Sunday, October 23, 2016

Carson Got Lost

Last night upon returning home from our trip we stopped at our friend's house to drop off their son and pick up Stella. They live only one street over from where we live. My determined six year old decided he didn't want to wait for the swap and asked his dad if he could ride his scooter home. Unbeknownst to me he convinced Todd that he knew the way home and took off.

When I came out of the house with Stella and heard the news, I didn't think that that had been a wise decision but I wasn't going to criticize my husband's judgement since there wasn't anything I could do at that point except meet Carson at home.

Well, we drove to our house, all along looking for him but never saw him. At first I figured he was at our next door neighbor's front yard checking out his spooking Halloween Ghost Town or inside the house. When it was obvious he was at neither I began walking back to our friends house all the while calling out his name searching for him.

By that time, it was 8 pm and dark. Carson was wearing a t-shirt and shorts appropriate for our 90 degree weather earlier this morning but no longer warm enough for Utah evening temperatures.

Needless to say I was worried about Carson and more than a little upset at his dad. I was praying that all would be well, but had no idea where to go next. I was almost to my friend's home when I got a call from a local unknown number. It was a man who had found Carson on 104th South and 1,300 West near the Gun Vault.

Since I was on foot I got the directions, called Todd and asked him to pick Carson up.  According to Carson, he somehow missed a turn and got disoriented. He ended up on an unfamiliar area and decided to keep going until he reached the Gun Vault and scared started crying.

A woman who was driving along saw him and pulled over. She got his name and phone number. A second car, driven by a man also pulled over and called me. The lady happened to be Julie Uncle, an old co-worker of mine.

All ended well in the end. It was an uneventful vacation with a very exciting ending. Something I'm sure Carson won't forget any time soon.

Fall Break: Joshua Tree National Park

After leaving Leeds, we traveled for another 4.5 hours through St. George, Las Vegas and the Mohave Desert of California to meet up with friends at Joshua Tree National Park.

We stayed in 29 Palms, a community right outside of the park. Everything is so desolate here.  I think I only saw grass once. It was at a community park with playground. All other homes have dirt and cactus for landscape – not even a variety of rocks to decorate the ground, with drought tolerant plants – only dirt and a few cacti.

The weather was really pleasant. It was in the mid 50’s in the morning, but it quickly warmed up to the mid to upper 60’s and it stayed in that range for most of the day. The temperature however didn’t feel cool, rather it was really comfortable and on occasion a bit warm when the sun was the warmest.  We had to keep reapplying sunscreen on Todd to make sure he didn’t burn.

After a quick breakfast we left camp and headed to the Joshua Tree Visitor Center to collect the Jr. Ranger books for the kids and get some direction on what we should visit at the park.

Joshua Tree National Park comprises nearly 800,000 acres of land and includes two deserts: the Mohave Desert further north, and the Colorado Desert to the south. Upon entering the park from the North, we traveled to Hidden Valley.

Hidden Valley is a 1 mile loop trail that winds around huge boulders and desert habitat. It was believed to be a popular cattle rustlers’ hideout because of its narrow entrance and lookout spots.  The kids had the best of time scrambling through rock formations, climbing, leaping, sliding and descending rocks.

 The hike also contained a self-guided tour, with description of the local landscape and habitat. While there the kids spotted several lizards enjoying the sun and a few people rock climbing the various rock formations.

The natural cover offered by the rocks encircling the valley, and higher altitude Hidden Valley contains its own micro-habitat. While walking though the look we observed Yucca plants, Joshua Trees, Pinion Pines, Juniper bushes, scrub oak, as well as Cholla cacti all in one place.

After leaving Hidden Valley, we drove to Keys View, the highest accessible point at Joshua Tree. I can’t believe how windy it was! Todd and I opened our doors to leave the car and a lot of our papers just flew out of my door.

That should have been my clue. The wind just got stronger and stronger as we climbed up to the look out point. Some of the kids had jackets on them so they grabbed the tips of their jackets and held them out like wings as they ran downhill, pushed by the wind and pretending to fly. In spite of all the wind view was magnificent. I was able to see Palm Springs and Saint Jacinto Mountain in the distance as well as the St. Andreas Fault Line. They estimated a 19% chance of a major earthquake in the next 20 years.  To prepare, the park has set up seismic monitors throughout the park. They claim to give those who monitor a few minutes notice. I’m not sure how good that’ll do the tourist who have no cellphone signal in the park and would not be notified in time.

