Saturday, April 27, 2013

Desert Destination: Tule Hardpan and Fossil Mountain

After our recent rock climbing adventure on the Ibex Crags, we took out the bikes and headed out on the Tule Hardpan, also known as the Ibex Hardpan. If you've never ridden a bike on a hardpan (playa), it is the bomb. You can go anywhere you want, it's perfectly flat, and it just feels great. The last time we biked on this hardpan, Desert Boy was just a toddler and we had an alien experience (click the link to see more!).

Desert Girl gave the playa a try on her little bike with training wheels, but soon decided she'd rather ride with mom. I guess I should add that when I say perfectly flat, I don't mean perfectly smooth. The playa has plenty of mud cracks, and it's best not to have super inflated tires or you will have a bumpy ride.

 So while my husband took a rest, the rest of us rode around the "island", a projection rising from the middle of the playa. Someone had planted three flag poles on the top, which seemed rather out of place to me. I'm not sure if it's some group or remnants from when they filmed part of the movie John Carter out here (which I have yet to see). As I noted in another post, playas have all sorts of uses.

 Someone had dug out a low spot on the playa, which gathered water for animal use. Desert Girl just barely resisted getting wet.

 After our little bike ride (which I could have continued much, much longer--did I mention how much I like riding on playas?), we packed up the bikes and headed around the south end of Ibex Crags and the Barn Hills to Blind Valley. Our destination?

The mighty Fossil Mountain, in the south Confusion Range. Nearly the entire mountain is made of fossils! Here's a link to a very brief geology of the mountain. Many of the fossils are from the Lower Ordovician Pogonip Group and include brachiopods, cephalopods, trilobites, and echinoderms. Dr. Lehi Hintze (who wrote the marvelous Geology of Millard County) and his coworkers used the area to establish fossil zones for rocks of this age that are a reference to paleontologists all over the world. He noted that because this area was at the edge of a sea, the wave action caused many of the fossils to be in pieces.

 We drove to the end of a four-wheel drive road and then headed up the wash towards the mountain. It didn't take us long to start spotting fossils.

 Here's a cephalopod.

 I'm not sure what this is, but it looked pretty. I wish I knew more about paleontology, because I mainly just look for pretty things but don't understand much about what they mean. Nevertheless, I appreciate that very different things used to live here, and that the landscape has changed so much over the millennia (although I'm looking for a word that means even bigger time changes--geologic time is so hard for my mind to grasp!).

We happily spent about an hour looking around.

Someday we'll have to hike all the way up the mountain. Summitpost says that it takes about two hours;  I think it would take me longer because I'd be stopping frequently to look for fossils!

Friday, April 26, 2013


This is how I felt a lot this week!

Desert Girl's wearing her tutu--she insists on a dress almost every day and dances around the house. it is  so cute.

Desert Girl is at the stage where afternoon naps don't always happen, so sometimes she just plays until she passes out--wherever she is, and then sleeps the rest of the day and the night. It's an awkward stage.  And it can make for some memorable temper tantrums.

We are enjoying some wonderful warm weather, and the garden is starting to look good. I'll post an update soon. But for right now, I'm going to take a cue from Desert Girl!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Food: Green Smoothies

First, we have some winners! The winners of a free digital magazine subscription from Zinio are: Sara H., Susie R., Gayle R., Jeff N., Andrew S, Shae, Moi A., Lila A., and Andrea. Congratulations! You'll be receiving an email soon.

Now, on to some green stuff.
If you would have asked me a year ago to make green smoothies and feed them to my family, I would have laughed and thought, Ew, that's just too much of a nature nut thing

But just a few days ago, I was ready to give them a try. 

What changed? 

Well, since we've been eating more real foods and a lot fewer processed foods since the beginning of the year, I've felt great. I've had lots of energy, have hardly gotten sick, and have had fun experimenting with food. 

I've come across some very inspiring websites and blogs. One is Unconventional Kitchen, which has a 30-day Love Your Greens Challenge starting May 1. It's free and promises to double your energy, get your glow, and rock your skinny jeans. 

I'm ready to rock my skinny jeans, for sure. Even though I've been eating healthier, those winter pounds haven't come off, and I'm not thrilled with them.

So I signed up, and the welcome email had a recipe for a pineapple-grape-banana-spinach-yogurt-lime and water smoothie. I had all those ingredients, so I pulled out the old blender and put them all in. I wasn't so sure about the spinach part, but went ahead and followed the recipe, blending all the ingredients. Lo and behold, we ended up with a big container with an Incredible Hulk hue to it. It was a little bit scary. It was a little bit exciting. I grabbed the camera. Maybe this would turn out worthy of a blog post.

I gingerly poured the smoothies into several cups. Then I had Desert Boy try it first. I was too much of a wimp, too scared to find out what drinking spinach would be like. He took a little taste and smiled. I let out a sigh of relief. Maybe this was doable. Then Desert Girl gave it a try. She liked it too. Then it was my turn. I worked up my nerve and took a sip. It was better than I expected. When my husband came home, he also tried it and liked it. We poured some of the smoothy mixture into popsicle molds and downed the rest. Maybe this would be worth repeating.

