Saturday, August 15, 2009

Camp Floyd

A few weeks ago we participated in a Utah State Parks event, designed to teach kids history and science at state parks. This one was at Camp Floyd, the place where Brigham Young agreed to let Johnston's Army, then the largest military force in the United States, stay in 1858. The event involved some wonderful volunteers who dressed us up as US soldiers, in traditional uniforms, and taught us the fine art of "drilling," because that was what Johnston's Army did most of all.

The army ostensibly was there to put down a suspected Mormon rebellion. However, as we learned on this weekend, Johnston was a southerner, dedicated to the secessionist movement, who was eventually killed fighting for the Confederate cause. It is suspected that he, who had played a large role in convincing president Buchanan to send the army west, actually did it in order to have the troops out of the way when the Southern states seceded from the Union. In addition, we learned, as Keegan points out above, that it was a stop on the Pony Express, during the brief life of that famous institution.

Cutest Soldier Ever.

It took Alden a bit of warming up, but when they finally brought out the guns, he was even willing to don an ill fitting cap and play along.

Sad to say, Keegan already knows which is the business end of the gun, and has some definite ideas about where it should be pointed.

This picture just cracks me up. Enlarge it and look at Keegan's face. The one eye you can see says so much about him. How can you not be totally in love with that? Meanwhile Kate took it all very seriously, and I think learned a lot. Alden just hated the thick wool coat, and let you know it whenever you even tried to put it on him.

Coat off, and all is well.

In the end, it was a fun experience for all. Kudos to Utah Parks!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Flaming Gorge and the Gates of Ladore

My wonderful father-in-law, Brent Moon, and his wife Val left on a mission August 3, and will be gone for 18 months. In their honor, the family had a last big party on the Wyoming half of Flaming Gorge this past weekend. I have married into a truly great family (photo of the handsome crew, with one exception, above), and it was a joy to be with each of them.

If you have ever been, you know that Wyoming is synonymous with windy -- I think you could put a wind-power turbine on almost every inch of the state, and probably power the entire western US in the process. Nonetheless, we found a wonderfully secluded spot that miraculously provided plenty of glass for water skiing over the course of two plus days. To top it off there were few other boaters except for mid-day on Saturday. Here are a few photos from our campsite.

The kids -- particularly Alden-- enjoyed the boating, skiing and tubing to no end.

Below is my favorite photo from the trip, taken while Uncle Nate allowed Alden to drive at full speed. Note the position of Alden's hands on the steering wheel, his daredevil smile, and the expression on Nate's face. And Nate is a certified adrenaline junky. 'Nuf said.

It is hard to put the charm of Alden's boyish innocence into words, but here is one small example. We were down on the beach after a long boat ride, and he jumped up saying, "I think I need to go poopy!" There seemed to be great urgency, and he kept repeating it as he ran to the pit toilet up the hill (with me chasing madly behind him to "help"). As we tried to get his wet swimsuit off, it kept sticking, and I remarked that it must be too tight. He stopped, despite the urgency of the moment, and carefully explained in slow, clear terms that his dad could understand, "No dad, its friction! There is too much friction! I learned it from Ms. Frizzle." He then proceeded to do the deed, and as he did, exclaimed, " I was right! I did need to go poopy!" as if he really could have been wrong, and was genuinely surprised. This was immediately followed by, "Boy, I am sure glad Heavenly Father made pit toilets!"

He is a fun little guy to be around, even in the depths of a heaven sent (not to be confused in any way with "scent") pit toilet.

Keegan has some unique "charm" of his own. Why is it, for example, that when I look at this photo, I think of an old english man playing with model sailboats on a pond somewhere?

The nights were moonlit and filled with the sound of coyotes howling, and the days were sunny but not too warm. If not for the occasional desert wind gust (strong enough to topple tents, mind you) it would have been pretty ideal.

Saturday afternoon everyone left but us Baileys, and we decided to pack up and make a mad dash for the Gates of Ladore, in Dinosaur National Monument. The dash was rewarding in itself -- we saw many Pronghorn Antelope, innumerable bunny rabbits (a crowd favorite in our car) and even two badgers. Arriving around 11:00 p.m., (and narrowly escaping a too-many-DVDs-dead car battery), I was greeted by this moonset over the Gates. Need to work on my night exposures, but it was pretty cool to see.

John Wesley Powell began his first exploratory float of the Colorado River system and Grand Canyon in Green River, Wyoming, on (surprise) the Green River, just above Flaming Gorge. After spending much time floating down something that was well known and looked like this:

he suddenly came upon the Gates of Ladore, which mark the entry into Canyon Country proper, and look like this:

Imagine heading toward that not having the least knowledge of what lay ahead -- impassable falls, endless, unscalable cliffs, limited or no food, hostile tribes, or what have you-- and knowing that there was no turning back. No one had ever run these rivers before -- they were completely blank on every map of the day. That map would soon be filled in with names like "Upper Disaster Falls" and "Lower Disaster Falls." These were very brave and resourceful men.

Happily for us, it is simply a very beautiful place. It also happens to contain the most perfect echo I have ever heard. Here are Keegan and Kate shouting for all they are worth to test it out.

All in all, another great weekend.