Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Biking with Kids on St. George's Urban Trails

St. George, Utah, has a wonderful urban trail system. We took our bikes on our last visit to take advantage of it. You can find a map of the trail system here, although I wanted a larger version and was able to get one (along with a lot of other great information) from the BLM office on Riverside Drive (follow the signs to recreation information).

I had previously ridden some of the trails with the kids, including along the Virgin River, and found the trails amazing. Here you are, in a fairly large city, but you can get away from it all so easily and be right next to nature!

Canada geese on top of a cliff next to the trail
For this trip, we decided that we would try out sections of trails we hadn't been on yet. To entice the kids, we linked up several playgrounds. After all, what kid can resist, "Do you want to go for a bike ride to a playground?"

We started at the Riverside trailhead and went upriver towards Slickrock Park. Due to a detour we had to do some of our own route finding, which included riding on some dirt right next to the Dinosaur Discovery Center, which we had enjoyed last year. It didn't take long to get to the unique park, which consists of two huge boulders.

 The boulders are about 12 feet tall and have some challenging routes up them (some I certainly couldn't do!). It was a fun change from a regular park. Then we headed on the bike trail (which included an unexpected portion down an alleyway) to 2540 East Park. This was a fun park, and the kids enjoyed the playground.

Next we rode a few blocks to go over to Centennial Park. It's so much fun to check out the different playgrounds, and the kids liked the different challenges. After playing a bit, we rode a few streets over to Middleton Wash trail, and got on at the beginning.
 The trail is fantastic, going through tunnels and over bridges next to a scenic creek. Since we don't have very good places to ride bikes where we live (except on the highway, which is certainly not ideal for kids), I am so grateful to have the opportunity to use these multi-use trails.

 Even better in Desert Boy's mind was that the whole trail was downhill.

 Once we got back along the Virgin River, the kids asked to stop and throw rocks. We said yes, after all it is often the simplest pleasures that give the greatest joys. Desert Boy thought he wanted to swim, but once his toes touched the water, he changed his mind. Maybe some other time.

So if you're heading to St. George, check out the urban trails. They have so many, and they are great for a walk, ride, or skate.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Snow Canyon State Park with Kids

 We recently headed south for some warmer weather and decided to visit Snow Canyon State Park. It's been many years since we've gone, and when we paid our admission fee, the nice volunteer recommended that we do the petrified sand dunes hike. We took his suggestion and found a fascinating place.

 It was a really overcast day, which kind of dashed my hopes of getting some awesome sunset/moonrise photos, but it was still a great day for hiking.

I'm not used to seeing so much red rock, so I really enjoyed it. This is Navajo sandstone, about 183 million years old, and in layers up to 2,500 feet thick.

The views were outstanding.

 I loved the patterns in the sandstone and tried to figure out how the layers had been preserved with so many different angles.

 We stopped for an all-important snack break.

  We followed the hiking trail for awhile, then decided to make our own loop back around. Desert Boy wanted to try some rock climbing.

Desert Girl had to do what big brother did!

We really enjoyed the Petrified Sand Dune stop. Then we went down the road a bit and stopped at the sand dunes. It was getting late and the sand was quite cold, so we didn't stay long.
Lots of other families with kids were having a great time there.

We had one more stop that had been recommended as very kid friendly: the 1/4 mile Jenny's Canyon.
 The parking area was small, but since we were so late in the day, we had space. We walked on the sandy path, which didn't exactly agree with her sparkly red shoes (I didn't realize her hiking footwear until we had already left the house!).

 The trail quickly enters a narrow slot canyon. It was dark at the end of it.
In fact, soon we had to use the flash to get photos. This was the perfect length of hike to end the evening. Then it was time to get some food and hang out.

There's lots more to see and do in Snow Canyon, including 38 miles of hiking trails, 3 miles of a paved multi use trail, camping, caving in lava tubes, and rock climbing, so we'll be back another day!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Muddy Little Cave

 We went with some friends into a little cave. It's been awhile since the kids have gone caving, so they were excited to venture into the unknown.

The first part of the cave was walking, but then Desert Boy found a little crawlway. The next thing I knew, he was charging down it and wanted me to follow.
 It was big for him, but not for me!

 To my surprise, Desert Girl followed. She may be a princess, but she doesn't mind getting dirty

 Our wallowing in mud was rewarded with sights of several small pools of water, something I hadn't seen before in this cave.

 Desert Girl checking out one of the pools.

 One of our friends came part way into the crawl too. Do you like Desert Girl's caving outfit? She picked it out herself.

 Soon we were out in the natural light, where we could see just how dirty we had gotten. It was a fun cave!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sunny Sledding

 We celebrated when we got snow a few weeks back by going for a sledding trip with friends. We had enough snow that we could even sled in a gravel pit in the valley. Usually we have to go up in the mountains to sled.

