Friday, June 28, 2013

Desert Destination: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

 North of Salt Lake City and west of Brigham City, Utah lies the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. It protects 80,000 acres of marshes and other habitats where the Bear River enters the northeast arm of the Great Salt Lake. This freshwater area is known for its abundance of birds, and our goal was to head out to the 12-mile auto tour route.

 We drove out to the beginning of the loop, where a picnic pavilion had been overtaken by cliff swallows. Picnicking here was no longer a good option, but bird watching and photography were fine.

 The cliff swallows were in various stages of nest building.

After observing them for awhile, we got the bikes off the back of the van (last year we bought a bike rack, and it's been useful several times). Our plan was to bike the loop part of the auto tour, which we estimated to be about 9 miles (we couldn't find the actual distance anywhere, and it certainly felt longer, so perhaps when they say 12-mile auto tour that is just the gravel loop and not the part before it).
 Right away we saw lots of birds. My husband and the kids kept riding while I stopped to take some photos.

 The always-impressive American white pelicans.

 Black-necked stilt

 Cormorant--look at how low in the water this bird species is!

 The road was really flat, which is why we thought we'd enjoy the bike ride. Desert Boy wasn't in the best of moods, so we took frequent snack breaks. Eventually the food pepped him up and he did great.

 A tern--one of my favorite birds due to the amazingly long migrations they have.

 I made frequent stops to photograph more birds--a black-necked stilt and an American avocet in the photo above. This is such the birder's paradise, and I felt that on bike I not only got to see them, but also hear and smell them better.

 The yellow-headed blackbird is also common around parts of the ranch.

 A few vehicles passed us on the one-way loop, but there was very little traffic.

 A glossy-faced ibis. I love their beaks.

 A few rays of sunshine peaked out from the clouds. This was also about the time that the slight breeze went away. I had been counting on the headwind to help us get back. It's dissipation meant we wouldn't have that advantage. Even more important, the lack of wind also meant that the insects started finding us and eating us. We are not used to insects (one of the advantages of living in the desert), so we didn't have any insect repellent.

 Great blue heron

We not only saw birds, we also saw some wildlife, like the striped skunk, above.

And many muskrats. Many, many muskrats. We were surprised how many we saw.

 Great bike riding.

 It reminded me slightly of Shark Valley down in the Everglades, with the flatness (although the background mountains sure were different!), amazing birds, and plenty of water. We teased Desert Boy to be on the lookout for alligators.

 We came across a broken egg and wondered what had happened. Later we found a raven with another broken egg in its beak. Between the ravens and skunks, it could be a challenge to raise young, but the sheer number of birds help them to survive.

 Another favorite--a snowy egret, with its yellow slippers (feet).

 More black-necked stilts. We saw a lot of these!

 We reached an overlook and gratefully stretched our legs. We still had a few miles left, where we got even more insect bites from mosquitoes and deer flies. They didn't itch much then, but for the next couple of weeks Desert Boy and I suffered. (My husband and Desert Girl seemed to be immune to the bites.)

We eventually made it back to the van, happy to escape the insects. It was getting late, so we headed to downtown Brigham City to find some food. The downtown has a large sign stretching across main street that says "Welcome to Brigham, Gateway to the World's Greatest Wild Bird Refuge." I had been reading Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams, which had made me appreciate the bird refuge more. She also had some interesting information in the book about Brigham City, which started off as a communal living effort.

After dinner, it was time for a late night swim at our hotel pool. The kids improve so much each time we get to a pool. I was a little pool rat when I was a kid, so I'm hoping they can learn how to swim well.

So, in closing, I'd recommend a trip to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge if you like birds and getting away from the city. The bike loop is great IF you have insect repellent. Otherwise, it might be better to do it in a vehicle! The kids liked trying to find different types of birds (by colors, activities, sizes). They also liked seeing the skunk, muskrats, and enormous (gross) carp by some of the water structures. Some of them weighed more than the kids. All in all, it was quite enjoyable.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Small Party Cave Rescue Class

 I like caves. I like ropes. And over the years, I've been fortunate to go to some really cool places that involve ropes and the underground. I've also come to understand how if something goes wrong, you need some really specialized training to get you back to the highway. So I've taken National Cave Rescue Commission training and enjoyed that so much I eventually became an instructor. I've been an instructor for a number of years now, and when a fellow instructor asked if I'd be willing to help out with a Small Party Cave Rescue Class, I said sure. This is a newer class that's offered and the first time for all three of the main instructors to try out this new curriculum.

We held the class in Logan, Utah, at the Cache County Search and Rescue building. It's a great facility, with a climbing wall corner and nice anchors.

There's even a door in the classroom that opens to the bay below, which makes for a difficult edge problem.

 But the best place to learn skills is where you have some real rock, so we went out to nearby cliffs the first afternoon and reviewed and learned some basic hauling and lowering techniques using minimal gear. I like using minimal gear, as that means my pack is lighter. The key is knowing your gear forwards and backwards so that you can use it in several different ways.

 We rotated students through stations, and I became the patient for a group. Above was my view as they pulled me up the cliff.

 Ah, such friendly rescuers!

