Sunday, July 30, 2017

Exploring Devil's Gate Slot Canyon

We headed out to Gandy Warm Springs one Saturday with friends. We had lots of fun swimming in the "deep" section. After we were good and wet, we decided it was time to head to nearby Devil's Gate slot canyon (click the link for a map on how to get there). 

The hike starts in the wash, and it's a little hot. We kept an eye out for rattlesnakes. (none seen)

Before long, we rounded a turn and saw big obstacles ahead. The kids were so excited. They love anything that is adventurous and seems difficult.

The floor dropped out, and it was time to find a way down.

The limestone rock was very slippery, so we had to proceed slowly.

More kids going down. We let them lead.

Lots of smiles!

One dog made it down, but our dog stayed up, watching nervously.

More smiles!

The boys had found a spot to scamper up.

Desert Girl found another.

And Willow found a cool opening.

The canyon was over way too fast! The kids wandered around, and the adults lingered more, enjoying this respite from the desert heat. Plus the rock is so beautiful. This is well worth a detour if you're headed to warm springs. And that's where we headed afterwards for a second swim, as you can never have too much swimming in one day!

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Fiery Fourth of July

 Fourth of July started as a calm, hot day. My husband and I both had the day off and were thinking of sailing in the afternoon. But then the pager went off, stating that smoke had been seen near the highway and the Snake Creek turnoff. We both knew that wasn't a good thing, so we ran out the door towards the fire station.

We put on our Nomex, grabbed our gear, and headed out in fire trucks. When we arrived, the fire was still small, about five acres, but the wind was causing it to spread quickly. None of our fire trucks are four-wheel drive, so that presented some difficulties. Fortunately, we had already called for assistance, and other fire engines and a helitack crew came.

Nevertheless, the wind was blowing the fire faster than we could move. It burned especially fast when it went through areas of cheatgrass. The wind shifted direction and speed, making it hard to judge where we could go safely.

In about three hours it had spread from five acres to more than a thousand acres.

It was threatening structures at the south end of town.

Fortunately we had single engine air tankers (SEATs) with fire retardant and helicopters doing bucket work to help out. Plus more fire resources had arrived.

These fast-moving fires are hard to fight, but we gave it our all, doing what we could with our equipment and training. Thanks so much to all who responded. And a special thanks to all the volunteers--volunteer fire departments are so important for a quick response.

I went home, took a shower, and then went out to meet the kids, au pair, and friends for fireworks, a preferable fiery part of the day than wildland fire. I had missed the dinner and had to pass on doing a trumpet solo I had planned at the music program because I was still so rattled from responding to the fire. But I could handle taking a few photos of the fireworks.

The fireworks looked great.


Hopefully we won't have that much excitement again anytime soon!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Miscellaneous June 2017

 I guess I'm not too far behind if I'm wrapping up June! Here are a few photos that didn't make it into previous posts. We enjoyed eating at the new Kerouac's Cafe in Baker, Nevada. The food is delicious and service is great! We've returned several times!

For work, I went up high in the mountains to protect some limber pines from mountain pine beetles. They are part of a proactive white pine blister rust program. Several trees (both bristlecone and limber pines) have been selected and pinecones harvested. The US Forest Service is propagating the pine seeds and then testing them for white pine blister rust, a non-native pathogen that can kill whole forests. The idea is that some resistant trees might be found, then their pine seeds can be stored and grown and resistant trees planted to help when the rust eventually arrives. In the meantime, we have to protect those trees from mountain pine beetle, so we apply verbenone, a natural pheromone that the  beetles excrete to say that the tree is full of beetles and the incoming beetles should select a different tree. So cool! (Bristlecone pines don't seem to be affected by mountain pine beetles, so we don't need to put verbenone on them.)

The bristlecone in this study isn't part of the study, but it looks cool.

We had been having some warm temps, but on this particular day it was really cold. And there were still snow drifts. Bruce and Becca helped us get up the road, moving trees and digging through snow/ice drifts. It was an adventure!

To my surprise, Nevada primrose was already blooming.

The views from Mt. Washington were amazing.

I spent a week near Redmond, Oregon teaching cave rescue. We had a fun day on the cliffs. This was a different type of rock than what we used for the rest of the week.

That's because there are lots of lava tubes around Redmond.

