Sunday, July 31, 2011

Flaming Gorge

K and I ran away for TWO nights this time, a REAL summer vacation at last! J kept snoozing on the way there (missed Vernal entirely). As she started to wake up and we got closer to our campground, J casually observed, "This reminds me of the Uintas." K politely responded, "This IS the Uintas." Oh. We stayed at Lodgepole Camground, smack in the middle of bear country. The campground host told us it was Little Seattle with an afternoon rainstorm every day at 1:00 p.m., but we totally lucked out--no rain! We love camping at 8,000 feet in July! So soothing. Pleasant times exploring with my husband. Gorge-ous views!

K happily announce, "We've got SIZZLE!"

K toasted these perfectly. As he brought them over he said, "I'm in a happy place right now."

The Bighorn Sheep let us get fairly close. A few of them did decide to stand up and move a few feet further away.

View from the Bear Canyon Bootleg Trail.

Dam view!

My darling CCC boys made this too! these rocks used to be horizontal.

Desert varnish captures my attention for long periods of time.

K is hiding down by the stream...checking things out and taking photos of his own.

Big Spring. Somewhere in the middle of Sheep Creek located on the Sheep Creek Geological Loop.

"We call it Flaming Gorge." These were the words of John Wesley Powell, a maniac who floated down the Green and Colorado Rivers, back in the day. I think he was even missing one arm from the Civil War. Amazing, but you know, still a maniac.

We drove home through our beloved Wyoming. It was probably the nicest weather we've ever experienced in Wyoming, on any day of the year. We stopped by Fort Bridger and had a look around. The history teacher in me couldn't resist this photo: it's an actual Conestoga Wagon (we sing songs about Conestoga Wagons in fifth grade, People!) on THE actual trail. What trail, you might ask? Well, it's actually sitting on all FOUR trails which happened to have crossed through here, because, you know, Fort Bridger, was like Vegas or something, kind of an oasis. The trails are: Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, California Trail, and the Pony Express Trail. All four--sitting right underneath that wagon.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bat Night

This is 314 and 330. We had a good time at Bat Night. It was a nice crowd with friends old and new. I wish K could have been there. I learned SO MUCH about bats and the importance of surveying them. Only the people who have had rabies shots got to handle the bats. One flew away before we were finished with it--quite the little escape artist. They don't have to wear gloves because they've had their rabies shots, however, they insist on wearing gloves because if a bat were to bite them, they would have to kill the bat to have it tested. Always protecting the resource!

They have teeth.

Sometimes we would coo at their cuteness and sometimes we would remark about how MAD they were!

Say "ahhhh", look at those feet, and smile pretty for the camera!

Boy parts. These are found by blowing on the fur. The CHIEF of Resource Management kept using the terms "wenis" and "hoohoo" which I thought was VERY scientific!

So if you're a bat and you get caught in one of the four nets those tricky rangers set up across the river, then you must suffer the following examinations: number, number of net, time, temperature, species, forearm measured, ears measured, age, sex, wing score, weight, photography, recording of the sounds you make, and a couple of other things like getting green permanent marker drawn on your head. It's a pretty good doctor visit all around. And then they let you go.

Slugs were present. Ryan picked one up for me. He later commented that he still had slug boogers on him.

We got a lactating female! Everyone was pretty excited about that. Again, you just blow on the fur to see the nipple which is kind of located in their armpit, but down a bit lower. As with all mammals, if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Spa

This is Monsoon Season. Lately, the afternoons at the cave feature a swiftly passing lightning show complete with deep rumbles of thunder and a drenching downpour. From our vantage point, we can usually see everything headed our way in time to take cover, as well as hold visitors under the exit shelter until the lightning goes away. When things calm down again, we are better able to hear the sound of rockfall.

And so I endure. Sometimes I'm in the cave with twenty people, feeling perfectly safe. Sometimes I'm able to hide in the ranger room. Sometimes I watch the show from the grotto, unwilling to budge until I feel safe. And then, I begin my descent to the Visitor Center, surveying the trail for evidence of rockfall and any other effects of the storm.

Yesterday, to my great delight, I happened upon a pair of Dark-eyed Juncos bathing in a two-inch puddle in the W's. The W's is an area of the cave trail with several switchbacks. I stood still, not wanting to crash the party. And it was a party! These birds were whooping it up and splashing about as if there could be no greater celebration than this particular gift from the heavens. When hikers approached, the juncos dropped down off the cliff side of the trail. After a few quiet moments, their heads peered over the edge to see if the coast was clear. By this time, I had perched on a nearby rock myself, trying to blend in so as not to be a bother.

At first, the juncos would take a few steps here and there, gingerly testing the pool. The prancing and high-stepping became more vigorous. Sometimes the tail feathers would dip back into the water and the beaks would stab forward into the water. Feathers fluttered. These were glorious moments and I felt as if I was spying upon a more intimate, yet playful setting with skinny-dippers. I didn't mean to intrude, but I couldn't tear myself away. These birds were saying, "Ahhh, THIS is why I live for July!" My favorite part was when one of the birds just sat down. Just sat down and got as much of its belly and breast into the refreshing water as possible. This bird was radiating some sort of ecstasy, I tell you.

