White Pine Hollow Hike

I’ve never lived anywhere but Utah, so I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere, but Utah’s statehood day — Pioneer Day– is a very big deal here.  Everyone gets a paid holiday from work, and most of the little towns have parades, fireworks and fairs just like the Fourth of July.  Well, parades and fireworks are not really my thing — especially this year with the fire hazard– but we stole away for the day and did a lovely hike down the mountain near our home.  We had done this hike as a “girls only” hike with my sisters-in-law and cousins a few years ago, but I really did not remember it as beautiful as it was this time. We had also put it off because it is a “two driver” hike, with a car at the top and bottom of this scenic trail.

The hike begins at the same trailhead as the Mt. Nebo Scenic Basin trail, and just about 1/2 a mile from the Mt. Nebo Summit trail.  heading nearly straight north, it goes over a hill and then heads down a steep wash, following an intermittent stream as it meets more and more springs until it exits the canyon on the Santaquin Canyon road.

The drainage was very wet this year, which was surprising considering the dry year we have had.  The bushes and undergrowth was head high.  We even got into stinging nettle– fun!

Since this trail was relatively short and easy (about 6 miles,) and we had all day, there was time to make leaf people.

 

And eat wild raspberries (of course there’s always time for that!)

 

And climb a crooked tree.

At the bottom of the trail, the stream passes between rock buttresses.  In wetter years, there is no way to hike this part of the trail without wetting your feet.  This year, most of us got wet but Shandy preferred to stay dry.

After enjoying our hike, we had a picnic and collected the truck we had left at the trailhead.  An excellent way to spend a midweek holiday!

Do you like to celebrate holidays in traditional ways, or do you view them as opportunities to do the things your family likes best?  Please leave a comment  below.

Preserving the Harvest — Fruit in Bottles

Although the nearly-lost art of preserving food in jars seems to be in revival on the web these days, almost everyone will tell you about “small-batch” food preservation.  Many recipes make 2 or 3 half pints of whatever wonderful, tasty food they are preserving.  While that might be great for a couple or a family with one child (who doesn’t eat!), for my family of 6, I hit more on large batch food preservation.  This is one of the reasons we don’t school through the summer months — unless you call harvesting and preserving school (which I do.)  It is too difficult to teach math and stand over a boiling pot!

This is the season for that canning, as we call it, although we don’t use cans.  As my mother taught me, and as her mother and mother-in-law taught her, I look for the best fruits and the least expensive price and put as many of them in jars for the winter as I am physically able.  My recipes come mainly from the Ball Blue Book, which as I look for it on Amazon, doesn’t seem to be blue at all.  Mostly great fruit with a very light sugar syrup and processing, this fruit helps us through the winter when fruit that is available is far from local and not in the best shape.

Two weeks ago, I bottled 13 quart jars of sour cherries.  Originally, I bottled cherries for pies and cobbles, and some of them still get eaten that way.  But most of them go straight under vanilla yogurt and granola and are gobbled up in the winter months. I bought some strawberries to make 2 batches of jam, because we opened the last jar from last year that morning.  I also thawed some plum juice from last year and made two batches of jam while the kitchen floor was already sticky.

That same weekend, I found an apricot tree next to a vacant house which was loaded with fruit.  Usually, apricots are a fruit which people will nearly pay you to pick to keep the squishy fruit from falling on their lawns.  But this year, people wanted us to buy their apricots by the bushel(!).  They were even advertising apricots as organic (I have never heard of anyone spraying apricots– they hardly ever get bugs.)  So I was delighted to find this tree at the same time the management company truck pulled up and was able to give me authorization to pick as much as I liked.  In about 20 minutes, we picked enough apricots to eat ourselves sick, make apricot kuchen, apricot jam, and bottle 14 pints of apricots.  I would have liked to do more bottled, but they weren’t quite ripe and when they did ripen I was too busy with other work to do them.  However, I did freeze apricot puree and make this wonderful apricot nut bread recipe I will share with you!

