Friday, October 12, 2018

Dramatic Fall Lighting

I was coming back from a Parent and Teachers Association meeting when I realized that the distant lighting was amazing and would be fun to photograph. After checking in with my husband and saying good night to the kids, I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed out to the Baker Archeological Site. I  took multiple 30-second long photos. It seemed like the lightning always came between the photos! I persisted, and finally got some okay shots. It seemed like the lightning had slowed down from what I had seen earlier.  But then a different area of the storm became more active. I moved over, set up again, and started having more success. But the thunder was getting louder. I decided I didn't have much more time. I pressed the shutter release for another 30-second exposure and got some great lightning right away. And then some more just at the end, nearly in the same spot. The thunder boomed, and I ran to the car. Rain drops started pelting me before I got to the end of the road. But the resulting photo was great, a Lightning Woman, striding across the valley.

The storm brought some snow to the higher peaks.

 It's migration time, and we are seeing loads of birds down on the ranch. They fatten up on the leftover corn before they head further south.

 One morning while eating breakfast I peeked out the window and saw an amazing sunrise. I had the kids come out with me to witness the vibrant colors.

I was doing a happy little dance as I took photos. We live in such a beautiful world! There's nothing like a terrific sunrise or sunset to renew us.

Here's hoping you find some beauty in your day!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Johnson Lake-Snake Divide Ridge Trail Run

I guess I was getting kind of antsy to get out in the backcountry, but I had a limited amount of time. So I decided to do a trail run up to Johnson Lake, down the ridge to Snake Divide Ridge, and then back to the trailhead. Okay, more of it was not a trail than was, but that was okay. And the forecast was for clouds but probably not rain.

I packed some clothes, food, and drinks, and set off. It was beautiful driving up the Snake Creek Road. And as I started down the trail, the sun lit up the aspen leaves.

To be honest, I was walking more than running on the uphill. But I'd try every once in awhile to get some running in.

I didn't take my good camera, just my phone. It can shoot in RAW, which can be a lot of fun with more options for camera settings and more abilities to post process (I didn't do any for these except a little cropping). Even though my main goal was trail running, I couldn't resist taking some photos. I was also listening to an audiobook, A Man Called Ove, which I highly recommend to adults.

There is a new sign up by the Johnson Mill, so I had to stop and take a look at it. The sign explains how the tungsten ore was brought down and put through the mill.

Last year Historicorps restored the old stable (foreground). It looks like it will survive a lot longer.

I found another new sign up by the cabins near Johnson Lake.

This big building was the cookhouse.

Just a bit further I reached Johnson Lake, with clouds covering the mountains around it. The vegetation has turned color, indicating it won't be long until winter reaches this area.

I started up into those clouds, pausing by the old wheelbarrow.

When I got up to the ridge, the trail (more of a route than a trail) heads over to Baker Lake. I wanted to go the opposite direction, so I was on my own. I had hiked this ridge in 2005, so I knew kind of what to expect. But it had also been a lot of years! And now I was in the clouds. Plus my phone battery had plopped down to 5% because of the cold, so I turned it off, ending my route recording and audiobook.

The clouds were thick and I couldn't even see Spring Valley. But as I advanced to the Middle Fork of Snake Creek (Johnson Lake is in the North Fork), the clouds lifted briefly and I could see to the east.

 The clouds kept on floating by, and at one point I was tempted to follow a ridge to the east, but guessed I really should keep going south. That was good, because it took me to the Snake Divide Ridge and the amazing grove of bristlecones. I now knew I was going to be going mostly downhill. And I had to be somewhere in Baker at 2:30, and it was now 12:00. The countdown was on. Would I make it in time? Even though I was running, I paused to take photos. I couldn't resist the Quarter Tree (featured on the Great Basin National Park Quarter).

And at one point the clouds lifted enough I could see the ridge I had just been on with the great colors. That is a really fun part of the ridge.

The "trail" follows an old road for awhile. Then I was going cross country (I had hiked this part a couple years ago so knew more or less where I should be going.) Fortunately I eventually came across this scratched trail. The Snake Divide Trail was never finished (even though there's a big sign about it at the trailhead, and there's no notice on it that the trail isn't finished). This part was about six to eight inches wide.

The clouds kept flying by, and I enjoyed seeing the variety of trees and rocks. Bristlecones abound, but as the elevation gets lower, the trees get higher. Here's the view into the rugged Big Wash watershed.

From a cliff I could look out across the Snake watershed and see the splash of aspen that I had been in a few hours earlier.

The trail improved as I headed downhill.

And finally I reached the Shoshone Trail, which goes further south to Big Wash. I took the other direction and headed to the Snake Creek trailhead.

I found some more pockets of beautiful color. But the clock was ticking, so I had to keep running.

And finally I was in sight of the trailhead! It took about 5.5 hours to do the trail run/hike. A more reasonable amount of time, so that you can savor the sights and eat more snacks, would be about 8-9 hours or even a backpacking trip. If you lose the trail, it will take a little time to re-find it. Definitely know your route here, because there are a couple old mining roads that could take you down into North Fork Big Wash, and then you'll have lots of bushwhacking to do.

The total mileage was somewhere about 11-12 miles based on Google Maps (I guessed some switchbacks, not knowing exactly where they were, especially on the unfinished trail). Map My Run showed it exactly 4.0 miles from the trailhead to Johnson Lake.

