights, the daytime offers geysers and volcanoes. It’s also easy to get to from the west, with Icelandair offering flights from Seattle.

Tromso, NorwayUS Airways is running some really good specials for flights to Norway. From Phoenix, the base price is something like $760. That’s a good incentive. Tromso also has a good reputation as a place with clear skies and minimal light pollution (only 50,000 people live there). Apparently, there are mountaintop viewing areas near the city, too. Oh, and there’s cross-country and alpine skiing!

Fairbanks, Alaska – Sure, you can see ’em in Juneau or Anchorage. But why not go a little further for what’s considered among the state’s better displays? The local hotels also offer packages for travelers who want to boost the odds of getting an awesome lightshow.

Glow Worm Poop Mystery – SOLVED!

This is pretty funny … someone came to my blog today to find out whether glow worm poop glows. [Since I wrote this, few days have passed when a keyword search of “glow worm poop” hasn’t brought somewhere here. What a thing to be known for!]

The Truth About Glow Worm Poop

The answer is no – that’s because they don’t poop. The glow that they make is their form of excretion. But rather than just launching solid or liquid waste, the glow worm converts the leftover matter into light that’s used to attract its prey. The glow worm dangles silky threads from their spots in their home caves. Insects see this and thinks they’re seeing stars, and fly toward the light. They get caught in the threads. Then the worm eats them, absorb the nutrients, turns the excess matter into light and begins the cycle again.

Really, that’s pretty fabulous. It takes stuff in, but leaves nothing but heat and light behind. That’s an incredible bit of evolution. And certainly, it has to be the envy of every mechanical engineer. That means no glow worm poop … at least not in the usual way we think of droppings.

glow worm poop
The glow worm webs … revealed!

If you’re interested in seeing glow worms, there are a number of places in the world to do so. Of course, I’m pretty partial to Waitomo, New Zealand. Here are a few related posts:

Rappelling into the Dark

7 Hotels in New Zealand

Rap, Raft & Rock

Beyond the Glow Worm Caves

There’s not a lot else going on in Waitomo, but it is one of the more relaxing places I’ve ever been. Go there to get away from it all … and to enjoy some quality caving. If you look at the hotels story above, you’ll also find out about Woodlyn Park, where you can stay in everything from a converted cargo plan to a hand-built Hobbit Hole. So that’s another good reason to pick Waitomo as the place to find your glow worm adventure.


Nevada’s Fly Geyser an Amazing Oddity

It’s been awhile since I’ve shown you anything cool. That ends now. Just fix your eyes on the photo below. That would be the Fly Geyser in Nevada. And it’s not a man-made theme park creation: It’s natural.

Well, kind of.

Fly Geyser
Photo by Jeremy C. Munns

Apparently, some people a few decades back were drilling in hopes of tapping into some geothermal power. Well, the water wasn’t hot enough to create enough steam to drive turbines. But there was enough water with enough mineral content to create this wacky, Willy Wonka-looking mass. Over the years, mineral buildup has created this feature, which is apparently close to the site of the notorious Burning Man Festival.

Okay, so the Fly Geyser not completely natural. But its existence is an accidental collision between human and nature. Nobody expected it. That makes it a really rare and cool sight. That and the colors.

If you happen to be driving around in the Black Rock Desert, the Fly Geyser is worth a look. No, it’s definitely worth a look. The unfortunate thing is that it’s on private property. So bring a big lens for your camera and blaze away.

Many thanks to Jeremy C. Munns for posting the awesome Fly Geyser photo on And also big thanks to for linking to my photos. It’s only one of my favorite sites!

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