Friday, July 31, 2009

Birthday Trip to Toadstool Park

Today is Mardell's birthday.
She has always wanted to go to Toadstool National Park, 
so I had decided to surprise her for her birthday and take her up.
I jumped at the chance to go a day early since the forecast was for cooler weather.

We packed a picnic lunch, a few of the dogs, and we were off.
Life is good when you have food and dogs.

I fully expected to have the whole place to ourselves

but that wasn't the case at all.
In fact, there was a steady stream of visitors the entire time we were there.

We chose the picnic table next to the soddy so that 
we could take pictures to use for teaching Nebraska history.


After we ate, I decided to take the self-guided hike.

Since Mardell broke her kneecap and couldn't hike, 
I made a virtual tour possible via pictures.

Of course, I do have to admit that I had to use her camera.
I snapped my first picture and my battery symbol began flashing red.
No problem.  I smugly dug out my battery that I had just taken from my charger.
I turned on the camera and once again got the red flashing symbol.
It seems that I have once again completely depleted my rechargeable batteries.
With that said, I snapped a leash on one of our trusty companions and set off.

This was going to be a breeze.  
Nice, wide trail.
Cool weather.
Beautiful views.


To one side, we saw this.
Then, on the other side, was a windmill.

There were nine stations and the narrative with 
each comes directly from the hiking brochure.

Station One
Why is it called Toadstool?

The first visitors here in the late 1800's must have felt they were travelling through a land of giant mushrooms.  They fancifully labled the jumble of sandstone slabs resting upon their clay pillars, toadstools.  The name stuck.

Toadstools are created by the forces of wind and water, eroding the soft clay faster than the hard sandstone rock that caps it.  Erosion eventually collapses the giant toadstools while new ones are forming.


Station Two
Travel Over Gravel


Volcanoes to the west periodically blanketed this area with ash.  Water from rain and snow dissolved the ash and seeped into cracks in the clay, where it crystallized.  The width of the cracks is the thickness of the gravel pieces.  As clay eroded, the hardened minerals and bone fragments of long dead animals became exposed.


Notice the dark, jagged gravel beneath your feet.  This desert pavement is a coarse mixture of silicone dioxide (the same compound as glass) and fossil bone fragments.
Station Three
Pocks in the Rocks?
No, they're tracks!  Tracks are distinguished from other depressions in the rock because they do not occur randomly.  These were made by animals living about thirty million years ago.  The toes point in the direction of travel.  The size and depth of the tracks indicate the size and weight of the animal that made them.


Station Four
Water's Cutting Edge

Over time rushing water has cut away the underside of this cliff.  When the bank is undercut enough, the weight of the overhead mass breaks off in large chunks, crashing into the streambed and diverting the stream flows.  These badlands erode away at an average of an inch per yer.  How much change has occurred since you were born?
Seasonal flooding filled prehistoric tracks with mud and silt, preserving them.  


This hike was such a good idea.
I really enjoyed the scenery.
The trail was nicely marked, wide, and best of all, level.
The trail split and one way kept to the Toadstool Trail
while the other led to the Hudson Meng Bison Bonebed.
I continued to follow the Toadstool trail.

Then ....

Do you see that little pass?
Yep, that's the trail.
Small incline, but nothing major.


Then I realize that station five is on top of the rock behind these interesting formations.
So much for level.  Now it's up, up, up on a narrow path.

Jumbles of sandstone form interesting arrangements.

Finally I reach the top 

and the view was spectacular.

Then it was on to Station Six.

Station Six
Cliff Clues


As the rock cliff is undercut by erosion, overhanging rocks break off.  



We headed to the next set of rocks for station seven.


Station Seven
Prehistoric Pictures


By now you've noticed two kinds of rock: a light buff-colored claystone and a darker sandstone.  The claystone is softer than sandstone.  The sandstone was formed as a sandbar in the river that flowed 30 million years ago.  

The pamphlet then states that area eight requires scrambling up the rocks and a steep walk back to the trail. 

By this time, I couldn't omit one station --- so up we went.


Station Eight
Rhinos' Right-of-Way

This trackway, extending nearly 3/4 of a mile, documents one of the longest record of prehistoric mammals in North America 30 million years ago.  Even though the footprints are not clear, the patterned imprints tell a story of prehistoric migration.

Research on the trackway indicates: the tracks paralleling the streambed belong to two species of rhinoceros that used the stream as a path.  A smaller rhinoceros crossed the stream after the larger rhinocros had passed.  Splash marks on the rocks indicate the rhinoceros sped from walking to running through sloppy mud, heading downstream.

Following on the heels of the rhinoceros were entelodonts, or giant wild pigs.  Their presence is captured in the even-toed tracks.  Typical of scavengers, these pigs trailed migrating herds, keeping food within reach.

 What goes up, must come down.

We followed the path depicted in white.
It's really not as narrow as it looks.
Okay, so it really is.


The view was incredible.

Station Nine

Then it was back down to where Mardell was waiting.
From there we drove over to the Hudson Meng Bisonbed, but it required a hike to the actual bed and I wouldn't let Mardell try it.  Next time perhaps, after her knee is more stable.
We stopped at High Plains Homestead and got root beer floats and then took a leisurely drive back into Crawford where we made the find of the day:
Pine Needles Quilts!
We had no clue there was a quilt shop in Crawford, so we were quite excited.

