Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chasing Shadows

A few weeks ago I had the idea to go up in the mountains late in the afternoon and take photos of the mountain shadows extending over the valley. I really liked how the mountains reached out and stretched farther and farther.

The late afternoon shadows highlighted all the gullies and arroyos that break up the landscape, showing how rugged it is.

The kids were with me and wanted to hike, so I wasn't going to say no. Anything to burn off energy is a good plan in my book! We drove to the end of the road and the kids ducked through the gate.

Desert Girl thought this was great idea.

She started off enthusiastically, happily making little footprints in the skiff of snow.

It didn't take her long to figure out that this was an uphill hike, and suddenly she wasn't so thrilled.

The mountain shadows continued their invasion of the valley.

Some of the peaks looked exaggerated, almost like daggers piercing the air.

I made it up to the curve, where there was certainly a lack of snow at 8500 feet for early February. (It has since snowed, thank goodness, and the road is covered in white.)

Desert Girl started realizing that the walk downhill was more fun than uphill. She was fascinated by the yellow line, running down it.

The temperatures quickly plunged and we retreated to our van. We were glad we didn't have to spend the night out in the frigid clime.

At our next overlook, we saw that the progression of shadows had nearly terminated: the mountain shadows were now on the mountains across the valley.

The play of light was magical, with the twilight dancing over the mountains and valleys.

Good night, beautiful mountains.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Snow Survey

 Yesterday I helped do a snow survey up in the mountains. The snow survey measures the amount of snow at three snow courses. It's been done since the 1940s so there's a nice, long dataset to see how the years compare.

The snow survey is done twice each year, at the end of February and the end of March. Last year I went up to the first site in February and did the whole course in March. In March we could drive a couple miles up the road, which made for a shorter course that we all appreciated.
 The forecast was for 90% chance of precipitation and windy. We hoped that it would snow enough to cover up the crusty snow on the road and we would have some fresh powder for the ski down.

Five of us headed up to the first site.

 We made it off the road, knowing we weren't far from the first course. The snow wasn't all that deep, so we had to negotiate around bushes.

 Here's our group (except for me). It's still early in the day so we're looking strong!

 Jennie is fairly new to skiing, but she did an awesome job.

 We finished the first site and set off for the next site just before noon. We were able to travel fairly quickly because there wasn't too much snow. We took turns breaking trail and trying to figure out where the trail was.
This is an avalanche chute that had a major avalanche in 2005. The young aspen are now a few feet tall. As you can see by the lack of snow at the top of the chute, we didn't have any avalanche concerns on this trip!

My fancy skis. Like the duct tape? The skins just wouldn't stay on without them, and skins were critical to add extra friction to go up hill and slow me down going down hill.

Here I am with the snow tube on the third snow course. We use the tube to measure the depth of the snow and the water content. The snow wasn't super deep at any of the sites, but we'll have to wait for the numbers to see what percentage of normal we are.

We left the uppermost site at 4 p.m., which meant that we finished our ski in the moonlight. Yep, moonlight. That 90% chance of snow gave us a few flakes, but nothing measurable, and the snow clouds blew right over us.

We were all whooped by the time we got back to the vehicles. I think that's the longest ski trip I've ever been on, and my body felt it in many places! Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable day and I'd do it again.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Our New Train Project

 Desert Boy and I were talking one morning over breakfast, and not surprisingly, the subject of trains came up. He talk about trains usually several times a day, but this particular morning he added in an adjective that gave me an idea and made me want to learn more.

We looked online to see if we could find a map of Amtrak routes that go near national parks. We found, which had some neat features. But we wanted to do something a little different. So I found an old map of the United States and we taped it to a big piece of cardboard.

 Next I drew all the Amtrak routes on the map in red. It was fascinating seeing where they followed an Interstate, where they followed a secondary highway, and in a very few places, where they followed no road at all. (And probably historically speaking, the railroad tracks were in many of those places before the roads were.)

Then we covered the whole thing with plastic Saran wrap, as Desert Girl was trying to abscond with the markers any chance I wasn't looking and add her own train routes. Desert Boy was pleasantly drawing volcanoes and other things he wanted to see on the excess cardboard around the map.

