Hiking the Volcano Santa Maria

The eastern view from atop Santa Maria.

The eastern view from atop Santa Maria.                © MICHAEL SHEAD

The Volcano Santa Maria; been there, done that…and it was tough!

Ever since I heard about the moonlight hikes of the volcano Santa Maria, I thought that it sounded like a blast!

Hiking through the moonlit darkness into the dawn and then seeing sunrise from the towering peak and viewing up to 11 other volcanic peaks including looking down onto the live crater of Santiaguito, sounded like a great adventure for this Kansas farm boy.

So, here’s the story of my volcanic hiking adventure…

The Mountain

  • Name: Santa Maria
  • Height: 12,375 ft (3772 mts)
  • Type:Volcanic
  • Comparison: Mt. Fuji in Japan is about 10 feet taller
  • Trail rating: Strenuous
  • Trail distance: Approx. 6.21 miles (10 km)
  • Elevation increase from trailhead: Approx. 4,173 feet

The hikers

I had been dreaming of doing this hike for two years so when I found out that some friends were interested I planned it for Nov. 15th, 2013 (technically a few days before the full moon but it worked better for our schedules). There were five friends from ASELSI and three guys visiting town from Michigan plus our friend Kevin, from Totonicapan, our guide, Hansy, two friends of his and two police officers for safety. (Apparently there have been some thieves prowling the trails and they recommend armed escorts to prevent attacks.)

In Quetzaltenango, we met up with Hansy near the stadium and his friend wowed us with a  story of Hansy’s record ascent of the mountain (an incredible 45 minutes). Then we drove over to the central park where a van pulled up at about 12:30 a.m., and we headed out to the Santa Maria Summit Trail trailhead which ended up being quite a long ways from the foot of the mountain but, unless you’re on dirt bikes, that’s as close as you can get in a van. Continue reading

H.E.A.R.T. Institute Community Development

In the early 1980’s, a vision was born to establish a practical training center for Christian workers going to serve in developing regions of the world. In the late 1990’s I considered attending the HEART Institute in preparations for my missions and community development plans, but ended up taking a different route.  While I’m glad I followed a different path to the mission field, I think H.E.A.R.T. can be a huge benefit for anyone planning on living in rural areas as part of community development and missions.

via HEART » Missionary training – cultural adaptation, problem solving, and community development

Nais: Guatemala City’s Aquarium Restaurant

At the new and high-tech Oakland Mall in Guatemala City (Diagonal 6 13-01 Zona 10) a unique restaurant named Nais S. A. provides more than a tasty meal. This restaurant provides unique entertainment for the entire family to enjoy.

In the center of the dining space is a large saltwater aquarium 128 feet long and lively with a good-sized shark, rays, moray eel, and a variety of other saltwater fish.

This mid-scale dining experience feels top notch because of the one-of-a-kind environment. The restaurant  includes a significant menu with prices ranging from about Q42 – Q100 (US$7 – US$13) per plate.

We dined on a large tasty burger, a chicken sandwich, fries, potato soup, and an all-you-can-drink soda for Q150 (US$ 19.97) including the tip. We didn’t try the fish.

This restaurant is great for your next family outing. Occasionally a diver passes by waving to the crowd and a glassed-in air bubble let’s adventurous diners stand inside the aquarium area for a photo with the fish or the diver. We hear it is a pretty exciting show during live feedings, but we didn’t get to observe this.

Refilling our soda with our own soda fountain wand!

Food was delivered to our table quickly and we didn’t have to stand in line. (We’ve read that people waited for more than an hour when Nais S.A. first opened at Oakland.) At first we thought the waiter was neglecting our refill on the soda. When we asked for a refill on our Sprite, he indicated a small cabinet on the wall. Inside this Coca-Cola branded cabinet was a soda fountain nozzle all for us! We could refill our soda until we were as full as the aquarium!20110422-051705.jpg
Seating on the main floor is booth style seats. On the other side of the aquarium the restaurant seating area continues with larger tables and the walls include smaller fishbowl aquariums house a number of jellyfish which are entertaining to watch.