If you're ever in the Crawford area, be sure to check out Toadstool National Park.
It's worth the trip.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Three Peat

Three-peat is a portmanteau of the words three and repeat.

It was first trademarked for commercial use by retired basketball coach Pat Riley in 1988.

Several teams have enjoyed three-peats.

The Bulls have done it twice.
A "repeat threepeat" if you will.


The Lakers have managed this feat as well.


But, sometimes, there are just some three-peats that you don't want to see.


Dogs 0, Porcupines 7
Our trusty vet, $200 richer

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mark Another One Off of My List

We went on our first official family road trip (to Seattle and back) last week. I don't think I've driven that far since I moved out to California ten (!!) years ago.  It went surprisingly well. We listened to the entire collection of Peter Rabbit tales--quite violent really--Peter's dad gets baked into a pie after having an accident in Mr. McGregor's garden, Squirrel Nutkin is nearly skinned by Mr. Brown (not that he didn't deserve it. That's one fricking annoying squirrel.)

And we stopped at a variety of non-kid friendly parks along the way. Note to husband, if you ask your male teenage server where a nice park is, you're guaranteed to find a rusty swingset set in a blazing hot non-shaded, n0n-gated cement pad. With some friendly pedophiles lurking around the co-ed bathrooms.

Actually, it wasn't that bad. The kids didn't mind the 100 degree heatwave.

They just jumped into the lake.

Although it was a little bit ganky. It actually reminded me of being a kid at Kilpatrick's dam, wanting to go into the water, and eventually getting tossed in after what seemed like hours of endless whining and badgering. 

After that lovely little dip, we were delighted to arrive at the Silver Cloud Hotel in Seattle. We  booked it over Priceline, so we didn't really know what to expect. But it's always a good sign in my book, when your hotel has fluffy white robes (hello, pretty woman) and aveda spa products.

They also bumped us up to a suite for free, which was totally awesome!

The kids liked having their own little room and we broke our no TV rule while on vacation, so they soaked in hours and hours of cartoon garbage while we slept in and read the newspaper in bed--a dream come true. 

The other cool thing about this hotel was that it had a salt water pool on the roof! Here's the view:

The next morning we set off to tour the space needle (number 67 on list of things to do before I die).

Andrew's cousin Mate (sounds like Mah-Tay, he's from Hungary) showed us all around because he's a realtor in Olympia and spends a lot of time in Seattle. 

The kids were not overly impressed with the space needle because while we were standing in the enormously long line to buy tickets, they saw a carnival next door that they were dying to check out.

I'm not sure why driving around in a circle in a fake car is so much fun, but they were like ecstatic when we finally let them go on a ride. We even went on the ferris wheel, which was really high. (Nobody seemed to inherit my fear of carnival rides . . . i.e. the zipper which Trudy tricked me and Stacy into going on all by ourselves!!! Heart Attack City!!!)

On our last day in Seattle we checked out Pike's Market.

They had a lot of nice flowers (including the ones growing on the roofs.)

Andrew was enticed by the smoked sturgeon.

And they really did have some kick-ass berries. We ate these humongous organic raspberries that were bigger than strawberries. They were SOO good!

Then, we went to my favorite place, Starbucks. (This is not a pc thing to admit in California, but I've been addicted to Starbucks ever since my old roommate Shannon was a barista there and brought home free samples every week.)

This is the original starbucks that introduced the world to the three dollar cup of coffee. I didn't want to look like a total tourist by taking pictures inside, but it was really cool in there. The baristas are up on this coffee-making stage, kind of like Coyote Ugly meets Juan Valdez. We brought home some original pike's market blend, but it really doesn't taste as good at home as it does straight from the coffee shop.

We've been reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, so we were psyched when we saw this sign for Turkish Delight.

Is was not happy when we passed by without buying anything.

It seems there's a big glass blowing community in Seattle (who knew?)

and a fair share of Harry Potter fans!

I was sad to leave Seattle, but we had many other adventures in store for us. We drove on to Covallis, OR to visit Nagymama, Andrew's grandmother. She celebrated her 88th birthday last week and seems more like 28.

We went to the park (which incidentally is the most boring place on earth. When my kids outgrow parks I will be singing praises to the heavens.)

But the next day we went to the beach which was a vast improvement.

Here's Nagymama sporting her Mazatlan T-shirt and trendy shades at Nye Beach.

We weren't sure how cold it would be, everyone warned us that the beaches in Oregon weren't like California beaches. But it turned out to be a really nice day.

Anderson and Isabella started playing with a couple of kids in the water and it turned out that their mother graduated from Alliance High in 1992. It was a really weird coincidence that of all the beaches we could have visited, we happened to go to the one where Sonia Kosmiski and her family were visiting and our kids just happened to play together and we just happened to start a conversation about where we were from. And we knew each other and it was weird and awesome.

After the beach, we drove into Newport for some lunch. We decided against the chicken leg. Actually, that's just someone's bait for their crab trap.

If we would have known that crabbing was such a big thing, we would have tried to plan an extra day there so we could try it ourselves.

Ah well, there's always next year. After this trip, I'm feeling much more brave. . . maybe we'll go to Spain for our summer vacation next year. (It's on Andrew's list.) We'll see.