Well, since this was a cave class, we spent the next couple of days going to a cave.
 Before we went in we had a great demonstration about placing anchors.

 Then we split into groups and practiced a variety of counterbalances, one of my favorite techniques for small parties. (If you want to learn more, sign up for some NCRC training--there's a national event coming up in July!)

 This cave had a pit entrance that was large enough for us to have several groups working at the same time.

 Down at the bottom we found plenty of snow and ice, which we discussed in length. Hypothermia is always something of concern in cave rescue, but in these caves, it's critical to get your patient warmed.

We did some mock rescues, and I had the fun of being pulled out of a pit a couple of times.
 The terrain we were in was absolutely stunning, and I can't wait to go back.

As I said at the beginning, I love caves and I love working on rope. But the thing that makes me willing to volunteer my time to do cave rescue instruction is the people. We have a great cadre of instructors and staff, and meeting students and seeing them progress is really rewarding.

So if you read this blog and you like to cave, get some cave rescue training. It not only helps you help other people, it also makes you a better caver. Contact me if you need more info.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Great Basin Quarter Ceremony

 I went to the ceremony of the launch of the Great Basin Quarter this last week. The US Mint is launching five quarters each year celebrating National Park Service areas. The parking lot was full, a rare occurrence, with people from all over. Many numismatists (coin collectors) came to the event, along with a good local turnout.

 Several people gave short talks, including Delaine from the Western Shoshone tribe, which has a long history in the area. Great Basin National Park Superintendent Steve Mietz explained the significance of the bristlecone pine, which is featured on the quarter. It is a long-lived species, with some growing over 5,000 years old. They only way they can grow that old is to live in harsh places with a lot of adversity. Bristlecone pines will grow in areas that aren't so extreme (like the parking lot of the Lehman Caves Visitor Center in Great Basin National Park), but they don't live as long.

 Ron Harrigal from the U.S. Mint presented Great Basin National Park superintendent Steve Mietz with a special plaque.

 Then they did the ceremonial pouring of the quarters. The ceremony concluded with more beautiful music and an opportunity to exchange bills for rolls of Great Basin quarters.

The First National Bank of Ely set up a temporary teller stand, and thousands of Great Basin quarters were exchanged. I followed some of the coin collectors and went to the post office for a special stamp. If we can manage not to spend the quarters, maybe they'll be worth a little more than twenty-five cents someday.

It was a nice ceremony, and the reporter from the Ely Times was there, so there is likely to be a story in this week's newspaper (out on Friday).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Blossoms and Berries

 Our yard is bursting with colors and smells. It's obvious that it's summertime! The catalpa flowers (above) smell so good.

 My native flower garden has coneflowers just starting to bloom. The flax and Indian paintbrush are mostly done.

 The Palmer's penstemon is just gorgeous. It looks like such a complicated flower, with its inner parts and outer parts and different colors.

 The big winds we've had recently have knocked some of the apricots off the tree. We feel very lucky to have apricots--we've had a number of years with no or few apricots. This year should be a good crop, and I'm ready to make some jam.

 I have a few evening primroses in the garden. The garden is doing much better than last year, thanks to the drip irrigation system I installed. It's not pretty, but it (mostly) gets the job done. Now I just have to deal with trees that have gotten too big too fast and are shading the garden a little too much!

 We have a couple different kinds of currant in the yard, almost ripe. We have so many this year that maybe we'll even get a few instead of them all going to the birds!

And last but not least is the mulberry tree down at the end of the fence. I had totally forgotten about it, so now that I'm writing about it, I hope I will remember it! The berries remind me of finding them as a child. Yum!

What blossoms and berries do you have in your yard?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Desert Boy's First 5K

 We had a great time at the Snake Valley Festival this past weekend. One of the events is the Snake Valley Slither, a 5K trail run/walk. Desert Boy decided he really wanted to do it. I wasn't so sure, as his longest race to date has been a 1 miler. But he seemed sure of himself, so I decided to let him give it a try.

He knew not to go too fast at the beginning, and he listened, doing a slow jog on gravel roads. Then we got to the trail section of the run.
 He ran short stretches, but walked quite a bit.

 He figured we had already passed the first mile back on the gravel roads (a little warning went off in my mind!). It was a bit later till we got to this really cute mile marker sign. Then everything started falling apart. His feet hurt (it didn't help that he had left his shoes out in the middle of the water fight field the day before and they were still wet!), then his legs hurt, then he asked what he got if he finished, and then he asked if someone came around to collect people who couldn't finish. Uh oh.

I encouraged him that soon we would be at the aid station and he could get a nice big drink. The last walkers caught up to us, and that was a good thing, as we could all talk together and Desert Boy was a bit more distracted.

Then we came into view of the aid station, and Desert Boy perked up. He got even happier when his friend Evan said he would walk the rest of the way with him. Suddenly it wasn't quite such a long race!
 It's always more fun to run and walk with friends!

An hour or so after he started, Desert Boy made it across the finish line. He had done it!
He got to have a smoothie as a treat. (The post-race smoothie and frappucino stand was awesome!)

The finishers and helpers. What a great way to start the morning!

And for Desert Boy, since he had done so well, he got to go to a friend's house for a few hours, making all post-race pains go away.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

blogger templates