 We still wanted to do more to the map, such as add in some of the destinations, but before we got to that, it was time for a break. Desert Boy got out a couple little train cars and started chugging them around the train routes. He doesn't know many of the state names, but I think he might start picking up a few as time goes on, especially when the trains crash into each other. ("Caution, train crash in Texas. Please take alternate route.")

This is definitely a work in progress. It's been quite fun for all of us (except Desert Girl when the markers were taken away). It's also made me think about some possible vacations that could include the words "All Aboard!"

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Winter Bike Riding

 It's been such a mild winter that we've gotten in a fair bit of bike riding. Desert Boy can really roll.

 Since the only paved roads in town are state highways and we don't have any sidewalks, it's nice to have an option where we don't have to worry about traffic so much. (I really think a sidewalk/bike path from one end of town to the other would be awesome!)

 Desert Boy is often off-kilter and I wonder if he's going to manage to stay upright, but somehow he manages to pull it off. He's got a really good sense of balance.

 Even the mountains don't have much snow on them! I'm supposed to help with a snow survey tomorrow, and we'll measure just how much snow there is.

Desert Boy's learned that one extra item is useful for winter riding: gloves. It might not be too cold, but it's cold enough to want a little protection!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Moon, Venus, and Jupiter

This was the sight to the west just a little while ago: a crescent moon with Venus hanging out a little below, with Jupiter looking down on them. It was noteworthy because all three are so bright! Tomorrow night (Sunday), Jupiter will be about even with the moon soon after sunset. You can learn more about what's coming in the night sky here.

And although I tried various camera settings I didn't get a very good photo. Fortunately Sky & Telescope offers a free astrophotography primer. Here's hoping for some warm nights to try out various settings!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Four-Year Old Attitudes

The other day we were fortunate to have Ava and Isaac come over for a play date. I get a kick out of watching the kids' interactions. At lunch time Desert Boy and Ava were delighted to have their own little table and they had quite the conversation.

First Ava got to say her piece.

It looks like Desert Boy had a different opinion.

I think he thought if he stared hard enough, he could get Ava to change her mind. Somehow, I don't think that would work. They're both stubborn kids!

It all ended well and they moved on to the next point of discussion.

Meanwhile the little kids were just peachy-happy eating their lunch. They don't have such long conversations--yet!

Then it was time to go play on the gravel pile in our driveway. Again there were some serious discussions and battles over who's in charge.

Ava finally decided she had more important things to do.

 We went over to Jenny's and the kids still had lots of energy, so we headed to the trampoline to wear them out. Jenny showed off some of her trampoline tricks. Cool!

Wow, those kids sure have a lot of energy! It was a fun day, and it's nice to try and have them wear each other out, because they do a much better job of it than I do!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Train Cafe--Nephi, UT

 We had so much fun at a train cafe a few weeks ago. When we were coming home from the city and my husband mentioned that there was a train cafe on the way, we jumped at the opportunity. It's J.C. Mickleson's in Nephi, Utah. We've been through Nephi quite a few times, but with the restaurant at the other end of town, I had just never been there. (Plus they don't say anything about the trains on their website--they should!)

As soon as we walked in, we knew that we were in the right place. We immediately saw lots of trains, some elevated above our heads. (I was trying out a new gizmo with a camera, hence the somewhat fuzzy photos.)

 We could watch the trains the entire time we were eating. (Or in Desert Girl's case, the entire time she was applying spaghetti to her face and clothes.)

 This was the view from our table of the very long freight train.

 We tried to get Desert Boy to count the cars, but he lost interest somewhere in the twenties.

The freight train even had construction equipment and tractors. It made a big impression!

I'm thinking we will be back to the Train Cafe sooner rather than later!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Maze Madness

Ready to do some shopping for President's Day? If you have kids (or know some), this is something you might be interested in. Desert Boy has been trying out some mazes, and this has been a great book for him:
The book is 108 pages long, which will give a young'un plenty to do! There are four mazes per letter of the alphabet, so it's a fun way to learn letters.

For slightly older kids, here's a more difficult maze book:

And for age 10 to adults, here's an extremely cool looking maze book:

Click on any of the images above to be connected to the Amazon page. If you're interested in learning more about how they were created and a special coupon code to buy them from Create Space, click here.
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