Thursday, August 30, 2007

Can You Solve the Mystery at the Alluvial Fan?

Since we spent 3 days in RMNP last summer, we wanted to do new things. Last year ds did an excellent, thorough job on the Junior Park Ranger activity booklet. When he turned it in to the ranger the day we left, he was sworn in as a junior ranger. This year upon arrival, I scoured the ranger store for ideas. On the shelf I found a little booklet called "Trouble in the Rubble," a mini-field trip guide teaching the geology of the RMNP alluvial fan.

The book had a story about kids trying to solve a mystery, and our kids were invited to join. The mystery was that a boy found a treasure map from 1884 locating gold near the alluvial fan. Historically, gold prospecting was successful in parts of Colorado. Was there any in RMNP? Was this map real?

When you look around you see lots of boulders laying around and felled trees. You see the water falling down the valley and the rapidly flowing stream. It continues downhill to Horseshoe Park and continues as Fall River into Estes Park. We learned how to measure our paces so we could mathematically count the steps from one large boulder to another.

Alluvial Fan RMNP 2007
Then we looked at the various shadings for each boulder on the map and learned about the type of rock of each: silver plume granite,




mica schist, and gneiss (nice). The kids were already familiar with how each rock was formed. Granite and pegmatite are igneous rocks, having been formed by volcanic activity, which formed the Rocky Mountains. Schist and gneiss are metamorphic rocks, having been changed in compostion due to heat or stress. They were also familiar with the names because of our rock collection at home. But now they had the opportunity to apply that knowledge.
There certainly were some shiny rocks. We concluded they were mica schist, a type of metamorphic rock which often fooled gold prospectors.


Another clue was the gouged out part of the rock, gneiss. This is formed by turbulently swirling waters that are full of pebbles. The pebbles act like a drill, caused by the momentum of heavily swirling water. As the hole got bigger, bigger rocks got stuck in the swirling process, causing a bigger pothole, which this feature is called.


Historically, this is a flood area. Above us in the alpine area, is Lawn Lake which used to be dammed. In 1982, that dam broke and within minutes the landscape was changed by a deluge of water. Boulders left in the higher altitudes of Lawn Lake by glaciers tumbled down, clearing the path of trees and forming a V shaped valley which now contains a water fall. The flood waters continued down Fall River into town. Unfortunately a few lives were lost. The resulting scar on the bottom of the mountainside was an alluvial fan.


From a creationist viewpoint, this is a perfect example of how a flood can destroy things quickly. Water did not erode that pothole in millions of years, it happened in minutes. Awesome from a geological viewpoint!

From the activity we learned that these 4 rocks are the only 4 rock types in the entire park. Ah! We could actually drive around this year, knowing a little something! We spent about an hour climbing around looking at the alluvial fan with new eyes. We could appreciate the new plant life emerging from the destruction. Here is some Russet Buffaloberry...


Changing leaves...



Baby pine trees...


Oh, and the mystery? One of the give away clues to the 1982 flood was the trapped logs under some of the boulders. No, this cannot be an accurate map, because this is not where the boulders were in 1884. Case solved!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Horsing Around RMNP

My husband insisted we go horseback riding on this trip, so we went to the Estes Park Rocky Mountain National Park Gateway Stables to get saddled up.
Before horseback riding, we got cowboy hats.
2007 RNMP

My daughter on Elmer, the horse with no get-up-and-go.


My son on Cutter, another horse with no get-up-and-go. His dreams to ride off into the sunset on Mummy Mountain (an alpine peak) and find the elusive bighorn sheep were quickly fizzling.


Our guide, Alex, checking that all is secure.I'm on Ripple, the horse that breaks out into a trot! The rest of the family got slower horses.


I had wanted to bring my camera, but I was holding on for dear life since I only have one balance nerve! DH, behind me, took pictures when he could.