Looking at the elevation profile makes me feel better about only going 2 mph. That route had about 3600 feet elevation change! And according to the Google calculator, I probably had over 4770 feet of elevation gain/loss due to additional ups and downs.


If you want to get into some of the rugged backcountry of Great Basin National Park, this is a fun loop, but it is high elevation, long, steep, and most of it has no cell service, so go prepared. There's also no water from Johnson Lake back to the trailhead along the Snake Divide trail.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Making Apple Cider

 My husband wanted to make apple cider this year, so he started gathering apples from various apple trees in the valley. We had read that cider is best when it's made from at least three varieties of apples.

We had never made cider before, so it was a bit of an experiment. We started by washing the apples and cutting the worms out of them (apparently that's not a necessary step, but some of the apples were very wormy, so it made us feel better!)

Then it was time to put the apples through the meat grinder to make an apple mush.


The next part was to put them into the cider press, and waalaa (you've got to say this word out loud, I have no idea how to spell it!), apple cider comes out the bottom!).

It turned out to be easier than we thought, although maybe that's because we were all working on it together. Having an outdoor workspace was great--it made cleanup so much easier.

The kids love cutting, so they also got a chance.

We froze some apple cider, canned some, and also carbonated some and capped the bottles with a special capper.

I think this is something we'll make an annual tradition.
What are your favorite fall traditions?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Fantastic Fall Colors

 The fall colors in Great Basin National Park have been amazing this fall. The temperatures have stayed mostly above freezing, and we haven't had rain in 45 days. Thus the colorful leaves have held on longer than normal.

I took the kids up one day, and we had fun wandering around the campground. When it became a game ("get up in the trees and don't let your feet touch the ground"), their smiles came easily.

I wanted to hike, though, so I went up early one morning, arriving at the Wheeler Peak summit trailhead before sunrise. The array of colors made my heart beat a little faster.

The sun rose as I was nearing a big aspen patch, and the yellow glow was amazing.

I came out to a clearing where some red aspens looked like they were on fire.

I wandered off trail for a bit, not sure what I would find. I saw beauty all around me.

Then I found the old Wheeler Peak trail, which I had seen a few times from above. It was still in remarkably good shape (the newer trail is much easier!). The colors were great here too.

My goal was to get above Stella Lake and get it in a photo with some fall colors. That part wasn't too hard. But getting down from there was so steep! I had some crawling moments.

Back on the trail to the car, I had to stop again to enjoy the beautiful aspen canopy. Sigh. I could have just stayed here all day, but alas, I had to go to work.

I didn't think I would be up there again very soon, but it turned out we had a backcountry carryout the next day, and the helicopter landed in the meadow at Wheeler Peak Campground. The yellow aspen made for an especially scenic backdrop.

I just had to go see the colors about a week later. The highest leaves had fallen off, but colors were still good just a little lower on the mountain. And we got to watch a most marvelous sunset.
We're expecting rain for about a week, with snow at the end of it, so lots of leaves will be coming down soon. We've been blessed with such a colorful display this year.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Going Home from Montana

After so many great adventures on our summer vacation (see Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4), it was finally time to go home. But first we took a detour over to Bozeman, Montana, where my friend Mimi Matsuda was set up an art festival. It was so great to see her and her sister Erika and take home some fantastic art (check out her website for her whimsical wildlife art).

Also in Bozeman is the Museum of the Rockies, and I wanted to take a look. The kids almost got eaten up before we even entered.

There were plenty of opportunities to get eaten (maybe my imagination gets a little carried away).

I enjoyed seeing the paleontological exhibits.

We also spent a little time in the guitar exhibit.

But the kids seemed to like the kids' section best, with geyser simulations and a place to "fish" in the Yellowstone River.

And then we went to Yellowstone. I worked there years ago so didn't feel a huge need to go. But when I asked Desert Girl if she remembered what a geyser was and she wasn't sure, I knew we had to go. We went in at West Yellowstone, where to my surprise, there was no line at 3 p.m.  Our first destination was the Firehole River, where we saw a bison sharing the road with us.

I had really enjoyed swimming in the Firehole River when I worked at Yellowstone, and since we had swum (or at least touched water) in most other national parks we had visited on this vacation, this seemed to be a good bet. We went to a spot that was much calmer than the section in the photo below and floated through a narrow canyon section a couple of times. It was a lot of fun (even if I lost my sunglasses!).

Next up was Grand Prismatic Spring. It was so crazy busy.

But the amazing colors really are worth seeing.

We checked out the new visitor center at Old Faithful. I was impressed that they had an exhibit on insects and spiders.

We wandered around a bit, admiring hot springs.

And then Old Faithful blew! It wasn't much an eruption, but at least the kids got to see a geyser go off.

I was really enjoying the area, and it was hard for me to leave. But we were hungry, so we got some food.

And then we headed south. I had to hit the brakes when this elk crossed the road.

And then we had to stop again to avoid these young moose. Their mom soon followed them across the road. This was the Grassy Lake Road, a road I had never taken before that cuts between Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. We drove quite a ways and then found a place to camp.
The next day we got up and drove the rest of the way home. It was a fun trip. And now Desert Girl says she won't complain about driving to Las Vegas---it's way shorter than driving to Montana!
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