Sunday, April 28, 2019

Bloomington Cave, Utah

Back in March, our friends Andy and Bonnie asked if I could help reconnoiter Bloomington Cave in southern Utah with them for an upcoming cave rescue class. My calendar was clear, as long as I could bring the kids. That was fine with them, so we agreed on a meeting time. But the night before, it snowed! Snow in St. George isn't very common, and it was so beautiful I just had to stop and take a few photos!

We were worried about the road, but fortunately everything was frozen and travel was easy. I stopped again to snap a photo of this cool cave sign.

Bloomington Cave is managed by the BLM. They have a nice website page for the cave. It tells you how to get a permit, how to get to the cave, and maps of the cave.

Near the parking area is a covered kiosk with some really good caving info. One side shows what you should have to go into the cave, like a helmet, lights, kneepads, and depending on where you want to go, rappelling and climbing gear.

Another side shows some of the creatures that call Bloomington Cave their home.

It might surprise some people how many different cave dwellers are in the cave.

On the fourth side is a good map of the cave. Both it and the Cave Routes map on the website show different color routes through the cave. This is extremely helpful for navigating the 1.4-mile long tectonic cave, which is a bit mazy.

Properly equipped, we headed down to the south entrance.

We opened the gate with the code we had gotten. The cave gate is quite ingenious, as it can be opened from the inside without any code, so people can get out anytime. But to get in, you need the code, and they change it frequently.

The kids wanted to lead the way, and since the trail was marked with flagging, we let them.

Before long we came to the cave register, and Desert Girl and Bonnie checked it out.

I had been to Bloomington Cave over 15 years ago, and the thing I remembered most was how vertical it was. The majority of the cave is at a 60 degree angle. We went down to the Big Room, using the ropes we had brought with to assist us. We did a combination of rappelling and using the ropes as handlines. (I would recommend coming prepared to rappel, it makes it safer.) We were assessing the cave for where we could do some cave rescue practice in about a month under a special permit. We made our way around a loop and back to the cave register. 

Then we tried another route. (Be sure to check out the Routes page on the BLM website, which has a nice description of the different flagged routes.) We decided to give the green route a try, which is the shortest entrance-to-entrance route. It includes a squeezy part and some crawling. We even found some soda straws and flowstone.

After a break for lunch, we went back in the North Entrance and followed the pink route. It was a lot of fun seeing some of the cave, and their marked routes is a great idea. This is not really a beginner cave, it has some pretty tough sections.

A few weeks later I drove out to Gunlock State Park to help instruct at the Small Party Assisted Rescue (SPAR) class for the National Cave Rescue Commission. I had never been there before, and was quickly impressed with the beauty!

The storm clouds did mean cold weather. Our classroom was in an unheated shed, and we did rope work outside. Plus we camped. That meant the cave was our warm place, and fortunately we spent two full days in it.

We rented this old hay barn to do vertical practice. Although I've taught this class a bunch of times (12 now, I think!), I always learn something new. This time it was Diminishing Loop with a knot pass (in case you didn't have a rope that was double the length of the drop). We discussed a good knot to use to tie two ropes together to make crossing the knot easy and then put it to the test. It worked very smoothly.

And then we had some pickoff demos and time to practice. These are so easy to mess up, so it's critical to practice frequently if you think you might ever need to use one.

I didn't manage to take any more photos at Bloomington Cave for the SPAR practices because I was pretty busy teaching, but the cave worked well. My favorite station was the pass a patient through two rebelays to get them down the 100-foot drop in the Big Room. Then we used a traveling haul to get the patient up through two rebelays. Since the drops weren't totally vertical, just steep angle, it made it a pretty good training area. And it was my first time having the opportunity to use two rebelays for teaching, it adds a little complexity.

One last photo: due to high water, the waterfalls at Gunlock State Park were running and were very pretty! If you're headed to Bloomington Cave, they're worth a detour.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Visiting Salt Lake City Area Attractions on a Budget

For spring break, we decided to get some culture and head to the city. A few years ago we got the Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass, a pass that lets you visit a bunch of attractions for over 50% off. The kids didn't remember a lot from that time (it was four years ago), so I decided it was time to do it again. I found the pass was even cheaper on Groupon. I got the 365-day pass so we have a whole year to visit 16 attractions.