I finally decided to resume the hike down. I thought of those little Dark-eyed Juncos seizing the moment and reminded myself to do the same. Rather than dread the more dangerous parts of these storms, I should look for the gifts. I'm sure the birds were thinking, "Yeah, wind and rain and lightning can be a bit harsh, but just wait until we hit the spa afterward!" Good times, good times.

When I got home, I appreciated my shower a little more than usual, although I can assure you, there was no prancing or high-stepping.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Five Hundred Miles

I must boast, at least a little, about my amazing husband. He works hard. He lives alone during the work week in a mostly unfurnished apartment. He misses me and I miss him, but together, we are trying our best to make decisions about our lives and our careers and all that jazz. I have been useless lately. I haven't had any energy or time, therefore, he's the one who gets everything loaded up for camping. All I really do is jump into the passenger seat and away we go. Hubby drives 500-600 miles per week for his job, but I was too drowsy to help with the driving on our weekend. We clocked in at 291 miles before we set up the tent and by the time we got home, he had driven 520 miles on his restful, relaxing weekend. It was a nice time, but hopefully I'll be feeling better so that next time is even nicer. For some reason, I took a lot of pictures of clouds on this trip. This is Roadside Idaho and Utah.

K and I left BC early Friday morning with a plan to camp in Idaho. Silly us. We headed up to a ski area called Pomerelle. All four campgrounds had signs: closed, closed, closed, and closed. K said, "Whaaat???" We pulled out the map, the atlas, and the gazetteer. We headed on over to Sublett, a reservoir and campground. A campground with six sites. Count 'em: one, two, three, four, five, six. All taken. So we continued through the beautiful forest (cooler up there) to a place called Mill Flat. Very busy and all full. Hmmm...we had struck out on our first six campgrounds of the day. So then we headed back over toward City of Rocks. All full or all reserved. Then we decided to pay the big bucks to camp at the state park. All full. Well, surely, Clear Creek would be the place for us. As we headed to Clear Creek (you have to go through Idaho to get there, but it's actually located in northwestern Utah), we were greeted by this fabulous sign. It was our ninth campground attempt of the day!

Let's talk about primitive camping. I used to do it all the time. However, since being married to Mr. K, I've sort of given up my backpacking days and have been spoiled by such luxuries as picnic tables, fire pits/grills, and outhouses with actual toilet seats. We were out of options after trying nine different campgrounds, so we found this spot and called it "home" for the evening. I'm not fond of pictures of myself, but this is the real me, cooking dinner out of the back of our car. I may have mentioned this previously, but that green Coleman cooler and the red Coleman water jug were purchased by my parents back in the 1970's. With five sisters, I'm not sure how I was lucky enough to end up with them, but they still work really great and keep all of our stuff nice and cold. Unless they give up the ghost, we will never replace them! We slept right next to Clear Creek which was really quite thunderous due to all the water melting down out of the mountains. The trees and wild flowers were lovely. The temperatures were mild. We loved it. AND...we found our way into the closed campground discovering the bathrooms were unlocked. Not quite so "primitive" after all--hallelujah!

Soooo....they weren't kidding when they posted a sign saying the campground is flooded. It doesn't look like it's going to stop flooding anytime soon. We've been here and walked here before. Tricky. This is the power of water, people. They don't even charge a fee to let you stay in this campground. I wonder how the Forest Service will budget for these repairs. After all, this is the actual road that you're supposed to drive on as you go through the campground. Somebody has a big job ahead of them. We wonder if they will even open the campground at all this whole year.

We re-visited City of Rocks National Reserve and specifically checked out Register Rock. This site is along the California Trail and I guess the Pioneers sat up and paid attention to the landscape, calling it romantic even, after miles of Nebraska and Wyoming in the rear-view mirror. Folks wrote their names in axle grease a hundred and sixty years ago and we can still read them today. After looking at several signatures and hiking all the way around Register Rock, we looked up and admired the swallows' nests. I believe they mix mud with their saliva to build these nests. Talk about the ol' pioneer spirit and ingenuity! Everyone seems to find a way to eek out their living.

We passed through the small hamlet of Grouse Creek, Utah. They have a sweet looking school there with a nice green lawn. The little dog seemed pretty content. Then I noticed the sign next to the little dog. Made me smile.

We visited a geological wonder called Devil's Playground. The rocks have these cool seams and interesting rock patterns that stick out in random places. K had been here once before (while I was in Boston). I always wish I could bring my students to such places so I could say, "THIS, my friends, is:!"

My bushwhacking hubby. When we hike a trail, I usually go first and set the pace. When we're casually exploring new terrain, K scouts ahead to survey the area. J sort of follows in that general direction waiting for tips such as, "There's a sandy wash over there which keeps you from getting stickers in your socks."

As we were jouncing along with appreciation for our 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle on some dirt track somewhere in the neighborhood of Devil's Playground, K asked, "Do you have your camera handy? I just need one more picture of those crazy rocks."