Thursday, January 28, 2021

A Ride and Drive across the North Snake Range

One of our go-to places to visit during the pandemic is the North Snake Range. The roads are rough, a lot of it is Wilderness, and most people tend to go to the more popular South Snake Range, where Great Basin National Park is located. That means we often have it all to ourselves and it feels so wild.

One weekend we decided we would do a combination of motorcycle/drive across the northern end of the range, going up Eight Mile Road on the Spring Valley side and then figuring out how to get down the other side. I had both Earthmate and Avenza (map applications that show you where you are via your phone GPS) in my phone so we could look at the maps as we drove.

But first, we sent Desert Girl off running with the dogs.

Desert Boy is a pretty good dirt bike rider. He was ready for  anew riding challenge.

I had never been up Eight-Mile road, so I stopped a few times to take photos. I enjoyed seeing the cliffs.

The views out to Spring Valley and the Egan Range on the other side were great. A long time ago a shallow lake filled the bottom of the valley. Now we see a playa, or dry lake bed. Very little grows on it. In some places you can even see the old lake shorelines.

Our trusty 2004 Dodge Ram truck was a trooper going up the rough road. It's manual transmission, manual roll down your windows, manual lock your doors by pushing down the locks. It's great, because it's so basic so there's less to break. And it has been very dependable.

We came across this cabin.


We saw several Eldridge initials on the doorstep.

It would be a cool place to hang out.

We even found some cows in this old corral. 

Then it was time to continue on. My husband used to do desert racing on his dirt bike and was top in the state. He took a long break from it while the kids were young but is getting back into it again as a way to exercise and as a hobby he enjoys. He makes it look really easy.

I liked this twisted juniper.

We pondered which roads to take down to the Snake Valley side, and since we didn't know anything about any of them, ended up with a random choice. There are a bunch of small drainages. My husband and Desert Boy went ahead on their motorcycles. If they found something the truck couldn't make, they would come back and tell me. Meanwhile Desert Girl and I listened to the soundtrack of Hamilton as we drove on.

We got down into the canyons, and it was beautiful, with small cliffs and twisting roads.

We ended up in a drainage I recognized from the spring, when I had gone out with some friends to look for new caves (we didn't find any). 

 We followed along this big wash and then came out near Gandy, Utah. It was a fun day exploring and getting to know our "big backyard" better. I'm grateful that we have such beautiful mountains to visit. There's still so much more to explore!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The "Christmas Star" and Winter Solstice

When I heard about the "Christmas Star" otherwise known as the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, it gave me a great excuse to get out of the house and try and photograph it. Since it was nicknamed the Christmas Star, I thought it would be nice to have a bit of Christmas in the scene, with the Nativity. Fortunately the local church had a Nativity scene out in the right direction.

The Christmas Star is over Joseph and to the left a bit.

I tried various lenses and distances, but never got quite what I wanted.

So then I took out the telephoto lens and tried for a closeup. Wow! I was very happy with this. I could see Saturn up high, and it looked a little oval with its rings. And below I could see Jupiter with four of her moons.

For winter solstice morning, I wanted to go out to the Baker Archaeological Site, where the Fremont culture had set up their buildings to celebrate different astronomical occurrences, such as the solstice. There weren't any clouds in the sky, so I knew it wouldn't be a dramatic sunrise. It was cold, and some friends showed up, and we shivered and laughed together and enjoyed the early morning light on the nearby mountains.

The sunrise was a little later than they said because it had to come up over the mountains. It came up so fast!

It made me feel good watching the sunrise on the solstice from this spot. And I was also happy thinking about how the days are going to get longer now for the next six months. It's not the most fun when the sun goes behind the mountains at 3:15 pm. 

That night I went back to try again with the Christmas Star.

I still couldn't get what I wanted, but I did get a nice view of the moon!
I tried again another night at a different location, but Jupiter and Saturn were running away from each other fast. The moment had passed, and even though I didn't get on camera what I wanted, the photos remind me of the cool things that we can view up in the sky. Here's to a fun astronomical year in 2021!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Ice Skating

We were very fortunate to be able to go ice skating at Stella Lake in Great Basin National Park in 2017, 2018, and 2019. But in 2020 we had a snowstorm that closed the road. We didn't know if we would be able to go ice skating. But then my friend Jenny said that Pruess Lake, south of Garrison, Utah was frozen solid and invited us to a skating party. 

How exciting! Desert Girl and I couldn't wait until the party and went early in the morning to check out the ice. It was good!

Then we went back in the afternoon, which was even more fun because friends were there. I'm so glad that they make kids' ice skates in adjustable sizes, as the kids feet grow so much from year to year. Desert Girl is in a bigger size now, and probably for just this winter. Desert Boy is wearing my husband's ice skates.

The older girls do a lot of roller blading, so they were off in a flash. But Desert Boy wanted to keep up, so he gave it a shot.

It was a bit surreal to be way out there on the lake, with such smooth ice! Since it was so nice, we decided to skate the length of the lake, probably about 3/4 of a mile at the lower water/ice level.

The kids also wanted plenty of time to play, and didn't seem to mind sitting on the cold ice.

It was such a fun experience!

 Desert Girl and I went back later to check on the ice, but found that the water level had come up and it had been warm enough that the edges were water.

The ice was quite thin by the edges. But Desert Girl urged me to go out deeper. "The ice will be thicker," she said.

She was right, and we walked quite a bit on the ice.

But we had to be careful at the edges.

Even though we didn't skate, it was still so much fun playing on the ice and learning more about when it would break. And when you can break ice and not get soaking wet, it's quite fun!

More ice skating adventures to come!
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