Saturday, August 31, 2013

Destination: Angel Lake near Wells, Nevada

 One of Nevada's many mountain ranges is the East Humboldt Range, a 30-mile long range in the northeastern part of the state near Wells, Nevada. We decided to make it part of our July trip, largely because the 12-mile Angel Lake Scenic Byway (Nevada Highway 231, seasonally open) goes right up to Angel Lake in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

 The stormy weather didn't deter us as we climbed several thousand feet from the valley to the 8,379-foot elevation lake. Before the road gets really steep and windy is the Angel Creek Campground, which would be a good destination for those with bigger vehicles (like RVs). The Angel Lake Campground awaits those with smaller vehicles at the end of the road. There's a $5 parking fee at the end of the road for those who want to get out of their vehicles and check out the lake and/or picnic.

Lake Dimensions. The road takes you to within fifty feet of Angel Lake, named for Warren M. Angel of nearby Clover Valley. The lake covers 13 acres with a maximum depth of about 35 feet. A dam was added to the lake by early settlers to increase its capacity for irrigation.

Fish. The lake contains brook trout, rainbow trout, tiger trout, and speckled dace. According to the Nevada Department of Wildlife website about Angel Lake, about 4,800 rainbow trout are stocked during the summer. Creel surveys show anglers catch about 1 to 2 trout per hour, with a limit of five per day. Fish size is generally 8.5 to 11 inches.

My husband and kids decided to try their luck fishing, which is one of the most popular activities at the lake. I was ready to stretch my legs after the long car ride and set out for a hike around the lake.

Glaciology. Angel Lake is a tarn, otherwise known as a mountain lake formed in a cirque. A glacier once stood hundreds of feet high here, flowing down towards the valley below. (On the day we visited, the sky was hazy and the storms made it gray, so it was hard to see down to the desert below.)

One of the coolest things about visiting Angel Lake was thinking about the glaciers. The last glaciation in the Great Basin was called the Angel Lake glaciation, with the type locality being right where we were standing. Researchers Ben Laabs, Jeff Munroe, and others have conducted cosmogenic 10Be surface-exposure dating of boulders in the area. By studying the dates of how long boulders in moraines have been exposed, they've concluded that the end of the Angel Lake glaciation was 19,300 years ago, give or take 1,000 years. This was the same time that the Laurentide Ice Sheet was retreating. This was also before glaciers in the Sierra Nevada and Wasatch mountains retreated, and before the huge pleistocene Lakes Bonneville and Lahontan had reached their zenith. What does this timing mean? The researchers say that more research is needed.

Wildflowers. What comes after the glaciers leave? Pioneering plants like the bright fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium),  one of my favorite flowers. Fireweed likes to grow in areas that have been disturbed by  fires, avalanches, glacial retreats, and more. It likes lots of sun and can grow quickly.

Many other wildflowers were in abundance. The flora in the East Humboldts and nearby Ruby Mountains are similar to that in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah.

 And with plants come animals, like this beautiful blue butterfly.

 Wildlife. A couple rock wrens hung out with me as I took photos.

Probably the best-known birds on the mountain range are introduced Himalayan Snowcocks. They apparently are most-often found around Hole-in-the-Mountain peak, the highest peak of the range at 11,306 ft. The range also has bighorn sheep (with 20 reintroduced in February 2013), introduced mountain goats, mountain lions, mule deer, bobcat, coyote, and more.

Lakes and Hiking. Although Angel Lake is the most easily accessed lake in the East Humboldts, it's not the only lake. I was a bit surprised to find that the range has many more lakes, including Smith Lake, Greys Lake, Winchell Lake, Boulder Lakes, Lizzie's Basin, and Steele Lake. You can access some of them on the two main hiking trails: a four-mile hike to Winchell Lake that begins at a trailhead below Angel Lake on the paved road; and a 25-mile hike that begins at Angel Lake, goes around the north end of the range to Greys Lake 5 miles away on the west side, and then continues along the west side to Ackler Creek (11 miles) and Boulder Lake (18 miles).

