Monday, August 03, 2015

A Wet Weekend at Big Lake

My view upon waking and emerging from our tent
My next view 
A couple weeks ago, our family loaded up the truck for another camping adventure. This time we wanted to camp near water. Dave received a kayak as a gift a few years ago and had not put it in water for far too long. He decided that Big Lake would be a good spot to camp and kayak. The drive to Big Lake took us about four hours. The route wound through the mountains showcasing gorgeous views of our state. Although a few of our passengers deal with motion sickness, the ride was uneventful and everyone felt good when we arrived at our campground. We quickly put up our tent as it was getting late in the day. The kids and I had to set up the screen tent in the dark while Dave finished staking our sleeping tent. We ate a quick dinner shuttling supplies back and forth between the campsite and car. The area campgrounds have had a few bear encounters in the past month, so we were encouraged to leave any food in the vehicle!

The night was dry and we awoke to a gorgeous day. Breakfast was slow as the kiddos explored the area and Dave and I chatted. The kiddos would occasionally interrupt begging to go out on the water. They were so excited to go kayaking with their dad! With full bellies we finally carried the kayak across the street to the lake. I setup my spot on the pier as Dave loaded his gear. Aine was his first passenger, and they soon set off for a tour of the lake. The boys explored the shore, collecting crawfish claws, while their sister paddled. With a huge grin on her face, Aine returned and switched spots with one of the boys. Paddling and exploring continued while the pile of crawfish claws on the pier grew. Quickly the sky took on a stormy hue, and we headed back to camp.

Just after lunch, the skies opened up, and it rained. Initially the kiddos ran around in the rain, but we eventually decided to retire to the tent and read for a bit. Fortunately our new tent doesn't leak. A few of us napped while I read The Twenty-One Balloons to those too excited to sleep. The storm abated bringing cooler temperatures. We ate dinner and tried to light a fire. The wood was way too wet for a campfire, so we retired without any s'mores filling our bellies. The next morning was clear and the kiddos ran around again playing with our neighbor campsite. They collected sticks, played poker and had a rousing game of hide and seek. As we began to break camp the skies became dark yet again. Dave and I scrambled up and down the hill loading the car with our gear. Soon rain turned to hail and we were completely soaked. The kiddos piled into the car with a few tears due to cold. Dave pulled out an emergency blanket for them to try. He figured it would keep them busy and teach them how to use one if a true emergency occurred. We continued to pack our tent and other camping accoutrements. I glanced at Dave at one point. He seemed perturbed, so I asked what was wrong. He pointed to the sky and asked if I was kidding. We both started laughing so hard.  We made quite a picture standing in the pouring rain. Donned in raincoats and wet to the bone, we cleared up the last of our campsite and slammed the doors on the truck. Phew! It had been a wet yet fun weekend.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Exploring Arizona: Wupatki

Filling out his Junior Ranger packet  
Working with friends on the Junior Ranger packet
Checking out the blowhole near the ball court at Wupatki
Wupatki Ballcourt
Getting their Junior Ranger badge for Wupatki
A short drive from Sunset Crater is Wupatki National Monument. In this seemingly barren desert people lived, building homes and raising families. The pueblos clustered in this area are from the ancient ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni and other puebloan people. The structures are truly fascinating. The main pueblo would have had 100 rooms. The people who lived here were farmers as well as hunters. There is evidence of trade among the ruins, and the existence of a ball court shows that peoples in the area traveled and shared cultural interests. It became a gathering place for people within fifty miles. While walking through the site, the kids found pottery shards by one of the gathering places. It was an amazing discovery that they were able to share with the Ranger, who encouraged their interest. The shards were set back where we found them once we looked at the design and felt the smooth face. I found it interesting that this pueblo housed different peoples over the course of time. They maintained the pueblo constantly and had areas for food stores preparing for eventual crop failures. Water would have been scarce even then, so buildings were erected with water preservation in mind. Archeologists have found huge ollas that were used for water storage and collecting runoff from the buildings. We spent a bit of time talking to the ranger. He was full of interesting information and even shared his journey to becoming a park ranger. We would like to come back and explore again in winter to see how the landscape changes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

On to the Sleeves

I have been zipping along on my Naima sweater. I did order another skein of yarn, because I misread the yards versus meters requirement. I am so used to having yards come first, that I didn't pay attention. I have the right amount if I was using meters, but not enough yarn for my project since I ordered based on yards. Why oh why can't we just use metric. Oops!

This sweater has been a quick knit for me. I hope to have it complete by the end of the month or soon after. I am getting much quicker at purling and am even able to read while I knit again. It helps that I have had blocks of time to work on it. Eamon and I spent some time at the comic book store this week, which meant I could read and knit while he played Magic the Gathering. I finished We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It started well, but had a bit of trouble in the middle and ended a bit abruptly. I also read a bit of The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds while waiting for Eamon. It is for our homeschooling co op and quite good. Back home, I chose Men Explain Things To Me and Fangirl from the large stack of books I have here. I figure they offset each other. I started both yesterday but did not get very far. Have you read anything good lately? I spend a bit of time making lists after reading and knitting along with Ginny.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Exploring Arizona: Sunset Crater

Recently our family took a detour to explore Sunset Crater. We were fortunate to be joined by friends, one of whom has an deep interest in geology. Sunset Crater is the result of a volcanic eruption over 900 years ago. The resultant landscape is one of twisted Ponderosa Pines and cinder deposits. You can see the flow of the lava that devastated the area. When we first arrived we discussed the bleak landscape so different from the forested areas nearby (Flagstaff, AZ is 12 miles away). Each of the kiddos picked up a piece of cinder noting how lightweight it was. We talked a bit about pumice and the air pockets in the rock.

As we meandered along the trail, wildlife and flora became more apparent. Between rocky crags, small plants emerged. We noticed desert shrubs and the beginnings of tree stands. Our friend acted as our guide pointing out other cinder cones, splatter cones, and gas vents. He mentioned that a lava tube, currently blocked, was once accessible. The kiddos noticed how cool the air was near the boarded up opening. Although the region was populated with farmers (the Sinagua), no human remains have been found at the site. It seems that the peoples of the time had warning of the volcanic activity. It was interesting to surmise what warnings they had and their keen observations of nature. The kiddos really enjoyed exploring the site. They worked a bit on their junior ranger packet as they skipped and ran ahead. It was really a nice trip to an impressive geological site.