Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Olivia Brophie's Artwork Contest

Make sure you check out the Olivia Brophie Website for details on the Artwork Contest. I have over 26 entries now with six weeks to go. Here are some examples of the submissions. They will each be scanned in individually for the contest.

Olivia Brophie

Squirt the....what is Squirt anyway?

Thunder and Hoolie

Giant Tardigrades

Mr Gruffle the gopher tortoise


Cheeto the dachshund

Bobwhite Witch and the Pearl itself!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Subway Canyon in Zion Wilderness

We hiked the Subway Canyon from the bottom-up, starting at the Left Fork Trailhead. This is a serious hike. Ten miles roundtrip. You should not be afraid of heights or crumbly trails. You should be prepared for a full day of bouldering.

The view down into the canyon - you will be hiking to the "v" where the canyon sides come together in the background

Enjoy your long hike in the river

Enjoy the paintbrush flowers

And the cactus

And the Canyon Frogs

Here is a cool waterfall where the river almost entirely constricted down to a thin crevice only a few inches wide and extending for about 20 yards.

Almost to the end!

Potholes at the end

Perfect for a cool swim!

Through this passageway and out of sight (you must swim for it) there is a secret cave waterfall.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in southwestern Utah is a quiet little park that is worth the short drive. It is located on Highway 89 between Kanab and Mt Carmel Junction. There is not a lot to do there. It's quiet except for the wind. There probably won't be many people hanging about, although there is a campground. But it is interesting to see the dunes blowing up through the valley. Always changing but timeless. The sand seems oddly colored compared to the lighter colored sands in the surrounding desert. There is a small observation deck and a trail that will take you close to the best bachans. You can also search for the rare, endemic coral pink sand dunes tiger beetle, which of course I tried and failed. I suggest bringing a picnic and going for a short hike.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wire Pass - Paria Canyon Utah

Go south on House Rock Valley Road from Hwy 89. Drive 8 miles to the Wire Pass parking area. Self-pay $6 per person in your party then hit the trail!

The Wire Pass trail is pretty easy. First you follow a riverbed downstream for about a mile.

Even though you are here for the slots, check out the wildflowers and the geology along the river bed. I found a sweet chunk of petrified wood here.

Remember to save enough water to hydrate on your way back through here!

Soon enough, you will come upon the upstream entrance to wire pass slot.

Wire Pass is a neat, easy slot.  Inside the canyon, you will find a few boulder obstacles that must be negotiated. For older or less experienced hikers, you may need a friend to help you negotiate these. One step down was about five feet high which can seem challenging if you have never done something like this before! But it really isn't hard.

About a 1/2 mile in, you will come to the confluence of Wire Pass as it meets the much bigger and longer Buckskin Gulch. Here you will find an arch under construction.

Look to the left of this arch-in-the-making and you will find some rock art. Antelopes, snakes, a few people, and, unfortunately, some vandalism.

In the picture above, you can see several antelope heads rising above the sand. The sand levels rise and fall depending on the flooding in the canyon. I wonder what art is hidden beneath the sand?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Narrows - Zion National Park

The Narrows is one of the quintessential hikes in the National Park system. If you ever visit Zion -and you should- take the time to do as much of this hike as you feel comfortable doing. Flash flooding is really the only danger here, so heed the weather reports. Other than rain, I don't think you need to worry about too much. Most people self-regulate the speed they are hiking the often-slippery river rocks.  If you rush, you do risk twisting an ankle. But there is no reason to hurry. Take your time and enjoy the stunning setting. As long as you are carefully placing your feet on the river bottom and using a walking stick for balance, this hike is very enjoyable. 
One of the best things about Zion is the comaraderie of the visitors. Because they do not allow cars up past Canyon Junction, everyone must take the park shuttles. The shuttles are a great time to meet fellow travellers. In most parks, visitors are isolated in their cars. Here, the shuttles create small temporary communities that provide great advice and enthusiasm. They are very convenient and easy to use. Hopefully, more and more parks will ban cars if the park layout makes sense to do so.

