Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Most Wired Vacation Ever

Canadian Rockies in June

Although I try to limit technology on vacations, our recent trip to Alberta, Canada ended up being our most "wired" ever.  I had one child taking an online course who had to submit assignments during our trip, my husband needed to check in with work occasionally, and I had another child who had a school registration date during our vacation as well.  This meant we had to have access to a computer while traveling, so as we loaded the van, in went the laptop.  And since we had the laptop, it meant everyone checked emails more than usual as well.  

Using the internet in our hotel.

We drove from Salt Lake to Alberta, and spread the drive out over two days.  Although my kids are veteran road-trippers, I had one child concerned about passing the time on the trip, so in went the DVD player.  To his credit, I think he only watched one movie in the back of the van the entire 9 day vacation, and that was during the first leg of the trip.  Still, it is interesting to note that having the option of using the DVD player was like a security blanket.

DVD player in the car

I like to put on music and drive, which is why I love road trips, I guess.  Although we took a CD case loaded with CDs (something for everyone), I also took my beat-up Sanza Fuze mp3 player as well.  It is terribly convenient to have so much of MY music available on these trips.  I noticed if my kids didn't like the music mix, they put their own earbuds in, so it all worked out.

Music for the road.

However, I also found everyone spent some time with the tried and true road trip survival methods we have encouraged over the past several years.  Looking out the window is the obvious activity of choice.  With our recent interest in bird watching, it gained an added appeal.  On the way to Alberta, I saw a prairie falcon, turkey vulture, and golden eagle along the side of the road.  Also, as we drove near Glacier in Montana, we spotted some other wildlife.

Young bear near Glacier National Park.

I was happy to see kids reading and playing in the car instead of just being wired all the time.  We enjoy chatting and laughing together as we travel.  I really love being in the car with just my family for days at a time.  It is another thing I enjoy about road trips.  Maybe it is because my kids are older now, but this particular trip went very smoothly.

Reading in the car...books are a must!

At each place we stayed, using the pool was the top priority for our group.  Two motels even had water slides, which made several family members very happy.  After a day of sightseeing or driving, the pool was the perfect place to unwind and loosen stiff muscles.  We also took an assortment of games (card games and board games), and enjoyed playing every one of them during our trip.

Nopy plays in the car.

Since we don't have international plans on our cell phones, we only paid to add international calling on one phone for this trip, and left the other phones at home.  I was happy to find I did not miss my cell phone at all.  In fact, it was incredibly freeing to NOT have it with me.  Our one cell phone saw limited use, and was mainly used to set up visits with friends once we were in Calgary.  It truly feels like a vacation when you can leave all those distractions behind.

Artist and Artwife at Bow Falls

So, even though technology played a more prominent role on this trip than we normally like, I felt like we managed to control the technology and its use, instead of letting it be dominant on this vacation.  How do you deal with technology during your family vacations?  Is it a life-saver, or a headache?

For more on technology and the family, check out my other blog posts.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Visiting Newspaper Rock

View of Newspaper Rock

You have seen graffiti on buildings, walls, and railroad cars.  Layers upon layers sometimes exist, as taggers cover the work of others to leave their own mark.  The jumbled chaos of rock art on Newspaper Rock seemed to me a bit like ancient graffiti.

Rock overhanging the petroglyphs.

Who knows why this somewhat remote location became such a popular place to peck petroglyphs into the rock surface.  The dark desert varnish makes a suitable canvas, and the huge rock overhang shelters the figures from some weathering.  However, I was left wondering why this place?  Why so many carvings right here?

Signage at Newspaper Rock

The rock art here dates as early as 2,000 years ago.  Some recent additions are from the Ute tribe in the last century.  From ancient Puebloans to modern people, there must be quite a story in all the figures on the rock, if we only knew what it was!

Close-up of Newspaper Rock

At first the figures seem like a confused jumble, but if you pause to take it all in, you begin to see animals, a bear paw, feet, and more.

Detail of Newspaper Rock

In the above detail photo, you can see the reddish color of older petroglyphs.  These animals are covered by the newer, lighter art.  You can also detect a change in style between the ancient and modern.

Another view of petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock

Detail image of Newspaper Rock

The Navajo call this area by a name that means "rock that tells a story."  Perhaps that is where our name of Newspaper Rock originated.  Some of the carvings are attributed to the Fremont culture, making this an interesting site with both Anasazi and Fremont art.  No one is sure what all of it means.  From abstract symbols to figures on horseback, there is a little bit of everything here.

Again, lighter colored carvings cover older, darker art.

Tall walls of Wingate sandstone rise above Indian Creek.  This monument is on the way to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park.  It is well-marked and easy to find.  Ample parking is available, as are vault toilets.

Sign and path at Newspaper Rock.