On our visit we stopped at Skull Rock, Split Rock and hiked to Arch Rock. Finally, we traveled to Cholla Gardens located in the Colorado Desert portion of the National Park.

The Ranger discourage us from taking the kids because Cholla thorns attached to the body whenever they become in contact and they are painful as well as difficult to remove.  Both Arch Rock and the Gardens had posted warnings about thirsty bees that were attracted to any open container of water. That was quite unusual.

With much warning and discussion we took the kids through the gardens. The view was beautiful but surreal and the kids were soon ready to leave the area. After sliding on her bottom down granite rocks most of the day, Stella's pants were shredded to pieces. Every time she'd climb a rock they would tear a little more, and every time she would slide they would rip a bigger hole. By the end of the day, they were trashed. She was just going for style- trashed jeans are all the rave nowadays.

On the way back, we were stopped at the ranger station to leave the park. I’ve never been stopped to leave. Our friends had Emilia in their car and were riding in the car behind us. The ranger was pretty upset and frustrated with us for not having our 4th grader in the car with us.  Go figure!

Our last stop was the 29 Palms Joshua Tree Visitor center where the kids all turned in their Jr. Ranger booklets in exchange for a pin, and a ranger paper hat.  They were all sworn in to care for the park.  It was right outside the visitor center that we spotted a road runner crossing the parking lot towards us. It was exciting to see wildlife other than insects and a lizard!

Fall Break: Death Valley Day 2

On our second and last full day at Death Valley we hiked to the Red Cathedral, a geological formation of red colored rocks visible from several lookout points at the park.

The kids enjoyed climbing atop rocks along the trail like they had done at Joshua Tree. Unfortunately, these rocks formation were made of shale stone and deteriorated very easily so we had to discourage them from straying off of the path.

The hike was 1.5 miles each way along a canyon narrows which shaded our path most of the way up and back.  There was little elevation gain which helped immensely as Todd was carrying a 35 lbs pack with Andrew on his back.

After the hike we drove through 20 Mule Team Canyon, the road that the Borax company used to travel to haul borax from Furnace Creek in Death Valley to the rail head near Mojave. They strongly discourage vehicles 25 ft in length and longer to travel along this dirt road because of the narrow walls on either side and how winding it is. Later the next day we saw the wagons the mule team pulled, they were longer than 25 feet and  as tall as an recreational vehicle. I have no idea how they managed to get around some of the narrow stretches of road.

After our drive through the canyon we headed back to camp and spent the hottest part of the day at the Furnace Creek visitor center near our campsite viewing an orientation video on the history of the park, passing off Jr. Ranger badges and buying souvenirs.

In the mid afternoon we decided to once again get into our cars to view a couple of more spots. The park is so big that everything takes a long time to get to.

We visited Zabriskie Point named after the Vice President of the Borax company who managed the company's operations for decades and later helped transition Death Valley from private land, to a tourist destination and later a National Monument.

Dante's View was our last lookout of the day. The viewpoint is aprox 5,400 ft in height directly above Badwater. We were there right at sunset and enjoyed the beautiful colors across the mountains in front of us.

The Borax company is an intricate part of the modern day history of the park. It was one of the only few mining successes in the area. The Borax company only operated for 5 years but there are still remnants of its presence through out the park.

On Saturday, before leaving the park we stopped at an interpretive trail a short distance from where we were staying where the Borax was processed and distilled prior to being shipped out.

Geology is sometimes hard to grasp, but the challenge for people to live, work and thrive in the desert is something I can more easily understand. The area was inhabited by Chinese immigrants who would work by scraping borax from the surface of the ground and loading it into wagons. They were paid $1.30 day minus the cost of food and clothing.

The workers then refined borax by separating the mineral from the unwanted mud and salts prior to loading it into large wagons weighting up to 36 tons including a tank with 1,200 gallons of drinking water. The wagons were seven feet high and up to 100 feet long.

The drive home was uneventful but long. We finished listening to a Treasure Hunter book by James Peterson and listen to some Brother Grimm tales on audio book. By the end, the kids and grown ups were all glad to be home.

I have to say that Andrew was a trooper. He was content the entire drive and only fussed if he was hungry or the sun was in his eyes. I was so grateful for that.

Fall Break: Death Valley Day 1

On Thursday we left Joshua Tree National Park and headed Noth West to Death Valley National Park. The drive was supposed to take four hours; but after a lunch and emergency bathroom stop we ended up getting into the park at around 2 pm local time. 

In order to get the most out of our visit, we decided to drop off the trailer at camp and then take off to do some sightseeing. 