The kids wanted to start with the Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point. They had been there before for a school field trip and loved it.

I was glad to see they paid some attention to earthquakes. The Wasatch Front has major faults running along it.

The kids had all sorts of fun doing a variety of activities. I consider it a beefed up playground, so didn't get a lot out of it, but they were happy. Regular admission is $20(adults)/$15(kids), not what I would pay for a single visit.

After dinner, we went to Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point, which was sporting the Tulip Festival. Although tulips are often associated with the Netherlands (Holland), hence the wooden clogs, they got the tulips from Turkey.
The tulips were beautiful, but it seemed that fewer than half were blooming, despite being more than a week into the festival. I think the cold spring had things a little late.

We enjoyed our time wandering around the gardens, which were quite busy during the golden hour. The regular ticket price is a whopping $25(adults)/$20(kids), so we wouldn't have visited except with the Connect Pass.

Here Desert Girl mimics the pose of a statue.

I really liked the lines of this portico.
More pretty parts. You can see that the tulips at the top were blooming, but not the ones at the bottom.

We had four full days for our spring break trip. Originally I had planned to do four days of museums. Then I decided that was a little too much for my sanity. Why not spend a day skiing? So we went up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton Ski Resort. It was one of the few places left in Utah open in mid-April. It had the added advantage of kids 10 and under ski free and good deals on online tickets. Ski rentals were also cheap ($20 for kids). So we figured out a plan for the day.

The views were absolutely amazing. We went on every lift (except the super short one) at least once. The kids' favorite time was when we were going down a blue ungroomed run. It got kind of steep for me, so instead of leading I had the kids go ahead, as they ski better than me. They watched me crash my way down the slope. Later we learned that we had missed a turn (the runs were not well marked) and we had ended up on a black run! Oops! The snow was good in the morning, but by the afternoon the 40+degree Fahrenheit temperatures were making the snow mushy. I even took my skis in for a wax, but still it wasn't a pleasant skiing experience. So we didn't stay until the end of the day. Overall it was a good time, and we'd like to go back. They have a spring ski pass for $129, so if you can ski multiple days in a row in the spring, it's a super deal.

Since we got done early, we had extra time. I asked the kids what they wanted to do, and they said go to Hogle Zoo. It had been years since our last visit, and I went fully expecting crowds. But apparently going late on a Thursday afternoon is a good time. It wasn't that crowded, and we could see the animals easily, even The Thinker.

We all agreed that our favorite animal was this giant tortoise in the small animal and reptile house.

Can you tell what this is? It's a gecko!

Well, we found the tortoise had moved. It apparently wanted to get a drink of water. So it got on top of a rock.

Then it very slowly made its way down to the water. The suspense about killed us. Would it bellyflop in? Tortoises aren't so graceful.

Then we watched it lumber out.

Finally it was almost back to its starting point. What a workout!

The kids were also excited to see the red panda, which they gleefully informed me was not in the panda family, but a different family.
The late afternoon visit to Hogle Zoo was pleasant for all of us. It's still winter season (until April 30), so regular admission is $16.95(adults)/$12.95(kids). More than what I would have paid for a two-hour quick trip, so again glad to have the Connect Pass.

Next we did some quick shopping at thrift stores, finding some great items for all of us. Goodwill is my favorite, as they have half off a certain color tag each week, which gives you super good deals.

The next morning was my turn to pick what I wanted to see from the Connect Pass line up, and I chose the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. We had never been there before. It's on the University of Utah campus, and I wasn't sure what the parking situation would be, but they have free designated spots for museum visitors.

When we entered, they offered us a selection of family backpacks to check out. The kids chose the Egypt one, and we headed to that exhibit. The Egypt exhibit is just in one small room, but the backpack had us examine everything closely. Desert Girl and I really enjoyed it. Desert Boy didn't have quite as long an attention span.

After we finished that backpack, Desert Girl asked if we could check out another. I was ecstatic that she was so engaged. She chose European and learned about landscapes, still lifes, and portraits. Here she is with her own still life arrangement.