We rode through Horseshoe Park and made a 1000' elevation gain. As we left the trees to the meadow, a steep hill dropped down to our left. Alex said the grade was as sharp as the one the horseman takes in "The Man from Snowy River". I hadn't seen that movie since it first came out, but I vividly remembered that scene. The scenery surrounding us was breathtaking. The sky was deep blue. I wasn't tired a bit since the horse had to do all the work. (This was great!) We crossed the uphill side of a meadow, with a mountain beyond. Alex pointed out 2 coyotes, a mom and a pup. One of the kids saw another coyote. Alex said it was another adult. He kept a close eye on them. (Hmmmmm, should I be worried? Didn't Laura Ingalls Wilder and other authors talk about fearing for one's life because of coyotes?) Oh well, they never seemed to pay any attention to us. They were far off in the distance playfully jumping around, enjoying the lovely day. The mood was incredibly peaceful. Behind me, dh started softly whistling cowboy and praise songs. This was the life! Even the chipmunk, perched on the boulder nearby, seemed to enjoy the day, curiously watching us. In the distance we could see beautiful Ypsilon Mountain and Mummy Mountain.


We came to the woods again and had to negotiate muddy spots from the typical afternoon showers. The horses didn't like stepping in the mud, so they'd hesitate and we'd have to nudge them to proceed. Also there were times they chose a drier path, not the established muddy horse path. Alex told us to try to keep them on the horse path, because the RMNP rangers wanted to preserve the land and didn't want new horse paths made. Finally we had to start going down, which was tricky for me. I had had major head surgery years ago when a balance nerve was cut; now I struggle with keeping my balance. My lack of balance was definitely taxed on the downhill portions. A few curves were especially sharp. One of them was called Dead Man's Curve. Alex teased us, saying that's where we might need to pull the ripcord on the parachute behind us the rain slickers actually. We kept taking steps down which were exceedingly difficult. Ripple was an extremely thoughtful horse. He'd stop to think how to best negotiate the step down into the muddy area and the rocks and tree trunks. Then he would slowly and carefully proceed. There were a few times I had to use the reigns to guide him the way he was supposed to go. That challenged my lack of balance, but I was elated when he obeyed. DD also was challenged trying to get her horse to go the proper way. She did an excellent job nudging him on and trying to steer him properly. I was amazed!


When we approached level land again, Ripple got the sudden idea that it would be fun to trot! (Yikes!) Thankfully, I remembered what to do and managed to slow him down. That happened a few times. Thrilled, I couldn't believe I got a horse to obey me! We finally got back to the corral. A wrangler helped dd off her horse. Again she became a pretzel, not sure how to negotiate her legs. I knew exactly what to do, except I was just plain stuck! I was so sore! Alex helped me down and said, "Just swing your right leg over the back of the horse." "Oh I know what to do," oomph I huffed as my leg got stuck on the back end. "I just don�t think I can do it. I'm stuck." Chuckling, Alex helped me get off. I could barely stand! Alex asked if I was staying in at a place that had a hot tub. Longingly I thought about the soothing treat but dismally replied, "Oh no, we're camping." He told me to do lots of walking. DH had to come and help me walk out of the corral. The pain lingered for about 3 days. Surely, my back end was solid black and blue. I couldn't walk straight; I couldn't sit. DH and I theorized that my lack of balance caused me to use my legs extra hard to balance and resulted in extra pain. Would I ever do that again? Hmmmmm, yes, when can we go again? Ride 'em cowboy!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Garden of the Gods and Manitou Cliff Dwellings

After a picnic lunch in the Garden of the Gods (Garden of the Gods is in the foreground and Pikes Peak in the background) we went hiking. I love Garden of the Gods! We always make several visits here in one vacation because we can always pop in and squeeze a bit of time hiking and relaxing!

Cathedral Spires...

Kissing Camels...


Window to Pikes Peak...

Siamese Twins...

