Monday, March 31, 2014

Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Trackway near Kanab, Utah

When we told some friends we were going to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, they said to be sure to check out the Moccasin Mountain Dinosaur Trackway. When we got to the State Park, we asked the ranger and he gave us a very nice BLM brochure that had information about how to get to the trackway and also a map with GPS coordinates of the tracks.

You can drive on pavement until the last 2.2 miles. Then it becomes a 4WD sandy road. For a bit I considered taking our van and trying to bike to the site, but in the end decided to take our truck. That was a good choice. For adults, the road would be a challenge, but for little kids hiking or biking, the road would be a little too much with the deep sand. 

The ranger helpfully pointed out the place where people get stuck the most (with a $750 towing bill), and I did have to put the truck into 4 Low to get up that sandy hill. The other thing I noticed is that it's a one-lane road pretty much the whole way. For having such a nice brochure and website, it's not a place that can handle very much traffic. We only saw one other person the during the couple of hours we were there.

Before we got to the trackway, we visited a couple geocaches. The kids are so excited to find these, mainly because they love choosing a trinket. I love getting rid of old trinkets and seeing how long it's been since the last person has been to the geocache. Some are definitely more popular than others.

Then we were there, and it was a much shorter walk from the parking area to the tracks than I expected. Along the way we found some pools of water, and Desert Girl was delighted to be wearing her rain boots.

The tracks are here because this area was a watering hole, and the dinosaurs walked on the wet sand to get to the water, and then sand blew over the tracks. Over time the tracks fossilized, and now the rock above has eroded enough to let them be shown again.

It didn't take long to find our first track. This trackway has tracks from at least six different species of dinosaurs preserved.

Our favorites were the large Kayentapus tracks.

About six of the tracks were preserved in a line.

We also wandered around the beautiful rock for awhile, enjoying the solitude of the remote location and the beauty of the Navajo sandstone.

Eventually it was time to go. Through the puddles, of course.

When we got back home, I found that the BLM has a YouTube video about the track site. It covers a lot of information and gives a good feel for what the track site is like.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Coral Pink Sand Dunes with Kids in the Snow

 We didn't start out our spring break trip in the best of weather, in fact we needed four-wheel drive to go on one highway due to the slippery, snowy conditions, but we looked on the bright side: we were about to begin a fun vacation.
When we got to our destination, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, the ranger said there had been a mixup with our campsite (which I had reserved in advance through a very confusing and gouging reservation system), and that even though the website had said that all the campsites were full the following two nights, in reality we could stay. That made me happy--one tent set up and take down, hot showers, and likely other kids in the playground for my kids to play with.

But first we had to sleep.

When we woke the next morning, a dusting of snow covered everything. And it was cold. I got the kids into their snow pants, bundled them into the truck, and had them eat some breakfast at the overlook while I ran out and got some photos.

 The view was so otherworldly that I just had to get the kids to show them. And then, before we knew it, we had set off on a hike.

 The little ramble soon turned into "Hey mom, let's go hike to the top of that dune."

I couldn't resist that! So off we went, with me stopping often for more photos of the sun rising on the snow-covered dunes. Coral Pink Sand Dunes are named for their cool orange color, but I couldn't help being mesmerized by the snow coating. It was sort of like icing, and come on, who can resist icing?

We saw all sorts of tracks, including coyote tracks. I had heard a few yipping the night before.

 To my great surprise, we were the only ones up and hiking. The dunes are a major ATV mecca, but ATVs are restricted to 9 am to 10 pm. That means hikers have the dunes to themselves for the first few hours of the day.

Desert Boy couldn't resist sliding down the side of the dune (towards the north). He came back up smiling.

Hiking was not too difficult, and before we knew it, we were at the top.

Then the real fun began. Desert Boy slid down the other side and convinced us to do it. Oh my goodness, what fun! A perfect sledding hill, with no rocks or trees in the way! The visitor center has sand sleds and sand boards for rent, but with the slick snow covering, we didn't need anything but our snow pants.

Can you see Desert Boy? He's the little black dot in the middle of the photo (now looking south). Desert Girl went on my lap several times but eventually got brave enough to go sliding on her own. We went down and up so many times.

Despite the stormy clouds, the snow was gradually melting, making for a delightful mix of white and orange.

 It was time for us to leave and start some other adventures for the day…(to be continued).

A Drink in the Road

This last week has been a whirlwind of activity, including leaving for our spring break trip. It was a dark and windy day when we headed down the highway in a fully-loaded truck. We had to hit the brakes when we saw the sheep--and then take a photo when we saw what the sheep were doing.  Rumble strips aren't just to jar you awake, as these sheep discovered!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Feeding the Cousins' Animals

 My sister-in-law had told us what time she feeds the animals, so one afternoon the kids and I headed over, along with friends. When we got there, the kids took a peek in the horse trailer to see what was inside.

 Once the calves realized there was food, they were happy to come out. The kids got acquainted.

 Then Aunt Janille showed them how to feed.

 What a cool experience!

 Then it was time to play. You don't see merry-go-rounds like this one very often. I was delighted to watch the kids run around, and around, and around.

 They took a little break to feed the horses.

Soon the cousins got home from feeding their 4-H steers, and all the kids disappeared into the willows. The moms hung out in the grass and talked, enjoying the warm afternoon sun. It's wonderful to relax with the simple pleasures of life!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Desert Survivor's Get-Out-And-Camp Challenge

 I've mentioned before that I didn't camp much as a kid, just at Girl Scout Camp. But that was enough to entice me to camp more, and over the years I've spent many nights out on the ground. Last year I decided to set a little challenge for myself: Could the kids and I camp out ten nights? We didn't have any grand plan, but starting at spring break and running through the summer and into the autumn, we managed to camp out thirteen times. The kids absolutely loved it.