Death Valley is a huge park. It takes a lot of driving to reach the different points of interest in the park. There were several we chose not to visit simply because of how many hours or would take for us to reach them. Many of them are also on narrow dirt roads which make them slow to travel.

On Thursday we visited three spots. The first was Badwater, the lowest point on the western hemisphere.
Badwater is 282 feet below sea level.  It is a dried up lake bed where sediments like salt mud have accumulated. As we walked to.the lowest point we stepped on the salt mud that made the ground look a white-grey color and felt gravely, yet pliable. There were several man-made holes made in the ground along the way by people who wondered how far below the surface was the water. Some of them were several inches deep and contained water in them.

Badwater got its name from a prospector who discovered this area where there was still water in the lake. He attempted to make his mule we drink the water but the animal refused because of the the high salt concentration. So the prospector called the lake Badwater and the name stuck.

After being in the car for several hours the kids were eager to stretch their legs. They took off down the boardwalk and ran across the end of the Badwater and back to the parking lot.

Our second stop was the Devil's Golf course. An area covered by salt crystals grouped in jagged and very sharp rock formations. 

The sign warned visitors of the dangers of hiking in this area. One of the kids in our group tripped and scraped her knee really bad. She was really sad.

It was named after a line on the original 1934 guidebook which stated "only the devil could play golf' on its surface, due to the rough texture of the formations.

Afterwards we drove through Artist Drive. It is a paved road through an alluvial (river) fan carved ravine. The side walls are thick sedimentary rock up to 4,000 feet tall. Artist Drive is very colorful because of the minerals deposited. They were orange, yellow, green and purple.

By the time we reached the drive the sun had set and it had started to get dark. So we took pictures from the truck without getting out. 

It was the perfect time to see bats fluttering across the road. There were quite a few of them.

It was really nice to visit these sights in cooler temperatures. As soon as the sun went down the temperature dropped by 10 degrees form the 90's  to low 80's. 

We enjoyed exploring in cooler weather and decided to do the same the next day.

Fall Break: Sliver Reef

After a busy day at Zions we headed back to Leeds, where we were staying. Our camp is only seven minutes away by car from Silver Reef.

Once a prominent town of 2,000 people Silver Reef is now a ghost town. In 1868 a few deposits of silver where discovered by prospector John Kemple along sandstone reefs. In that period, it was widely believed that silver wasn't found in sandstone, so it took several years for other prospectors and miners to become interested in Silver Reef. During its peak in the late 1800's, Silver Reef was larger than St. George and employed several profitable silver mines. Between 1875 and 1888, $10 million worth of silver was mined in this area.

Several fires along with the declining prices in silver, and the threats of strikes in the mines lead to the closing of several mines and eventually abandonment of the town.

The mines attracted people from all over the world. The town's main street was a mile long and included several stores, a hotel, a printing shop, bank that doubled as a jail, a saloon and a Wells Fargo Stage Coach office. A lot of Irishmen and Chinese settled in the area. In fact, Silver Reef had it's own china town.

By the time we arrived the sun was setting behind the mountains and the view from Silver Reef, down towards St. George was very beautiful. All around the Ghost Town, new extravagant homes have gone up, bringing life back into the area.

The old powder house was reconstructed and now holds several dioramas of the town and an audio presentation of the history of Silver Reef. The kids got a kick at seeing all of the outhouses behind each of the homes and businesses depicted in the miniature replica.

There is also a pavilion with information on the geology of the area, but the best and most creative part in my opinion is the view finders made out of pipes pointing different areas of town. The city was not settled by LDS pioneers, in fact Silver Reef never had an LDS meeting house in town. Methodist, Catholics and Chinese all had their own cemetery in Silver Reef. They are several miles from the old downtown, but still easily spotted through the viewfinder.

When Silver Reef went bankrupt, many of the buildings were purchased for their ready made stone, disassembled and re-used elsewhere. So, only a few of the original buildings' walls still stand. It was hard for the kids to imagine what the structures they were standing on, used to look like. I wish they would have placed plaques with pictures of the original buildings next to them. They must have had a record of them in order to create the diorama.

I was really interested in the story of the town, but the kids were not very amused by it, so once the sun when down and it got too dark to walk around we headed back to camp.