Apricot Nut Bread (especially wonderful spread with homemade apricot jam)

Makes 1 loaf

2 cups whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup pureed apricots

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Cream together the sugar and butter.  Add eggs, apricots and lemon juice.  Beat until fluffy, then add dry ingredients and nuts.  Bake in a greased 9 inch loaf pan 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool at least 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then remove from pan and cool completely before cutting.  To make this bread extra special, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of sugar across the top of the loaf about 10 minutes before the ending of cooking.

This week was blackberry week. Mom and I went and picked blackberries at a local patch.  10 pounds of blackberries for $20 is a score!  I made blackberry cobbler, blackberry smoothies and blackberry jam.  Jam is the easiest thing in the world to make if you use pectin and the recipe in the pectin box.  While other recipes are certainly unusual flavors, my family always enjoys the traditional fruit and sugar the best.

Since I have zucchini literally running out my ears, I think today is zucchini relish day.  Anyone for a hot dog?  Are you enjoying the summer harvest yet in your area?  What are you doing to save some of those great flavors for winter time?  Please leave me a comment.

Summer Must Do: Snow Cones

The kids are taking a bluegrass music workshop that is occupying a LOT of time.  As we drive home in the hot car (no air conditioning this summer in the ‘burb,) we are taking advantage of a little extra fun time.  After all, buying a snow cone is cheaper than fixing the air conditioning, right?

 

 

And then again, some of us just dive right into our ice.

I’m hoping it’s the simple things in life that build up to good memories of a happy childhood.  I know they make good memories of happy parenthood.

What are some of the simple, fun things you consider a requirement  during the summer?  Please leave me a comment.

 

4th of July Hiking: Maple Canyon

Near my parents’ home in Sanpete County, there is a canyon famous for excellent rock climbing sites.  The canyon walls are made of a conglomerate rock that I have never seen anywhere else.  Cobble rocks approximately the size of my fist are stuck together with mud to make hoodoos and even an arch.  The last time we visited this area was in the ice and snow.  Mom has been inviting us to hike the loop trail that exits the campground for years, but finally on the fourth of July we were forced by fires in the other areas we wanted to hike to visit this trail.  It was a great little trail.  (There has since been a fire in this canyon — I don’t know exactly what the damage has been.)

Starting from the campground, we took the middle fork and circled back on the right fork trail.  The trail climbs about a half mile, then branches off to visit an arch made from the conglomerate rock.

We continued up the trail about another mile, to where the arrow pointed to the right with a very steep climb to a “viewpoint” and then following the right fork down to the campground again.  The views were fabulous from the top.  We could see the whole valley spread out below us, and the buzzards were circling below us around the cliff tops.  We spent time looking for buzzard (the local name for turkey vultures) nests.  The research I had done said that they nest in caves, and we spotted several likely spots, and even heard the calls of baby birds, but nothing we could identify certainly as a nest.

The area below the viewpoint, as the trail dropped sharply down to the canyon bottom was the best for the kids.  The Forest Service has actually built stairs and installed a ladder to come down this steep incline.  It was beautiful and fun.

Round trip, mileage was about 4 miles for the loop with the arch detour.  At the bottom of the canyon, we were able to stop and watch some of the many climbers that were there taking advantage of their holiday to try out their ropes in the canyon.  Now we have a new goal — let the kids try rappelling.  We’ll have to find some good instructors!

How do you spend the extra holiday time during the summer?  Do you take time to visit trails that are close to home?  Please leave a comment below.

July Reading

After a long phase of non-fiction reading, I’ve switched back to fiction for the last couple of weeks.  I read A Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler, a book which I enjoyed very much.  It was very reminiscent of her book The Accidental Tourist, and made me want to watch that movie again.  I finished The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  I had not read any books by this author before, and it is really not my usual style.  I am not a mystery reader.  This book was an enjoyable read with an engaging heroine (actually 3 or 4 engaging heroines) and a plot which although fairly transparent was interestingly developed.  I usually say “this was written on a postage stamp” when the solution to the mystery is obvious halfway through the book, but enough of this mystery was left unknown to make finishing the book worthwhile.

Eden recommended Impossible  by Nancy Werlin.  It took me an afternoon to read, and was not a typical rewritten fairy tale but a twist on a classic ballad, Scarborough Fair.  The most interesting thing to me about this story was the description of the attachment between the pregnant woman and the child she is carrying.  It made me nostalgic for the days when I would “speak” to my pregnant belly, longing for the day I could hold the baby in my arms.

I also read Finding Ultra by Rich Roll.  I have read several endurance training stories recently, since I read Born to Run. This book actually contained far more information about his recovery from alcoholism than his training and change to a plant-based diet.  As such, it educated me about some of the challenges facing a recovering alcoholic, but did not fulfill the promise of its title.

Lulu and Max have been reading the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull.  She has read all 5, and Max just finished book 3.  They really like this series, and have been using these ideas in the imaginative play all week.  Perhaps your kids would like these books, too.

The other books on my list for July are nature essays.  One is a book about the Grand Gulch area of southern Utah that I am really excited to start, and I am also looking forward to reading the others.  One problem I have with essays and short stories is that I have a tendency to gobble them down.  I think of a book of essays or short stories as a box of chocolates.  I really should just eat one, enjoy it, and come back for another tomorrow.  Instead, I gobble them down quickly and end up with a stomach ache!  I am going to exert myself to read these books slowly.

Do you enjoy reading essays and short stories, or do you prefer novels?  What is on your reading list for July?  Please leave me a comment below.

Hiking Fifth Water Hot Springs

One of our favorite summer hikes is in a canyon only about a 30 minute drive from home.  Located in Diamond Fork canyon, there are two trails that lead from the Three Forks trailhead.  The less traveled hike is also beautiful, following a tiny creek, Second Water,  along a pretty drainage.  But we like to go early in the morning to beat the traffic on the well traveled trail along Sixth Water Creek, crossing the bridge to Fifth Water, and hiking all the way to the hot springs at about mile 4.5.  If we leave early enough, we can be swimming in creek water warmed by natural hot springs by 9 a.m.

Last Wednesday, we headed out to the hot springs for the first time this summer.  The flow of Sixth Water creek is controlled by a reservoir high in the mountains above the creek, and it was roaring this year.

Unfortunately, right after I took this picture, my camera ran out of battery — someday I’ll remember to check this before I go out.  I want to share some pictures with you from another year, though, because this is a great little hike you might like to do with your kids sometime.  As you can see, someone has built walls around the pools and even piped mixes so that there are pools about mid-thigh deep that you can sit or swim in.

There are little waterfalls to stand under, swim around and slide down.

We play in the lower pools, but the higher pools are warmer for soaking, so if you’ve left the kids at home, try those out.  After you’ve played in the water as long as you like, the hike back to the car takes only about one hour.  This is really a great short hike to take early on a weekday morning so that you can have the little pools all to yourself.

Do you visit a local hot springs or swimming hole?  Do you enjoy swimming in natural waters, or are you a feet soaker like I am?  Please leave me a comment.

Weekday Hiking: Squaw Peak Trail

We are continuing our summer hiking with local trips during the week.  We are lucky enough to live close to many different hiking trails, and are able to find some places that are not closed due to forest fires still.  There are huge fires burning to the south and west of us, but in the mountains just north of us there are still some places we haven’t explored, and others we would like to visit again.  This trail begins at the Rock Canyon Trailhead on the north side of Provo.  We hiked the beginning of this trail about a month ago as part of our “Best Hike Ever.”  We wanted to try again at a cooler time of day and see if we could reach Squaw Peak before it got too hot.

The beginning of the trail is a fairly gentle climb over a wide, well-used trail.  About 2 miles into the hike, a trail leaves to the north (left) with a rock that says Squaw Peak Trail marking the trail.