We also spend time at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. We had never been here before but we've certainly been intrigued. These are literally built into the cliffs. When you go inside and look out the window, there is a massive drop to the ravine below. I'd have been terrified if I had lived in these many, many years ago with little children running loose. I hope no one ever fell out of a window!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Time for Whit, Adventure and Drama

We promised the kids that this time our very first stop when we arrived in Colorado Springs would be Focus on the Family! We ran out of time to visit them the first  time.


In front of Focus on the Family is a statue of a mother with her children so we had to pose with it.

Preparing to enter Whit's End.


Meeting Whit.



Having made mosaics when we studied Ancient Rome a few months before, my kids were super impressed with this mosaic they found of Whit. Their sheer exuberance and running to different activities came to a halt when they saw this under their feet. They stood there and said..."Wow!"



Peeking into KYDS Radio.


We signed up to be on KYDS' Radio!


My kids each got parts. Their "voice talent" joined that of Kris, Whit, and Connie.


My husband and I were the foleys...which meant that we made the sound effects. We had to sharpen a pencil, shut a door, and make horse hooves go "clip clop."


Watching the CD being made!


She was producing the CD for us. The CD was free!


More play time on Abendnego. This twisty slide gained its name from a fan contest!


We spent two days here for the kids to play! Not far away is Peterson AFB where we nearly got transferred. This would surely have been a frequently visited spot for the kids.


Time for a snack at Whit's soda shop. We got the wod-fam-choc-sod (short for "world famous chocolate soda")


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Land of Enchantment-New Mexico

The second day of our vacation dh awoke us at 530am…y-a-w-n. Excitedly we headed for Colorado Springs. Rain bid us goodbye as we left Texas and sunshine greeted us in New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment.

Every time we drive through this northeast corner of New Mexico, I AM enchanted. Velvety green fields, unlike any I’ve seen in Texas, are intermittently filled with unusual mountains. No farming, but occasional herds of cows, goats or sheep can be seen. It was funny, in the one field, we saw a cow running to catch up with the others at the top of the rise who were calmly eating grass. It reminded me of those happy cow in California commericals! Nestled at the foot of some of the mountains are beautiful ranch homes. Roadside signs explain the scenery. These are extinct volcanoes! In fact, 1000 square miles of Northeastern New Mexico and Southeastern Colorado to Oklahoma are full of them.

We usually stop for lunch at a roadside rest stop at Sierra Grande, the largest volcano in Northeastern New Mexico, with an elevation of 8720 feet. Always we are delightfully chilled when we open the car door. Thrilled to be cooling off in the middle of the summer we grab our jackets and stretch our legs to check the view.

Further on we drove by Capulin Volcano.

This is Capulin Volcano in New Mexico, one we have not yet been able to visit. You can see the road on the side of the volcano leading to the crater. Here is a great photo from the top to show you the inside of the volcano. 

After a brief stop to enjoy the scenery, we push west, until eventually we catch sight of the Rocky Mountains! Excitment thrills our souls at this point! This is where we head north and as we cross into Colorado, we keep rising in elevation and ears are popping! Surrounded by pine trees, we drive through a mountain pass with signs of "Beware of falling rocks". After the pass we are rise higher on the side of a steep cliff and we look down into those pine trees. We've waited an entire year to see these beautifully exciting views again. Colorado Springs here we come!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Young Earth v Old Earth

Touring the West is a geologist’s dream. Not that I’m a professional geologist, but I suppose I could be called an amateur. I took several science classes in college and got to take fascinating field trips around Texas collecting cool rock specimens and seeing God’s varied Creation. However, we learned the evolutionary model of an old earth based on millions of years. I never understood how to fit in the geology I learned with the 6 days of Creation and 1 day of rest in the Bible. I believed the Bible first, but couldn’t explain the geology. Over the years, I’ve learned a great deal of Creationism, from a medical doctor at our church and various ministries across America, including a guest speaker at last year’s homeschool bookfair. Dave Nutting from Grand Junction, CO took us through a great slide show of the Grand Canyon and other geological features in the West and explained geology from the Creationist viewpoint.

