Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Back in Uniform

Well, the snow IS pretty, if you can negotiate everything else impacted by said snow. I stepped out of my car and slipped a little on the ice/snow/slush in the parking lot. I snapped a picture from the car at 5665 feet elevation.

The empty parking lot. The trail did not open until 10:00 a.m. and when it did, visitors had to be escorted by a ranger. Maintenance was not allowed to take the power wagon up the trail although they did have chains for the tires. Instructions over the radio were to shovel the snow to the inside of the trail in case people needed to walk on that on the way down while grabbing onto the rocks. This is all very comforting stuff to hear.

Snapshot from Heart Attack.

Approaching Soda Pop. All of the darling spring plants have become "The Frozen Chosen."

This is the thermometer at Three Quarter Way. Earlier in the morning, I heard over the radio that it read 32 degrees. When I got there, it said 34 degrees. On my way back down the trail at 5:30 p.m., it said 44 degrees. The caves are about 45 degrees. One of my visitors mentioned on the tour, "You know, it seems warmer in here than outside." I smiled and nodded. For sure, Buddy, for sure!

The new "lake" at Dead Dog. The news said we've received the most moisture/precipitation/rainfall/whatever-you-want-to-call-it EVER recorded in the last 150 years and I ask myself, "How much saturation can this mountain take?" My husband laughs and reminds me of the millions of years the mountain has been around. I heard big rockfall at Dead Dog. I tried to give someone a heads up about that on the radio, but of course, my radio wouldn't transmit (other rangers can verify).

Views of Last Chance and the Exit Trail from the Arch.

While on Arch Duty, I snapped this photo of a hiker approaching the cave entrance from The Junction. I am standing at 6730 feet elevation.

This is the waterfall at Last Chance restrooms. People think the waterfalls are so pretty, but I've seen how many rocks they carry down onto the trail. One man stopped in the middle of the long red stripe below The Junction yesterday morning to photograph that waterfall. I called to him from below the red stripe, "Sir, please don't stop in the red stripe zone." He ignored me. While my heart rate increased due to stress and concern in behalf of his welfare, I called again, "Sir, you need to keep moving through the red stripe zone." He continued to ignore me. Oh well. I tried. Yes, many, many waterfalls all over the trail yesterday.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The day has come. We are empty-nesters. All of the children have flown the coop so to speak. Nothing left but a lot of white bird poop stains all down the tree and on the ground beneath it. A sure sign of progress!

Baby Robin is seriously contemplating flight. Obviously, the thing has already made it out of the other tree, the tree of its birth. I guess you don't just get it after the first time or two. The parents have to keep screaming at you to do it again and again and again. Like humans learning to walk, a lot can happen during your first few attempts at mobility, so the parents hang around ready to protect, scaffolding their young from danger.

This is half of the cheering section. Both parents were flitting around raising quite a racket trying to coax that baby to fly! Obviously it had already moved from the nest tree to the new tree, but I guess it takes a lot of encouragement with each attempt. I witnessed this same behavior with the Canyon Wrens at the cave. Those parents also whistled NON-STOP for a LONG time, trying to encourage their babies to fly toward them. A busy morning for Mr. and Mrs. Robin, conducting flight school. I wonder if they had a different baby stashed in each tree.

Farewell, Baby Robins! May you do what robins do best (make more robins)!

The Irish Boys

It was a Beautiful Day in Salt Lake City last night! I would like to personally thank Bono, The Edge, and the other guys for performing so well for ME! I thoroughly enjoyed myself by listening, singing, smiling, dancing, screaming, and clapping. U2 was phenomenal. I can't begin to describe the stage and the lighting and all the special effects. The whole show was brilliant! I'd like to thank Rach for suggesting ear plugs. I had neon green ones that matched my shirt and they allowed me to hear everything perfectly minus the damage. I may have to rip off One and tweak it a little bit for a thematic cave tour program. Bono sang this little bit called Rejoice that was amazing--every note was perfection--I wish I could hear it again. Our seating was actually upgraded when we arrived so that was a bonus. The weather was perfect. I know my husband had a great time too because he is not often physically affectionate with me in public, but he couldn't help but kiss me a few times during the concert! And just for the record, Bono's spine is FINE. He was swinging across the stage with sparkly red stuff coming out of his jacket. They performed for two and a half hours. As the evening was ending, I was getting worried, but then there it was...With or Without You! They knew I couldn't go home without hearing that.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Dinner with the Family

So, the birds. We watch them all the time. They are our pets. We are cheering for them. We admire the parenting skills. It's just fun to watch the progression.