To find out more about hiking to some of the other lakes, check out the details on this informative website about hiking in East Humboldts (and Rubies).
As often happens in the mountains, the storms passed and the sun came out, brightening the carpet of wildflowers. I was particularly impressed by the display of wildflowers, even though we were just at 8300 feet. The latitude and higher precipitation allows for a lower timberline and overall lower elevation for wildflowers that I expected to see at higher elevations.

Wilderness.  A quick note on wilderness: although you can drive to Angel Lake, most of the rest of the East Humboldt Range is accessible only by foot or horseback. In 1989, 36,000 acres were designated as the East Humboldt Wilderness.

Geology. The mountains rising above Angel Lake look beautiful, with Greys Peak at the top of the photo above at 10, 674 ft. The East Humboldt Range is a metamorphic core complex, meaning that the older rocks have been pushed up and are exposed instead of being overlain by younger rock layers. This allows you to look up from Angel Lake and see some of the oldest rocks in Nevada: 2.5 billion year old gneiss. How cool is that to see rocks so old from a lake that is not so old (at least geologically speaking!).

Lake core. The sun also beckoned an angler to go out in his float tube. That would be a really fun way to visit the lake! Researchers have taken a raft out on the lake to retrieve a sample of the bottom (a sediment core) to study the past climate of the area over the last 7,000 years. They were able to see ash from the Mount Mazama explosion (the one that created Crater Lake in Oregon). They also learned quite a bit more, which you can read about here.

 When I got back to the dam (probably a leisurely 45-60 minutes after I had set out around the lake), I found the angling success wasn't so good for my family.

 But the kids sure did have fun getting in the chilly water!

I'd like to go back to Angel Lake and the East Humboldts and check out more of the beautiful scenery.

 And if we time it right, we may make it again for the drag races in Wells.

Ah, you've got to love the desert!

I couldn't find much information about Angel Lake when we set out to go there. Hopefully this compilation will help those who desire to know more. And if you know of other websites about Angel Lake, please leave a comment! Thanks!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Early Morning View

Have you noticed the days getting shorter? And cooler nights? They've become apparent to me in the last couple weeks, and I have to admit I like them. More down time, more pleasant weather for exercise. We've also been experiencing lots of afternoon thunderstorms, monsoons. We've even had a little flash flooding, which is more typical of southern Utah and Arizona. The feel of fall is in the air.

The photo above is on my early morning bike ride. I have to squeeze it in from when it's light enough to before my husband leaves for work. That means I have long shadows and great light. This particular morning the clouds were already forming, letting us know we had a very high chance of rain for the day. The morning light bathes the ocean of sagebrush, the characteristic plant of the high desert.

I'm working on a long post, but it's taking awhile to find all the links I want, so it might be a couple days before I get up. So in the meantime, have a great day (or days)!

p.s. And don't forget to enter the Hallmark Card giveaway. You can enter with the Easy Entry every day!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Food: Chia Seeds

Last fall I read the book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. The book engrossed me, with fascinating accounts of long-distance runners--I even imagined for a bit that I could be one! The book helped me get motivated to train for and run the Take It To The Lake Half Marathon. And while running 13.1 miles, I decided that might be a long enough race for me.  Although I might not be cut out to run 100-mile long races, the book did introduce something more accessible: chia seeds. 

Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) are tiny seeds, a magical food from the Mint Family that is native to Mexico and Guatemala. Local endurance runners in Copper Canyon in Mexico, the Tarahumara, drink a concoction made with chia seeds before they go out to do a barefoot run of 50 or a 100 miles. The seeds fuel them during these grueling runs over steep trails.

Fortunately chia seeds aren't limited to Mexico and Guatemala anymore. I found chia seeds are now available in a variety of places in the U.S.: health food stores, Azure Standard, Amazon, and even more mainstream stores like Costco. This "superfood of the Aztecs" was once reportedly as common as maize (corn) in parts of the Aztec culture. Although I don't think it will become quite as popular as corn in today's culture, it is definitely a growing food item, even though it generally costs $8 to $16 a pound. (Hmm, how can we grow some?)

Why are chia seeds a raising star? 

* Chia seeds can help fight diabetes by slowing the conversion of carbohydrates to sugars in our stomachs.

* Chia seeds can help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure.

* Chia seeds can help hydrate athletes, as they can hold 10 times their weight in water.