I was out of grapes, but had strawberries, so two days later, I repeated the recipe with smaller amounts of everything.
Desert Girl was an eager helper as we blended up the ingredients. It took a long time to get those frozen strawberries blended! We still have to learn the art of blending.
Being a chicken again, I let Desert Girl do the first taste testing.

She drained it! We all enjoyed some and had enough left over for me to finish off the next morning at breakfast.

So far our green smoothy experiment is going well. I'm looking forward to the 30-day challenge and expanding my eating horizons. If you'd like to do it with me, I'd welcome the company!

For those of you experienced with green smoothies, what's your favorite recipe?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Desert Destination: Titus Canyon, Death Valley National Park

Happy Earth Day! Here's a post where you get to see plenty of earth: Titus Canyon, one of the most popular backcountry drives in Death Valley National Park. I had visited the canyon about 16 years ago and wanted to see it again.

After a lovely night in Beatty and a quick stop in Rhyolite, we headed down the pavement towards Death Valley National Park. We took the road marked as the Titus Canyon turnoff, prepared for a 27-mile adventure. The road is one-way except for the last three miles.

The beginning was a typical gravel road with creosote bushes and other desert plants on both sides. It didn't take long to get to some spectacular scenery. I stopped and took photos several times, trying to capture the variety of colors in the mountains.

At one of the stops, we could see the road leading up to Red Pass, with the red road cut giving an indication of the origin of the name. We would be on that road soon, and I was very glad we were driving the truck and not the van. The road is designated as high clearance, and I would agree with that. 

The road was in good condition and seemed plenty wide enough. Granted, I've driven some scary 4x4 roads, so it takes a lot to intimidate me. I did put the truck into 4x4 so it wouldn't bounce so much on the uphill.  I thought we'd see a lot more flowers, but we saw relatively few.

Here's looking back from near the top of red pass at the road we had just traveled. Wow, what great mountains! I would like to hike more of that terrain someday.

I've biked much of this Titus Canyon road before, which was wonderful. If you want an even more in-depth view, you could enter the Titus Canyon Marathon. It used to be held in February but due to a number of years when storms washed out the road and they had to reroute the marathon, they've changed it to December of this year, limited to 300 participants. Hmmm...

Descending from Red Pass, we soon entered Titus Canyon proper. I had fun guessing where exactly the road would go.

Before long we reached Leadville, a small ghost town. (Like the dirt bikes? Several people used them to go down the road, and they sure could travel a lot faster than the vehicles!)

Desert Girl did a little happy dance on an old foundation. I wondered how they had gotten all that cement to such a remote location.

A few buildings persisted, and we had fun peeking in them.

We could walk through one old shed.

Oh yes, this is a good adventure!

What a view out the window!

I don't think I would be cut out to be a miner in such a remote location.

We went over to a mine adit and walked up to the bat gate.

Inside was a culvert, and beyond that old timbers supporting the mine shaft. The miners had clearly spent a considerable amount of time and effort to make such a large shaft. It went beyond where my camera flash reached.

We continued on, with fantastic rock strata dipping in the same direction we were traveling.

As we continued to descend, the surroundings became much more canyon-y, and the rock layers continued to impress. Most of these are Cambrian age limestones.

As we rounded one corner, we saw some bricks. We couldn't tell what they were doing there, so we got out and walked over.

When we got closer, we still didn't know why the bricks were there.

A bit further on we saw some petroglyphs. A spring is nearby. We didn't stop, as the kids weren't terribly interested and we wanted to pass one vehicle that had stopped there. We saw about ten other vehicles on the road that day, and all the other drivers were quite polite and pleasant.

The canyon continued, wider than I had remembered. I couldn't wait to get to the good part--the narrow section!

Finally we were there. See how the rock has changed and now consists of huge breccia cemented into the bottom of the wall? I didn't notice while I was driving--I was more concerned about hikers in the canyon. To my surprise, we didn't see any--all the hikers in the rather full parking lot had gone over to nearby Fall Canyon.

It took us over two hours to get to this narrow section of the canyon, and Desert Girl had fallen asleep and Desert Boy was ready for lunch. So we didn't spend quite as much time appreciating it as I had planned. Oh well, it was still enjoyable.

The canyon ends rather abruptly, with a parking lot just outside it and then a washboardy road leading down to the highway. When we looked back from the highway, we couldn't even pick out which canyon we had come down--there are just so many canyons in Death Valley!

I'd definitely recommend this trip to anyone who likes the backcountry and a little driving adventure. Plenty of hike options lead off from the road, including Titanothere Canyon (before Red Pass), peaks from the top of Red Pass, upper Titus Canyon, and anything else that strikes your fancy. When the kids are older I hope we can return and spend a whole day in the canyon, checking it out more thoroughly.

Question of the day: What is your favorite canyon?

p.s. It's the last day to enter the Zinio Magazine Giveaway!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Sweet Relish Package from Tales of a Mountain Mama

One of the benefits of entering the 25 Outdoorsy Moms Competition was reading blogs by other outdoorsy moms. One I particularly like is Tales of a Mountain Mama.
Amelia is based in Yellowstone National Park and not only loves being outside with her kids, but also reviewing gear and giving it some of it away. I signed up for one of her giveaways, and lo and behold, I won! This was a fantastic giveaway sponsored by Sweet Relish, a website that gives you ideas of products and lets you put together your own lists.

