Arizona to Send Elk for West Virginia Restoration Project

Arizona's elk are descendants of animals transplanted from Yellowstone National Park. This one was spotted near Flagstaff. | Joanne Caruth

A project to restore an elk population in West Virginia is getting a boost from the Grand Canyon State, Arizona wildlife officials announced last week.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has approved a plan to send 60 of Arizona's elk to West Virginia's Tomblin Wildlife Management Area, the Associated Press reported. The elk will be captured via helicopters and safe trapping techniques sometime between January and March, officials said.

In West Virginia, the five dozen Arizona elk will join 24 elk transplanted from Kentucky in 2016. Elk are native to West Virginia, officials there told the AP, but disappeared from the state more than a century ago.

In a way, the West Virginia project mirrors Arizona's own efforts to re-establish its lost elk population. Arizona's native elk once roamed in areas of the White Mountains and the Mogollon Rim, but those elk were extirpated from the state in the late 1800s. The elk now found in the state descend from a series of transplants of animals from Yellowstone National Park.

The transplants have been a great success, and Arizona's elk population now stands at 35,000 animals, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Here's hoping the West Virginia project is just as successful.

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Stranded in the High Desert: Lessons From Phoenix Man's Ordeal

Arizona's desert is a gorgeous place — but it's not a good place to spend a night in a broken-down car. | Bradley Crim

A Minnesota native and Arizona transplant recently was stranded for two days in the wilderness north of Phoenix, with little food or water.

He survived, but it could have been much worse for 55-year-old Michael Ohman, as The Arizona Republic reported this month. And Ohman's odyssey in the high desert offers a number of lessons on how to responsibly and safely enjoy Arizona's backcountry.

Ohman spent a morning in the old mining town of Crown King, then had lunch there. As he prepared to head back to his home in Phoenix, he decided to take a scenic route back to the Valley of the Sun, so he selected the "avoid highways" option on Google Maps. That produced a route down remote dirt roads with which Ohman was unfamiliar.

Adding to the problem was the fact that he was driving a Honda CR-V, a two-wheel-drive SUV unsuitable for the steep and rocky roads. And when the road became too rough, Ohman couldn't backtrack — the way back was too steep. Eventually, he developed a transmission leak and the car became inoperable, he told The Republic.

Ohman had only a single bottle of water, plus a few food items and some alcoholic beverages. He eventually found a trickle of water nearby, but after two nights without spotting anyone, he decided to try to get out of the area on foot. He walked for two hours before a dirt biker found him and took him to the ranger station at Lake Pleasant.

Ohman didn't require medical treatment. He told The Republic he hopes his story can help others realize they need to plan when visiting remote parts of Arizona's high desert. "Mistakes can happen, and the small little mistakes all lined up to make that perfect storm," he said.

So, how should you plan for such a trip? First, figure out your route in advance, and contact whatever agency manages that area — a U.S. Forest Service ranger district or Bureau of Land Management field office, for example. Ask about each of the roads you're planning to take: Are they suitable for the car you're planning to drive? Have they been damaged by recent storms or wildfires? Are there any closures planned?

You also should check the local forecast to see if rain or other adverse conditions are expected. That's true any time of year, but especially during the monsoon, when storms can materialize without much warning and cause deadly flash floods.

When it comes to what you take with you, make sure you have plenty of water — more than you think you'll need — and a fair amount of food. It's also a good idea to have a first-aid kit, a flashlight, a compass, a spare tire and a map or atlas.

Finally, tell someone where you're going, the route you plan to take and when you expect to be home. As Ohman noted, no one knew he was taking a trip to Crown King, so by the time anyone noticed him missing, it might have been too late.

Arizona is full of spectacular sights, but it's also full of places you don't want to get stuck in. Plan accordingly, and you can avoid becoming a statistic.

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Family Camping at State Parks — No Experience Necessary

Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area is one of the featured destinations for this fall's Family Campout Program. | Melissa Edwards

An annual Arizona State Parks and Trails program aims to introduce families to the joys of camping in the Grand Canyon State.

The department's Family Campout Program is now accepting registrations for its 2017 fall season, which features seven of the state's most popular parks. The weekend program provides tents, sleeping mats, flashlights, chairs and equipment for activities, which vary depending on the park but include archery, guided hikes, live animal demonstrations, birding and astronomy.

Participants are responsible for bringing sleeping bags, pillows and personal items, plus food for lunch and dinner Saturday and breakfast and lunch Sunday (but the program provides propane stoves for cooking). The program is designed for those with little to no camping experience; they'll learn how to set up a tent and cook outside, along with other outdoors skills.

The Family Campout Program costs $90 for a family of four; additional family members are $5 each, but children under age 5 and pets are not allowed. The fall schedule is as follows:

September 16-17: Cattail Cove State Park, Lake Havasu City
September 23-24: Homolovi State Park, Winslow
October 7-8: Lyman Lake State Park, St. Johns
October 14-15: Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area, Show Low
October 28-29: Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson
November 4-5: Picacho Peak State Park, Eloy
December 2-3: Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction

Space in the program is limited, so you'll want to register soon. For more information about the Family Campout Program, or to register, click here.

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An Idea From Arizona Aims to Save the World's Coral Reefs

The white tips of this coral are evidence of coral bleaching, which occurs when the surrounding water gets too warm. | Courtesy of Oregon State University (via Flickr)

A Tucson-based engineer thinks he may have a solution to an environmental issue affecting coral reefs around the world.