Desert Boy declared last week that we should do a Get-Out-And-Camp Challenge again, but this year up our nights to twelve.

Will you join us?

Choose how many nights you want to camp out this year, write it down or tell someone (a comment here or on Facebook is fine!), and then see if you can meet your goal.

 Last year we camped in all sorts of places, from structured campgrounds to campsites out in the boonies. We even slept in our backyard a couple nights, just because it's fun.

Why camp out?
Here are a few reasons.

1. Camping out gives you time to unwind. We live in such a hectic world, rushing from one thing to the next, that slowing down to listen to the birds sing in the morning or watching the stars move overhead can recharge our batteries.

2. Camping lets you concentrate on your relationships. Camp in a place without Internet or cell service, and you can stop texting and checking Facebook and Twitter and really focus on the people who are with you. Camping is a super way to deepen relationships.

3. Camping is cheap. Want to take a vacation but not spend much money? Camping can be the way to do it! Last fall we stayed a couple nights in Zion Canyon--right in the heart of the national park, with outstanding views. It was less than $20 a night, but oh, so beautiful. Many camping spots are a real deal--you get the fantastic location for just a few bucks.

 4. Camp food can be awesome. When do you eat a s'more? That's usually a treat reserved for camping! Camping often means special foods, whether simple or complicated. Dutch oven recipes, hot dogs roasting over a fire, or even ramen noodles all taste extra good when eaten outside.

5. Kids (and adults) learn how to deal with different situations. What's that strange noise outside the tent at night? What do you do during a huge downpour? What happens if the wind blows your tent over? Is it a good idea to play flashlight tag?

6. Camping is a time to learn more about the natural world around us. It really wasn't so long ago that we humans didn't have much shelter and camped all the time. There's something still imprinted in our DNA that calls us to live that way. Ever been in a group of people and suddenly there's a lull in all the conversations? Predator check. That's right, our DNA is imprinted to have us be quiet every once in awhile to become more aware of what's around us. 

So I hope you'll join us in the Get-Out-And-Camp Challenge! You decide how many nights you want to camp out (and it doesn't have to be in a tent--right under the stars or in an RV are totally fine!), and challenge yourself to do it. Happy camping!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It's the Last Day of Winter! So Here are Some Skiing Photos

Isn't it great that it's the last day of winter?! Actually, I like winter more and more as it provides a little more down time to relax and enjoy life. Nevertheless, I can't help but get excited as spring flowers emerge, migrating birds appear, and the weather warms.

Last weekend we went high up in the mountains to Eagle Point Resort to go skiing before all the snow melts. Desert Boy's friend Ava took a lesson with him, while we parents went off on our own to give our ski legs a test. Last winter I went skiing a lot, but this was the first time this winter, despite having bought some skis. It took me a run to start feeling comfortable, but soon it felt great and I was very happy with how I was doing. 

At the end of the day we went to spy on the kids. We had left them alone all day, as the instructors said they would do better if they weren't distracted by parents. 

 We followed them down on their last run, and they did quite well.

 Then ski school ended, and the kids were turned loose.

 We still had one hour to ski with them, and Desert Boy informed us he wanted to ski on the blue slopes (intermediate). I was hesitant, but he said that they had already skied on one. The instructor said they actually skied on two. So we went over and went on a run that had some little jumps. The kids weren't hesitant at all!

We had time for another run that had lots of rolling hills, and if you were going fast enough you caught some air. It was actually my favorite run of the day, and the kids also loved it. We would have kept going, but we ran out of time. What a fun way to spend the day! We're already looking forward to downhill skiing next winter.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Sunday Ramble in the Burbank Hills

 A recent Sunday took us to a random road in the Burbank Hills, a set of hills that "only" gains about 2,700 feet elevation, topping out about 7,700 feet. Out here, that means the moniker of hills rather than mountains. (As a comparison, the tallest peak east of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. is Harney Peak in South Dakota, at 7.242 feet.)

We drove until the road (a barely discernible two track, but one that had been already traveled this year) ended. Then we got out and hiked. The kids weren't super thrilled, but we promised them great views.

 When we reached the top of a ridge, we sure did get great views.

 The Burbank Hills aren't really known for any main attraction. They consist of limestones and dolomites, so the rain that falls on them seeps in and there aren't any streams or even any springs. In recent years, a number of roads have been designated as ATV trails (map here). With 98 miles of trails, it's a considerable network, but due to the remoteness and lack of a charismatic attraction, it is seldom visited.

It's nice to have places like that, where the plants and animals can be the dominant creatures. I was quite excited to see this early bloomer:
 Spiny phlox, Phlox hoodii

Then Desert Boy and I started finding some hints that these flowers hadn't been around all that long (at least geologically speaking).
 We found some fossils.

 The fossils were small, but good reminders that this area used to be part of a shallow sea.

 Desert Girl started enjoying the hike more and more. That's fairly common--we may have crabby kids at the beginning of a hike, but once something catches their attention, they forget about their previous attitude.

Then we reached something that made both kids very happy.
 A patch of snow!

 Our dog Henry really liked it too.

 Eating some snow made the kids so happy that even when Desert Boy fell and sprawled across some sagebrush, he smiled.

 The hillside had a number of stumps, and we found some burn signs on some of them. At one point a forest fire must have burned this section of Burbank Hills, but today, unless you know what to look for, you wouldn't know it.

We took a different way back to the truck and I was happy to find a mini-cave. No one wanted to pose for a photo except me. I guess it was time to go! There are still so many other places to explore in this one little mountain range. Hopefully we'll get back before too long.
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