Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area, Nevada

 Speeding along Highway 6 and 50 across the middle of Nevada at 70 mph, you see a sign for Hickison Petroglyphs Recreation Area and Interpretive Site. You've already been driving a long way from either Eureka or Austin, the two nearest towns, and it might be easy to continue on your way. But if you have a half hour (or more) to spare, it's well worth pulling over and checking this spot out. It takes you back to a much slower time.

About a quarter mile down a good gravel road is a parking area for the trailhead. You can pick up a very helpful trail guide and in just a couple minutes you're in front of petroglyphs.

The brochure says that the petroglyphs are typical of the Great Basin curvilinear style. The date they were carved and by whom is unknown. Unfortunately some dummies have vandalized the area, detracting from this old rock art. The horseshoe shapes are believed to be a female symbol.

 There are several panels of rock art along the cliff.

This panel has a lot of petroglyphs. The brochure says to note "the complex intersecting curved and straight lines." It does make you wonder what they were depicting!

 We took the spur out to the scenic overlook. It was so nice to stretch our legs. We often stop at the wonderful playground in Austin to do that, but this time we wanted to see something different.

 We were treated to some great views of the marvelous Great Basin. Nevada is the most mountainous state in the country, with over 300 mountain ranges. Traveling across the state means going over many mountain passes.

The kids had energy, so started running. It's getting harder to keep up with them!

We came to another wall with petroglyphs.

This rock art is very different from that found at Toquima Cave, which isn't that far away (at least by how the crow flies!).

We ended at a big boulder with more petroglyphs.

And, surprise! There's a little arch at the top of it.

This is a great place for a picnic, short walk, and there's even camping. But bring all the water you need, there is none available here. The kids enjoyed the stop and it was cool learning a little more about the history of the area.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Take It to the Lake 2017

I've participated in Take It to the Lake races at Cave Lake near Ely, Nevada for four of the five last years. They have a 10k and half-marathon, along with a kids' race that our kids have also done four of the five last years. The race is the third weekend of September, and about the beginning of August I decided that I should sign up. I looked at the routes and saw that the 10k was all downhill. That seemed too easy. I needed a little more challenge. So I signed up for the half-marathon. I had done two before. Surely I could do another.

Then I looked a little closer at the information. It was a half marathon with 1800 foot elevation gain and drop. Oh my! So basically we had to climb and descend a small mountain.

Did I mention that when I signed up, I was only running 2 miles at a time? So I just had to figure out how to run 13.1 miles. In about five weeks. I looked online for some training plans, and of course no one had a training plan for dummies to go from 2 miles to 13 miles in five weeks. So I adapted a couple plans and figured that I would build up gradually (sorta). Weekend 1 would be 4 miles, 2 would be 6 miles, 3 would be 8 miles, and 4 would be 10 miles. A few runs interspersed during the week, and hopefully that would be good enough.

For my 10-mile run, I decided to run up to Baker Lake in Great Basin National Park. I started early in the morning and made it 5.8 miles up to the lake in about an hour and 45 minutes. I was happy with that. I did a lot of fast walking interspersed with some jogging.

The lake was beautiful. It was a still morning, and to my surprise, no one was camping up there, so I had it all to myself.

The colors were just starting to change. This is an avalanche chute I take a photo of every winter when we do the snow survey. It's certainly a lot greener now!

Some of the herbaceous vegetation was turning, and the background of this little waterfall made me slow down and take a photo. I figured that I would be able to run ten-minute miles downhill, but it turned out to be more like 15-minute miles. Will all the hopping over rocks and a spectacular somersault tumble, I was kind of slow.

But that run gave me confidence for the next weekend. I got up at 4:30 a.m., drove to Ely, and got on the shuttle bus that took us to the starting line. It was starting to get light by the time we got off. It was super cold, in the 20s. I was glad I had my big puffy coat.

Here's a view of the starting area. We had to cross a few cattle guards during the race!

I usually make a couple goals when I do races. The first is to finish. The second was to finish in less than 2:45. I was thinking it would take me 15-minute miles to do the first half, the uphill part, so that would be 1:45. Then 10-minute miles for the downhill, or about an hour.

I debated until the very end of what to wear and finally went with my lightest layer, shorts and a t-shirt, even though it was below freezing. I wore gloves as a concession to the cold. And it was frigid! It took me miles to warm up.

The views were spectacular. And thanks to the race photographer for getting these photos!

I made it to the top of the pass in less than 1:45 (I can't remember the time exactly). I had had problems getting my running app to work correctly, but I finally figured it out. It told me my splits as I went downhill. Most were under ten minutes, but I was remembering when I ran in college and was significantly under ten minutes. Now I was barely under. And my legs hurt, I had just gone up a small mountain! Soon my knees would be hurting even more. There were some fun State Farm motivational signs up that were a great distraction. I kept telling myself it was okay not to be the fastest, just to finish was good. But I really should try to keep running. The miles ticked by. And then I was at the last hill and to the finish line. I made it in 2:29, my slowest half-marathon yet, but by golly, I had made it!

Folks were wandering around, eating, looking at the prize table, and talking.

There were cool winners' trophies. I ended up fifth for women, so I didn't get one. Congrats to the winners who did!

The plan had been for my husband to bring the kids to the kids' race, but he found out the day before that he had to work. Grandparents to the rescue! They brought the kids, got them registered, and they were all ready to go for the starting stretch. I joined in as a post-race stretch. It felt so good!

Desert Girl and Desert Boy at the starting line. This was a one-mile run, and they knew the route. Good thing, I was not up to anymore running! I asked Desert Boy what his strategy was, and he said "Endurance." He's been to a few races, so he knows a little about pacing.

