Saturday, December 7, 2019

More Ice Skating at Stella Lake

November continued with more dry weather, so we headed back up to Stella Lake with more friends on Veteran's Day. We took a picnic lunch and planned to spend several hours there. We started off on the cove on the east side.

It was a warm day, so the kids didn't even need coats. Desert Girl was one of the first ones out on the ice.

Desert Boy let someone try his adjustable skates (what a wonderful invention! Skates that adjust several sizes for kids!), so he was trying to skate in bigger skates. He will probably be this size or bigger soon!

Before long, the kids were getting creative. 

I thought these skating chains were pretty fun.

And it didn't even matter if you had skates on or not!


We wanted to skate out on the bigger part of the lake, but the ice had thinned since last time. I went out once and didn't like all the cracking. Loren was braver and made several traverses out. He only fell through once...lol...and fortunately it was only inches deep!

It was Veteran's Day, and Billie had thought to bring up a flag. The kids sang My Country, 'Tis of Thee.
My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From ev'ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!
 It was so great hearing the song ring out from the mountainsides!

 Finally it was time to hike back to the vehicles and drive down the mountain. Desert Girl wasn't tired, she just didn't want me to take a photo!
Not long after, we got snow, and the road was closed. No more Stella Lake skating for us this winter. Sure glad we got to go while we could, and we'll be on the lookout for lower elevation skating possibilities.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Random November Happenings

This Jerusalem cricket showed up in the work parking lot one morning. It sure is a strange looking creature! Jerusalem crickets are nocturnal, so I don't seem them often. They are native to the West.

Our local 4-H club started dog training in late October, and we have been glad to take our nine-month old puppy. All the dogs are doing well, learning how to sit, stay, and heel, and generally getting used to other dogs and taking commands.

One session even had seven dogs at it, and they did well. We will go to Ely next July for the 4-H dog show competition. Since we're starting from scratch, it's good to start these training sessions early! We're starting with obedience and then will move on to agility.

I had a quick jaunt down to Lake Mead National Recreation Area for a two-day science conference sponsored by the Mojave Desert Network Inventory and Monitoring Network. I learned some interesting things, met colleagues from nearby park, reconnected with old friends, and gave a talk about Communicating Science.

Back at the park, I accompanied a researcher into Lehman Caves who was interested in the lampenflora, or cave algae and mosses and other stuff that grows by the cave lights. In some cases it almost looks like a forest! Ugh! This is bad for the native wildlife and can also change the pH of surfaces.

My husband took the kids fishing one day, and they were quite successful.
 

4-H Achievement Night was held, and Desert Boy walked away with lots of pins. The night was organized really well so it was shorter than in the past (hurray!). 

Desert Girl has had the opportunity to meet Pip, the new horse of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. She absolutely loves riding Pip.

I went back into the cave and found an actual plant growing among some of the algae. Sigh.

Later I went to one of the most gorgeous caves I've ever been to. The geology, particularly the mineralization, was stunning.

We oohed and aahhed as we did some monitoring. So many cool colors and forms.

 I still have a couple more posts to do from November, then I'll be ready to dive into December. The winter slowdown is sort of happening! And I like it.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

More Fun in Moab 2019

We enjoy visiting Moab, Utah periodically. One of the big attractions for us is the Moab Trail Marathon/Half-Marathon/Adventure 5K, which is held the first weekend of November. By that time life has usually slowed down a bit and we can escape for a weekend. We had a great time at the 2017 Adventure 5K and also did some fun activities afterwards (with links to previous Moab area adventures).

We left home in the morning and arrived in Moab late afternoon on Friday (many people had left by then, so it wasn't crowded). That was time to go into Arches National Park for a hike. We headed to Landscape Arch.

The kids thought hiking to Landscape Arch (which is only about a mile) was long enough, but I told them they had to experience the true Arches. We needed to continue on the primitive trail.

They grumbled, but we continued, and they found I was right (as usual, lol!). The primitive trail was super fun, with scrambling and steep drop offs. We walked right on top of a big fin. On the way back we explored a little, and had a great time. It was starting to get dark, so we made the most of our daylight!

After dinner, we headed to the motel (hotel points are fantastic for free nights!) and motel pool. Fun!

The next morning we were up early to go to the race. When I had signed us up, I was feeling energetic, and signed myself up for the half-marathon. However, due to travel and sickness, I had only managed a total of eight miles of training in the weeks leading up to the race. I figured I would go ahead and do it, although it might take me 3-4 hours to complete.

I had never been on the half-marathon route before. It had a variety of terrain, from rocky to sandy, from two-track to barely single track (we were sort of just running on ledges at one point), from ups to downs, but throughout the entire course, we had awesome scenery. It was hard because I hadn't trained well, and after the half-way point my body didn't really want to run, but it was so, so much easier than the Tushars Trail Marathon. And I ended up finishing right at 3 hours! I was a bit discouraged when I finished because so many people had passed me, but it turned out I finished 332nd out of 748 finishers. That made me feel a lot better.

My husband and Desert Girl were near the finish line when I came across, but Desert Boy was nowhere to be seen. It turned out he had taken a wrong turn on the 5k and run an extra 3 miles--in jeans. Yikes! He would have been a fast finisher otherwise. We enjoyed the yummy post-race food, then headed back to the hotel for more swimming (a wonderful way to work out some sore muscles!).