Dave Nutting told us that the Grand Canyon theoretically formed after Noah’s flood, when massive lakes formed as a result of the Flood in the Utah, Nevada, Colorado area. They evenutally collapsed and that huge flood created the Grand Canyon. Something about that also created the Petrified Forest nearby. I got to see that when I was a little girl and it was fascinating to see huge tree stumps laying on their side scattered throughout the desert. He showed slides of Mt. St. Helens. During the eruption, a lake collapsed and created a canyon in hours. As a result of the destruction there, a petrified forest is quickly in the makings there too. I told him that we were going to Palo Duro Canyon and he said to look on a map and there is a large lake to the north, Lake Merideth. He thinks a long time ago that was a larger lake that collapsed and formed the canyon.

As we hiked in Palo Duro Canyon last year, we thought about how it was formed quickly from a possible lake collapse. We looked at uniquely shaped rocks, which tell a story of wind erosion, and the constant temperature change between winter’s freeze and summer’s searing heat. The plant life is incredible, because it is completely different from the tableland above. Before you drive into the canyon, you see nothing but flat land for as far as the eye can see. The sky is the largest that I’ve ever seen it. It reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, Little House on the Prairie, where she describes the enormous sky that made her feel small. Then as we approached the canyon, the land suddenly disappeared and we drove down a narrow steep road into the bottomlands. Trees and shrubs abound. Above was farmland; below we were looking for interesting animal life. The most impressive rock formation carved by the wind is the Lighthouse, which is seen in the picture on the homepage of the link I put in my blog below. Texas history abounds here. From Spanish explorers to Charles Goodnight, a cowboy who had a nearby ranch and invented the chuck wagon. Famous Indian battles occurred here, resisting the move to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

Six years ago we visited the Royal Gorge in Colorado. We took a train ride, rode to the edge and peeked down into the gorge. That was awesome!

Part of the charm of touring the West is the amazing geological features in God’s Creation. It does get frustrating that every park and nearly every book uses the Old Earth Evolutionary method of dating. My son even got into a debate with a park ranger about it. I’ve told my children that in the end, they need to stand firm with their faith. They know the Bible is true. Usually the main difference between the Old Earth Model and the Young Earth model is the time frame. I told them to skip the billions of years and think Great Flood of Noah’s time. In the end, they are free to enjoy, understand from a Young Earth view and praise God for His Creation, all of which they love to do.

 I walked away understanding the Young Earth (Creationist) versus Old Earth (evolutionary) models. The Old Earth model says canyons and such were formed slowly over millions of years by gently flowing streams. Hmmmmm, that never seemed logical to me. The Young Earth model says God created the Earth completely in six days and rested on the seventh. I am willing to let God be God; I know He is powerful enough to do it all in six days. What an awesome thought. Before the flood, the earth looked vastly different than it is today. Hmmmm, I thought all the mountains and canyons were created in the first week. But Creationists theorize that because of the flood, there were vast changes to the atmosphere and massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and mountain building. Okay, this is making sense to me. The Great Flood created massive changes in the earth. It was destructive, not gentle or passive. We can look at floods today and the changes they create to get a tiny sense of what the Great Flood did. That made sense to me, because several years ago, our area had a 100-year flood and there were massive changes to the surrounding areas. Floods carve out the land quickly. Still wondering about the Ice Age, I used The Geology Book by Dr. John Morris when I taught Tapestry of Grace’s Year 1 Week 4 (from Creation to the Flood) to my children. The Creationist theory is that after the flood, the land took a while to settle down (still have earthquakes and such today) and parts of the world went through the Ice Age. Suddenly, it all made sense! This year, our trip to the West was fresh, because now we better understood the geology of different areas. The world’s highest suspension bridge was built over the quickly water carved feature. DH considered driving on that this year. Gulp! Then he suggested riding the arial tram over the gorge. Oh no, that I cannot bring myself to do, to sway over a deep gorge like that! There is also a train ride in the bottom of the gorge, which we considered, but in the end we ran out of time to do.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dietz Bakery, Palo Duro Canyon, and the Texas Musical