Then it was time to take off! The kids are towards the rear.

I figured they would move up a little, but I was totally surprised to see Desert Boy round the corner first on the way back. I guess his strategy paid off!

And he was wearing terrible shoes for running. Maybe I should just let him be a barefoot runner, it would probably be better for his feet!

And then Desert Girl came along in fourth place. Wowzers!

Maybe those striped tights helped give her some extra powers. Or maybe she just wanted to keep up with big brother!

Afterwards we got a photo of us by beautiful Cave Lake.

And then Desert Boy decided to really take it to the lake! He jumped in a few times (mainly to be photographed). It was cold. I probably should have to, my knees hurt for a week. Fortunately my friend Jenny was able to massage out the muscle pains.

 Here's hoping we can participate again in the race next year! We feel so blessed to have such a well-organized race so close to us. Thanks again, wonderful grandparents, for helping out so the kids could participate. And thank you, Ely Outdoor Enthusiasts!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Tabernacle Hill Lava Tubes near Meadow, Utah

After visiting Meadow Hot Springs, it was time to check out the lava tubes near Tabernacle Hill. This is another location featured in the Millard County travel guide that I hadn't had a chance to visit. 

The day was getting late, but I knew that it wouldn't matter if we could find the entrance of the lava tubes, as we had helmets and headlamps for visiting underground. We didn't have very good directions to the lava tubes, and the roads aren't marked well, but fortunately we made it. And it was apparent we were going to have them all to ourselves (see photo above).

So, directions: From Meadow, Utah, interstate exit, head south on main street to center street and turn west. There's a sign for White Mountain. Continue on this road about 6 miles. It changes names to  W4000 S, S 4600 W, W 3900 S, S 6400 W. The important thing is to turn left at W 2300 S (this is not marked, and where it would be easy to go the wrong way; the turn is just before a big pivot (circular-irrigated field)). Go 1.8 miles, then turn left at the Lava tube sign, and go 2 miles on a bumpy road. Passenger cars could probably make it, but would have to go very slow. The lava tubes are at the end of the road, near an obvious turn around in front of Tabernacle Hill, a low hill (see photo above).

There is lava all over, but from the parking area, you can see some big entrances. We decided it was a nice enough night that we wouldn't set up the tent but would instead sleep in the back of the truck. That meant minimal set up time and let us get right into caving. We put on helmets, headlamps, and kneepads and set off towards the huge entrance to the west.

We found nice, easy walking passage, with lots of skylights.

Did I mention lots of skylights?

We kept going to see what else we would find. The kids liked being the leaders.

I was surprised by the size of the passages. These lava tubes at Tabernacle Hill are part of the Black Rock Desert (not to be confused with the one in Nevada). Here's an overview from the USGS Volcano Hazards Program.

We exited the lava tube and the kids wanted to head back, so we found a way to scamper up the lava to the top. But it was obvious that the lava flow continued, sans roof, towards the middle of the cinder cone.
Next we tried to get a campfire going, but had forgotten anything to start a fire with. Oops. So instead we looked up at the stars and I gave them a mini-constellation tour.

After they fell asleep, I went out with the good camera to get some night sky photos with the lava tubes.

It was tricky getting the lighting how I wanted (and I never did), but it was good practice and beautiful.

The next morning I woke up when it started drizzling. Gone were the almost clear skies. The kids didn't want to get up, so I climbed up Tabernacle Hill on my own. Looking to the north is an area of really, really black lava. This lava flow is the youngest in the state of Utah, only 600-720 years old. There were people nearby when it occurred! Wowzers. It's called Ice Springs lava flow or The Cinders. Far off in the distance is Pahvant Butte.

The view to the east was amazing. So much lava! I'd love to go back and explore more.

At the top of the ridge, I could look at the remnants of the cinder cone. This central crater used to hold a lava lake, according to the USGS website. I could see the entrances to more lava tubes and was eager to explore.

I walked back to the truck, woke up the kids, and we geared up. Here's another great entrance.

And the view the other way was where we had been the previous night.

We saw some cool spiders. At night, I also saw bats and a mouse (Peromyscus sp.). And there were also bird nests and woodrat sign. These lava tubes are home to a lot of creatures.

A cool orbweaver.

Unfortunately we found a lot of fire rings. Fires in the lava tubes are rather rude, as it's like having a fire in someone's home. The heat, air pollution, and general uncleanliness (we found a lot of garbage near the fire rings) are not a good way to treat the animals who live here. Plus, this whole area has been designated as an Area of Critical Environemental Concern (ACEC) by the BLM, so it should get some extra protection.

Please help keep these lava tubes a great place to visit plus a nice home for the native critters.

Something else that impressed me is that the skylights had such interesting life--all sorts of lichens and mosses that weren't at the surface. The protection of being in the lava tube, even though without a roof, allowed for so much more to grow.

Many species of lichens:

And cool mosses:

Back underground we found some interesting colors. Lava tubes aren't all black.
We explored until we had to leave to get to our next event. The kids were ready to go, but I could have spent a lot longer underground.

You can learn more about the amazing volcanic features in this area on the Utah Geological Survey Geosights website.

Here's an approximate route that we took through the lava tubes. We parked at the circle, then followed along the yellow line (not all in order, but you get the picture).

This is a fascinating place to visit, and I hope to return. I've been trying to find maps of the lava tubes but haven't been successful. If you know of any, please let me know. And if you visit, please treat these unique places with respect.
Moon rising over Tabernacle Hill lava tubes
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