Sunday, November 25, 2018

Fossil Mountain and Ibex Playa, Utah

 It was the day after Thanksgiving, and my brother Ed was visiting from Flagstaff. We knew we wanted to be outside, so I gave the kids some choices, and they decided on Fossil Mountain and Ibex Playa. Our basic plan was to drive south through Blind Valley, climb Fossil Mountain, then go to Ibex Playa for some bike riding and the nearby cliffs for a rock climb.

Here's a Google Earth view of the 30-mile loop.

We drove roughly 13 miles down the Blind Valley Road and then took a road to the west towards the north side of Fossil Mountain. We had to use 4WD to get to the last part of the side road due to big rocks, but otherwise everything else on the drive was passable to passenger cars.

We parked in a wash and started hiking (first photo). We started seeing fossils. We knew this would be a fun hike!

We had seen a big sandy hillside before our turnoff, and from my friend Jenny's blog, I knew this was a fun spot. Plus one of Desert Girl's goals for the day was to play in sand dunes.  We hiked up, but found that there was a big ravine between where we were and the sand dune. Should we just climb the mountain first? The kids voted yes.

I led the way for quite awhile, but the kids were right on my heels, so I let Desert Girl lead awhile so she could practice reading the terrain and route finding. The views were amazing.

And before long, we were at the top! Fossil Mountain isn't the tallest mountain around, but the views are great. We also found no fossils at the top (or most of the way up). 
It turns out the top is Eureka Quartzite, which explains the lack of fossils.

Our next stop was the sand dune. And now that I know about the quartzite, which is metamorphosed sandstone, the sand dune makes more sense. But it was facing to the northeast, which I don't quite understand. We kept wondering how the sand got there.

After a lot of steep down climbing, we finally reached the ravine and started up the sand.

The sand is shifting, burying some trees.

I really enjoyed the ripple marks.

Desert Girl was digging to see how deep the sand was. She never got to a different layer.

This tiny plant looked so delicate on the shifting sands.

Still barefoot, Desert Girl poses next to an amazing juniper root.

When we got down to the wash, we spent more time looking for fossils. Within the Ordovician Upper Pogonip Group,  the Kanosh Shale was very easy to find. The dark olive color was easy to spot from a distance. Hintze and Davis call it "abundantly fossiliferous" in their Geology of Millard County, Utah (2003).
 We had climbed above it to reach the summit, passing through the Lehman Formation, Watson Ranch Formation, and Crystal Peak Dolomite to the Eureka Quartzite at the top. Supposedly there are some fossils in some of these layers, but we didn't find them.

Desert Girl had come prepared with a rock hammer and a magnifying glass. She showed quite a bit of patience combing through the layers for fossils.


Here's a map of how we hiked. The more traditional approach is from the southeast side instead of the northwest side we took. I think our approach was steeper but more direct. We probably didn't see as many fossils as the other side, but we did have fun in the sand.
 We had worked up quite an appetite on our hike, so we ate lunch as we drove (leftover turkey sandwiches, yum!).

We drove around the south end of the mountains and then north up to Ibex playa. We passed Ibex well and a couple ponds, then got to what I call a good bike loop. There's sort of a racetrack that is lots of fun.

Then we decided to just ride where ever we wanted on the playa.  It is such a cool feeling to be able to go any which way we want.

The lighting and clouds was quite dramatic.

We followed Desert Boy around "the island," a big rock outcropping in the middle of the playa. On the way back the wind became a lot more obvious, along with the lenticular clouds.

Our dog Maggie was so happy to run and run.

So much fun!
 Here's a closer look at Ibex Playa. We went bike riding at the southern end and then around the Island. Then we headed to the cliffs at the northern end.

It was time to try some rock climbing! It had been awhile since I had lost rock climbed, so I was happy to find a place we could top rope.  It was a big boulder to the north of the corral, and we could walk around the backside to the bolts on top.

