Saturday, November 18, 2017

Ice Skating above 10,000 Feet

 My friend Jenny told me that Stella Lake was frozen and that they had gone ice skating on it. What!? Stella Lake is above 10,000 feet in Great Basin National Park. Usually the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is closed in mid-October, but because of the lack of precipitation, it was still open in mid-November.

So Desert Girl and I headed up there Sunday morning, leaving at 7 a.m. to try to get there when it was coldest. When we arrived, we found that there was open water on part of Stella Lake. Uh, oh.

Fortunately the little cove on the east side was frozen over with about two-inch thick ice. So we put on our skates and gingerly stepped out on the ice.

Desert Girl was absolutely delighted. She fell in love ice skating last winter, and we even bought some skates for her (fortunately they adjust to four different sizes, so they'll last more than one season). She hadn't quite found her rhythm at Fire and Ice last January, but she sure wanted to try again!

She had such a good attitude and was so fun to be with!

The bubbles in the ice were fascinating.

Desert Girl did not want to stop. I had to take a break, but she kept going.

The ice was so beautiful, nice and smooth.

I climbed up the bank to get more of an overview of the lake. You can see the cove where we were. It was at most one foot deep under the ice.

We then went to Teresa Lake and had a great time skating there, but my phone battery crashed in the cold and I couldn't take any photos. Maybe that was a good thing, because it made me want to go back! The weather cooperated, so after school on Wednesday, Desert Girl and I headed back up the mountain.

We hiked to Teresa Lake, arriving about four p.m. Desert Girl chatted on the hike there, she was so thrilled to be skating again, and the hike went very fast.

I was excited when we got to the lake, because the clouds were turning colors and the ice still seemed thick enough. (I was a little worried because it was late in the day and temps had been above freezing.)

Desert Girl kept calling it Teresa Pond because it was so small. A lot of the water evaporates, and the lake shrinks during the summer. This summer it stayed big longer than usual, but it still got small in the fall.

Desert Girl called me over to look at a peanut in the ice. This is what she pointed out.

The ice was mostly smooth, although there were a couple interesting depressions in it. People had thrown rocks on the ice, and they had frozen in just enough that we couldn't move them. So we had some obstacles to avoid.

The clouds kept moving fast, the light kept changing, and I felt like I was in a magical world. Desert Girl improved her skating quite a bit.

 We found some evidence of higher lake levels on the south shore.

More fun patterns.

 Finally we were at the last light. We skated over to the edge, thanking God for such a marvelous place and experience. We had a pleasant twenty-minute dark hike back to the vehicle. The memories will last much, much longer!

I don't know if we'll ever have the opportunity to skate on these lakes again, as usually we have snow. But if the weather works out, we will surely be back, because this is an amazing place to go ice skating.

Monday, November 13, 2017

It Followed Them to School One Day

 So after the county fair in August, we still had one sheep left. It was a little underweight, so we decided to keep it for a couple more weeks. Sheep are very social animals, so we let it into the yard so it could socialize a little more. Then it started following us (and the dog) all over. Including to school one day. It had managed to find a way around a fence and then jumped a cattle guard. I was impressed.

The sheep watched with interest as the school bus came.

I think if our dog had gotten on the bus, the sheep would have too.

The sheep also followed us to the swimming hole. The dog and sheep got along pretty well.

And another day the sheep got out and started following Desert Boy to school.

I even got phone calls one morning, Your sheep is walking down main street.
I headed over there and made sure I had a camera ready!
 Life never gets boring!

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Trip to Ozark Caves in Arkansas

We're going to take a trip out of the desert for this post. In mid-October I headed to northwest Arkansas. For the first few days, I was at beautiful Blanchard Springs Caverns, an amazing US Forest Service (USFS) show cave. It has huge passageways and huge speleothems. It also has amazing cave biota, including at least two kinds of cave salamanders, plus isopods, pseudoscorpions, and more. 

The reason I was there was to assist with a USFS video for CavesLIVE. This is an educational project, and in mid-February, a free video will be available on their website. In mid-March, there will be a live question and answer session. It's geared towards grades 4-8, but anyone is welcome to view the video and check out all the resources on the website. Plus, You might recognize someone in the video! 

The video was filmed by a professional film company, but most of us definitely weren't professional actors! Fortunately there was a teleprompter and the crew was very friendly. Below are two friends in Tyvek suits ready to do the hydrology part of the filming where they put some dye into a spring. I loved how the yellow stood out!

We had filming in various parts outside and inside the cave.  It was great to get to know these ladies better and everyone else involved.

It was really interesting observing the filming process. We filmed the opening and closing the first day. The next two days it was the middle parts. We hoped we had good continuity!

Next it was on to Eureka Springs, Arkansas for the National Cave and Karst Management Symposium. Eureka Springs is an interesting town, built there because of its 60+ springs, which were thought to have medicinal healing value. Now they are all polluted and you shouldn't drink from any of them. It's still a gorgeous place, and I made it a point to get out and run every morning so I could do some sightseeing.

This little free library was so cute.

