Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Utah's Stars

Stars Above Sharps Hallow - Morgan, Utah
Many people may not realize this, but Utah is one of the absolute best places in America to see stars. Utah has some of the darkest skies anywhere, thanks to very minimal light pollution. Once you get a little ways outside of cities and towns, the heavens glow with stars and planets. The cloud-looking Milky Way becomes clear.

Even just thirty minutes outside of Salt Lake City metro will yield an amazing night sky. Drive an hour away and the show is breathtaking and almost unbelievable. It's something everyone should do! Everyone should experience the awe of an incredible star-filled night sky.

The photograph above, Stars Above Sharps Hallow, was captured (with my cell phone) right off of Interstate 84 just east of Morgan (near Devil's Slide). You don't have to go very far off the beaten path. You can find safe places right off of major roads to see it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Air Force Thunderbirds Over Hill AFB

Flying High Into The Sun - South Weber, Utah
This last weekend was the annual air show at Hill Air Force Base just south of Ogden, Utah. This was near our home so we wanted to catch the acrobatic air action.

We've been to air shows in the past (never at Hill AFB), and we're familiar with the crowds and such. As cool as it would have been to go to the base and see the displays, we didn't want to experience the frustrating aspects of it. Maybe next year.

We were able to watch some of the air demonstrations from our house. The upstairs bedroom windows provided a good view. However, for the Air Force Thunderbirds, we wanted a better vantage point, so we drove to the Canyon Meadows Park in South Weber. It's a little closer to the base and provided somewhat better views of the action. Besides, the kids got to play on the playground for a little while.

The Thunderbirds (which are F-16 fighter jets) put on a good show. They flight a tight formation and do different stunts. The kids loved seeing them zoom low over our heads. The action lasted about 30 minutes.

I used my cell phone to photograph the Thunderbirds. It's definitely not the best camera for aerial photography, but I tried to make the most of it. You do the best with what you've got.
Above The Hill - South Weber, Utah
Loop - South Weber, Utah
Flight Split - South Weber, Utah

Monday, June 27, 2016

Golden Spike National Historic Site - Promontory Summit, Utah

Jupiter - Promontory Summit, Utah
This last weekend saw a dip in the temperatures to something other than scorching hot, so we decided to load up the car and head out on an adventure. My kids love trains--especially my six-year-old and two-year-old boys--and so I suggested the Golden Spike National Historic Site out at Promontory Summit.

From our house it was an hour drive. The last 30 minutes was through some rural and lonely (but still interesting) landscapes. We didn't tell the kids where we were going, and they were beginning to get restless just prior to our arrival.

Twice a day on Saturdays during the summer the Golden Spike National Historic Site does a reenactment of the driving in of the last spike, once in the morning and once in the early afternoon. We arrived just as the second reenactment was beginning. We paid the $7 park entrance fee and quickly headed out where other people were already gathered.
Union Pacific Railroad Number 119 - Promontory Summit, Utah
The National Park Service operates two steam locomotives here. They are exact replicas of the two locomotives that were at this location in 1869 when the line was finished. One is Union Pacific #119 and the other is Central Pacific #60.

Before the reenactment, a park ranger explained the historical significance of this place. The first transcontinental railroad line was finished here, with the Central Pacific coming from the west and the Union Pacific coming from the east, linking the two halves of the United States with steel rail. It was an extraordinary achievement that had a big impact on a young nation. In the ceremony two golden spikes and one silver spike were driven into a wood tie to commemorate the occasion.

The park ranger provided some interesting trivia. Like why an American flag with only 20 stars was used when there were 37 states at the time. (It's because nobody remembered to bring an American flag, and an old 20-star flag was the only one that they could find, so they used it anyway).
Golden Spike Park Rangers - Promontory Summit, Utah
After the park ranger was finished, the Central Pacific locomotive moved backwards down the track a little ways and then pulled forward to where it started. Then the crew got off that locomotive and climbed aboard the Union Pacific locomotive. They backed it up to a switch and pulled it forward on a siding. Then they reversed course and brought it back to where it started. All the while a park ranger is explaining things about the locomotives and answering questions. They blew the whistle a bunch (which was a little loud for our two-year-old).

After that they did the reenactment, enlisting help from a few audience members. It was interesting to experience a little of what it was like to be there at that historic moment. There are many interesting details that you miss just reading a short blurb in a textbook. The National Park Service did a tremendous job of making this historic site come alive.

We were there for about an hour. It was starting to get hot and we had other things we needed to do, so we left. The boys wanted to stay longer. It was a fun and memorable time! It was definitely worth the drive to see. 
Old West Steam - Promontory Summit, Utah
Engine Number 60 - Promontory Summit, Utah
No. 119 - Promontory Summit, Utah
Slow Train Coming - Promontory Summit, Utah
The Man In Black - Promontory Summit, Utah
May 9, 1869 - Promontory Summit, Utah
A Train In 1869 - Promontory Summit, Utah
An Old West Handshake - Promontory Summit, Utah
Telegraphing The Event - Promontory Summit, Utah
Golden Spike Ceremonies - Promontory Summit, Utah
Hammering The Last Spike - Promontory Summit, Utah
Reliving History - Promontory Summit, Utah
Amanda made this creative video of our visit:

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Trains At Ogden Union Station - Ogden, Utah

Ogden Union Station - Ogden, Utah
My kids--especially my six-year old and two-year-old sons--love seeing the locomotives and train cars on static display at the historic Ogden Union Station. While there is no longer passenger service here, there are plenty of reasons to visit.