* Chia seeds are full of healthy omega-3 fats (30%) and omega-6 fats (10%).

* Chia seeds have more fiber than bran.

* Chia seeds have more antioxidants than blueberries.

* Chia seeds have more calcium than milk.

* Chia seeds don't really have much taste, so you can add them to anything (salads, yogurt, smoothies, cereal, baked goods, etc.).

* Soaking chia seeds in water before you eat them makes them even more effective.

Well, the first few times I tried chia seeds I didn't notice any superhuman effects, but I decided to go ahead and let my kids give them a try. (And maybe superhuman effects are not desirable, considering that Desert Boy wanted to try and parachute with a plastic bag held over his head the other day.)

I put some chia seeds in a bowl, gave the kids some fresh fruit, and they were off.
They thought pushing their fruit into chia seeds was about the equivalent of using sprinkles. I was doing a little happy dance in my mind.

I couldn't believe how much they liked eating chia seeds!

We'll continue to eat chia seeds and see if they make us feel any different. It's certainly an easy food to add to our lifestyle, and with so many benefits, it's one I want to try to get in the habit of using daily.

Have you tried chia seeds? What ways do you like to eat them?

p.s. If you have an old chia pet around, you can also eat the sprouts.
And the state of Chiapas in Mexico is named after chia seeds. "Chia" means strong!

Disclosure: I have affiliate links to Amazon in this post. Clicking to them allows you to purchase the product for the same, normal price, but if you buy it (or other items) within 24 hours of clicking, I get a small commission that helps me keep up the great content of Desert Survivor. Thanks for your support! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Take the Hallmark Get Carded Challenge

Do you open your mailbox every day hoping to see something good in there? Do you feel a little letdown when all you get is junk mail and a bill or two? I sure do! I hope that the mail will bring me something wonderful! And some days it does. I particularly get excited when I get a handwritten note from someone.

Well, it's time to share a little joy. I heard about the Hallmark Get Carded Challenge and decided I wanted in.

The challenge is simple: Send 7 cards in 7 days to 7 special people in your life.

Hallmark sent me a package of cards for the challenge. I've always considered Hallmark cards to be the best of the best. The selection I received had some fun musical cards, some great kids cards that made my kids burst out laughing, and my favorite, the textured cards. Then came the hard part: selecting who to send these beautiful cards to. I have so many people in my life that I want to send a handwritten card to!

For the seven cards, I chose a couple people with birthdays (so much nicer to get a real card than just a note on Facebook!), friends with a new baby, a sick neighbor, a neighbor who shared some produce with us, and a couple long distance friends.

It was so fulfilling to write cards that I decided I'm going to do the challenge a second time, and I invite you to do it with me! To make it a little easier on your pocketbook, Hallmark is offering 30% off their cards with the code BLOG30 from

Hallmark also agreed to let me share a packet of cards with one lucky reader. You can enter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Let me know in the comments or on the Desert Survivor Facebook page if you'll be doing the challenge and how it's going for you!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Eating My Way up Right Fork Canyon, Ruby Mountains, Nevada

 Back in July (it sounds so long ago now!) we took a family trip to the Ruby Mountains near Elko, Nevada for some camping and mountain country. The Ruby Mountains receive the most precipitation of all the interior Great Basin ranges, about 40 inches a year at the higher elevations. That's quite a change from the six to seven inches we get on our desert ranch!

I'm a little behind blogging about the trip, but am finally getting to it. I'm going to start with the last day first--I got up and went for an early morning trail run. Of course I had managed to forget my running shoes, but I had some trusty sandals. I put some bandaids in my pocket (it's not the first time I've forgotten my running shoes, and I didn't want to get a blister!), and grabbed my camera and a water bottle. Then I was off.

The trail for the Right Fork Canyon (a tributary to the majestic Lamoille Canyon) starts at a cattleguard and sign by what is now called the Lions Camp (previously Boy Scout Camp and Lamoille Camp). I followed the road to its end, passing a lodge with the smell of bacon coming out of it, some tents, and some cabins. Then I followed a little marked trail to the edge of a slow-moving creek due to the presence of some beaver dams.
The trail was narrow but easily followable, and I made good time. It had rained the night before and some parts were quite muddy, and the vegetation was damp. I was glad I had on running shorts. Before long, the trail entered thicker brush. It was still easy to follow, but I got wetter.
I wasn't sure how far I was going to go, but planned a turnaround time in about 30 minutes. I figured that would give me enough time to see some of the canyon, but not too long to leave my family.

