Sunday, January 19, 2014

Anza Borrego Desert, prehistoric creatures and concretions

Three day weekends need to include some sort of road trip, it just doesn't seem right otherwise.  Marla, the girls, and I set out for an adventure in Anza Borrego Desert.  Anza Borrego is so close, and there is so much to do (if you find beauty in the desert like I do).

We first examined the metal sculptures on Galleta Meadows Estates in Borrego Springs.  In 2008, the owner of the property, Dennis Avery, commissioned a Perris artist, Ricardo Breceda, to construct life size prehistoric creatures (some of them abstract) on his 3 square miles of undeveloped land.  There are 129 creations in total.  I have seen maybe a third of them which makes me want to return to find the rest.  

The 350 foot serpent, whose body extends under the road, is the most popular piece of artwork.  It cost $40,000 and took 4 months to create.  

With just enough light in the day we head out on a dirt road to find what is known as the Pumpkin Patch.  It is only accessible by four wheel drive.

It felt like I was playing Mario Cart.  I wish the whole way was like this but most of it was in a wash so it was extremely sandy and uneven.  It was nothing the Subaru couldn't handle.  

The pumpkins that make up the Pumpkin Patch are concretions, a spherical mass of mineral matter embedded in a rock of different composition.  Because the minerals are more firmly cemented together the surrounding sedimentary rock erodes and leaves behind the concretions.  Wind and water erosion continue to shape the round rocks.  

Geologically speaking, the Pumpkin Patch is one of the most interesting things I have ever seen.  
Nature is incredible.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ramona Overlook

Lisa and I wanted to hike Iron Mountain but as we were heading up the mountain we could not help but be discouraged by the crowds.  Sunday is not the day to hike Iron Mountain.  When we got to a fork in the trail we turned left toward Ramona Overlook trail.  We made the right choice.  I don't hike to feel like an ant marching one by one.  

My first and last day of break was spent hiking with Lisa.  It is a great start to a new year.    

Monday, January 6, 2014

The potato museum and lava hot springs

There are signs for the potato museum posted on the 15 freeway driving from Salt Lake to Idaho; who wouldn't want to go?!  Apparently most people.  Luckily I managed to convince/trick Fred.  
We learned a lot!

Marilyn Monroe posed in a potato sack in 1952.  

Potatoes originally came from Peru.  They were brought to Europe after the conquest.  Potatoes came to Ireland in the 1600s which allowed the Irish population to increase five fold within a hundred years.  For two hundred years they lived almost exclusively on potatoes until a potato fungus caused the Irish Potato famine and reversed their population progress.  

Thomas Jefferson is credited for bringing french fries to the United States.  

After reading and learning about potatoes we had to indulge.  There is nothing better than an Idaho potato! 

We continued to Salt Lake, stopping at Lava Hot Springs for a dip.  Lava Hot Springs are completely natural, geothermal hot springs which range from 102°- 112°.  It was an epic way to end our trip.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Snow King in Jackson, Wyoming

Raya and Josh both had the day off so we decided to drive to Jackson, Wyoming.  

My first moose!  We saw about 7 today.

We snowboarded at Snow King in Jackson.  They have great deals; we took advantage of their 20$ for 2 hours ticket. 

It is hard to believe that our time in the Northwest is wrapping up.  We will miss Raya and Josh but are very happy to have spent the time with them that we did.  They live in a gorgeous part of the country, and they are amazing hosts.  This is a good combination.  We are sure to return.  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Steele Snowmobile, Yellowstone National Park

If you think that -20° is cold, get on a snowmobile.  Brrrr!  With the windchill factor, driving 40mph the temperature quickly becomes -57°.  I was wearing a thermal bottom, snowboard pants, snow boots, two pairs of socks, a base layer, a top thermal, a fleece, a snowboard hoodie, snowboard jacket, a baklava, headband, beanie, scarf, glove liners, mittens, and seven warmers... and I was still cold.  Regardless of the temperature we had such an amazing time.  Riding snowmobiles in Yellowstone is a unique and spectacular experience.  Today Josh is our guide.  
The Steeles are taking over Yellowstone.   

There are over 4,600 bison that live within the park.  Males can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, and females 1,000 pounds.  Death by bison is not uncommon in Yellowstone.  They can be aggressive, agile, and can run up to 35 mph (this is faster than the fastest human).  Although having them closer would be great for pictures, was not excited about driving past them on a snowmobile.  

Hey look... its Raya!  She was pulling out of Madison Junction (where the warming huts are located) right after we pulled up.  (Josh and Raya have an interesting life.)  We stopped at the warming huts yesterday with Raya on snowcoach, but this was mostly for coffee and a bathroom break, not necessity.  The warming hut has two wood burning stoves.  My bright red legs became pink; an improvement.  

Josh is hardcore.  I had no idea how difficult snowmobile guiding is.  After 7 years, no wonder Raya switched over.  It is almost not fun.  Almost.  It is right on the border of no fun and the most fun you have ever had.  (I am sure the extreme temperatures are influencing my opinion.) 

This is me driving.  

This is me after I went off the road.  It wasn't (/was) my fault!
 Josh punched it and I was right behind him with a frozen face mask and almost no view, until the snowmobile started going at an angle from Josh and Fred.  (Josh thinks I hit a rut.)  As I was about to go off the road I tried to stop, and almost did, sitting on the edge of the road, until gravity took over.  When it started to slide and tip over I rolled off, trying to avoid being crushed.  My heart was racing.  I thought we were going to have to wait for a tow truck.  Except there are no tow trucks in winter time.  With Josh's know-how, a rope, and lots of manpower we were able to free the snowmobile.  I got right back on, but only to prove how tough I am.  The rest of the time I couldn't wait to give the snowmobile back to Fred and sit safely and toughly on the back of Josh's snowmobile.  Whatever, I wanted to take pictures anyway...

This was by far my favorite part of the drive.  Hayden Valley covered with snow is unbelievable.  

Yellowstone Lake is 20 miles long and 14 miles wide, and frozen.  

Old Faithful round 2.
There are 3 million people that visit Yellowstone each year, the majority visiting during July and August.  Throughout the entire winter (December through March) only 150,000 people visit.

Yep, Yellowstone in winter is like a different world.  

130 miles of breathtaking views; life is good.