Mohammad "Mo" Ehsani is a professor emeritus of civil engineering at the University of Arizona. He's also the president of QuakeWrap, a company that uses fiber-reinforced polymers to repair infrastructure.

As The Arizona Republic reported recently, Ehsani invented InfinitPipe, a technology that allows a pipe of any length to be manufactured on site, lowering transportation and maintenance costs. He believes the technology could be applied to the problem of coral bleaching, which is affecting Australia's Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs.

Coral bleaching occurs when the water around the coral gets too warm. When that happens, the coral expels the algae living in it, causing the coral to lose its trademark vibrant colors and turn white.

Ehsani's idea is to install a pipe that would direct cooler water from farther down in the ocean up to the area of the reef where coral lives. A pump would also be installed and would be powered via wave motion, the Republic reported.

Ehsani now is hoping to get the attention of governments or environmental organizations interested in providing funding and testing the idea.

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Dine 200 Feet Underground at Grand Canyon Caverns

Caverns Grotto didn't exist when these guys showed up at Grand Canyon Caverns. If it did, they'd have a little more meat on their bones. | Cindy Roth

A popular tourist attraction along Historic Route 66 is opening a restaurant that's unlike any other in Arizona.

As ABC15 reported last week, Grand Canyon Caverns, located along Route 66 between Seligman and Kingman, has created Caverns Grotto, a four-table restaurant where diners can enjoy lunch or dinner in a cave 200 feet underground. There, they'll have an uninterrupted, 360-degree view of a cave that's part of the largest dry caverns in the United States, the facility said.

The restaurant, which is set to open around August 15, will be a pretty exclusive spot, with a capacity of only 16 diners at a time. Reservations are being accepted now, and if there's enough demand, the restaurant might add another table.

Caverns Grotto will offer an all-you-can-eat lunch for $49.95 and a dinner, which will include unlimited salad and dessert, for $69.95. Both include a tour of the cave, which normally costs $20. The food will be made above ground and brought down to diners via the facility's elevator and a pulley system.

This isn't the only unique thing to do at Grand Canyon Caverns; you can also spend a night in the Cavern Suite if you've got $800 to spare. More affordable motel rooms are available at ground level.

For more information about the caverns, click here.

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Specialty Plates Generate Nearly $10M for Arizona Charities, Programs

Jack Dykinga contributed the Sonoran Desert image that graces Arizona Highways' license plate.

Arizona's specialty license plates raised $9.8 million for the state's charities and public programs in the recently completed fiscal year, the Arizona Department of Transportation said last month.

The specialty plate program, established via state law in 1989, allows motorists to choose from license plate designs tied to a variety of organizations, including Arizona sports teams, universities and other groups. The plates typically cost an additional $25 per year; of that amount, $17 goes to the organization (or a charity associated with that organization).

As you probably guessed from the image accompanying this post, Arizona Highways has a specialty plate; it features a Sonoran Desert photo by Jack Dykinga. It's among the best-selling plate designs; if you've driven Arizona's highways, you've probably seen it. Sales of the plates help support the magazine's mission of promoting travel in Arizona.

“The specialty plate program is a real point of pride for Arizona and is a tremendous success,” said Eric Jorgensen, director of ADOT's Motor Vehicle Division. “To see this kind of continued growth proves Arizonans are both generous and eager to support great causes.”

To learn more about the program, visit servicearizona.com.

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Eclipse 2017: How to See It in Arizona

This total eclipse occurred in a narrow area of the Southern Hemisphere in 2012. | Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Maybe you've heard, but later this month, the U.S. will see its first total solar eclipse since 1979. And even though Arizona isn't in the path of totality, you can still see a partial solar eclipse from this state — if you've got the right equipment.

The August 21 eclipse will be visible throughout the country, but a total eclipse can be seen only in the narrow path of totality, which stretches from Oregon southeast to South Carolina. Those in Arizona will see a partial eclipse, when only part of the sun is obscured by the moon.

The Four Corners area, in the northeast corner of the state, will have Arizona's best view. There, about 78 percent of the sun will be obscured. But Phoenix will see about 63 percent of the sun blocked out; it'll be 70 percent in Flagstaff and 59 percent in Tucson.

In all three cities, the partial eclipse will begin around 9:15 a.m. and end around noon Arizona time. The time of maximum eclipse will be just after 10:30 a.m. Arizona time. (To get data for other areas of Arizona, visit NASA's eclipse website.)

Unlike a total solar eclipse, you can't view a partial solar eclipse with unprotected eyes — you'll damage your eyes or even go blind. But you can buy an inexpensive pair of eclipse glasses on Amazon or at one of many retailers. You also can view it with a telescope if you have a solar filter. (If you don't know if you have a solar filter, you don't have a solar filter.)

If you don't have the glasses or a filtered telescope, here's a low-tech solution: Get two index cards or white pieces of paper, and poke a hole in one of them with a safety pin. Then, hold the card with the hole up to the sun, allowing sunlight to stream through the hole and onto the other card. During the eclipse, you'll see that the projected image of the sun has a "bite" out of it.

If a partial eclipse isn't good enough for you, many organizations, including Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, are holding eclipse-related events that include live streams of the total eclipse. Lowell's event also includes telescopes set up to view the partial eclipse here. And you can watch live streams from various places in the path of totality by visiting this NASA website.

The U.S. won't see another total solar eclipse until April of 2024. And Arizona will have to wait until 2205 to be in the path of a total solar eclipse. The last one to pass over what's now Arizona occurred in 1806.

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