Fall Break: Zions NP

Today we went to Zions National Park. Had a late start this morning after getting in pretty late last night from Salt Lake. Wooden pull into the campaign until 10:30 and then it took us an hour to set up camp and get the kids to bed. We stayed at Leeds RV camp and because we were hoping to go hiking to Kanarraville Falls. When we looked at the weather forecast this morning it's not and if I was going to be 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Kanarraville Falls I reached by hiking through a Slot Canyon and through ankle-deep water. We thought I might be too cold for the kids so instead opted to go to Zion's National Park. We have no big plans we have been to Zions several times over the past few years so we took it pretty easy. Part of the reason why we chose to go camping this week and to take advantage of 4th grade pass that Emilia gets this year.

We didn't expect the park to be so busy, but the lines to enter the park were pretty long. we had an electronic copy of the pass we had received by email. When we got to the gate the park ranger asked that we provide a printed copy. So after wearing in the queue to get in we had to drive to the Springville library a few miles away.By that time it was getting close to lunch time, so we opted to let the kids play in the playground  next to the library and eat lunch.

As with our last few trips, we looked for some geocaches nearby. We found two of them walking distant from where we had lunch.  We had no luck on our first attempt, but we found the second one without much trouble.

We then decided to head back into Zion NP. The kids got the junior park ranger work books from the visitor center.  each age has different age requirements. Stella had to complete two pages, Carson had to do seven, and Emilia twelve.

 It took several hours to get it all done, for the kids were very proud of their badges and rightly so. I think the parents should get badges too any time to help their kids get theirs. 

We stopped at the visitor center to watch an overview video of the park, hiked the weeping wall and walked around looking for answers to various questions found in the kids' ranger workbooks.

At the end of our visit the kids were sworn in as Jr. Rangers and received their badges.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Emilia's virtues

Every year the parents of 4th grade students get invited to present their child's virtues to the class. Today I went into Emilia's class to share with them the virtues I see in her. 

Stella, Emilia and I worked on a poster to share with the class.  For her last virtue, generosity, she shared with the class one of her favorite candies "smarties'.

As I spoke about her in class, and answered questions from her class mates, it really struck me how blessed my kids are. They have had some many opportunities to learn and experience new things.  

I hope they will retain some of those memories.

Emilia’s  virtues:

Compassion/Kind – Emilia is kid towards others. This summer, our family went on a 4 mile hike with friends. On our way down the mountain one of Emilia’s friend twisted her ankle. Emilia let her friend use her hiking stick the whole way down so that her friend could relieve the weight off her injured foot.
Responsible – I can always trust that Emilia will do what she says she will do. I can count on her completing her chores at home and doing her homework.
Respect – Emilia respects the rules at school and at home. She is a good example to the rest of the family. Our back yard looks out to a cemetery. Every Memorial Day we visit the cemetery and honor the fallen soldiers from our community.

Enthusiasm/Optimist - Emilia sees the good in everything and everyone. She is always excited to try new things.
Caring – Emilia is very affectionate and caring towards her 1 year old baby brother Andrew.
Love – Emilia loves her immediate and extended family and her friends. She also loves music and knows the words to almost any popular song on the radio. You’ll have to quiz her on that to see if you can stomp her.

Active - Two of her favorite pass times are hiking and geo-cashing.
Creativity – Emilia loves to learn and make all kids of crafts. She has made a lot of fun things with perler beads, yarn and many other materials. She keeps a stash of craft supplies in her room, just in case she needs them for her next project.
Humor – Emilia is a lot fun to be around. She is always smiling and has an easy laugh. Last Christmas she got some laugh out loud jokes for kid books and memorized many. One of her favorite jokes goes like this:  Knock-knock; Who’s there?; Shell-fish: shell-fish who?; Don’t be shell-fish, let me in!
Patient – As the oldest of four siblings Emilia has developed a lot of patience. She has to be patient with her mom and dad, whenever we are helping the rest of the family. She’s also learned to be patient with her younger siblings, who love to get into her room and play with all of her stuffed animals.

Friendliness – Emilia has never met a stranger. Everyone she meets is a friend, and she has many. She met her oldest friends when she was only a few months old, and although both our families have moved over the years, she still keeps in touch and gets together whenever possible. Her happy, fun and kind personality make others want to be around her.
Forgiving – Along with patience, being an older sisters has also taught Emilia to be forgiving. She rarely becomes upset or offended with her siblings. In fact, she’s the one who knows how to get her younger siblings to get along, but on the very few occasions her feelings get hurt, she doesn’t hold a grudge for long.
Generous – Emilia knows that it’s more fun to do things with others, so she is always willing to share with those around her. Whether it is sharing a laugh or sharing her toys. Today she is sharing one of her favorite candies with you.