Friday, June 30, 2017

The Grand Canyon Overwhelms the Senses

The Grand Canyon in June 2017
On our first visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon 10 years ago, we experienced a vivid landscape near sunset. It was also autumn with cooler temperatures and perhaps a bit clearer air. 
This was Elisabeth's first trip to the Grand Canyon. Jonah was barely a year old when Kelly and I first visited. I was freshly impacted by the views but it did seem that it was perhaps a little less striking than in our memory. The difference in the time of day, time of year, and the fact that a prescribed forest fire was taking place meant more haze and less than ideal lighting for clearly distinguishing the rich beauty and magnitude of this grandest of canyons. That being said, it is extremely difficult to comprehend the dimensions and vastness of this space under any circumstance. 
While that last visit may have been a more ideal time of day and year, every visit is unique and overwhelms the senses. I am all for making multiple trips of varying lengths to see this iconic landmark it all it's wondrous glory. God willing, the next time perhaps we will hike down into its depths to help actualize the true size and shape of it all.
The Grand Canyon in October 20017

All the following photos are from this most recent trip.
Cactus Flower

Sego Lily (State Flower of Utah) on the South Rim of Grand Canyon
Elk at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Rock Squirrel

The Colorado River at the east end of the Grand Canyon

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rhyolite: a Gold Mining Ghost Town

Rhyolite Ghost town with Cook Bank building, school house and Overbury Building.
Roadside signage for Rhyolite
Upon leaving Death Valley, we stopped just over the border in Nevada at a deserted gold-mining town for a rather hot picnic lunch. There are a couple of picnic tables by an old train car and a nearby pit toilet but no shade anywhere or we would have perhaps stayed a bit longer to explore. 

Train Car in Rhyolite Ghost town
Then again, maybe not. If your conscience isn't affected by the "protect your heritage" sign, fear will compel your compliance with the second "warning" sign - yikes!

Bureau of Land Management signage at Rhyolite
Cook Bank building
We did enter the chain link fence to check out the house made of bottles. I thought the fence was there to protect the glass from those who would do it harm and that it was probably built recently as a way to draw in tourists. When I read the information on the brochure I was shocked to discover that it was over 100 years old and part of the original town. Apparently it was built as a raffle prize and was subsequently used as a residence by the winning family for many years.
Tom Kelley Bottle House in Ryolite

Tom Kelley Bottle House Built 1906

Close-up of Tom Kelley Bottle House construction
The old train station has a fence around it and the roof looks new. So some effort has been made to at preservation. I would think there is lots of potential for further development as a tourist destination - picnic shelters would be a good start.
Train Station Depot in Rhyolite

Rhyolite Train Station
Overall, Rhyolite made for an interesting diversion if not the best picnic venue on a blazing June day. Considering it was our very first visit to a "ghost town," I thought it well worth a short stop even in the heat.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Death Valley National Park in Pictures

View of Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley
Raven at Emigrant Campground in Death Valley
On the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley 

Ruins on Harmony Borax works trail

Wagon pulled by 20 mule teams to transport Borax out of Death Valley

Near Golden Canyon along Badwater Road in Death Valley

Devils Golf Course in Death Valley

Artists Pallette in Death Valley

Looking south toward Salt Creek from Beatty Cutoff road

Friday, June 23, 2017

Unschooling with Baking

Baking Kids Love bu Cindy Mushet

Before vacation, I picked up the book Baking Kids Love by Cindy Mushat at a Scholastic Warehouse sale. Elisabeth has expressed an interest in baking for some time and I thought this recipe book might be a good one for her (and me). I have tried to let her help me bake in the past, but when it is my project that I plan to serve to others I have a hard time giving up control. Getting this book does seem to have solved that issue and I was able to be much more hands off and let her just do it. Elisabeth picked out a recipe from the book and helped purchase the necessary ingredients. I was pleased to see her follow the recipe and get to the end product with only minor help and supervision from me.  
Baking, after all, is a great unschooling activity. I'm glad I found a way step back and encourage interest. 

  • read the recipe
  • learned that 1/2 cup plus 1/2 cup equals 1 cup 
  • learned what 1 1/4 cup means
  • learned how to use a mixer including how to insert and remove the beaters
  • learned to distinguish tablespoon (tbsp) from teaspoon (tsp)

Milk Chocolate and Toffee Bars

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Death Valley: The Hottest Place on Earth

Temperature reading at Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley
The highest temperature ever recorded in the world was in Death Valley on July 10, 1913 at a whopping 134 degrees. During the late afternoon of our first day in Death Valley National Park, the temperature at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center read 112 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park
There are a few reasons why Death Valley experiences such extreme temperatures. The most obvious reason though is the elevation. On our second day in Death Valley we visited the Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level which is not only the lowest point in the valley but the lowest point in North America. It wasn't 134 degrees on our visit but it was oppressively hot by the time we got there around noon. Signs throughout the park warn agains walking after 10 a.m. and they aren't kidding. 

Salt Flats at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park

Monday, June 19, 2017

Museum of Natural Curiosity

The Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point is probably the most elaborate, amazing kid's museum that I have ever seen. The fact that I didn't see many pictures or a map on the website set me up for quite a surprise during our afternoon visit.

The Rainforest is essentially a giant playground 3 stories high that is robust enough for adults to traverse. 

Above the Rainforest there is a Ropes Course built into the rafter area where I espied this kid going along all by himself which did cause me a certain amount of angst.

Then there is the Kidopolis which is a very elaborate kids town filled with rooms dedicated to different themes: a laundromat, a 2-story library, a magicians shop, and a community theater to name a few. Jonah changed the Kiosk on the theatre to read "LEGO Batman."

There is also a huge Water Works section and many nooks and crannies inside that I did not photograph.

Outside is a huge Discovery Garden complete with faux caves that imitate the nearby Timpanogos Cave National Monument, as well as a goldfish pond and several play areas not pictured.

These pictures do not do this place justice by any means. If you have kids and are in the Salt Lake City area, this place should be high on the priority list. 

With the ASTC Travel Passport Program, we saved $39 on admission. However, I would say this place is worth paying the fee if you plan on staying a few hours. This was our second stop for the day after the Museum of Ancient Life so we only stayed a couple of hours.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point

While tagging along on a a work retreat with daddy, we took advantage of the of the ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers) Travel Passport Program. We are a member of the Orlando Science Center which participates in the program and allows us to visit other participating museums at free or reduced rates. The list of participating museums and science centers is extensive. 

We took advantage of this program more than once during our week in the Salt Lake City area. Our first stop was the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point, which happened to be right next door to our hotel. 

Since we saved $39 by not having to pay admission, I decided to pay the $4/student fee for the 12 minute Jr. Paleo Lab where the kids were able to use the same type of drill that scientists use to prepare and clean fossils and on a real fossil. 

The Fossil Lab at the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point

Tree Fern fossils among others

Supersaurus skeleton at the Museum of Ancient Life

This is a fossilized dorsal vertebrae of a Supersaurus

Jonah with an Allosaurus skeleton at the Museum of Ancient Life

The museum had a cast skeleton of an Allosaurus. We found a true fossil from this species on the grounds of the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry only a few days earlier.

Utahsaurus at the Museum of Ancient Life

T-Rex display at the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point

Smallest mounted mammoth skeleton at the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point

This baby mammoth was under a year old when it died. It is the smallest mounted mammoth skeleton in existence according to the signage.