Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cedar Breaks National Monument - BioBlast

 Following our rained-out Fourth of July, I took the kids to Cedar Breaks National Monument. With a 40% chance of thunderstorms I was mostly expecting to wimp out and spend the night in Cedar City, but when we got up to Cedar Breaks, it was beautiful so we set up our tent. We nabbed one of the last pretty sites in the campground (the campground has a mixed bag of campsites, including 10 that can be reserved in advance, but all of them had been taken when I had looked a few days before).

 Then we headed to the visitor center and Point Supreme, over 10,000 feet high.

 The kids peeked between the logs to figure out what they were looking at. We had been there in 2011 and 2010, but the kids didn't remember it.

 I had binoculars, which made it extra cool.

 Actually, nothing special was needed to take in the beauty of the Pink Cliffs, also known as the Claron formation, made up of limestone rock. The stormy clouds made for some fantastic light.

 The clouds made it a little challenging to get a good view through the solar telescope, but we eventually managed.

Then it was on to do some BioBlast activities. We had timed our trip to take advantage of this new program, which was celebrating the biodiversity of birds, bats, and bugs. The kids made some shrinky-dinks, an activity which I had never seen before.

Then we went on an hour-long "Follow a Scientist" hike led by a professor from Southern Utah University.
Our first stop was right on the main trail to look at some Southern Ligusticum. Looking closely, we could see that the flowers were not alone.

On their stems were tiny aphids, which were "milking" the plant for its juice. The aphids were being closely guarded by ants, who like to partake of the sweet juice. We also spotted a ladybug, who likes to come over and eat the aphids, but is excluded by the ants from eating their milkers. Such a cool little ecosystem on just one plant!

We continued down the campground trail, flipping rocks and dead trees. We found a plethora of interesting things to survey. Professor Bill had some handy little vials so we could put the treasures in and take a closer look.

The kids were so excited about the finds. The adults were too. This walk was showing us a lot more than what we would have seen if we had done it on our own.

This little wolf spider was carrying a blue egg sac around with her.

What a fun hike!

I took a moment to enjoy some of the beautiful wildflowers, like this Colorado columbine with a fly pollinator.

I couldn't resist a quick photo as we passed a scenic overlook along the trail.

Our next stop was to the Ranger Station to meet our friend Ken, who was volunteering as an entomologist for the BioBlast. He was busy!

Desert Boy got to release this beautiful butterfly.

Then it was time to go back to our campsite and eat a quick dinner before going down to the campground amphitheatre for the next BioBlast activity: Make a Moth Catcher.
The concept was simple: put an LED flashlight in a bucket, cover it with cloth, and make a funnel-shaped opening that would let moths in but inhibit them finding their way out.

The kids loved making this. Then we took the buckets back to our campsite to find a nice spot for them for the night.

The kids and the kids from the campsite next to us had a wonderful time climbing on the pile of boulders. The family next door turned out to be from Australia, and we gradually got to know each other better. I snuck off to take a hot shower. Yes, a hot shower! Shhh, this is an amazing feature of this campground, and if more people knew there might not ever be empty campsites!

Then it started to rain, so we loaded up and went to an indoor BioBlast program about bats. The kids were really into it. By the time it finished, the rainstorm had passed and we drove to Sunset Overlook for a beautiful view.
Oh my, I felt so blessed being in such a beautiful place.

The flowers near our campsite provided a beautiful vista.

Desert Boy joined our neighbors on a bat hike while Desert Girl and I went to an owl program. We all got to bed late, and the next morning Desert Boy slept in.

Meanwhile Desert Girl and I were busy looking at the wonderful wildflowers and searching for interesting insects.



With everyone awake in our campsite and next door, it was time to work on the junior ranger booklets. And then play. And the parents really enjoyed chatting. We actually had the Australian family come visit us the next day at our house and continued our adventures (which I didn't photograph). It's so cool to have a great connection with camping buddies!

When we took the junior ranger booklets back to the visitor center, we found that more activities had been set up for both the BioBlast and Cedar Breaks' Wildflower Festival (an astute piece of marketing, if I do say so myself).

Desert Girl drew a beautiful wildflower with chalk on the walkway.

Finally it was time to become junior rangers. The kids said their pledge with Ranger Daphne.

Desert Girl's hand kept sinking lower and lower as the pledge continued. She might still be a little young for some of these junior ranger programs, but if big brother does it, she wants to too!

We had one last stop before leaving, taking our moth buckets to the Ranger Station, where we learned more about what we had collected.

The BioBlast surely was a blast, lots of fun, educational programs. It had something for all ages. I highly recommend camping at Cedar Breaks (the hot showers totally won me over, along with the scenic views), although some coworkers told me about a less-than ideal campsite they got there that left them with a very different impression. Finally, the Wildflower Festival continues through July, and the high country is worth a visit, it's a great wildflower year. Hurray for Cedar Breaks!

1 comment:

Brian Head said...

Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah is a beautiful national monument that rivals many national parks.

Brian Head

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