The kids had some fun imitating the paintings.

Desert Girl loves Mad Libs, so she was delighted to have a Mad Lib activity with portraits. They turned out quite funny.
It was approaching lunch time, so we finished looking at exhibits on the second floor, wanting to spend more time in Oceania and Africa. But our stomachs called to us, so we ate tasty food from the Museum Cafe. Then we looked at the first floor exhibits. The highlight was The Race to Promontory: The Transcontinental Railroad and the American West. We looked at a variety of photographs taken as the steel rails were laid across the country. The center of the display were the three spikes. Originally there were four, but one is lost to history. Now there's just one golden one, the Nevada silver one, and the Arizonan gold, silver, and steel spike.

Regular admission to the UFMA is $17.95(adult)/$14.95(kids). There's enough to do to spend a whole day (especially if you use the family backpacks), so this is one place I probably would have paid full admission. Or tried to go to on a Wednesday, when they have special deals. It's also included with the Connect Pass.

Next up was kids' choice, and they wanted to go to Discover Gateway Children's Museum. I'm not the biggest fan of children's museums, but we went anyway. The kids immediately climbed into the beehive.

In the little town, they tried their hand at various jobs.

Not too many kids or parents heeded this sign.

The favorite part for the kids was the Intermountain Life Flight helicopter, where they had roles as pilot, co-pilot, nurse, paramedic, hoist operator, air traffic controller, and more. Later we met a pilot who had logged 1500 hours in this helicopter. He told us the story of how it had ended up at the museum. One windy night it had landed at the hospital. The wind blew it to the side a little, and the tail rotor bumped something that blew up into the main rotor. No one got hurt, but it totaled the helicopter. Now it lives on in children's imaginations. The kids played contentedly for almost two hours and I got a short nap in. Regular price is $12.50 (adults and kids). We came after the school group of 99 kids, so it wasn't terribly busy.

For our final day of museums, we headed north, to the Hill Aerospace Museum. We had been before and wanted to go again.

We got there half an hour before opening time, which gave us time to wander the outdoor exhibits and have them to ourselves.

Then we headed inside to the giant two hangars, which are packed with planes, helicopters, exhibits, and more.

I always find it a little overwhelming, there is just so much! But Desert Boy and my husband (who joined us for this day) really geeked out. They know their planes. Best part: admission is FREE!

Then we headed up to Union Station in Ogden. It hosts four museums:
The price is very reasonable, $7(adults)/$3(kids)/$20(up to 2 adults and 6 kids).

The Browning Firearms Museum has lots of guns on display.

The Utah State Railroad Museum is nearby.

It reinforced what we had learned at the UFMA about the Transcontinental Railroad.

Desert Girl couldn't resist posing like a conductor.

We could get on the Handcar, but it didn't move down the tracks.

They also had a huge model train display, with multiple HO-scale trains going through a variety of Utah's landscapes. It was so fun to watch.

The Classic Car museum is small but has some real beauties.

Union Station was great. While researching the trip, I saw there was the possibility to take a surfing lesson in Ogden, so the kids gave that a try for an hour at Flowrider. Desert Girl stayed on the Boogie Board.

Desert Boy gave surfing a couple tries, but fell hard. They both ended up with bruises but would like to do it again.

Our final activity was to attend the Utah Symphony. We've done this a couple times before and really, really enjoy it. We were fortunate to be able to include a family friend for this outing.

The performance was not only the Utah Symphony, but also Troupe Vertigo, circus dancers-aerialists who performed a variety of stunts, many of them up in the air.
It was amazing (and scary at times). Students under age 30 can get tickets for just $15. I've also gotten great deals on Black Friday. And check out their Family Pass, with just $30 for a family of 4 to attend.

The kids and I rated everything that we went to. What was the big winner?
The Symphony!
Second was the Utah State Railroad Museum.

We still have lots more left to do on the Connect Pass, so we'll be back to try out more activities! With the 5 places we went to, the adult price would have been over $92. With the Groupon, I paid $86.50, so already it's been worth it. And we still have 11 more places to go! Woohoo!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

blogger templates