After feeding, the babies sort of settle back into a well-disguised pile of feathers.

Face WEST, young men!

Keeping track of your legs CAN be a challenge at times.

Hanging OUT. You can totally understand why some baby birds fall out of their nests. Their parents do such a great job feeding them that they become too large for the nest. Or too curious. Or too independent. Same as humans.

Daddy Robin singing, "I bring home the bacon...fry it up in a pan..."

I love the color orange and I like the way it works in nature. Here, the orange is screaming at the parents, "TARGET! Hit THIS target!!!"

Father Robin is just chilling on the side of the nest for a moment, gathering strength to fly out and find more food. Sunday Dinner seems to last ALL day around here!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

If Looks Could Kill and Other Observations

Hatched! Looks like three, possibly four. It's not every day you get a bird's eye-view of nature like this. They are just a pile of feathers until the parents show up with food. Then, the little necks strain upward and the beaks open as wide as they possibly can for some delivery of nourishment.

If looks could kill... Mother Robin may be wondering about the proximity of our bedroom window to her nest, but oh, well, too late now, the babies are here and must be fed!

Yesterday was our second training day up at the cave. Here's the view from the Last Chance restrooms near the entrance of the cave system. Can you say, "V-shaped canyon?" This looks down on Utah Valley. What's the view like from your restroom at work?

Drippy. Water is life. The end.

This dark eyelash looking thing is a brachiopod fossil located in the white marbleized band of calcite found in the limestone on the Lake Room side of the Hansen tunnel. The whole mountain is like a giant fossil, made of life. Millions of live animals (well, they used to be), including coral, are fossilized there. Blows my mind.

Frostwork in the Big Room of Middle Cave. These are anthodite crystals (a.k.a. aragonite). These little beauties are created by evaporation. A-MAZE-ing!

Formations in the Chimes Chamber of Timpanogos Cave, a magical place.

I will never tire of watching water drip into Middle Cave Lake. I think it is absolutely beautiful. It makes me think about lots of things. Mesmerizing.

Historic graffiti in Hansen's. Ol' Blanche signed her name in July of 1914, almost ninety-seven years ago! And just for the record, we don't allow graffiti in the cave now-a-days!

Everything was shining and glistening after the rain. What's your view out your office window? Thought I would snap a photo of all the stuff that rangers are capable of throwing around with no visitors in sight. We hauled the gurney and other first aid supplies up.

The Dead Dog waterfall was running really good yesterday, especially after our afternoon rainstorm. Also, I had to put in an annual picture of my favorite orange lichen.

As we ended our training day at the cave, I snapped a picture of J., one of our amazing supervisors. This is his forty-fourth season! He knows all the best seats along the trail with all the best views! He was resting because we were all locked in on the trail. They haven't issued our keys, badges, and other stuff yet, so we were hanging out, chatting, and taking a good look at the quarter-way slide hoping there wouldn't be an afternoon avalanche.

Monday, May 9, 2011


So, I've been worried about that Mother Robin since yesterday afternoon! She has no IDEA! It started raining a lot yesterday and it rained all night long. There's a light on our building near her nest, so I always have a good view of the situation. That mama bird totally took one for the team last night. She just spread her wings out and hunkered down for the duration! It must have been a long, cold night, but nevertheless, her responsibility is to keep those five eggs warm and turned at secret robin-knows-best intervals. She looked miserable, but I kept telling myself that robins have been doing this sort of self-sacrifice for eons. I noticed this morning that she got a little break, but not for long. She was right back to it after my shower. And it has been cold and rainy again today. I'm glad this will only go on for a couple of weeks. I'm not entirely sure I could stand the stress any longer than that. Once the babies hatch, they will need to be FED. A lot. Work of a different kind for Mother Robin.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

I just saw my mom last month and spent four days with her during Spring Break. It was a great visit! She has been ill for a long time and yet she surprised us all by suggesting that we go for a drive! We had a lot of fun in the mountains looking at scenery and viewing wildlife. We enjoyed just being together, sometimes laughing and sometimes being very quiet. She won't let me take pictures of her, so I'm not going to post one. When she found out we were planning to visit, she asked the universal Mom question: "What would you like to eat?" I say universal, because that's what K's mom asked when she found out we would be home for Christmas. These moms get so excited over their children!