So if you are looking for unique dining experience, Nais S. A. is the place to check out. Before or after dinner you can wander the stores of the six levels of Oakland Mall.

Bathrooms are kept clean and include a baby changing station.

Publicly available space photos from NASA

NASA photo: The Space Shuttle Challenger lifts off in 1986

NASA photo: The Space Shuttle Challenger lifts off in 1986

Do you need a photo of a planet or of the Space Shuttle Challenger taking off? No need to send your friendly freelance photographer to space on some Russian rocket. You can turn to the source that American citizens have been funding for all sorts of interesting space projects…NASA.

Their easy search system, gives great access to all sorts of cool images of space ships, nebulas, planets, etc.

From what I can tell these photos are available for public use…and even for commercial use.  Here’s how NASA’s Site describes acceptable use of their images,

NASA still images; audio files; video; and computer files used in the rendition of 3-dimensional models, such as texture maps and polygon data in any format, generally are not copyrighted. You may use NASA imagery, video, audio, and data files used for the rendition of 3-dimensional models for educational or informational purposes, including photo collections, textbooks, public exhibits, computer graphical simulations and Internet Web pages. This general permission extends to personal Web pages.

This general permission does not extend to use of the NASA insignia logo (the blue “meatball” insignia), the retired NASA logotype (the red “worm” logo) and the NASA seal. These images may not be used by persons who are not NASA employees or on products (including Web pages) that are not NASA-sponsored.

NASA should be acknowledged as the source of the material except in cases of advertising.

I’d check into all the details before trying to sell them and if you have questions about using them in advertising you can see the  NASA Advertising Guidelines.
When it comes to those commercial purposes, NASA has pretty simple guidelines…

If the NASA material is to be used for commercial purposes, especially including advertisements, it must not explicitly or implicitly convey NASA’s endorsement of commercial goods or services.

NASA photo: Earthrise

If a NASA image includes an identifiable person, using the image for commercial purposes may infringe that person’

s right of privacy or publicity, and permission should be obtained from the person. Any questions regarding application of any NASA image or emblem should be directed to:

Photo Department

NASA Headquarters
300 E St. SW
Washington, DC 20546
Tel: 202-358-1900
Fax: 202-358-4333

It’s nice to see that the millions of dollars that go into space programs not only generate technology advances but provide the people with really cool photos… like the classic earthrise with the moon in the foreground or the double jet nebula:

The Twin Jet Nebula as seen by the Hubble Telescope in Dec. 1997

The Twin Jet Nebula as seen by the Hubble Telescope in Dec. 1997

Telescopes: Glimpsing Saturn

A view of Saturn

A view of Saturn

I remember the first time I looked through a telescope and really saw something fascinating.

I was in college and a local family had sorta adopted me and some friends. The mother of the family was a science teacher and she enjoyed developing projects for her students. One afternoon she told us about a skywatch student group that was getting together to look at Saturn. It sounded fun, and it’d be a chance to get off campus and not spend a lot of money. So we went.

That night we looked through the eyepiece of a cardboard tube telescope. It must have only been about 6 inches in diameter, but as it swept the dark sky, I found myself enthralled because, for the first time ever. I could see for myself: Saturn really does have rings around it. Oh, I’ve seen the cool NASA photos, but for the first time I was seeing it with my own eyes…with the help of that telescope. Sure it was small and blurry, but I could see those rings and that was all that mattered. Mars’ red tone had nothing on those fascinating rings.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of being around a few telescopes and visiting with people who make them like Gary Singmaster
There is a lot of advanced technology out there like the ones Singmaster makes or the Meade ETX-AT my brother‘s wife bought for him for a gift complete with tracking motors and the like, but I still remember my favorite telescope is that one that showed me the rings of Saturn for the first time. Wow! Across those thousands of miles such a beautiful creation lay spinning away. Seeing that for myself brought out a childlike wonder in me.