Now the valleys are bare of snow, but I wanted to share these photos to send support to friends and family back East who are getting lots of snow right now!

 We had lots of smiles! It was warm enough that Desert Boy didn't want his coat anymore. I convinced him that keeping his gloves on was a really good idea.

 At first Desert Girl and Isaac were really cautious about sledding, only going down two-foot high hills. It didn't take them long to warm up to the idea, though, and their smiles made everyone happy.

 What nice teamwork coming back up the hill!

 The dogs certainly got into the action.

 Zeek thought sledding was a wonderful game.

 Desert Boy got some good instruction on turning a sled.

As the kids started showing signs of wearing out, it was time for the final moment:
hot chocolate!

What a fun afternoon.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sneaking in Some Biking

 We are at the point where we're wishing some of those storms in the rest of the country would come and dump on us--it's been a paltry winter! Nevertheless, we have to admit that the warm weather can be nice, and we've taken advantage of it to get Desert Girl some bike riding time. She's hesitant on her own, but with friends, she gets into it.

 She even did some stunt riding one day--going down the curb. That's big stuff for a little girl with training wheels!

 Some of the faces she pulls totally crack me up.

 I caught Ava with a funny face. Her helmet is awesome.

 It's great to be outside!

Here's the line up. Let's go riding!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Desert Survivor's Backyard Bird Challenge--Check In Week One *Updated

*Updated bird identifications--see below
Western Scrub-Jay on feeder
Are you taking Desert Survivor's Backyard Bird Challenge? It's easy: How many birds can you find in your backyard this year? Keep a list (we have one in the sidebar now), and add to it each time you find something new.

The kids and I are having a lot of fun with the challenge. I'm impressed with how well they are learning the common birds in the yard. To help encourage birds to come to the yard, we've been putting out birdseed. Both kids love to spread seed.
The most common birds are pinyon jays, which come in a raucous and rowdy group, and the tiny dark-eyed juncos, which don't seem to mind the commotion and go about their business picking up seeds.

Nevertheless, we did get some different birds to our yard:
Cassin's *House Finch (Updated--thank you, kind birder!) The flash of red caught my eye and I couldn't help but do a little happy dance!

Then I saw the tiniest glimpse of yellow:
A pine siskin.  *I thought it was a pine siskin, but really it's a female house finch. Those tricky females! Pine siskins should be around, so we'll keep looking! Pine siskins live higher up the mountain in the summer, where they like to be in pine trees. But in the winter, they come down to the valleys to find food. Pine siskins are also finches, and they like to hang out in mixed flocks, which explains why I saw both these birds on the feeder at the same time.

We got some great close-up views of those pinyon jays. We enjoy watching how the birds move around and interact.

We started our challenge on February 1, and as of February 8, we are up to 14 backyard birds. We should add a couple more winter birds this next week, as we've seen and heard some close to our yard, but not in/from our yard yet. Keeping a list is helping us keep our interest up.

I'd love to hear in the comments or on the Desert Survivor Facebook page how your challenge is going.
Happy birding!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Traffic Jam on a Seventy-Mile Stretch of Road without Services

 When you're driving on a seventy-mile stretch of road with no services, no stoplights, no stop signs, and only one house, you don't expect to slam on the brakes. But that's exactly what I had to do when I saw that the road was blocked by traffic. It wasn't exactly the traffic you see most places. This was a huge flock of sheep.

Open-range laws are in effect here, where the sheep have the right-of-way. The open range goes back in history. Until barbed wire was invented in the 1870s, it was much easier to fence places where you wanted to keep livestock out, rather than to keep them in. Gradually practices changed, but there are still a few places in the American West where you can find open range.

 I didn't mind stopping and watching the sheep pass by. I think sheep are kind of cute!

 It was a steady stream of sheep crossing the road.

 Occasionally a brown sheep passed by. The sheep owner usually puts in one brown sheep for every 25 or 50 white sheep so they can be counted more easily. Also, an occasional sheep has on a sheep bell, ringing loudly as the sheep moves so that the sheepherder can follow the sheep by sound.

 One sheepherder, along with a couple dogs, can easily move a couple thousand sheep. Many of the sheepherders these days come from Peru and Mexico. About a hundred years ago, many of them came from Basque country in northern Spain, which accounts for the large number of Basque restaurants in places like Elko, Nevada.

After all the sheep had crossed the road, a large sheep dog followed casually. The sheep dogs help protect the sheep and are often a little scary, but this one was friendlier than usual. Still, I wouldn't want to get out of the vehicle.

Well, our little traffic jam only lasted about five minutes. I could easily live with that. Our quick stop also reinforced that you shouldn't go anywhere without your camera!
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