Friday, July 24, 2015

A Quick Trip to Salt Lake City

 Desert Girl recently got her kindergarten shots (she is so looking forward to kindergarten!). She did great. Since we have to travel so far to go to doctor's appointments and I had to take the day off, I decided why not take one more day off and just go to Salt Lake City and see a few more places covered by our Connect Salt Lake Pass that we had bought on Groupon.

Before Salt Lake, we went and visited our neighbor who has moved to the Wasatch Front. It was so good to see her. She's our surrogate grandma.

Afterwards we continued to the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point. We started at the Big Bang and proceeded through time. The dinosaurs certainly got lots of attention, but I think the kids' favorite part was the interactive sand table with flash floods to bury dinosaurs.

Our little paleontologist also really enjoyed the sand pit.

The next morning we went to Hogle Zoo, arriving just fifteen minutes after it opened and finding the parking lot full. The Zoo was certainly a zoo. We navigated our way through strollers and crowds of toddlers and admired the dinosaur animatronics.

We watched the rhinos getting fed.

After a couple hours we had seen it all and were ready to go on. We had a nice lunch and continued to the Children's Discovery Museum.

We went through the old train depot at the Gateway, admiring the amazing stained glass windows.

The kids checked out the old ticket counter.

The children's museum was lots of fun for the kids.

On the way back to the vehicle, the kids played in the fountain. Do you think they stayed dry?

Not quite!

 After two full days, it was time to go home. Looks like I wiped out the kids!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Family Hike up South Fork Baker Creek

After doing the 5k Snake Valley Slither on summer solstice and then hiking up to the bristlecones that afternoon, my visiting family wanted a shorter hike, so I suggested one of my favorites, the South Fork Baker-Baker Creek loop. It's about 3 miles long, although with roughly 800 feet elevation gain (that's a guess). But by the time we got to the trailhead, the kids were complaining, and we weren't sure we wanted to listen them for two-three hours.

The crying seemed contagious.

But we gathered up our strength and set off, and before long were seeing neat things, like this woodpecker, a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

This swallowtail was visiting the columbine as we walked under the aspens.

Desert Girl was a little tired, but we bribed her and cajoled her, and she kept going.

And finally we made it to the big meadow and found a spot to take a big snack break. Even better, it had water nearby.

We started seeing lots more smiles.

While the family hung out, I went off in search of good photo opportunities.

This meadow is amazing, I always feel like I'm in Yellowstone and a bear might step out of the trees. But we don't have bears in Great Basin National Park, so that makes hiking and camping a lot less stressful.

I was just blown away by all the bistort.

This painted lady was busy pollinating some flowers.

Nearby was another butterfly--a skipper?

Besides the bistort, there were also fields of shooting stars.

The colors were amazing.

I had fun looking at this bee and seeing all the little hairs on it.

Eventually I wandered back and this is what I found:
 Ah what fun with uncles!

We continued on to make the loop.

The trail crew was making the trail a little wider and very smooth.

It made for easy walking.

We crested the ridge, passed some ponderosa pines, and came down on the north, shady side of the ridge. We found these orchids, spotted coral root (Corallorhiza maculata).

When I saw the lack of green, I guessed they were parasitic, and found I was right. They parasitize fungi, which depend on the roots of other plants. The flowers are gorgeous.

When we got down to Baker Creek, it was time to play in the water again. The kids even tried swimming, but the very cold water deterred them.

On the way back we saw big mushrooms,

this beautiful flower, death camus (Zigadenus species),

and had a grand old time. It was a really enjoyable hike, and I highly recommend it!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Flash Flood Followup

 We drove past the site of the flash flood a few days later, and this is what we found: a puddle. No flowing water, and unless you are paying attention, you could easily miss that water had been running across the road and desert.

The ground still looked damp on the uphill side, but there weren't any puddles.

I scrambled down to take a look at the culvert. The four-foot diameter culvert was pretty much dry. It wasn't quite big enough for a few hours, but for the other 8760 hours of the year, it looks mostly like this.
Fortunately there was no damage to the road, so life in the desert continues with only a few realizing this sudden event even occurred.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Flash Flood on the Highway

As we were traveling home from a trip to the city, I noticed something looked strange on the highway far ahead, a light colored swath across the highway. What was it? It had to be water. We had seen some storm clouds, but the sky was currently only partly cloudy. A four-wheel drive truck flashed his lights at us when he passed, confirming there was something strange ahead. I slowed down, and soon we reached the water. I pulled over to take a closer look.

What we found was a culvert completely engulfed with water and a whirlpool. Further ahead, the water covered the highway. We could see that the water had been a little higher, so it was nice to know it was going down (and we weren't going to be washed away!).

The downstream side of the culvert showed a raging stream where usually there's no water at all.

 Usually I think of flash floods as being more in canyons, but we were many miles from canyons. Where it was nearly flat, a raging stream swept through the desert.

I wasn't sure how deep the water was on the highway in front of us, or if part of the highway had gotten washed away. We watched a semi slowly move through the water, and I was impressed with how high the water reached on the truck. I wasn't sure how our van would do, so I decided we would stay put a little longer.

Then we saw a pickup truck start going through at a slow speed. An SUV came roaring up to the water, the driver totally unaware that something unusual was going on. I watched her face as she showed surprise that there was water on the highway and slammed on the brakes. She was still going fast enough to make huge rooster tails as she plowed through the water.

We watched a driver from the other direction take it too fast, then decided we would follow a couple other cars.

The water was one to two inches deep, and I could feel the force of it pulling the van to the side of the road. We stayed in the middle of the road, the high spot, enjoying our slow progression through the water. Until some idiot from the other direction appeared, going way too fast and coating our van with muddy water. The kids heard an earful. And then repeated it.
Well, hopefully they learned a little about what to do and not to do in flash floods. Fortunately the highway didn't get washed away, but if you ever encounter water flowing over a highway, don't count on the highway necessarily still being intact! The power of water is immense, and we felt lucky to be able to see some of that.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bristlecone Hike and Cave Tour

 So what do you do with family when they come? Be silly, of course!

We decided to go hiking to the bristlecones, and stopped at Teresa Lake for a snack and photo break. It's such a nice place for a photo. And Desert Girl likes to practice her photo-taking skills.

 We even got a decent family photo. Well, at least we're all facing the camera!

We continued on with bribes of lunch when we arrived.

After a picnic lunch, it was time to explore the interpretive trail and let the one-year olds stretch their legs.

We still had some energy so headed up to the glacier overlook.

It was beautiful. But what really got our attention was a patch of snow a little ways off the trail.

Desert Girl and her aunt had a lot of fun playing in it.

So much fun that the hike back was a little tiring.

But after naps, everyone was ready for a trip to Lehman Cave.

It is such a beautiful cave.

I tried for some artistic photos.

Then after the cave trip we just had to try fitting through the concrete block. Back when the park gave spelunking tours of Little Muddy Cave (before they figured out it had bad air in summer), prospective spelunkers had to fit through the concrete box prior to the tour to make sure they wouldn't get stuck in the cave. We challenged the kids to go through at the same time. They thought that was fun. It was also rather easy.

So then came the challenge of Desert Boy and an aunt. Now that was a little more challenging! But they managed it.
For more about these attractions, visit the Great Basin National Park website.
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