It doesn't seem that K and I will have the opportunity to become parents in this life. And yet, most of the time, we have been blessed with extreme feelings of peace. I was able to enjoy church today and feel happiness for those who do have children. I'm so glad for that. I've recently finished reading a book called LOST CHILDREN. It's all about miscarriage. I bought it off the author after I heard her speak about another book she wrote which I had to read for a class I was taking. I guess you could say we have four lost children, but we don't really count it like that. When the topic arises, we may comment that we've had four pregnancies that did not end well. We're trying to learn the Lord's will for us and follow it. Sounds simple, but most of the time we feel deaf, dumb, and blind. Oh--and we try to count our blessings all along the way.

Here's an excerpt from the book: "Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally, especially in the face of our trials. He knows our individual worth and our potential. He knows exactly how we will benefit from our trials. He is the master sculptor and refiner, and though we cannot see our ultimate potential when we look in the mirror, He sees us for who we will ultimately become." I hope so. I hope we are on track with the things we are supposed to be learning and doing. I hope we are passing our tests with flying colors.

Teaching is a great profession and I know that somehow I'm helping the moms, but I also know that I'm not really a mom. People love to lump teaching along with mothering, but I know it's not the same, so I don't pretend that it is. I don't really know what motherhood is because I haven't had a crack at it. And because I've never been a mother, I can't say much about it.

However, we have a nest of robins right outside our bedroom window. I could do a whole separate essay just about the tree itself (our tree!), but I noticed last Sunday on my walk home from choir that there was a nest in the tree. At that time, it was empty. I kept thinking for a few days, "Too bad. Such a nice nest, but no babies. Kind of like our home." Now it has five blue eggs! I've been reading up on robins thanks to Google and am excited to follow the progress of this nest. It's raining now and heavy rain is in the forecast for the next couple of days, so I'm completely worried about the robins, especially the Mother. How is she going to stay warm and all that? I'm sure Father Robin will help her figure it out. Life has been going on like this for a long time, weather included! Since I don't have my own children to think about on Mother's Day, I guess I'll be thinking about hers:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

For Rachael

I am pretty excited about this picture I snapped today of Middle Cave Lake. Hubby said, "Wow!!!"

Um...so these slabs have to go up on the exit trail for the new shelter project. Each one weighs 400-800 pounds (I've heard both figures, not sure which). The puzzle now is figuring out how to get them up there. That's a lot of helicopter trips, just sayin'.

These are a few of my favorite things...

J. giving his conclusion at the exit. See? Not as much snow as usual. Can you believe how clear those steps are??? Me neither.

Packrat Poop and LOTS of it. You can't even beLIEVE how much packrat poop is at the exit. At first, all of us rangers were like, "What IS this??? Do you see this?" And then we would walk further toward the exit and rangers would keep commenting, "It's EVERYWHERE!!!" I've never seen anything like it before. And speaking of poop, there were piles and piles of moose poop all over the trail below the gate. Ranger N. had a lot of funny references to it and even began talking about how things change for her when she switches from eating more meat and protein to more plants and produce...if you know N., then you know how she just mentions this stuff while hiking.

Special note! BIIIIG rock at entrance. Mike and Andy tried to move it and they couldn't quite budge it an inch. I'm so glad Heavenly Father takes care of this business in the off-season!

See? Not nearly as much snow as last year (and no ice!). What snow was here in these photos no longer exists because many rangers plus many shovels make clear trails.

Shoveling on the downhill. Shovel. Step. Shovel. Step. Like a fire line. Do you recognize any butts or biceps?

Water running down from Swinging Bridge. The pics aren't great, but all of us rangers sure took notice from Kodachrome!

Getting through the quarter-way slide at four in the afternoon. Same instructions every year: "One ranger at a time! If this thing goes, we'll need everyone else to help shovel that person out!" The new LE was spotting on the downhill and Mike was directing traffic at the gate. When I got down on the other side (steps up, steps down), Mike yelled, "No running down the trail, Kyburz!"

This post is for Ranger Rachael. She and Brad and I all started together, with others, in the class of 2003 and now Rachael and Brad, who were still with me last summer, have dropped out and I am left alone this summer at the cave. Not really. There are tons of great rangers (I miss working with my husband the most, and then Arlo...), but I have been thinking of Rachael and Brad a lot this week. Especially Rachael. So, all of the captions I have made by any of the photos were for Rachael's information. The little details were for her. I missed you today, Rachael, but fortunately I didn't need you the way I did last year. The place was downright tropical today compared to last time! Cave said to tell you "Hi!"