As I was closing in on that 30 minutes, I came out of the brush onto some wonderful rock. Hurray! The canyon beckoned me ahead. I so much wanted to see what else was up there. I decided to go just five minutes more.
 Except the trail got really narrow and eventually disappeared in an aspen grove! I didn't have the time to thoroughly scout it out, so I decided that was a good sign that it was time to turn around. And once I got back out to the big, flat rock place, I again had to stop to take some photos.
 I wandered over to the stream to look at a little waterfall. Then I decided I had better get going, so I took off running fast across the rock, and the next thing I knew I had landed hard on my side and ankle. Dang it. After a quick assessment I decided I was okay to continue. I was bleeding and bruised, but I could still move. Plus, I hadn't seen anyone else on the trail and I didn't know how I would get word to anyone if I was injured. (Note to self: maybe it would be a good idea to carry matches for a trail run in order to make a signal and/or warming fire if needed.) I wasn't all that far up the canyon and in fact could see the camp buildings, but I knew no one could see me.

So I gingerly started making my way back down the trail. And that's when I saw something that made me forget all my aches and pains:
 Thimbleberries! On the way up I had only seen the white ones, but on the way down I found luscious red ones, ripe and wonderful. They are related to raspberries, but even larger and sweeter.

 Then I saw what looked like blueberries. These aren't the sweet kind found in the Midwest and Alaska (and I'm sure other locales), this is a western version that grows on alkaline soil called Serviceberry. I picked some and ate them. They aren't very sweet, but they're okay.

 I saw these white berries, but they looked suspicious, and I wasn't sure what they were, so I didn't touch them.

 I also saw these alluring red berries, but they're baneberry and very poisonous. You really do need to know your berries before you eat them or you could be in a lot of trouble!

Not all red berries are bad. These currants were prime for the picking and delicious! I spent so much time eating my way back down the trail that my downhill return trip was only one minute faster than my uphill jog. It was worth it though, and I look forward to returning again. If you'd like to eat your way along the trail, late July is an ideal time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Eight Goals for Making the School Year a Great One

Are you ready for the school year? Desert Boy has been in school for over a week, and I still don't feel quite ready!

Thinking about the school year ahead made me realize that this may be a really good time to make some goals as a parent. Writing them down makes me feel more accountable (which is why I shared my New Year's Resolutions and check in on them periodically.)

Here are some of our goals. I hope you'll leave yours in the comments, as we're still new to this school business, with Desert Boy only in first grade, and it's so helpful to find out what works for other people.

Goals for making the school year a great one

1. Get homework done right away. Desert Boy brings homework home Monday through Thursday, and if we don't get to it right away, it gets forgotten. Like last night. Then he scrambled to get it done this morning while he was waking up and trying to eat his breakfast and telling me what he wanted in his lunch. It wasn't pretty. So we are working to do better. Organization means happier students and parents!

2. Healthy food = healthy mind. Some of the most common artificial food colorings have been shown to cause hyperactivity in kids. Caramel coloring may cause cancer. Too much sugar can cause diabetes and other problems. Yet huge food companies entice us with their advertising to buy their unhealthy but attractively packaged products. This year I'm fighting back, trying to pack as healthy of lunches as possible. Homemade soups (check out the ingredients on Campbell's soups and you may be surprised to find MSG a regular ingredient, as well as caramel coloring!), healthy leftovers from dinner the night before, peanut butter and homemade jam sweetened with juice or honey, lots of fruits and veggies, popcorn, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, healthy muffins (which can be frozen), and frozen smoothies are making their way into the lunchbox. My son is delighted. We've found some reusable Bugsella sandwich/snack holders to cut back on plastic bags, use silicon popsicle and cupcake holders, and try to limit the trash that each lunch creates. Basically it's going old-school--not so different from when I was a kid! Hopefully all this good food will mean that he will keep up a healthy energy level during school.