The Ogden Union Station is located at the west end of the 25th Street District. A visit to one place could include the other. Inside the old train station are four different museums and two art galleries. On the outside are static displays of old locomotives and train cars, which is what we came to see.

You can walk between the different items on static display. Railroad equipment is large and they loom above you as you stand beside them. There are steam and diesel locomotives, old passenger and freight cars, and even a special car that carried the torch for the 2002 Winter Olympics. It's a mix of antiques and oddities, and any train enthusiast (such as my two boys) will love to spend some time wondering through it.

If you find yourself in downtown Ogden, Utah, and have a little free time, the Ogden Union Station is a great place to entertain your kids in an educational fashion. Or, if you are headed to the 25th Street Distract to dine and shop, take a little time to visit the old train station. Your train-loving kids will thank you for it!  
Train On Track 2 - Ogden, Utah
Blue Ladder Step - Ogden, Utah
Red Fuel Cap - Ogden, Utah
Red Knob - Ogden, Utah
Red Valve Knob - Ogden, Utah
Red Knob & Stem - Ogden, Utah
General Motors Fuel Gauge - Ogden, Utah
July 1968 - Ogden, Utah
And Stop - Ogden, Utah
Steam Locomotive Wheels - Ogden, Utah
Steam Power - Ogden, Utah
Industrial Circles And Curves - Ogden, Utah
Industrial Design Monochrome - Ogden, Utah
833 - Ogden, Utah
Railroad Circles - Ogden, Utah

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Video: Layton Commons Park - Layton, Utah

Amanda created this creative video of our kids having fun at the Layton Commons Park. It's really cute! Be sure to watch it if you have a moment.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mill B North Fork Trail - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Wasatch Mountains View In Big Cottonwood Canyon - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
After finding Hidden Falls we decided to head up the Mill B North Fork Trail, since we were right there. We didn't know much about this trail, but we had some water and were feeling adventurous, so we took a chance and off we went.

The trail starts off with steps, which heads up a somewhat steep hill through a series of switchbacks. Intermittently some trees provided shade, but mostly the trail is open and the views are great. The trail crests a hill and you realize that you are above Hidden Falls, but (no surprise) it can't be seen (you can hear it, though).

After a little downhill section the trail follows a creek and heads into a forested area. There is a lot of shade and it is a great place to rest by the water. I would say that this is about one mile (maybe just over a mile) from the trailhead. We rested a little before heading back.

I'm not sure exactly where the Mill B North Fork Trail ends, or what you find along the way. Another hiker said that there are two waterfalls. The section that we traversed was moderately difficult at times. Our six and eight year old kids had few problems, but our two year old had to be carried for much of it.

I've heard that the Mill B South Fork Trail is a great hike. We may try that one sometime in the not-too-distant future. We have plenty more exploring to do in the Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Big Cottonwood Canyon Vista - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
A View In Big Cottonwood Canyon - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah 
Monochrome Mountain View In Big Cottonwood Canyon - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Tree In Black And White - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Creek In The Forest - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hidden Falls - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Hidden Falls - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
We'd read about a waterfall in the Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains not far outside of Salt Lake City that's pretty easy to get to. It sounded like a fun adventure so we loaded up the car and headed out to find Hidden Falls.

The directions we had were to take Highway 190 east, travelling exactly 4.4 miles from the Wasatch Boulevard intersection. We were to find a parking lot in the middle of an "S" turn in the highway. And that's exactly what we found. Since it was Father's Day weekend, it was very crowded and the parking lot was full. However, we did find some parking on the shoulder near the trail.

There are several different trails in this area, and the trail to Hidden Falls isn't marked. The trailhead is on the north side of the "S" turn and you have to cross the highway. This is also where the Mill B North Fork Trail begins. Once across the street there are steps to the right, which is the Mill B trail. The Hidden Falls Trail is to the left, along the creek.

You can actually follow the creek on either side. One trail is more defined and crosses the creek twice. The other trail is a little smaller but doesn't cross the creek. We went up on one trail and came back on the other. It doesn't really matter which route you take.

Just before the waterfall is an old mine shaft. The entrance is gated, but there is enough of a gap that you could enter. I certainly wouldn't recommend going inside. Mine shafts can be very dangerous. But it was obvious that some people do enter.

Hidden Falls is definitely hidden. You don't see it until you are almost to it, and even then a rock blocks some of the view. To really see it you have to get into the shallow creek. It's worth the small effort to see it.

The hike to Hidden Falls is only about a quarter mile. I wouldn't call it an easy hike (it has spots that are closer to moderate), but we made it just fine with our three young kids, including our two-year-old. Also, your feet will get wet, so plan for that (we didn't plan for that).

It's always great to get out and experience nature. I love the fresh air and the shade of trees. The kids loved splashing in the water. And the scenery was beautiful. Hidden Falls is a place we won't soon forget. 
Lizard - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Crossing The Creek - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Mountain Exploring - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Creek In Big Cottonwood Canyon - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Abandoned Mine Entrance - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Hidden Falls Monochrome - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Amanda & Joshua At Hidden Falls - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Exploring Creekside - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah 
Small Waterfall In The Wasatch Mountains - Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah