Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Finding Snake Skins

 I was ready to do some desert exploring one morning, so I headed to an area I hadn't visited in years.

This Hole-in-the-Ground Sinkhole. It's quite stunning, especially since you don't know it's there until you're at the edge. One side has really steep cliffs. Since I had never walked completely around it, I decided to give it a go. The views were great. While I walked, I kept an eye out for rattlesnakes. I thought that they might have gone into their dens for the winter, but I wasn't sure. I've hardly seen any rattlesnakes this last summer, but I know some people who saw more than usual. I like seeing them, I just don't want them to surprise me--or me to surprise them!

 Then I saw something that made me do a double take--a snake skin. As snakes grow, they shed their skins. They leave them behind, and if you find them before the elements cause them to disintegrate, they make for an interesting show-and-tell item for a little kindergarten student.

 Can you spot the shed in the photo above?

 When a snake is ready to shed its skin, it rubs its nose on something rough, like a rock, to tear the skin. Then it starts to wriggle out of the skin. Then--here's a cool part I just learned--as the skin is pulled off, it is turned out inside out.

 One of the snake sheds I found was in really good condition, with the whole head clearly identifiable. I was really excited and showed quite a few people. My husband thinks I'm overreacting a little, so I'll just throw the question out there: Have you ever seen a snake skin with the head still in good shape?

p.s. For more info about the sinkhole, see my book, pages 236-37.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Searching for Garnets

 While we were in Ely one Sunday, we decided to go visit Garnet Hill Recreation Area. We had a rock hammer and were eager to find lots of garnets.

When we got there, we found a few other people looking for garnets. We went to an area not far from the parking lot where it looked like a lot of people had looked. Desert Boy was eager to try out the rock hammer.

 It was hard work, but he was ready!

 Then it was Daddy's time to take a turn.

Meanwhile Desert Girl was taking a nap, so I wandered around the gullies looking for some garnets that had eroded out of the rock.
 I found a couple, but it was a little frustrating because I was hoping to find a lot more.

 We ended up with about five garnets with three people looking for nearly an hour. Not so great. Especially when I knew where there were a lot more garnets up Hampton Creek in the North Snake Range.

 This time the kids took naps on the bumpy ride up the canyon so they were both ready to go searching when we arrived. We didn't have to go far--there are garnets even right in the parking area!
 Desert Boy was more interested in making stone houses. Henry was in a lazy-dog mood and just hung out.

 Once I found a couple, I started seeing garnets everywhere.

 Most are quite small. These are almandite garnets. They were mined from here for a time in the 1960s (see my book for more info). Garnets, in addition to being semi-precious gems, are also used for industrial purposes, such as sandpaper.

 Fortunately we had two containers so that Desert Girl had her own. She liked putting more than just garnets in hers. Then she would get tired of what was in there and dump it all out and start again. We tried to ignore her bucket and make sure she didn't get too close to the one my husband and I were sharing.

 With her little fingers, she could pick up the garnets quickly. If she chose to.

 She also really wanted to wear a dress. We do lots of pants wearing under the dresses so she can go out and romp around.
Can you find the garnets in the photo above? They are dark red. They are easiest to find on a sunny day.

 We never strayed far from the parking area and found plenty. It was quite rewarding, and also quite relaxing. Maybe those hunter-gatherer genes are kicking in, making us feel successful as we collected our harvest.

Meanwhile the stone house was getting quite elaborate.

 Soon it was time to share the finds.

 Desert Girl and one of her many expressions. She also graced us with songs with exciting lyrics like, "Garnet, Garnet, Little Garnet in My Bucket. Garnet, Garnet, Little Garnet." (repeat about 50 times)

 Desert Boy got a little more interested in garnets at the end. We also found some rocks with nice displays of garnets and took some of those home. They will be winter projects.

 The garnets at Hampton Creek might be smaller than those at Garnet Hill, but it was much easier to find them. Since we were looking for quantity more than quality, this was a great spot for us.

 And apparently the rocks were just right for making stone houses.

We had the canyon all to ourselves on this beautiful afternoon. We hope to go back sometime (maybe next summer?) and camp--it would be lots of fun to spend even more time collecting garnets and building stone houses.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Our Pumpkins

 It's pumpkin season! Desert Boy decided he wanted to make a house pumpkin this year. We started with him drawing on the pumpkins. His idea (borrowed from a magazine) was a door and windows (and a face) on one pumpkin and windows on the other. I cut out the tops.
 Then it was time to gut the pumpkins. As you can see, Desert Boy wasn't thrilled with this step.

Then my husband and I did our best cutting them without accidentally amputating any digits. Fortunately we succeeded.
Our end result looked neat. Due to rapid pumpkin rot, these won't be lasting till Halloween. They were fun while they lasted, though!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hiking with Ten Kids

 Friday was fall break, which meant Desert Boy didn't have school. I took the day off work, and figured with the good weather we should make the most of it. That meant inviting some friends to join us on a hike. We ended up with ten kids. (I didn't count them till the end--I guess maybe I shouldn't admit that!) We also had a few adults, thank goodness!

We decided to take the South Fork Baker trail and try to do the loop around to the Baker Creek trail. According to my book (page 70), the hike is 3.1 miles long with a 950 foot elevation change. A little ambitious for ten kids? Maybe. But we had lots of snacks. And lots of energy. And we could always turn back.

We set some ground rules: the kids had to be able to see an adult, no sticks taller than you are, and no whining.
 One of the biggest things to decide was the leader. The kids took turns, and even the little ones had a chance. Desert Girl thought it was cool to lead the pack.

 We still had some fall colors, but many of the aspen leaves had already fallen off the trees. We even found some frost, which was beautiful on the fallen leaves. (I didn't manage a photo, thinking I would take one later!) The hike reminded me of one we did last year with friends, where we picnicked in a nearby meadow.
 This time we made the second bridge over the South Fork our first snacking stop. Wow, you should have seen how fast the kids whipped out their snacks. They were ready to chow down! We told them to fuel up, because we had a steep hill to conquer just ahead.

 Before we did that, the boys had to try their best to get wet. The adults were quite surprised that no one fell in. We were glad, though, we still had a ways to go.

 Here we are, heading up the steep trail! I was so impressed with Maria, who was carrying 11-month old Izaak. She hasn't done many mountain hikes, but she did great.

 I made Desert Girl hike. She was slow, but she could be persuaded with some extra snacks and cajoling. When she was in a good mood, she let her tongue hang out. I hope that isn't a habit that sticks!

As we hiked, we saw some icicles hanging from a tree. Brrr! The nights must be getting cold. It was perfect hiking weather for us, though, not too hot or cold. Lack of heat also meant that we didn't have to carry as much water, which was a real plus. 

Before too long (none of us had watches, so we didn't know how long!) we made it up to the big meadow, which is about the half-way point of the loop.

 Izaak was free! Snacks and lunch came out! Everyone ate and drank. And then the games began.

 The kids found a shady spot for a fort.

 I sent them on a mission to collect a leaf from the bush. They ran to it--so I knew they had plenty of energy left!

 They also ran back!

 Well, most of them. Ryleigh decided she wanted a turn in the backpack!

 Izaak crawled all over, exercising his little muscles.

Before long, though, we heard the cry, "Charlie got wet!" His boots, socks, and bottoms of his pants were wet, but it was warm, so he didn't mind. I wondered who else would get wet.

It didn't take long to find out. Soon I heard wails from Desert Boy. He had ended up in a deep spot and was soaked from his chest down. We wrung out his clothes and put them back on to dry. I hadn't brought any extra clothes, but I figured he would be okay. In just a moment, we found he'd be more than alright, as Ernesto was wearing a double layer and shared his extra clothes. We all decided that Ernesto was the perfect hiking partner, as he would literally give you the shirt off his back.

 The adults hanging out in the meadow. Have I said what a nice day it was?

 Eventually it was time to go. Ava caught a grasshopper.
 She doesn't let her cast slow her down at all!

 We reentered the woods, went up a slight rise, and then descended through the forest to the bridge at Baker Creek, where once again the kids did their best to get wet.

 I didn't have much time to take photos, as Desert Girl had fallen and declared she needed a bandaid. Our rule is "No blood, no bandaids" (thanks Grandma and Grandpa!). She had an itsy, bitsy scratch with the teeniest amount of blood, so I gave her a bandaid. And then another to make her happy.

 The big kids hiked without complaint. They followed the rules well. The little kids all fell asleep on the way down. It was quite the trek for them!

 Desert Girl woke up for the end and insisted that her pant leg be rolled up so her bandaids would have plenty of air. She was grouchy, but she did it.

We made it back to the trailhead about four hours after we started. It was a great hike! And I think all the kids slept well that night.
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