Take a few minutes and ponder all of the wonderful art work here.  It has a remarkable simplicity and beauty.  With literally hundreds of petroglyphs on one panel, this is one of the best-preserved, accessible panels around.  Newspaper Rock is just a short stroll from the parking area.

Taking it all in.

If you go:  To access Newspaper Rock, drive north from Monticello, Utah.  Turn onto Hwy. 211, and continue down the road for 13 miles.  The historic site is well-marked.  This is on the way to Canyonlands National Park.

Related posts:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Visiting Dinosaur Tracks in Utah

Standing by dinosaur tracks to mark the distance.

The Copper Ridge Dinosaur Trackway is located twenty-three miles north of Moab, Utah.  We decided to see it on our way home from our drive through southeastern Utah.  It isn't far from the Mill Canyon dinosaur site, so we turned off on yet another dirt road to find dinosaur tracks.  I had never visited a dinosaur trackway, so I didn't know quite what to expect.

Overview of the dinosaur trackway near Moab.

At first glance, we couldn't see anything.  The pale rock was washed out by the afternoon sunlight, and the crumbling stone didn't seem to hold any identifiable marks.  We studied the interpretive signs, and made another attempt at finding something that looked like a dinosaur print.  The distinctive three-toed shape of theropod tracks were the easiest to pick out.  Thankfully, someone in our group had water, and we poured some in the tracks, making them more visible in the bright sun.

The footprint showed up better when wet.

Although we never did locate as many tracks as the sign indicated we should be able to find, we were able to follow a series of tracks and get a feel for the strides of these great creatures.

Three dinosaur tracks.

The sauropod footprints were more difficult for us to identify.  We finally realized the big shallow pits hollowed out in the rock were the sauropod prints.  It is hard to fathom the size of these animals.  Who made these tracks?  The sauropod tracks could be Apatosaurus or Camarasaurus (both common in the Morrison fomration), and the theropod tracks could be an Allosaurus...the most common predator found in this geologic layer.  The signs show some other smaller tracks, but it was hot and the lighting was poor, and we decided we had done pretty well to find what we did.

These shallow depressions are sauropod tracks.

This site was interesting to our hard-core dinosaur fans, but a bit challenging for those who could not easily pick out the tracks.  If you or your kids are really interested in dinosaurs, this is worth a visit.  However, if you have very small children, they may not be able to see the tracks in this area.

If you go:  From Moab, Utah, travel north on highway 191 for 23 miles.  Pass milepost 148, and watch for a  turn-off (about 3/4 of a mile further).  If you come to milepost 149, you have traveled too far.  Turn right off of highway 191, and cross the railroad tracks.  Follow the signs and dirt road 2 miles to the track site.  There is a parking area.  This road is suitable for passenger cars, but do NOT take it if the road is wet.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Visiting the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

Dinosaur Trail in Mill Canyon, Utah

Have a dinosaur fan in your family?  The Dinosaur Trail just outside of Moab, Utah, is the place to see fossils  as a paleontologist would.  This part of Utah is dinosaur country, and the BLM has created an easy walking trail along which you can see a variety of dinosaur fossils embedded in the rock.

Sign on the Dinosaur Trail

The signs posted at each stop along the trail give information about the geology, the fossils, and more.  Here you can see the colored layers in the rock.

Dinosaur ribs

We were able to practice our fossil-finding skills.  Can you pick out the dinosaur rib in this photo?  Hint:  It is the long gray thing in the middle of the photo.  This is a wonderful trail for fledgling paleontologists of all ages.

Vertebrae in rock

The Dinosaur Trail is a bit of an experiment.  Is it possible to provide public access to dinosaur fossils and have people enjoy the trail and leave the fossils intact?  So far, it seems to be working, even though there is one spot along the trail where someone has removed a fossil.  It is clearly marked with a sign that discourages such vandalism.  Please note that collecting dinosaur fossils for private use on public land is illegal.  Paleontologists have permits to dig dinosaur fossils.

A pack rat nest on the Dinosaur Trail

This little stop on the trail was oddly fascinating.  The pack rat is nature's version of a hoarder, and this large amalgamation of odd garbage makes you want to go home and clean your closets.

Dirt road leading into Mill Canyon

Mill Canyon was another dirt road we tackled in our minivan.  Be aware that this road would be impassable for ANY vehicle in wet weather.  It is a bit tricky in a passenger vehicle on a dry day. However, as there were many people camping and riding ATVs in the area, we weren't too concerned about getting stuck.  I really enjoyed walking the Dinosaur Trail, and highly recommend it.

IF YOU GO:  From Moab, take US 191 north for about 15 miles.  You should see a sign for Mill Canyon just north of milepost 141.  Turn left and cross the railroad tracks.  Travel .6 miles along the dirt road until the road forks.  Take the left fork, and continue for another .5 miles.  At this intersection, turn right and travel .6 miles to the Dinosaur Trail parking area.  The parking area is unpaved, and there are NO FACILITIES here.