Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Underground with Kids

Back in January we joined some friends for a kid-friendly caving trip. We had six kids and three adults and were ready for some fun!

This cave was a short hike away and then had a slightly challenging downclimb to get into the cave. Then it opened up and we could walk.

I've found kids are naturals in caves, especially when they are ready to explore a little. We teach them the rules, talk about cave conservation, and then, boom, they're off exploring. Despite their small size, most kids don't like to push tight spots. I had them follow me through a belly crawl, and they were wondering if they would make it. I had to explain that if I fit, they could definitely fit. They weren't super excited about it, but they made it! Then we got into bigger passage.

This cave doesn't have many speleothems, but these little soda straws caught my eye.

 One of the highlights is going up a handline to an upper section. Some of the kids were scared, but they all conquered their fears and made it.

Here's to the future generations of cave explorers!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Supermoon Eclipse January 2018

 In the early morning of the supermoon eclipse of January 2018, I noticed that it was a lot darker outside than it had been previously in the night. I knew the eclipse was well underway. And I knew I could go out and photograph it. First I peeked out the window and saw that it was indeed progressing. Then I went back to bed, warm and snuggly. But I couldn't sleep. A cool phenomenon was happening, and I had prepped the camera the night before, so I should just go out and do my best to photograph

So I shrugged on my coat and winter boots and got the above photo from the driveway. It was nice, but nothing that would be too memorable. Then I heard an owl hooting. Earlier, while I was snuggled in bed, I had dreamed of capturing an owl silhouette with the moon, but had dismissed it as a crazy idea. Maybe it wasn't so crazy. Except the owl was in a nearby tree that I couldn't line up with the moon. But then it flew to another tree. I walked over, and it looked like I could line it up! I walked back to get my gear and get set up. I found it was extremely hard to focus in the dark, plus the moon kept moving so I had to keep readjusting. Here's what I got:

The Great Horned Owl hooted to a companion as I worked to refine the shot. It was really tricky, and I didn't get the perfect shot, but I still thought it was pretty cool to get the owl and the supermoon eclipse. (shooting specs: Canon 7dMII with Canon 100-400 mm lens @ 400 mm, ISO 2000, f 5.6, 2 seconds)

The owl flew off and I knew that that opportunity was done. So I got another cool shot of the moon with some stars.

I was wondering if I could get the eclipsed moon setting over the top of the mountain. I got in the car and drove up a dirt road. I didn't get quite the alignment I wanted, but it was still nice to get snow-covered mountain and moon.

Next time I'll use a different aperture.

Whoops, the moon is falling onto the earth! (aka what happens when your tripod isn't quite steady)

Farewell, eclipsed supermoon. I hear another one is supposed to occur next January. Hopefully we'll have good skies again. And cooperative owls!

Friday, February 9, 2018

When the Home Game is an Hour Away

 If you've been reading this blog for any time, you know that it deals with the rural Great Basin high desert. If you're not quite sure what rural means, this post might help.

This year there is great excitement as the local high school has its first-ever girls basketball team. But there are only three players, which isn't enough for a team. So they have joined forces with the nearest high school to join them. This nearest high school is an hour away on dirt roads (there is no paved road that goes to the high school). The four girls on the team there mean that the grand total for the team is seven players. They take turns practicing at either end of the valley, meaning on some days the girls have a two-hour round trip drive just for practice.

We went to their first home game, West Desert vs. West Ridge, the hawks vs. the eagles.

West Desert has a beautiful gym.

When you only have seven players on a team, it's hard to scrimmage, so the girls were still learning some of the finer points of how to play and rules of the game. They put their heart and soul into it, and I found the game very fun to watch.

The game wasn't just basketball, it also involved a lot of wrestling over the ball. This happened probably a dozen times.

At one point, one of the seven players had injured her ankle. Another had fouled out. Then one got a bloody nose and left the court. That meant there were just four Hawks on the floor. They still managed to make a basket!

Nevertheless, they were outplayed that night. Still, the Hawks learned some good points and will play again.
After the game, the home team and most of the spectators headed to the school cafeteria for a delicious dinner. The away team got into the bus and started on their four-plus hour drive back home. That made our hour drive under the full moon seem rather short.

Here's their schedule, with three games left. We look forward to watching them again!

Monday, February 5, 2018

2018 Sheepherders' Gathering

 Every January, the Border Inn on US Highway 50, straddling the border of Nevada and Utah, hosts the Sheepherders' Gathering. Sheepherders, sheep owners, and sheep aficionados gather from hundreds of miles to celebrate, you've guessed it, sheep. There's lots of good food, dancing, talks, catching up with old friends and making new ones.

One of my favorite parts is the open mike night, when folks take turns sharing their sheep stories. Hank Vogler was the entertaining emcee. Denys Koyle started off the evening by announcing that although she has now retired from the Border Inn and will be living in Salt Lake, she is keeping the third weekend of January open and will be back for the Sheepherders' Gathering as long as she can get out of bed. Go, Denys! And thank you for getting this event started!

