Saturday, June 30, 2012

E.T. Fresh Jerky

I like this sign. It's been updated from previous years to say not only "E.T. Fresh Jerky" but also "Drop your toxic waste in Area 51's cleanest bathrooms."

It's been too many years since I've been to Rachel, Nevada. I feel a road trip coming on...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Friends, Mather Overlook, and a Hike

 One of my best friends from high school, Alison, and her family came to visit a couple weeks ago. We decided to go up the scenic drive in Great Basin National Park and hike the subalpine trails. On the way, we stopped at Mather Overlook.

 This memorial for Stephen Mather (1867-1930) says "He laid the foundation of the National Park Service defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good that he has done."

Stephen Mather was the first director of the National Park Service. This memorial was stolen but later recovered (on eBay, I believe), and now is solidly reinstated to the overlook which bears his name.

 The views from the overlook are gorgeous, with the stately Wheeler Peak topping a 1,000+ foot tall cliff.

 Some recently installed telescopes make it fun to look in detail.

 Desert Boy could barely reach, but he was certain he wanted to try.

Then it was time to go up to the lakes loop.

 Desert Boy liked any obstacles he could find. He enjoyed having a new hiking partner.

 We were all glad when we got to Stella Lake.

 Desert Girl was happy to pose.

 Desert Boy launched some 'boats.'

 Desert Boy really wanted to go swimming, so I told him to go ahead. I don't think he quite made it up to his knees when he decided it was too cold.

 Meanwhile Desert Girl decided she had to go swimming, too.

 Desert Boy put his clothes back on, tried to retrieve some of his 'boats,' and promptly fell into the lake. Sigh.

 Desert Girl managed to stay dry enough that when we found this snow drift she was ready to play in it. She even tried to make a snow angel.

 She really liked having new friends to hike with.

 Still, the hike was long for her little legs, and she had a long rest on the trail. I hiked with the kids back to the vehicle while Alison and her family went on to the bristlecones. We passed several people heading up there for the wonderful afternoon light.

We enjoyed that light on the way down, showing the creases and folds of the North Snake Range.

It is so good to have friends visit so we can take time to enjoy our own backyard. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of what a wonderful place this is!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brewer's Sparrow

 I did a breeding bird survey last week in mountain shrub habitat, and the most dominant bird was this nondescript Brewer's Sparrow (Spizella breweri). The males like to go to the top of shrubs and sing and sing and sing. They have a distinctive song, with a downward trill. They are loud, and sometimes it's hard to block out that song to listen for other bird species!

 This Brewer's Sparrow didn't mind hanging out near me. It was on top of a rose bush surrounded by a lot of sagebrush. In fact, Brewer's Sparrows are often found in sagebrush, eating insects and later in the summer, seeds.

It was a fun morning listening to these guys and quite a few other birds. I don't get to actually see many of the birds I hear, so it's a treat to see one, much less be able to photograph one! (This is the only bird I photographed that morning.)

This week, if the wind calms down, I hope to get in a bird survey in pinyon-juniper habitat. A few of the birds overlap, but quite a few don't.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

BioBlitz 2012

 This last week I've been busy with the Great Basin National Park BioBlitz. This year's BioBlitz focused on Diptera (flies). Professor Riley Nelson from Brigham Young University led the event, and above he's talking with Park Superintendent Andy Ferguson.

 The BioBlitz is a three-day event, with a 48-hour collecting period. The idea is that if you get a lot of people searching, you can find a lot in a short period of time. For this event, people came from Nevada, Utah, California, Arizona, Colorado and even the countries of Oman and Germany!

 We started with a Diptera workshop, with talks about flies and how voluptuous they are.

 The talks were really good. Then everyone was ready to start collecting!

 Some park rangers got in on the action. All through Tuesday afternoon, people collected flies all over the park.

 In the evening, Dr. Nelson gave a campfire program, which was a big hit.

He even made it interactive, asking the kids what insects they saw on this rock from the nearby creek.

 Little collectors pause to see what's on the ground.

 The next morning I saw Dr. Nelson collect some flies from the edge of a stream with his aspirator.

 The flies came in all shapes and sizes.

 That evening, volunteer Ken gave a talk about flies that included lots of interesting facts, like flies taste with their feet and smell with their hair.

 Folks turned in their specimens at Baker Hall, and this family checked out what the Nevada State Entomologist had under his microscope.

 A group of kids came in and they were put to work sorting the insects out of the vegetation that had all been mixed together from the netting. They were amazingly good at sorting quickly and accurately.

 Several programs were part of the BioBlitz, including a kids program by Ranger Robb.

 His program involved painting, but not just any kind of painting.

 He's ready to unveil the surprise.

 Baby flies (aka maggots) helped with the painting.

 Both little kids and adult kids enjoyed the art.

 Back at Baker Hall, more sorters were hard at work.

 Once the insects had been sorted out of the vegetation, it was time to sort the flies from the "others."

 The microscope table was put to use.

 This is Bjorn, the scientist from Germany. He really knew his flies well and kept a list of all the families he had collected. He may have collected more diversity than any other individual.

At the end of the collecting period it was time for a lunch sponsored by the Great Basin National Park Foundation and raffle prizes from the Western National Parks Association. Thank you! Dr. Nelson also gave a talk about the preliminary results. Over 50 people collected thousands of flies, with about 20 families added to the park list. Wow, that's impressive!

Dr. Nelson will take the flies back to his lab and one of his students will spend most of the rest of the summer sorting out what was collected. We will find out more about the flies over the next months.

Some of the folks that collected! Everyone who participated had a great time. There was even a family who asked about next year's BioBlitz (still to be announced), as they want to plan their family reunion during the same time. It's a really fun event, so if you have a chance to be part of a BioBlitz, go for it!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

It's Here!

My book Great Basin National Park: A Guide to the Park and the Surrounding Area is now in area bookstores!
The Western National Parks Association bookstores at the Great Basin and Lehman Caves Visitor Centers has it on the shelves. It's so cool to see the hard copy on display.

The book is also available from USU Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books a Million.

I posted earlier about how this book came about. If you didn't see that and are interested in the backstory, click here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

More Snake Valley Festival Photos

I was going to separate out the different events of the Snake Valley Festival, but that might take me forever to get posted, and I already have other things I need to catch up on posting. Instead, you can see some photos at the Festival website. But I can't just leave it at that. Here are some (okay, A LOT of ) different ones that are also a lot of fun. If you missed the festival this year, be sure to save the third weekend in June for 2013 and come out and have some fun!

 A yard sale!! That's reason enough for big excitement out here. This one is name-your-own-price.

 Jenna was sent out to round up some more business.

 We took a few plants home with us. And a few books.

 The kids got new water bottles and then we filled them with delicious lavender lemonade. The water bottles are only $3 from the Western National Parks Association bookstores.

 The parade entries were diverse and creative.

 Lots had a water theme, as the proceeds from the festival support the Great Basin Water Network.

 This Waterloo Boy was so cool! They brought it down from Gandy to show, and I'm so glad they did!

 We had a special appearance in the parade.

 The Garrison Fire Department showered the willing crowd.

 Brandon did a good job walking.

 The NCC Crew had a lot of energy, even after working on trails all week!

 As I was walking down the street I finally found the kids.

 They were hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa.

 Watch out King Kong, looks like you might get squeezed!

 I guess King Kong survived, because now it looks like he's going to get the trumpet player. Watch out!

 No Snake Valley parade is complete unless it has some farm equipment.

 I found the kids trying to talk Grandpa out of some money at the Carnival booths.
 Looks like they succeeded!

 Here's Desert Boy climbing up past T. Rex to King Kong.

 Then it was on to some painting. Kids love to paint!

 Somehow they managed to stay clean. I'm really not sure how.

These are some of the beautiful gourds they painted.

 They also played some games.

 Carol chatting with Mike Prince, a cowboy poet who provided some entertainment during the Festival.


 Lots of people browsed the silent auction.
 Then it was time for the water fight.
 Ava was drenched. So was everyone. Anyone who ventured onto the playing field got soaked.
It felt good.

 Desert Girl's first experience with cotton candy. She couldn't finish it all.

 More King Kong slide!
 Then it was time for a delicious dinner at the Border Inn.

 Isaac and Desert Girl hung out.
 Isaac really wanted Desert Girl's sucker and she wasn't willing to share. I love their expressions!
 The auction came next, and you-know-who was in attendance.

 There were some humorous moments during the auction.

 Then it was back to the Carnival. I don't think I can express adequately how much fun it was.

 Isaac was tuckered out.

 The ladder was a huge hit, and everyone in our family did it. Here's my husband.

 Desert Boy made it to the top.

 Desert Girl did quite well and wanted to make sure everyone was watching.

 My husband and Desert Boy on the Scrambler. I rode it once and decided it had scrambled me sufficiently.

 Desert Girl went back to the ladder and ended up with some really static-y hair.

 The next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed to go run a race. At least I was planning to run, with my husband and the kids as cheerleaders.

 Helpers. Thank you!

 Beautiful sisters.

 Brandi and Ben. Brandi ran a really awesome race!

 And we're off!
 I quickly took my place at the back of the pack.

 Getting some water before I do the second loop to complete the 10k. I wasn't real fast, but I did it!

What a fun weekend! And if you made it all the way through this post, congratulations. Now take a well-earned break!
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