Take the shuttle from the Visitor Center up to the Temple of Sinawava. You then can stroll the mile-long Riverwalk trail up into the valley. This trail is very easy walking. In addition to the stunning sandstone cliff walls,  you will be approached by hordes of squirrels. They are great posers and beggers. Don't feed them!

You will also see some beautiful rock seeps that supply wildflowers with a contstant supply of moisture. We saw columbine, violets, pink shooting star, and several types of fern. At the end of the Riverwalk, go ahead and jump in the river. Might as well get your feet wet. The canyon immediately gets narrower and more grand. Within 50 yards, the river also gets deeper. Since the river levels rise and fall, I can't really advise you on what this will be like. Both times I've done the hike, the water level only reached my waist. However, I can tell you that this is the deepest part of the hike. And it also feels great on a hot day! 

Around the first big corner, you will see a small water fall coming down the rock face.

I'm not going to give you a full tour of the Narrows. You should explore it for yourself. I've seen hundreds of people hiking it as quickly as possible, never bothering to look around. Don't be like that! The further you go, the more beautiful it gets. There is plenty of time to hike the best parts of the river if you start in the morning. When you have gone as far as you feel comfortable, turn around and head back to the Temple of Sinawava. You will find that you have gotten much better at negotiating the terrain on your way back. No doubt, the lighting has changed too and your perspective on this beautiful canyon will grow more appreciative.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Scrub Running Trail Part II - Rosemary Bald

This morning, I took a trail that I've had my eye on for awhile. It started not too far from the alligator lily patch that I showed you a few weeks ago. Weekends are great for exploring!

The trail started out as a nice scrubby flatwoods. I could hear some turkeys in the distance but not much else. I did find one friend....

A black racer was hunting in the grass. He had absolutely no clue that I ran up to him.

The trail started going up! For you non-Floridians, this is a Florida mountain. It is also a nice oak scrub. The scrubby flatwoods was very firm ground. Now the sand is deep and soft. Scrubs forests are formed on these "mountains" that were actually ancient sand dunes.

Here are some very small bear tracks.

Here is a nice little gopher apple patch in the oak scrub. The gopher apples are flowering right now. Once the fruit ripens later in the year, I'll cut one open and eat one for you.

And things really got interesting. Deep sugar sand. As you can see, only my tracks are on the trail along with some old tire ruts from the Forestry Department. This is my kind of snow. It feels good on the feet!

The sides of the trail were covered in various ground lichens. It looked like a tiny coral reef.

And then my heart stopped, a rosemary bald! Rosemary balds are the rarest type of scrub and one of the rarest ecosystems in the world. Florida rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides) is a type of heath that makes this area distinctive. This was by far the biggest rosemary bald I've ever seen. This particular bald extended for about a 500 yard diameter. On its edges, sand pines were encroaching and starting to crowd out the rosemarys.

Another view of the bald. It feels ancient here. Like stepping back into time.

Here are some mature rosemarys. Rosemarys secret a chemical to keep other plants from germinating around them. The brown on the sand beneath the plant are dried needles. The white circles  in the brown area are ant lion traps. Needless to say, my morning run was delayed as I explored the area. I never saw or heard another person. What a beautiful morning!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Maurice Sendak - rare article you have never seen

As a six year old boy living in Ridgefield, Connecticut, (we lived in the same town!) I had the opportunity to "meet" Maurice Sendak at a book fair. I collected the feature that the Danbury News-Times published around the event and it has been folded up in my copy of Where the Wild Things Are ever since. Almost forty years later (ugh, 40 years), news of his death prompted me to unfurl the yellowed article and read it again.

My favorite quote, " I don't like all kids. Some of them are as awful as their parents."

Here is the article blown up so you can read it!

And my favorite Sendak moment:

Thank you for inspiring me Mr. Sendak.  I hope the adventure you are on now is a wild rumpus.