Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Make Your Own Cave

Great Basin National Park has a kids program almost every day at 1:30 (and sometimes on weekends at 9:30), so we decided to go check one out. It was Make Your Own Cave day, and the kids each got to select a box and get some clay to make their cave.

 Ranger Nomi showed the kids how to make the clay into different shapes.

 Desert Girl was very excited to be participating like a big girl. Oh yeah, the glue may have been a huge incentive. She doesn't get to do glue very often because she has a way of making the glue go every where in the house, especially on the carpet.

 Her cave soon started looking really good. Some of the bigger kids added animals to their caves. Each one was unique. Best of all, it kept the kids happily entertained for about 45 minutes!

To find out about the kids programs and other programs offered, check the park website section of ranger programs.  If you click the link under Evening Campground Programs, you can find the schedule for the week. Or you can call the park at 775-234-7331.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Great Basin's Glacier

 We decided to go see how a glacier could survive in the desert and headed up to the high country. It was nice to find some cooler temps, but they weren't as cool as we thought, despite our early start, so we were sweating as we hiked up the Bristlecone Trail in Great Basin National Park. Lots of people passed us on the trail as we had no fewer than four snack breaks on the way to the bristlecones (it's just over a mile to get there).

 After all those snack breaks, the kids were in a good mood and had their hiking groove on. We continued past the bristlecone grove to the Wheeler cirque glacier.

 Soon we had a good view of the rock glacier. The actual glacier is at the headwall, covered with snow and falling rocks (we heard quite a few while we were up there). When I was in Alaska, I was taught that in order to be called a glacier, three conditions had to be met: 1. Ice 2. Moving 3. At least an acre in size. I've hiked up to the headwall previously and can verify that there is ice present (and it's quite slippery!). Being tucked against the north-facing wall has protected it from most of the sun's rays. Here's a view from October 2012:

A couple crevasses show that it is moving (ice cracks when it moves, and a crevasse is simply a fancy name for a crack in the ice).

The third condition, the size, is the one I'm not convinced is met. It's hard to tell because so much of the ice is covered with falling debris, so it's hard to determine what's ice and what's rock. According to Gerald Osborn and Ken Bevis in their 2001 article "Glaciation in the Great Basin of the Western United States," a glacier exists, so until a scientific article proves otherwise, I'm going with it. This makes this glacier the only one in Nevada. Who knew Nevada had a glacier?

I'm much more comfortable talking about the rock glacier, which is the bulk of what fills the cirque. A rock glacier is ice covered with rock, and the rock acts like an insulating blanket, protecting the remaining glacial ice from melting. Various studies have been done over the years, and one of the most recent looks promising to help explain if the rock glacier is active (moving). More on this in a future post (once the data has been verified and published).

You can find an excellent blog post written by a geologist friend with more info about the glacier and rock glacier here. Also, the glacier is covered in Chapter 5 of Great Basin National Park: A Guide to the Park and Surrounding Area and includes additional info, including the strawberry algae that makes the snow a pink color. (Note: pink snow should be classified with yellow snow in the 'do not eat' category.)

 Desert Boy was happy to do a rock star pose for me. Desert Girl had a hard time deciding on her pose.

 The flowers were great as we continued.

 It's such a different looking world being in the cirque. On three sides are mountain walls over a thousand feet higher, and the steep cliff face of Wheeler Peak rises over 2,000 feet from the cirque. It's so barren looking, with so much grey rock. But the many flowers definitely brighten up the place for a month or two each summer.

 We found a patch of snow and the kids had SO much fun playing in it.

 The clouds floated by quickly, letting the sun peek through and illuminate various parts of the cirque.

 Finally I made it to the sign that says "Rock Glacier Elevation 10,800 feet." The trail stops here, so if you want to go any further, you have to figure out your own route. Rocks fell every few minutes, with the crashing sounds echoing in the confined space. A raven flew nearby, squawking and sounding so much louder than at lower elevations.

 The kids were excellent troopers. They had cooled off enough to put on an extra layer, and on the way down Desert Boy decided he was ready to carry his pack. We talked about moraines and how glaciers had pushed rocks around. He thought that was pretty cool.

 He also wanted to check the GPS periodically. Desert Girl mainly wanted to climb and jump.

On the way back through the bristlecone grove we went slower to absorb the ancient trees. They weren't here when the glacier was at its maximum, but they've been growing here for thousands of years. Seeing a tiny strip of a tree alive (like the one above) makes us marvel at the adaptations life can make.

This was a very fun outing. We were not particularly fast, as the terrain is rough, and we started at about 10,000 feet in elevation. To the glacier and back was a bit over four miles. Desert Boy did it all, and Desert Girl did over three miles (and slept the fourth--she was plain tuckered out!). The trail is generally accessible on foot from June through mid-October. It's possible to ski or snowshoe here in the winter and spring, but it would be a long approach from the Upper Lehman Creek Campground, where the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive closes in the winter. Nevertheless, someday I would love to see the  rock glacier covered with thick snow, bringing thoughts of a colder, wetter time period in the Great Basin.

(This post includes an affiliate link; check out my disclosure policy here.)