3. Outside time everyday. Kids spend most of their time indoors at school, and even with outside recess time, they need some more outside time. Sometimes I have to demand that my children go outside because they've gotten enthralled with some game (or often the computer--see next goal!). Once they're outside, magic happens, every time. They find something to do. Suddenly sticks and rocks take on a whole new face, and they're being creative. Outside times equal rejuvenation of the body, mind, and spirit, and more willingness to learn once they're back in the classroom.

4. Limit screen time. I never realized how hard it would be to pull my kids away from the computer and TV screen. We rarely watch TV, but even so, the combined time of being in front a screen is amazing. We've just instituted a new system. Desert Boy can earn a token worth 15 minutes of screen time for doing various chores. Simple ones like straightening his room, vacuuming or sweeping a room, or emptying the dishwasher are worth one token. More complex ones are worth more. He can earn as many tokens as he wants in a day, but can only redeem up to four per day. He's grumbled occasionally, but overall it's been a win-win. The house is slightly cleaner, and his time is reduced on the computer. We'll have to see if this system works for the long term. Having him learn to take more responsibility and manage his time should be invaluable lessons as he continues in school.

5. Homeschool. I don't homeschool in the traditional sense. I enjoy working part-time outside the house, and I really don't feel like I have the patience or education to give my children the quality of education they receive at the local public school. However, I do homeschool after school and on the weekends. We are always looking for ways to reinforce what Desert Boy learns at school and to enhance his learning on subjects outside the curriculum. (Check out our science experiment series!) We especially try to take advantage of special programs, concerts, and trips.
One of our fun science experiments--this one stuck in our
memories due to the potential mess factor!
6. Spend at least two hours a month in the classroom. Throughout Desert Boy's kindergarten year, I had this same goal, and it was amazing how much I learned about class dynamics and how kids learn by spending a little time in the classroom each month. I would like to spend even more time, but the teacher assured me that even this limited contribution was really appreciated. My son got really excited when it was one of my days to come visit the school, and that helped him like it even better.

7. Be encouraging. It's amazing how a few kind words, a smile, or a hug can improve someone's day. We can make our kids feel better after a tough day at school, show them by being a role model that sometimes it takes awhile to learn a hard concept, and encourage them to do their best.

8. Savor the moment. Do you take a first-day of school photo and then wonder how the kids have grown so much in the last year? Sometimes it can be hard to slow down and just live in the moment. I know I struggle with it almost daily. However, that's one of the most rewarding challenges. Kids are having little "ah-ha" moments every day, when something suddenly makes sense and they understand another little part of the world. Being there for that or hearing about it on the day it happened is something you don't want to miss.
What else helps you have a great school year?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Guest Post at Money Saving Mom

I have a guest blog post on Money Saving Mom today with some Money-Saving Camping Tips. Hope you have a chance to check it out! We're getting to my favorite time of year to camp, and I'm looking forward to spending a few more nights under the stars.

Hot Feet

(This post is sponsored by Reef. The writing is all my own; and I freely admit that I wear flip flops almost every day of the year!)

I've lived in the desert for over twelve years now, and like the plants and animals that live here, I've had to make some adaptations to how I survive. This is a harsh environment, with a dry and windy climate, hot summers, cold winters, and plenty of prickly things that aren't fun to step on. In order to make it liveable, I need more chapstick, more lotion, more sunscreen, and shoes that let my feet breathe!

While I wear hiking boots all day at work, the first thing I do when I get home is take them off. Then I slip on my sandals or flip flops for the rest of the day. (I might go barefoot for a little while in the house, but my delicate feet (ha!) need some extra protection outside. And we do try to go outside everyday to enjoy the fresh air and great views and to keep the kids active.

I have to admit that I don't have just one pair of flip flops and sandals. How many do you have? I have several pairs. I'm not sure if I want to admit just how many! I might not be Imelda Marcos, but my shoe shelf is overflowing. After all, sandals and flip flops come in various colors, with different embellishments, assorted heel heights (check out the Reef Krystal Star Wedding flip flops), and with footbeds that vary from totally flat to some that make you feel like you're walking on a cloud (such as the Reef Dreams Prints).

