Sunday, December 9, 2018

Growing a Giant Pumpkin

 In the spring I found a packet of giant pumpkin seeds at the store. 'How fun!' I thought.  But we certainly wouldn't want them all. So why not make a contest? Plus we had been listening to the story Sweet Home Alaska, where they had a giant pumpkin growing contest. I presented it at our local 4-H meeting, and several kids wanted to participate. They each got two seeds.

Desert Girl put hers in pots that she could bring indoors when it got cold. Apparently a bean seed was also in the soil!

She had to keep checking them to make sure they had enough water.

Eventually it was warm enough to plant the pumpkins out in the garden. Desert Girl dug a hole and put the plants in, with ag bag around to keep the weeds down.

We soon found that the insects were enjoying the pumpkin plants. We weren't sure they would survive.

Fortunately they seemed to grow. We watched with eager anticipation for the first blooms.

 The vines started creeping out, and we wondered if we had given them enough room.

And then we started seeing flowers!

And more flowers. And more flowers. But no little pumpkins. We tried some hand pollination.

It worked for one plant, which started producing a bunch of pumpkins. We pinched off extra blossoms so only four pumpkins would grow. But the other plant didn't produce any, so we eventually pulled it up to let the other one have more space.

The pumpkins grew and grew, and then they stopped growing. We thought they might grow more, but they seemed to just stop. We talked to others who were growing pumpkins, and they said theirs did the same thing. 

Finally it was time for the competition to end. Desert Girl took the largest one to the 4-H meeting and weighed it in. It was 51.8 pounds, the largest in the club! She won $10 from donations for the prize money and was quite excited by that.

 Now our chickens are enjoying the pumpkin and we'll save some seeds for next year!

Monday, December 3, 2018

More Cowbell Bike Trail near Hurricane, Utah

 Fall break in October involved a dentist visit and getting the SUV serviced, but we managed to mix some fun in. While Desert Boy ended up sick and staying home with dad, Desert Girl and I headed to sunny St. George. While the vehicle was being checked, we biked over to Thunder Junction All Abilities Park. This is a newer park and so much fun! First we had to take the train ride, which costs a whopping $1 per person. Desert Girl really wanted to sit in the back, and since we were there on a weekday, there were plenty of open spots.

Then it was on to playing in the water and almost getting eaten by a dinosaur.

The next day we were off to try some mountain biking. I had done some research and found an easy trail recommended: the More Cowbell Trail near Hurricane, Utah. It's in the Gooseberry Mesa-Hurricane Cliffs area, which is gaining more attention as a great mountain biking destination.

We started off and then I got confused by the trails, so we went back and I took a photo of the map at the trail head. We had to start off on the Dead Ringer trail and then we'd take the More Cowbell loop.

The loop was about 2.5 miles. Desert Girl was a bit hesitant, but I knew she could do it. We were closer to the edge than this near the beginning, but she made it through just fine.

Then we got into a nice groove. We had great views and could see part of the loop trail down below us.

We had one rocky section where we got off our bikes, but then we were back on. We took a couple breaks, including at this "bench."

It was such a beautiful day to be out!

Good times!

We kept riding the nice, flowing trail. We could see the highway for part of it, and long sweeping views in other directions.

Near the end of the loop there's a cowbell, and Desert Girl was delighted to ring it!

Then we followed the Dead Ringer trail back. Here's the trail junction where we originally took off for the More Cowbell trail.

I had Desert Girl lead so she could start learning how to read the terrain. We had one more section where we got off, but otherwise we rode the whole trail.

Desert Girl was so proud of herself for riding over her first rock. She really was quite a beginner, and this trail was great for her. We're hoping we can do some more mountain biking and increase her confidence. And enjoy more beautiful times outside!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Fossil Mountain and Ibex Playa, Utah

 It was the day after Thanksgiving, and my brother Ed was visiting from Flagstaff. We knew we wanted to be outside, so I gave the kids some choices, and they decided on Fossil Mountain and Ibex Playa. Our basic plan was to drive south through Blind Valley, climb Fossil Mountain, then go to Ibex Playa for some bike riding and the nearby cliffs for a rock climb.