Monday, July 22, 2013

National Moth Week

 July 20-28, 2013 is National Moth Week. Doesn't sound too exciting, does it? I wasn't particularly keen on it until I heard a few more of the details.

Turns out this is a huge citizen scientist effort, and there are activities in every state and many countries during the week. Some are geared at collecting moths, while others are fun hikes that might include seeing moths.

From the National Moth Week website:

"Why moths?

  • Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
  • Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species.
  • Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand.
  • Most moths are nocturnal, and need to be sought at night to be seen – others fly like butterflies during the day.
  • Finding moths can be as simple as leaving a porch light on and checking it after dark. Serious moth aficionados use special lights and baits to attract them.
   National Moth Week provides a much-needed spotlight on moths and their ecological importance as well as their incredible biodiversity.  National Moth Week offers everyone, everywhere a unique opportunity to become a Citizen Scientist and contribute scientific data about moths. Numerous organizations around the world have partnered with National Moth Week and are supporting the event. Through partnerships with major online biological data depositories, National Moth Week participants can help map moth distribution and provide needed information on other life history aspects around the globe."

I had a chance to see some really cool moths during the recent Arachnid BioBlitz (post coming soon, some info in the Ely Times). The photos above and below are two that were attracted to a black light and landed on the white sheet next to it.

Then I decided to put up a sheet on the clothesline, attach my black light to it, and see what showed up in my backyard. Within an hour of sunset I saw nine different moths! Now I just submit my photos and I'll find out what they are. For the meantime, here's a glimpse of the moths and my own creative names for them (if you know what any of these are, please leave a note in the comments; I will be trying to figure these out a little more and sure could use some help!):
My technique: shine a black light at a white sheet
Snowy moth (very hairy near mouth)
Nasty clothes eating moth (this is the moth I squish in my house)
Golden-winged moth
Golden-winged moth with eye shine
Black banded moth
Delicate brown moth
Marbled cheesecake moth
Six-spotted moth
Skinny moths and back-striped moth
Here's your challenge: spot a moth (or two or ten) this week and take a close look at it and give it your own name.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blast Off!

 Last weekend my husband got to lead the science experiment: a rocket launch. We drove down to one of the ranch fields for the launch, because he said it could go quite far and he also didn't want to set anything on fire. So we went near the center of a recently cut pivot and assembled the launching platform.

 The kids were so excited!

 My husband assembled the rocket out of various things. The guide for putting it onto the launch tower was a plastic straw glued onto the rocket.

 Then all the wires had to be attached to the launch site and the launch control box. This was definitely high tech.

 Preparing for launch! Desert Girl even has some upside-down eye protection.

The launch was a little faster than I was ready for with the camera. The rocket hissed and then took off far into the air. On the way down, close to the ground, the parachute came out, but didn't slow the rocket much. We went over to it (near the edge of the pivot, so it was good we had a really big area to work in!), and this is what we found:
One imbedded rocket! Fortunately it was good for another launch. This time it ended up going in the other direction. We have some work to do to make this more predictable!

p.s. Desert Survivor has a Facebook page, and it would be great if you'd "Like" it if you have a chance. Thanks!

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Beautiful Wedding

 What's summer without a wedding? This summer one of our nieces was getting married, and she asked if Desert Boy would like to be ring bearer (he didn't at first, but warmed up to the idea) and if Desert Girl would like to be a flower girl (once she heard a pretty dress was involved, she was all in).

 The flower girls were all darling.

 Desert Boy really liked being ring bearer and getting all dressed up and standing with the big guys. I didn't watch him walk up the aisle because I was keeping an eye on the flower girls, but I heard he waved at a few people and put on his best smile.

 Here the bride gives her dad a hug.

 The weather cooperated for the outside wedding, thank goodness.

 During the short ceremony, the flower girls couldn't help but get a little distracted. Hopefully they weren't too distracting to everyone else!

 And then Kori and David were married and walking down the aisle as husband and wife. They both looked fantastic!

 Aunt Tana gives the girls a hug.

 Then Desert Girl sees her friend Ella and they can't help but show off their beautiful dresses to each other. The moment was priceless!

 Soon it was time for formal pictures. Here's one for the outtakes--I love Desert Girl's expression.

 While we were waiting, we got a quick family photo.

 Happy bride, grandfather, and parents.

 I wish I could have heard what was being said here!

 This photo turned out cute as the flower girls looked for Kori's bright red shoes.


 This was another posed photo that came out cute.

 The guys seemed to be a little more serious...at least for a little while!


 Desert Girl was being a real imp so I couldn't resist a few more photos.

 Sometimes she cooperated.

 But by the time we tried for another family photo, both kids were tired of photos.

 That is, until Henry got to be involved. He even had his own red bow tie.

 Happy girl!

 This was a very-well photographed wedding!

 Desert Girl wanted to be Lola the rest of the time.

 Desert Boy had taken off his suit jacket and put on his junior ranger vest. Not sure why, but my kids love to accessorize!

 Ruby was ready for fun!

 Now the junior ranger vest is off and cupcake eating is about to commence. The food was delicious.

 Before long it was time to dance (in more comfortable footwear!).

We all had a great time and wish the bride and groom a long and happy life together!
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