We didn't actually go in many, but we played at the entrances of several, including doing a highline across this one.

We also had some zen time in the gym/exhibition hall, floating students across.

Back at home, we tried out a new (used) sailboat that my husband purchased. It's lots of fun, but also a little scary when the wind gets going.

I enjoyed a trip to an ice cave that has part of its entrance blocked by snow.

It had never been entered this time of year before, so we didn't know what to expect. We couldn't use the bolts at the entrance, so tied off to a tree and went over the snow.

The transition to snow to ice was abrupt. It was an interesting cave, but very difficult to get to. We installed a wildlife camera at the entrance, so we'll learn what else is using the cave.

We've also been spending time with the lambs. We figure if they get used to chaos here, they'll do better at the fair. So we invite friends over to play!

Desert Boy got some lessons on showmanship, but needs a few more! It will be fun to watch him at the fair. He's definitely gotten a lot more confident, and I can see why it's good to start with animals that weigh about 100 pounds instead of those that weigh much more (like steers).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

To the Top of Eastern Nevada: Up Wheeler Peak with Kids

The day arrived: time to head up Wheeler Peak. We had two seven year olds and a ten year old. We had spent the night before at Wheeler Peak campground at 10,000 feet to acclimate and make the hike easier. We took a before hike photo when we were still all smiling (we forgot to take the after hike photo, but I can assure you some of the faces would have been showing different expressions!)

The start is easy, not too steep, fairly flat ground, and gorgeous views. We could see where we would soon be--on the ridge that leads up to Wheeler Peak (the mountain on the right in the photo above).

As we got higher, the trail got rockier. The kids wanted lots of breaks, so we had to use our best parenting techniques to keep them going.

I found the flowers distracting. I especially loved this pink one, moss campion (Silene acualis), that grows in a mound.

At one point, Desert Boy went ahead, found a wind shelter, and then laid down and pretended he was dead. Here are the kids trying to revive him. Fortunately they were successful!

Higher up, we found some snow!

We decided to take this snowy route for awhile.

Desert Boy's expression shows how enthusiastic he was. But then he and Isaac started talking about video games, and they got a second wind.

Jenny is such a trooper, up to any challenge! And with a smile.

Almost to the top!

One of the benefits of climbing the peak in July is seeing the bright pink Palmer's primrose (Primula parryi) in bloom. It's usually a riparian plant, but for some reason it also likes the higher slopes of Wheeler Peak. The purple plant is sky pilot or sticky Jacob's ladder (Polemonium viscosum), and it smells like skunk. Fortunately it wasn't too odiferous on this particular day. In the middle of the photo below, you can see Bald Mountain, with Buck Mountain to the right. The dry playa in the background is Yelland dry lake bed in Spring Valley.

Finally we got to the top! It was so nice to be there. We shared the summit ridge with about 20 other people, who were scattered along it.

Some of us went to the eastern edge of the ridge to see the Wheeler Cirque Rock Glacier and Jeff Davis peak. This year there aren't any thermokarst ponds (pools of water) on the rock glacier.

Jenny got a family photo of us.

And I wanted to get a photo with Jenny!

We spent about an hour at the top on the rare, almost windless day. You might notice we're not even wearing jackets. This is not common at all! Desert Girl wasn't feeling so good, and we hoped heading down would relive her altitude sickness.

The Ross's aven (Geum rossii) with its mats of yellow flowers and cushion phlox (Phlox pulvinata) with its white flowers decorated the scene, along with more sky pilot.

I thought going down might end the whining, but the kids were tired and let us know it.

With snow down the gully to Stella Lake, we thought that would be a fun alternative to the trail. There were a few fun moments...

 ...but it was really long and probably didn't really save us any time. But now we know.
We were all exhausted when we got back to the vehicles and forgot to take the after photo. The kids said they would never hike the peak again. But once they told other people and saw their reactions, they changed to saying that they wouldn't hike the peak in the next few years. After that, who knows?

Anyway, we were really proud of them for accomplishing such a big feat. and it was great to spend the day outdoors in such beautiful settings. For anyone wanting to take kids to the top, plan on an all-day adventure (it was about 9 hours total for us, including an hour at the top), lots of food and water and patience. And it sure helps to have good weather!
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