Saturday, August 13, 2016

Enjoying a Cool Getaway - Cedar Breaks National Monument

Last week I had planned on going up Mount Rainier to survey some glacier caves, but due to some bureaucracy, the trip was delayed for a year. I had already requested the time off, and decided I might as well enjoy it. On Sunday, the whole family went to Cedar City and then up to Cedar Breaks National Monument. We set up camp in the 10,000-foot high campground and then set off for the Alpine Pond loop trail, a distance of about two miles.

The kids were not happy hikers, but we made them do it anyway. The pond was pleasant, but not exactly thrilling. I enjoyed being at 10,000 feet on a nearly flat trail.

We got some smiles by the end of the hike.

My husband had to head back to the ranch, so we headed to the ranger program at the campground. They have programs Friday and Sunday nights, with astronomy programs Saturday night near the visitor center. This program was about bug kill, and Desert Girl took a close look at the spruce bark beetles responsible for killing so many trees.

It was fun going to a classic ranger campground program.

In addition to the high elevation of the campground, something else I really like about it is that it has hot showers! Woohoo! And it didn't fill up any of the nights we were there. And the wildflowers were amazing.

We were in a monsoonal period, so the skies got very dark and threatening at night. In fact, it rained every night we were there, but we were mostly prepared. We only did get a fire stared once, though.

Desert Girl and I took the half-mile long to the visitor center in the evening to check out the neat clouds and distant lightning. We could see the glow of Cedar City in the distance.

That night I woke up in the middle of the night and knew I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep, so I went out and took some night sky photos. The stars looked so close!

The next morning we woke up to beautiful fields of flowers just outside our tent lit by our nearest star.

We walked over to the visitor center and checked out the sun through special solar telescopes.

Then it was time for a hike to the Ramparts Overlook, a little less than two miles each way. Desert Boy packed a book, and whenever he was waiting, he pulled it out.

We started down the trail through the woods, then soon came out along the rim, looking into the magnificent hoodoos.

Soon we arrived at some old bristlecone pines. They were magnificent.

Desert Girl posed for a photo with me. Then we had a reading/snack break.

I had a lot of fun taking photos.

The kids decided they wanted to take photos too, so I took a photo of them before and after their set of photos so we could keep it all straight. They're going to enter a couple of their photos in the fair.

At the Ramparts overlook, we had some outstanding views. We ate lunch, worked on Desert Girl's junior ranger booklet,  and then headed back.

While Desert Girl and I tried to find the marmots we had seen earlier, Desert Boy took the opportunity to read a little more.

Storms were expected that afternoon, and the building clouds made for some even more dramatic views. We finished the hike, all happy to have had a chance for a slow-paced, fun walk.

 When we got back to the campsite, Desert Girl wanted to find a friend to play with. Fortunately, other kids were camping, and she and Desert Boy played a couple hours. It started raining, and I just wasn't feeling like cooking in the rain. So we drove to nearby Brian Head and had pizza. On the way back, we decided to drive up Brian Head Peak.

The van made it to the top of the three-mile gravel road to over 11,000 feet. We checked out the hut bit by the CCC at the top.

On the way down, we stopped so I could check out the view. I heard a squeak and saw a pika! Pikas are small mammals that look somewhat like rabbits. They live high in the mountains, but surprisingly don't hibernate. They collect grass all summer long and make piles of it, called haystacks, in talus fields. In the winter, they find those grass caches and eat them.

We still had one more more day of adventure on our trip, but that needs its own post. It was great spending some quality time with these super kids.

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