Flip flops are pretty much my go-to shoes. They are so comfortable and durable. In fact, it's a little sad in winter when I have to put them away in my closet! Of course, that just makes me think about a vacation to the beach where I can put those flip flops back on, enjoy the salty air and breeze on my face. And if I'm totally honest, I still wear the flip flops around the house in winter.

The kids are getting an early start appreciating flip flops. I don't think they care so much about letting their feet breathe, they just want to find the shoe they can get on the fastest to get out the door! (Not having to tie shoe laces makes them extra appealing.)

The desert environment makes me especially appreciate flip flops, but I'd be wearing them wherever I lived. I don't think I'll every be without a pair of flip flops. In fact, after looking at the Reef website, I'm already dreaming about my next pair. So what's on your feet right now?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Late Summer Wildflower Adaptations

 I was riding my bike up the big hill rather slowly, so I had time to notice little flashes of color. What? Not trash, but little flowers blooming in the disturbed area on the road shoulder. What could they be? I'm not so good at unclipping my bike shoes (which can make for some spectacular falls), so I came back a little while later and revisited the area to take a closer look.

Here's what I found: little pink flowers, less than an inch across called small wirelettuce (Stephanomeria exigua), and they grow primarily in the western U.S., but for some reason they are also present in New York state. They are part of the Sunflower family (Asteraceae).

 Seeing these flowers made me think hard about the later-blooming flowers. They are providing food for insects after many other flowers have finished blooming. In order to flower, they have to save enough energy and withstand the harsh summer conditions of extreme heat and sometimes extreme dryness. These late bloomers are the endurance flowers of the wild.

 Small wirelettuce can take different forms, and I sure found that the case where I searched. The specimen above was dense in the middle with longer shoots out to the sides.

 Then I found a little ball clump only about four inches high. What a cool name for a plant!

Then I noticed a more subtle flower, a white one on a plant that stood a foot or two high. It looked vaguely familiar, but it took me two days to finally figure it out: coyote tobacco (Nicotina attenuata). It's part of the Solanaceae Family, the same family that tomatoes belong to.

This plant has lots of interesting characteristics. It likes to grow in disturbed areas, but since invasive plants also like disturbed areas, it may be declining.
Coyote tobacco has white flowers about 1/2 inch wide, extending over an inch from the sepals. But you might not see it like this if you look in the middle of the day, because it blooms from dusk to dawn. That happens to be when its main pollinator, hawkmoths, are active.

Christopher Columbus took tobacco back to the Old World from his trips to the New World, and it soon grew in popularity as an ornamental. But tobacco took on a whole new significance when in 1560 Jean Nicot from Portugal took some powdered tobacco to France for the Queen's son to help relieve his migraine headaches. It worked, and soon became known as a cure-all. Its popularity spread, until studies hundreds of years later showed that it's not quite the cure-all it was once thought. (Hmm, that might be the understatement of the month.) The scientific name, Nicotina is based on Nicot's name and attenuata refers to the thin, or narrow, leaves. (From Southwest Wildflowers)

Native Americans have long used the plant.

And one more late summer plant today, one that is hard not to miss:
 Curlycup gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa). This bright yellow flower grows along roadsides and other disturbed places. It's a biennial, flowering in its second year and then dying (but I've also read it can be an annual or perennial--what an adaptive plant!). It's called gumweed because it's a rather sticky plant. I've never really liked it, but after reading up on it a little more, I have some grudging respect for it now. Something cool about it is that the leaves turn at right angles to the sun, making it a compass plant.
That icky gummy part? Some people have used it as chewing gum!

Curlycup gumweed also has a long list of medicinal properties used by Native Americans: it's been used to help with asthma and bronchitis (and is still an ingredient in homeopathic cough remedies) and can be used to treat poison oak and ivy rashes. It's also been used as both a sedative and stimulant

So this is what happens when I slow down (even if it takes a steep hill to make me do it!)--I see and appreciate some beautiful sights. I just read about the Slow Down Challenge, which is about taking your time in life and enjoying the journey, not rushing from one thing to the next. For the next week, I'm going to try to slow down for at least fifteen minutes a day notice more of the amazing world around us, and how so many life strategies are in place. Will you join me?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

blogger templates