We took turns climbing. The kids managed in their gym shoes, but my brother and I gave our old climbing shoes a go. We climbed a couple times and then it was getting late and colder, so it was time to head home. 
We were so glad to be outside, enjoying the fresh air. We saw two other vehicles on our loop that day, but the occupants stayed inside. So we just about had it all to ourselves. Hopefully we'll be back for more fun!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Life on the Ranch-August Sunrise

 One early morning in August I decided to climb out of bed and head down to the main part of the ranch to see what I might find. Before the sun even came up, I was treated to Sandhill Cranes.

I found I could move a little bit and line up the sandhill cranes with the "bat." Do you see a bat in the background mountains, with two pointy ears and wings to the sides? Some people say it's a Great Horned Owl. I recently had an adventure near there, and will share that soon.

There are always deer in the fields, and sure enough I found some! They came up near the pivot, which is a more efficient way of watering fields. The hoses coming down from the pivot pipes deliver the water even closer to the plants.

A little later I found this Horned Lark along the side of the road. These birds are hard to get a photo of because they usually fly up into your vehicle. Here you can even see a little of the yellow by the eye and the chin.
The cows sure look good in the early morning light!

 The ranch has changed quite a bit over the years. Some of the more recent changes are a cell phone tower, wireless Internet, and pivot irrigation. But many of the same things from a hundred years ago still exist: beautiful sunrises, clean air, nice people, big, open spaces, lots of wildlife, and incredible vistas. I never imagined I would be living in the high desert, but it certainly has become home, sweet, home.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Ice Skating at Stella Lake

 My friend Jenny and I had been watching the weather carefully. It hadn't snowed in awhile, and the temperatures were getting colder and colder. The Wheeler Peak Snotel site showed night temps in the teens. That meant it was time to do some high elevation ice skating! Jenny had discovered this last year when we had another dry winter, and it was amazingly fun. This time we combined forces on November 10 to ice skate at Stella Lake in Great Basin National Park.

The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive was open up to the Summit Trailhead. The trail was so inviting and had very little snow.

We weren't sure what the lake would be like. Last year the ice was only thick enough on the eastern lobe and we had open water on most of the lake. But this year, when we got our first view of Stella Lake, our jaws dropped. It was totally frozen! We gingerly stepped out on the ice to test it. It seemed good.

We found that the ice was good on most of the lake. The place it cracked the most was the cove where we had skated last winter. Most of the ice was quite smooth, with some bumpy spots. And the surrounding scenery? Marvelous.

Jenny was all smiles and quick to get out on the ice. We could see right through some of the ice to the bottom. It wasn't deeper than two feet anywhere in the lake.

This strange looking item is a buoy covered with a dark sock. Attached to it is a line with dataloggers to measure the water (ice) temperature at different depths. 

 Last year I had bought adjustable ice skates for Desert Boy and Desert Girl. That turned out to be a good choice, as both of them had fast-growing feet this last year. Desert Boy ended up not going, but his skates fit Jenny's kids, one the smallest size and the other the largest size. Hurray for adjustable skates!

Jenny is better than me at getting selfies, so thanks to her I'm in a photo! Look at that beautiful ice!

In some places there were really cool bubbles trapped in the ice.

 What!? Another photo of me in the same post!? This time with Desert Girl, who had gotten so warm that she had taken her coat off.
 Desert Girl was so happy.

She and Ava skated and skated.

Meanwhile Jenny and I took lots of photos.

We had the artistic segment.

The speed skating segment.

And even a little ice hockey.

Ice dancing.

Jenny challenged herself to do some artistic movements, which made me try them too. They are harder than they look! 

These girls were so full of energy.

I ended up taking approximately a zillion photos. Who could resist with such a beautiful backdrop?

Finally, the lake started being cast in shadow. Actually the southern end was shaded just after one in the afternoon. Yikes, so early! On the hike back, we took the opportunity to add in a little sledding.
What a great opportunity. If you're interested, keep an eye on the weather. The ice should be good, but if there's any precip, the road will close.
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