Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Winter Trip to the Salt Flat and Sinkhole

The day before Thanksgiving Desert Boy didn't have school, so I took the morning off. Desert Girl had preschool, so I decided that after we dropped her off, we'd head to the nearby sinkhole with a stop at the salt flat on the way. Better yet, we'd take some of Desert Boy's friends.

We have a lot of salt flats, or playas, out here in the desert. The rain falls, runs down to a low spot and pools, and then evaporates. It often leaves behind salt. Sometimes the playas are hard and you can drive on them, and other times they are mushy and will cost you an expensive towing bill.

The temperature was just below freezing, so I was hoping that it would stay that way. I was a little concerned that if the snow melted it could make the playa just mushy enough that I would get stuck. With four kids. Miles from the nearest person. I told myself if that did happen, it would be an adventure they'd remember. 

This playa has a dug out spot that collects water. We went over to look for wildlife and found some deep snow and a little ice. I had to work hard to convince the kids not to step on the weak ice. I didn't want our outing to end in the first five minutes due to a soaked, cold kid!

Fortunately they listened and soon were running free across the playa. That's one of the best things about a playa. It's a wide, open space, and you can go anywhere you want.

While the kids ran, I looked for patterns in the snow and ice. 

These patterns were quite a bit different from the ones I found in the spring when I visited this same playa.

Meanwhile, Henry was busy rolling on the snow. You can see Ava's boots in the photo. She was rolling around too.

Desert Boy tried to make a snow angel, but the snow was a little too hard.
I found it kind of funny that the kids chose to lay down on a cold surface.

We all agreed after awhile that it was time to head to our next destination: the sinkhole. When I had first asked Desert Boy if he wanted to go to the sinkhole, he enthusiastically agreed.

"I want to go. We can look for snakes."

I smiled inside. Yes, the sinkhole is a major snake haven. But it was winter, and our likelihood of finding snakes was very small. In fact, this was the perfect time to take a bunch of kids there.

We parked by the fence and found a place to cross it.

Then I had the kids line up for a "before" photo.

Soon they were charging down. I had told them as we were pulling up that we were going to the bottom, and none of them argued. They were ready for some outdoor time.

The mixture of snow and hard ground made for some interesting falls, but we all made it down unscathed.

Then the real fun began: finding snake skins! The snakes shed their skins as they grow, and we found snake skins all over. The kids soon began a friendly little competition to find the most.

They all left with a pile of snake skins and big grins.

I knew the trip was a success when the next day one of the friends asked me, "Where are we going today?"

Soon, my little friend, we will go out again!

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