There was a good crowd and a couple video cameras taping it all.

Hank brought up the unusually warm weather we've been having this winter. "It's cold everywhere else [in the country], but warm here. Since they legalized marijuana in Nevada, there's been a real high over the state."

Mary Kaye, the first performer up, was ready with a bit of humor too.
Mary had a little lamb
but now the lamb is dead
and so she brings it up to school
between two pieces o'bread.

Then she sang "Are Your Dreams Big Enough?" If you haven't heard Mary Kaye's music, you should. She's got a beautiful, earthy voice and is a great storyteller. Check out her website for more.

Next up was John, who told about when he was 12 he was sent off for days on the mountain with a herd of sheep. When he wanted to let his mom know that it was time to pick him up (the next night, since he was far out there), he lit a cedar tree on fire.

Joe told us, "My dad had a bat habit of making me walk a lot." Eventually Joe saved enough money to buy his own horse. His mom asked his dad, "You're not going to put him on that horse, are you?" His dad said, "He's just a kid, we've got lots of them."

Then Joe shared some poems. He has a way with words and goes up to Elko for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Melanie has been performing at the Sheepherder's Gathering since she was a babe and is a natural on stage. She played two great ukulele songs.

Dave's been in the sheep business a very long time, and it was great to see him.

Desert Boy even got up on stage and told about his 4-H lamb kicking him in the eye. And how the other lamb followed him to school one day. He was so nervous about talking, but did a great job.

Next up was Clive Romney. We had seen him at the Fillmore Capitol Arts Festival, and the kids remembered his song. He told a story about the old days, when a dress wasn't thrown away when it was worn out, it was made into kids' shirts. And when they were worn out, they were made into a rug. Frugality could be the difference between life and death. He had the audience sing along with the chorus:
Use it up, Wear it out
Make it do or do without
Frugality is how we all survive

Dan got up and apparently wanted a change from sheep. So he told us his Alaska fishing story...

Next was Marlene telling of some Snake Valley sheep history. Her dad took her mom out on the desert to the sheep camp for their honeymoon, where he related that he was leasing the sheep, he didn't own them--much to his bride's surprise.

Lois recalled a very wintery winter, when her dad pulled up to a sheep camp in Burbank. He wondered why the sheepherder had such red lips. Then he came to realize that it was very windy, and the sheepherder had no chapstick, but he did find the wife's lipstick.

Kris and Kaye shared stories from the winter of 1948-49, a legendary winter. Their father, Newell Johnson, had 3,500 sheep on the desert. On January 15 he took his new pickup with one ton of cottonseed pellets for sheep plus supplies out towards them. But the highway was impassable for three days. When he finally got to he sheep, the feed was all covered up, and the sheep were starving. He did his best to get feed to them, but roads sometimes closed for a week at a time. He was the first sheepman from Delta to fly hay out to his sheep. By March 15, enough snow melted so that the sheep could forage on their own. (A movie was made about the flights to save the livestock, called Operation Haylift, and set near Ely, Nevada.)

Mary Kaye took the stage again. She related a story about a song based on an account from What Next, Doctor Peck?, a book I read many years ago while researching my Great Basin National Park: A Guide to the Park and Surrounding Area. I had fond memories of that book, and it was great to hear that it had also touched someone else.

We went back on Saturday for more of Mary Kaye's music (she's that good! if you check out her website, you'll see by all her awards that we're not the only ones that think that.). My husband and I also enjoyed the family-style Basque dinner (the beef was amazing!).

The Sheepherders' Celebration is such a neat event, and it's great that this slowly fading lifestyle is being remembered.

Here are links to past Sheepherders' Gatherings (unfortunately I got sick some years so missed some): 201420132012201120102009

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sledding and Skiing after the Storm

We were so excited by our one big snowstorm of this winter. So the day after the Ely Birkebeiner, we grabbed our sleds and headed up into the mountains to join some friends.

Maggie, our red heeler mix, was loving the snow. She was pretty-well behaved with Boomer, the golden lab.

The dogs weren't too savvy about sledding, though, frequently getting in the way!

We have a favorite sledding hill, a two-track road down a north-facing slope, so the snow doesn't melt so fast. We had to make some runs to pack down the snow.

It was beautiful where we were, but we could see the snow blowing off the peak over 12,500 feet high.

A friend was out cross-country skiing.

That inspired Desert Girl and me to get out our skis again. Desert Girl got all dressed up (who doesn't?) and we set off from the yard.

It is so incredibly fun to be able to ski right from your house.

We found it a little easier to ski in tire tracks. It warmed up fast, so by the next day we didn't have the right conditions. You just have to do it while you can!

We did get back to the sledding hill one day after school. You can see the bushes poking through the snow a lot more, but the sledding track was still in good shape. I even went down a few times, even though it terrorizes me (I keep envisioning broken bones). But there was still enough snow to crash and not hurt, so that was good!
We're back to a dry, warm period, which has its pluses. But we'd sure like some more snow this winter!
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