Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bryce Day 4

Today after pancakes and bacon we went the half block over to the Escalante National Monument Visitor's Center to turn in the Junior Scientist booklets. The boys, especially Seth, were thrilled that the badge had an eagle perched at the top. Then we headed down to our first hike of the day, Willis Creek slot canyon. This slot wasn't nearly so tight as Spooky and Peek-a-Boo. In fact, it rarely got tight enough that we could touch both walls, but there was a running creek in the bottom. The boys got to jump over the creek dozens of times, sometimes stepping on rocks and sometimes making a giant leap! After a while we came to a small waterfall that was really pretty. We also spotted a brand new bird, a canyon wren, which we had never seen before. What the boys liked seeing best, though, were the snakes. On the drive out to the hike, we slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a gopher snake. It was at least 4 feet long, and we hopped out and watched it slither off of the road. A few hundred yards further down the road, we spotted another snake. This one was much smaller, and it was dead, having been hit by a car, but the boys were super-excited because it was a rattlesnake. It had 5 little rattles on the tip of its tail and its head was shaped like a diamond. Along the trail, we saw another big gopher snake, and this one was laying next to the creek slurping up water. We'd never even thought of a snake going for a drink before. It was very interesting to watch.
I love when the boys get sworn in as Junior Rangers, and the rangers are always so great with the kids!
The first gopher snake we saw on the road.
We got out and watched it slither into the bushes.
Sorry for the graphic picture of the dead rattlesnake!
This hike was more our style!! We never felt that death was lurking behind us.
The slots were very pretty.
Randy helps Seth cross every time. I love watching them work together.
This is how Dax crosses: Stand on the one rock right in the middle of the river.
Mark and Seth are becoming good buddies right now!
There was a lot of jumping on this trip. Here goes dad over a steep crevice!
Dax leaping over the creek.
Here's Mark jumping the river.
Seth, of course, had to jump over the creek, too!

This is the Canyon Wren we spotted.
Mom and Mark posed for a picture.
We met a someone nice enough to take a picture of us featuring the backpack.
This waterfall is small, but it is really pretty.
We saw a few really pretty pinyon jays on this hike.
The boys stayed back from the slurping snake a respectable distance.
I wish we were butterfly people....
Our next adventure took us 10 miles each way on a bumpy dirt road to see Grosvenor Arch. The arch was beautiful, soaring majestically above our heads, but all there was to do was look at it and drive 10 miles back to town. Still, we feel like we have to see everything.
Seth, the arch is actually behind you!
Grosvenor is a nice double arch.
We returned to Kodachrome State Park and turned in our fifth and final Junior Ranger pamphlet. The boys pinned all their badges on and took a picture. They've worked really hard on their badges! We had a quick picnic lunch and then took off on a hike called Grande Parade. The day was hot, and the trail turned out to be only so-so. It led to a few small box canyons that might have been interesting had we not done so many killer hikes already this vacation. The two miles stretched pretty long, so Dad had to tell stories most of the way, but no one got carried. I'm not sure how far the boys have hiked this week, but I'd bet about 10 miles!
Proud junior rangers (5 from this trip, plus Zion was still in the car).
Kodachrome Basic is okay, but the song is much better than the park.
This is one of the box canyons in Kodachrome.
After leaving Kodachrome, we stopped for gas and ice and made the hour long drive over to Mammoth Cave near Hatch. It is not really a cave, but a lava tube, and we were prepared with our headlamps. There are 4 openings to the tubes, and we explored them in order of shortest to longest. The first goes down and narrows down to a crawl in only about 50 yards. It looks as if you could go farther if you were willing to get muddy. We turned around and tried the second tube. This one ran closer to 100 yards, and came up at the third opening. Toward the end, Mom and Dad were doing all kinds of acrobatics to shimmy, crawl, and roll out the narrow opening, which got down to about a 18 inches wide. Seth just smuggly said, "I'm small, so this is easy!" and Dax was out before we even got into a crouch. The third lava tube got muddy and slim fast, too. It only seemed to go about 25 yards, but the finally tube was amazing! First, you had to crawl through a gate that they close when the bats are nesting. Then, the tube goes back a fifth of a mile! We clocked it on the phone and it was over 350 yards. Mark found a cave cricket in the very back that was pure white. We loved the lava tubes, and it was a cool respite from the baking hot hikes we'd been doing all day.
This is the smallest opening at Mammoth Cave.
Can you believe we didn't see one mammoth?
This is at the bottom of the larger opening to the cave.
Dad dialed 9-1 and held his finger over the 1 until Mom made it out.
Her legs got pretty muddy. It was her second pair of ruined pants in two days.
That's the main opening to Mammoth Cave.
The gate was open to enter the cave, but it still required some acrobatics.
Deep in the back of the dark cave Mark found a cave cricket. I swear that boy spots everything!
We drove back through Hatch and into Panguitch for a restaurant we wanted to try called Henrie's Drive-In. It served burgers, fries, and shakes, as you might have guessed. Mom opted for the pork burrito, and swore to never eat another hamburger (she'll break down!). The food was really good, but we ate in a hurry and passed a Heath bar shake around the van so we could do one more adventure. Mom and Dad had to fight the boys off to even get a bite of the shake because it was so good!

Our last stop for the day was the Bryce Canyon Paunsaugant Museum. This museum was like Cabela's to a factor of ten. There were 1,600 butterflies alone, not to mention the remains of almost every animal you can think of and many you cannot. This museum isn't very successful, and we heard it will close forever at the end of this season, but the boys loved it. We spent an hour walking around and didn't see half the animals in the museum. Then we bought a bag of corn and headed outside to feed the deer and chickens. Dax liked the way the rooster picked up the corn out of your hand one at a time, but Mark and Seth liked to feed handfuls to the deer, who fought and pushed each other to lick your hand clean. It was a really great day. Tomorrow, we'll wrap up the vacation and head for home.
Mark was the most excited of all. He's an animal expert, so he told us about things we didn't recognize.
Seth went back to see the alligator three times. It was his favorite!
You'll want to wash that hand, probably with turpentine!
Who's enjoying this more: Mark or the deer?
Dax was afraid of the soft deer muzzles, so he opted to feed a rooster with a sharp beak.
Seth and his corn drew quite a crowd.

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