I couldn't wait for the package to arrive. When it did, I thought the packaging was really cute.

Desert Boy was eager to help me unpack it and when he saw The Real Deal Brazil Hat, he put it on immediately. It' made from tarps used in the Amazon to cover products on trucks, so each hat is original. It also has the added benefit of looking cool, so it doesn't matter how much more we wear it or get it dirty. Choosing who gets to wear it may be the hardest task!

The other products were quite interesting: Zipz to hold your sunglasses (or glasses in place), a Ruff bowl that is compact and easy to take along on dog walks and to provide a drinking bowl for your dog, disinfectant spray and wipes, and Stuffitts to help dry out and de-smell wet boots (wow, we have just a few of those around here!)

I grabbed the disinfectant spray and wipes to put in the car right away. Thymol is the active ingredient, which is the same ingredient I use in my Seventh Generation disinfectant. We like that a lot lot! The spray has 225 sprays in it, which I think is a much nicer way to apply than a goopy alcohol-based disinfectant.

Well, I feel on top of the world having won this giveaway and getting such neat prizes. Thank you, Amelia! If you're interested in other outdoorsy gear, be sure to head over to Tales of a Mountain Mama. She has frequent (several a month!) giveaways with really cool gear. She also has all sorts of great advice about how to enjoy the outdoors with your kids.

Thanks also to Sweet Relish! This looks like a really cool website.

p.s. I actually have a giveaway right now, for a free digital magazine subscription from Zinio. If you haven't signed up yet, do so quick, it's almost over!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


This past weekend we went to the big city so I could do a triathlon. I wasn't very well trained, but I consider entering these competitions as a great way to stay motivated to keep exercising. Here the kids help me do a little warm up before the race. This triathlon was in reverse, with the run, then bike, then swim in an indoor swimming pool. I really like the order, as it's much easier to take shoes and socks off than put them on wet feet!
Here I am on the red carpet! Probably my only red carpet! I have just finished the bike (which was great!) and on to the swim. I finished a minute faster than last year, which made me very, very happy. I'm attributing the better time to a better diet. 

Not long after we got back home we had a huge snow storm. Two big limbs broke off our apricot tree.

 It was time to pull out some of the snow gear and have a big snowball fight at the bus stop!

 The snow-covered mountains (and valleys, for a time) give us some much needed moisture. We're only about 50% of median as of April 1, meaning that for the driest state in the nation, we are extra dry. We only get about 6-7 inches of precip in the valley (Chicago gets about 33 inches), so half of that amount doesn't leave us with much. Even though we're ready for warmer weather, we'll take the moisture any way we can get it. (For more about our water outlook, see this post I did).
 The storm clouds rolling through have been fantastic. I feel like I should be outside all day trying to get the best photo.

In the evenings have been rehearsals for our tap dance group. We are performing this Saturday. Wow, tap dance out in the middle of the Great Basin Desert. You never know what you might find!

p.s. If you haven't entered the drawing for a free magazine subscription, don't wait. It's free! No credit card info needed, just name and email. And it's easy to sign up.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Magazine Giveaway from Zinio

I have something a little different for you today. A little thank you for coming here and reading this blog.

Have you heard of Zinio? If not, that's okay, it's new to me, too. Zinio sells online subscriptions to magazines that you can read on your computer or mobile device. Less clutter filling up your mailbox, less to recycle, and more fun! With Earth Day right around the corner (it's Monday, April 22, in case you haven't looked at a calendar lately), this is a great time to give Zinio a try.

Even better, Zinio is giving me 9 subscriptions to give away to readers, no strings attached! (Disclosure: I'm also getting a subscription, so I am being compensated for this post.) If you are one of the lucky 9, you can pick whatever magazine you want. And they have some great ones. I found Outside, Birdwatching, Smithsonian, Organic Gardening, Gripped: The Climbing Magazine, Perennial Gardening, Backpacker, Women's Adventure, Mother Earth News, Bicycling, Cycling Plus, Inside Triathlon, Triathlete, Go Multi, Eating Well, Clean Eating, Familia Saludable...well, you get the picture. There are so many great magazines to choose from! And in many languages, which can be a lot of fun if you're trying to learn another language or keep your skills up to date.

Another cool thing about Zinio is that you can subscribe to a magazine or just purchase a single issue to read on your digital device. For those of us in rural areas with very limited library access, or those searching for hard-to-find magazines, this is an awesome resource.

You can win even if you don't win one of the 9 subscriptions. Zinio has some great deals going on right now, including:

2 for 1

99 Cent Back Issues Sale

  • Ends April 30

Champions League Tournament Savings

So, ready to try for one of the free 9 subscriptions from Zinio? Enter below. I'll need your first and last name and email address. If you're one of the winners, I'll notify you by email and you'll need to let me know what title you'd like to receive. It may be hard to narrow down that choice! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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