Here's a Google Earth view of the 30-mile loop.

We drove roughly 13 miles down the Blind Valley Road and then took a road to the west towards the north side of Fossil Mountain. We had to use 4WD to get to the last part of the side road due to big rocks, but otherwise everything else on the drive was passable to passenger cars.

We parked in a wash and started hiking (first photo). We started seeing fossils. We knew this would be a fun hike!

We had seen a big sandy hillside before our turnoff, and from my friend Jenny's blog, I knew this was a fun spot. Plus one of Desert Girl's goals for the day was to play in sand dunes.  We hiked up, but found that there was a big ravine between where we were and the sand dune. Should we just climb the mountain first? The kids voted yes.

I led the way for quite awhile, but the kids were right on my heels, so I let Desert Girl lead awhile so she could practice reading the terrain and route finding. The views were amazing.

And before long, we were at the top! Fossil Mountain isn't the tallest mountain around, but the views are great. We also found no fossils at the top (or most of the way up). 
It turns out the top is Eureka Quartzite, which explains the lack of fossils.

Our next stop was the sand dune. And now that I know about the quartzite, which is metamorphosed sandstone, the sand dune makes more sense. But it was facing to the northeast, which I don't quite understand. We kept wondering how the sand got there.

After a lot of steep down climbing, we finally reached the ravine and started up the sand.

The sand is shifting, burying some trees.

I really enjoyed the ripple marks.

Desert Girl was digging to see how deep the sand was. She never got to a different layer.

This tiny plant looked so delicate on the shifting sands.

Still barefoot, Desert Girl poses next to an amazing juniper root.

When we got down to the wash, we spent more time looking for fossils. Within the Ordovician Upper Pogonip Group,  the Kanosh Shale was very easy to find. The dark olive color was easy to spot from a distance. Hintze and Davis call it "abundantly fossiliferous" in their Geology of Millard County, Utah (2003).
 We had climbed above it to reach the summit, passing through the Lehman Formation, Watson Ranch Formation, and Crystal Peak Dolomite to the Eureka Quartzite at the top. Supposedly there are some fossils in some of these layers, but we didn't find them.

Desert Girl had come prepared with a rock hammer and a magnifying glass. She showed quite a bit of patience combing through the layers for fossils.


Here's a map of how we hiked. The more traditional approach is from the southeast side instead of the northwest side we took. I think our approach was steeper but more direct. We probably didn't see as many fossils as the other side, but we did have fun in the sand.
 We had worked up quite an appetite on our hike, so we ate lunch as we drove (leftover turkey sandwiches, yum!).

We drove around the south end of the mountains and then north up to Ibex playa. We passed Ibex well and a couple ponds, then got to what I call a good bike loop. There's sort of a racetrack that is lots of fun.

Then we decided to just ride where ever we wanted on the playa.  It is such a cool feeling to be able to go any which way we want.

The lighting and clouds was quite dramatic.

We followed Desert Boy around "the island," a big rock outcropping in the middle of the playa. On the way back the wind became a lot more obvious, along with the lenticular clouds.

Our dog Maggie was so happy to run and run.

So much fun!
 Here's a closer look at Ibex Playa. We went bike riding at the southern end and then around the Island. Then we headed to the cliffs at the northern end.

It was time to try some rock climbing! It had been awhile since I had lost rock climbed, so I was happy to find a place we could top rope.  It was a big boulder to the north of the corral, and we could walk around the backside to the bolts on top.

We took turns climbing. The kids managed in their gym shoes, but my brother and I gave our old climbing shoes a go. We climbed a couple times and then it was getting late and colder, so it was time to head home. 
We were so glad to be outside, enjoying the fresh air. We saw two other vehicles on our loop that day, but the occupants stayed inside. So we just about had it all to ourselves. Hopefully we'll be back for more fun!
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