We all agreed no hiking for the day, but Desert Girl just had to go to the sand dunes across from the Arches NP entrance. We had never been, so we agreed. I figured I would just stay near the vehicle at the bottom.
But eventually she enticed me to go up to the top.


Our next stop was the Bar M Ranch bike trails. The kids couldn't wait to ride at the OK Corral, a free for-all bike part with little dirt hills. But after awhile, they had ridden all the obstacles successfully. It was time for a little challenge. So we went on one of the easiest bike trails. I had a big, fancy mountain bike, but Desert Girl had a street bike with no suspension. She did better than me! It's so great to see them enjoy being outside so much.

I wanted to try the paved bike trail from there back to Arches. It was super, with lots of mountain bike trails connecting to it. How nice to have paved trails so bicyclists don't have to ride on the highway! (We are trying to get one near where we live, but have run into a big stumbling block. Sigh.) I admired the camera post by the Arches National Park sign. People had left a couple rocks there to support cell phones.

Speaking of bike amenities, this fix-it station was in Moab.

We squeezed in church service on Saturday evening. It's always interesting going to churches in different places.

Sunday was our day to drive home, and although we had a long drive, we wanted to make a couple stops. The first was to see some dinosaur tracks at Copper Ridge, north of Moab. We turned off Highway 191 at the Klondike Bluffs sign (between mile markers 148 and 149), and followed the signs for 2 miles to this kiosk. We saw about a hundred people camping, most with bikes, scattered around the area.

The trail is very short to get to the tracks, although it is uphill. Then we were there and could see the giant impressions. It's so cool to imagine dinosaurs walking here.

We also saw smaller, turkey-like tracks.

We had one more place I wanted to stop that was sort of on the way home: Little Wildhorse Canyon near Goblin Valley State Park. We went there several years ago, but the kids didn't remember it.

It's a slot canyon in the San Rafael Swell, and it doesn't take long to hike to the narrow section. It's so much fun.

There are a few minor obstacles to go over. We eventually ran out of time and had to turn back. But we got a lot further than last time, the kids are so much better at hiking, and if it's not a typical hiking trail, they really enjoy it.

We had the canyon almost to ourselves on the way up, even though this is a very popular canyon. On the way back, we saw lots of people.

Nearby is the Temple Uranium Mine, so we took a quick look there. So much more to explore! Then we took a back way back to the Interstate, getting a flat tire on the way. It made for an interesting drive home, as it's really hard to get a flat tire fixed on a Sunday in rural Utah during hunting season! Fortunately we eventually made it home.

I'm sure we'll be back to Moab at some point, there's just so much to do there, and I feel like we've just barely scratched the surface.

Friday, November 22, 2019

2019 Ice Skating on Stella Lake

 We couldn't believe it, but it happened again. For the third year in a row, the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive stayed open into November due to lack of snow. The temperatures got cold enough to freeze Stella Lake, which meant we could go ice skating! We were so excited!

The kids and I went up with my friend Jenny. We had to check the night before to see if the kids' ice skates still foot (they're the adjustable size kind), and fortunately they did.

The ice seemed kind of thin at the north end, so we headed to the cove on the east side. Our first year up here for ice skating, only this section was frozen, and the rest was open water.

Desert Girl did a fair bit of rollerblading this summer, so she put on the skates and was off.
 

Eventually we moved out on the bigger part of the lake and found the south end was good, although it made some weird noises. It was fun skating with Wheeler Peak in the background.

It was warm. So warm that Desert Boy decided to take his shirt off.

 Our friend Meg came and made it look easy!

Desert Girl and Jenny did some more artistic moves. 
 We had such a wonderful time that we knew we had to come back...to be continued...

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Late Fall Jaunt on the Serviceberry Trail, Great Basin National Park

I've run most of the trails in Great Basin National Park this summer to prepare for the Tushars Marathon, but I didn't make it to the Serviceberry Trail up Snake Creek. I decided to remedy that before I headed over for the Moab Trail Half-Marathon. (This has been a year of a lot of running for me!).

I wasn't surprised to find myself alone at the trailhead. The loop trail is approximately 3.2 miles, and you can see many of the eponymous shrubs right at the trailhead. This time of year they aren't too showy, with no green leaves, white blossoms, or dark berries.

I headed west (left) first, following along the creek for awhile, then climbing up towards the saddle. 

I love this big granite rock with the rock balancing on it. 

Fall colors happened so fast that I didn't get a chance to get up Snake Creek to enjoy the aspens this year. Upper Snake Creek has one of the best aspen groves in the park.


As I went over the saddle, I enjoyed the views.

 These aspens didn't have any leaves left on them, and the ones on the ground weren't particularly colorful.

I did find one small aspen on the backside with leaves! It felt like I won a treasure hunt.

This part of the trail is especially nice, with gentle ups and downs.

Sagebrush covers most of the lower hillside, transitioning to pinyon pine and Utah juniper up higher. In wetter drainages, we see aspen and white fir.

And over the trail is an arch of mountain mahogany.

Then it's time for lots of switchbacks down to the trailhead. The serviceberry is really abundant here. This is one of the easier trails in the park, but it does have a fair bit of elevation change. It's open anytime you can get up the road--eventually the road will be snow-covered in the winter. You usually have it to yourself, and it's quite peaceful and beautiful.
Here's a blog post about hiking the Serviceberry Trail with fall colors.
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