Blog

Utah
  • The Largest Concentration of Hoodoos on the Planet

    Bryce Canyon National Park claims to have the largest concentration of hoodoos found anywhere on the planet. Hoodoos are columns of rock, the top of which is harder than the material lower on the column. It’s the hard top that protects the formations. From Fairyland Viewpoint, located just before the official park entrance, to Rainbow Point, the park is full of orange-cream colored rocky columns. Some of them evoke images of animals or people.  

    Bryce Point is perhaps the most famous viewpoint due to the high concentration of formations and the expansive view, but I also enjoyed Fairyland Point because it was more serene that Bryce Point and a smaller version of it. 

    The farther you drive in the park, the less crowded it gets (although the park really isn’t that crowded compared to Yosemite or Yellowstone). Rainbow Point at the end of the park didn’t have that many people, but the parking lot is so small that I was turned away the first time I drove there/ Yovimpa Point, just up the road, has far few visitors and a beauty and charm of its own. After spending some time at Yovimpa, I went back to Rainbow and found plenty of parking.

    Thunderstorms were a daily occurence when I was there. Around 3:00 PM each day, the skies let loose with rain and thunder. But by 6:00 PM, conditions were good for viewing the park. Except for the skies. The clouds never cleared at night to give a great view, although Bryce is known for its dark skies and astronomy program. 

    There are a number of good hikes in the park, some on the rim and some into the canyon. Canyon hikes provide a great “looking up” view of the formations.

    After seeing so many hoodoos, the trees start to have faces!

  • Riding a Mountain Coaster

    The first thing most ski resorts turn to when trying to attract a summer crowd is mountain biking. Not all of us mountbain bike. Even if I did, I doubt I’d have the nerve or skill to bike a trail that loses 3,000 feet in 3 miles. So I was happy to see that Snowbird had non-biking activites that suited me. My favorite is the mountain coaster. Each car holds one person, and that person has the power use the brake—or not. 

    The track looks like a conventional roller coaster—lots of twists and sharp turns, but no loops. The first part is a haul uphill, like most coasters, to give the car the potential energy it will need to complete the course. At the top, the coaster begins to wind its way through the woods, coming what appears to be dangerously close to the trees. The last section is a downhill spiral, at the end of which the rider must apply the brakes to prevent the car from a sudden, and complete, stop.

    The last section of the mountain coaster.

    The first time I rode the coaster, I had just come from riding the summer version of the bobsled. On that ride, using the brakes were mandatory to prevent tipping at the curves. But the coaster is attached to the track in such a way that it will not tip regardless of speed. I was assured that the idea on the coaster was NOT to use the break except at the end.  

    Braking at the end.

    Most people ride the coaster without using the brakes, but a few get scared and slow down on the curves. They try to leave enough space between each rider to account for that, because if someone does slow, the car behind is obligated to slow down to prevent a crash. 

    I rode many times over two days—brake free! Lots of fun.

    Stopped at the bottom of the "summer bobsled."

  • Learning Something Unexpected: 1p36 Deletion Syndrome

    When I went to Snowbird I expected to learn about the wildflowers and animals in that area. Indeed I did. The pot gut squirrel (Uinta ground squrirel) and moose are two of the furry species there. The wildflowers were amazing. I hiked through fields and fields of color—Indian paintbrush, lupines,primrose, moutain bluebells, gentian, and many, many more whose names I don’t know. What I didn’t expect was to learn about a rare disease—one that was identified in 1981—1p36 deletion syndrome. 

    Ski Resorts like Snowbird keep themselves busy in the summer by hosting conferences. It’s easy to spot attendees associated with each sort of conference, as attendees have their own “look.”  The Ichtyologist and Herpetologist  Conference had an almost equal mix of male and female attendees. They travelled in groups of 3 to 5, had animated conversations, and could be heard talking about fish and snakes. They sat on the comfy couches in the lounge and ate together in the restaurant. The attendess for another conference, whose name I didn’t catch, had primarily male attendess, dressed in collared shirts, and hung out lined up at the bar as they waited for a conference-related party to begin. I heard one of them complaining that the party was starting at 6:00 PM, far too early for a party in his opinion.

    One day I saw a lot of women with kids, and at least one of the kids in each group “looked different” and behaved a bit differently from what you’d expect. How different? Just enough to conclude that these women and their children must be here for a purpose. While in the lounge one night, one of the women struck up a converstaion and said she was there for a conference on 1p36 deletion syndrome.  She said that although there were technical presentations that most families were there to network with other families and provide each other with moral support.  There were some Dad’s there too, but one night all the women went out together and ended up in the lounge with a drink. They looked happy, the conversation was animated, and I got the sense that they were getting a well deserved night out without their children.  

    So what is it?  Deletion syndrome happens with a bit of DNA is missing from from chromosome 1, location p36. First noticed in 1981, it wasn’t until 1997 that the symptoms were established. Scientists haven’t gathered enough data to predict life expectancy, but it is clear that every individual is individual in the symptoms they get and in the severity of those symptoms. It depends on how much DNA material is missing. There is no cure, just strategies for managing symptoms. 

    The symptoms can be changes in facial structure, learning disabilities, problems communicating, heart, eye, muscle, and breathing issues. For more specifics see the http://www.1p36dsa.org/what-is-1p36-deletion-syndrome/

    On another night, we ran into the woman who spoke to us earlier. She was impressed that we took the time to find out (on the web) more about 1p36 deletion syndrome. She was so delighted that she brought over another Mom to meet us. She said,  “These people actually found out what deletion syndrome is.” It lifted their spirits to see that others cared. 

  • Hiking in Snowbird

    When most people think of Snowbird, they imagine skiing downhill. For me, it means hiking downhill. After getting off the tram at the top of Hidden Peak (11,000 feet elevation), I started my 3,000 foot descent on the Cirque trail. The first section of the Cirque is a ridge with 360 degree views. This hiking-only trail warns skiers not to enter. With sharp drop offs on either side, I can see why skiing—and mountain biking—aren’t recommended. 

    The tram, where the trail begins, is in the distance.

    The ridge is dry, windy, and rocky with the sort of rocks that roll underneath hiking boots. The Cirque trail ends with a few gentle switchbacks that connect to the Peruvian gulch trail. I heard reports of moose sightings in this area, but didn’t encounter any while traversing it. The one constant on the entire hike was the wildflowers. As the elevation changed, so did the mix of flowers. 

    These flowers were espcially aromatic. 

    The lower part of the Peruvian was closed for repair, so we were detoured to a dirt road that, in winter, was an easy ski trail. By the time I got back down to 8,000 feet I was ready to rest my downhill muscles even though I had hiked only 3.5 miles.

    View from the lower part of the trail.