Excitedly, dh decided to get an early start on the trip…everyone up at 530am! What???? There is no way the kids would eat that early…the jaws aren’t awake yet! So this was one of the new additions to this year’s trip. We left the house without breakfast and went to an old German bakery in the quaint German town of Fredericksburg in the hill country, which was on our route. I love to visit Fredericksburg but this bakery is always closed by the time we get there because they are sold out. At 8am we parked in front of Dietz Bakery on Main Street. The doors were open and the delicious aroma of homemade pastries filled the air. Customers agonized over delectable choices. I chose a sausage kolache. While the rest of the family chose from the tantalizing array, I looked around at the old fashioned interior. The building is an original building, dating back to the 1800’s with 3 generations of bakers. Built with stone walls and original wooden countertops, it was sparkling clean. I sneaked a peak through the open doors into a large room where it looked like the rising took place, then through another door into a huge space where the kneading, baking and finishing seemed to occur. The people were delightfully cheerful and smatterings of German could be heard. We took our yummies to the lovely city park and ate al fresco on a sunny morning under large oak trees amongst crepe myrtles and rose bushes. That was the most lovely spot of the entire day.

Throughout the drive, the scenery changed from hill country to brush country to rolling plains with long buttes and finally to the panhandle plains. Last year when we drove into the plains, we saw lots of dust devils. Those are like mini tornados of dust that suddenly rise from the ground and quickly swirl and vaporize into the sky. They twirl hodge podge over the terrain, 2 here and 1 there. They are fascinating to watch, but there were none this year. I suppose it’s because of all the rain. I’m not sure how much rain the rest of the state has received, but this year there were many ponds and creek beds actually full of water. After we checked into the hotel for the day, it started storming.

Last year we spent an extra day in the area to explore the nearby geological feature, Palo Duro Canyon. I had always wanted to see it and I couldn’t imagine a canyon in this flat land. But when you drive to it, the ground suddenly opens up into the second largest canyon in the US. We tried hiking, but it was so hot last year, we called it quits. It was really hot! No wonder there were so many Indian uprisings in this area. I bet they were just hot and cranky…like we were getting.
So we headed to air conditioning until that evening to enjoy a barbeque and then a musical drama called "Texas". It was great. They use the story of a romance between a guy and a girl in the area to tell the history of the area. They staged a lightening strike in the canyon and a prairie grass fire. Concluding the program is a fireworks show. There was a program in the hotel room explaining how they want to create a tornado for the show. We were glad we didn’t plan on going, since we would have been rained out.

***News flash….I don’t have any pictures of these places. I couldn’t even find a picture of the park on line. I’ll be back to Fredericksburg eventually (I always do) and will do a blog just on that wonderful town. Actually, I will probably do many blogs because there is so much there. It’s my favorite place in Texas. Well, one of them. Hope you enjoy the link to the canyon. I think it’s the best thing to do if you are in the area.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Secret Sister 2006 from Michigan

Now that I'm blogging I'd like to share about a Secret Sister program I participated in last December. In an on-line yahoo homeschool support group I'm with, we sign up to be prayer partners and exchange an ornament. This was my first year to participate. I sent a gift to a neat lady in West Virginia. I received a gift from Michigan!

The theme was snow...I think because she gets a lot and we get only a little! She knew that I had homemade ornaments on the tree, so she made an ornament for me representing the two of us. I don't think she knew I have grapevine wreaths in my house though. She put a bluebonnet on the state of Texas and a snowflake on her state of Michigan.  

She even gave each of my kids snowmen ornaments!

I also got this cute little gift book.

I can't find it but I even got a journal with writing prompts on each page. I've already started it. When I find it I'll add a photo. We even got some chocolate to enjoy. This was fun to arrive on this day in December, because my husband had been out of town all week for work. Thank you!