A Carnegie librarie. There was moss growing on rocks and building stones everywhere. It was so different than the desert!

The Catholic Church up on the hill.

 We had a field trip one day, and I chose to go on the geology trip down the Buffalo National River, the first national river in the U.S. It's 135 miles of free-flowing water. We just saw a few miles.

We visited a couple shelter caves, saw awesome fossils, and learned more about some of the issues facing the river. Here I am with my paddling partner.

A little more view of the river.

And some friends paddling in to the take-out spot.

Eureka Springs is very hilly, and the Crescent Hotel is up at the top. Sunrise one morning...

I found the trail network near Harmon Park and surprised these deer.

And there are hidden secrets all over.

CaveSim came. This is a trailer with a simulated cave in it. What makes it extra special is that there are sensors in the speleothems and cave critters. Anytime you touch one, the sensor records it. Your goal is to go through the cave without touching anything fragile and as fast as you can. It is so much fun! We're hoping Great Basin National Park might be able to get one to take to various places and teach about cave conservation.

The keynote speaker was Tom Aley, a longtime caver and hydrologist from Ozark Underground Laboratory. He spoke about the history of NCKMS and also related some entertaining tales, such as a house in a cave that leaked a lot. Hmm, go figure.
It was an enjoyable getaway to a part of the country I had never visited before. I did feel a little claustrophobic with all the trees around. And everything was so wet and moldy! I actually missed the desert dryness. But it was a great place to visit, and I'm grateful that I had the opportunity.

If you're every heading to Arkansas, I highly recommend Blanchard Springs Caverns and the Buffalo National River.

Wherever you are, don't forget to check out the CavesLIVE websiteThe goal of CavesLIVE is to raise awareness and understanding of caves and karst - a resource that is seldom seen and considered mysterious - and connect it to people's everyday lives.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Frontier Homestead State Park and Other Kid-Friendly Destinations in Cedar City, Utah

For fall break we headed to Cedar City for two days. Spending the night allowed us to see some new things, like Frontier Homestead State Park. It's right on main street and really obvious, but we had always put it off for another day. Fortunately, that day finally arrived!

The state park has a big museum building with lots of photo stops. The kids were happy to participate.

They got engaged trying to plan what to take in their wagon.

Of course dressing up was fun!

Then we went outside, where there are lots of buildings and equipment. Desert Boy was delighted to find lincoln logs, and Desert Girl and I left him there while we toured the oldest brick house in Cedar City, an old school house, and more. When we returned, Desert Boy had made some elaborate structures.

Desert Girl had her turn to play (we were the only visitors at that time), so Desert Boy and I wandered over to the Native American section and checked out the moundhouse.
We also visited the old iron buildings. Originally the state park was called Iron Mission, as some pioneers were sent to mine the Iron. Hence the name Iron County (my aha moment!). I had never really given much thought as to where blacksmiths obtained their supplies.

We just skimmed the surface of this state park, there is so much more to learn. They have a very active friends group.

So what else is there to do in Cedar City that is kid friendly?

The main reason we were there was to go to the pediatric dentist. The kids are happy here, watching movies. A little later they found out they had their first cavities, which definitely wasn't so happy.

We went to the Garth and Jerri Frehner Natural History Museum on the Southern Utah University campus. The museum is small, but has some interesting items. Desert Girl liked all the shells. Desert Boy liked the animals you see below. Check the exhibits tab on their website to see more photos of what they have, including the famous two-headed calf.

Just down the street is the Southern Utah Museum of Art. We went there for the first time last year and really liked it, so we went back and were intrigued with a new exhibit, about dresses. (Okay, Desert Boy wasn't that interested, but he got to do some coloring, and that kept him very happy.)

A perennial favorite is the Cedar City Aquatic Center. Since we weren't in a hurry, we spent hours there. I may or may not have fallen asleep briefly in one of the comfortable reclining chairs along the edge.

When we left the aquatic center, we took a look at the pond (reservoir) adjacent to it. It's called Lake at the Hills. There are sand volleyball courts, fishing, and a beach. Apparently you can rent kayaks in summer. We'll have to check it out again!

We also enjoyed walking around. We went to the Cedar City Public Library and bought a bag of books for $5. We also enjoyed the wildlife art they had on display, and the kids read for half an hour. Then they climbed on the playground just outside the library. One the way back to the motel, the kids insisted that I take a photo of them posing with this statue in front of City Hall. They are trying to imitate the statue.

Something else we did was take an ethnic gastronomic tour of Cedar City. We ate Thai at Sweet Basil (always delicious!), Guatemalan at El Quetzal (the tamales and tacos were deliciosos, the empanadas not so much), Japanese at Ninja (the kids show what they thought of it below--I liked the sushi), and French at the French Cafe (fantastic tarts, crepes, and quiche). Desert Girl wants to learn some French now.

We still have Indian, Peruvian, Chinese, and possibly more to try. An older food review somewhere complained about the food desert of southern Utah, but I'd have to say that Cedar City has quite a variety.

For a few more ideas of what to do with kids in Cedar City (that don't involve hiking or biking, which the kids wanted to take a break from), check out this list.
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