From here, the trail climbs fairly steeply for two miles to the top of Squaw Peak, where you can see all of Utah County spread out below like a map.  From other trip reports on the Internet, I was not sure how much exposure there would be on this hike, especially on the ridge before the summit.  I promised myself that if I felt that it was dangerous, I would turn around before we saw the end of the trail, especially since Shandy was not with us.  I think the “promise to bail” is an important factor in my bravery.  I state conditions under which I will turn around before I go, and then I am brave enough to start.  Rarely do the conditions come about that I have to turn around, but when they do, I already have my own permission to quit.  However, on this trail there is no exposure before the final summit, and the peak is wide enough that there did not seem to be any danger to sit there and eat our snack and enjoy the view.

Lulu loved looking from this place.  She said it looked like a really, really good map.

As we hiked back down the trail, the butterflies were out in full force.  At the water’s edge, Eden was able to lure several onto her hands, and two even kept her company down the trail a while.

We started from the car at 7:40 a.m., and with time spent snacking and checking things out along the way we were still back to the car before 12:00.  This was a great hike for kids who are strong hikers, and the view from the top was well worth seeing.  If you don’t think your kids could make it all the way, even a short distance along this trail is worth the trip.

Now . . . to find the next spot.  There are so many wild fires in Utah right now, our hiking plans have to be made around what is not burning and has not burnt.  Oh, for some rain! (But not on the days I want to be outdoors, right?)  Hope you are enjoying your week.  Do you sneak out for weekday hikes, or is that something you save only for the weekends?  Please leave me a comment below.

Say “Yes” to Mess

When we built our house seven years ago, one of the stipulations I put on moving was that we would have a giant sand pile for the kids.  Not a sand box, but a pile.  All my childhood, my nearby cousins had a huge sand pile with boulders in their backyard, and I was always jealous of the fun they could have in that sand pile–they made rivers, reservoirs and mountains, cities, towns and roads.  I wanted some of that same experience for my own kids.  We couldn’t bring in boulders, but we put an entire dump truck load of fine, clean sand in the back yard.

Several family members were astonished by the presence of sand in my backyard.  They were surprised that someone as picky about housekeeping as I am (or as they perceive me to be) would want a sand pile.  But I was adamant, and it has been a wonderful addition to my kids’ outdoor time.  Yes, they do have to be stopped at the back door and brushed off, and there probably is a half ton of sand under my living room carpet right now (the other half ton is still out there.)  But innumerable hours have been spent building and playing in the sand.

However, this summer I have hesitated to let my kids turn on the water faucet and play in the sand.  Yes, it was the mess factor.  I remember how much fun they have, and then the changing clothes and hosing off that is involved afterwards.  But today I just sucked it up and let them play in the sand with water.

They made cement.

They dug a pond.  (The technical name for this foamy stuff is “Indian soap.”  Don’t ask how we know.)

And they cleaned up after themselves!  Who knew that seven and nine is old enough to clean up after themselves!  Thank goodness I said yes to the mess.

Is it easy for you to say yes to mess?  What are the messy projects your kids are doing this summer?  Please leave me a comment.

One-on-One — Stealing “Dates” with Kids

I bet you can’t guess what we like to do in the summer time!  The big kids had piano lessons at the same time this week, so Max and I snuck out for an ice cream date all by ourselves.  Eden and I took a similar opportunity last week.  I love to spend some time just one-on-one with my kids.  They are such unique people, and growing up so fast!  Although I love watching them interact with each other, I love being with each of them individually even more.  The conversations we have are valuable, and the silences are priceless.

In our family, we call it a date, and Shandy and I each plan one specific time each month to take one of the kids out, but these stolen moments are nearly sweeter.  Do you plan or steal “alone time” with your kids?  What do you like to do during those times?  Please leave me a comment.

Puddling

Puddling is what butterflies do because they cannot live on nectar alone.  Although the nectar is lovely and sweet, they must have the salts and minerals from the earth or they will die.  That is why, often during the summer, you will see a few or even a flock of butterflies gathered around a muddy, swampy place.  They are drinking the minerals and salts that are brought to the surface of the earth by the water.

Is puddling what we do when we go expose ourselves to the dirt and mess of nature?  Working in the garden, camping and eating outdoors, playing in the water outside, all of these involve an element of dirtiness — of less than clean-ness.  But our spirits are cleaned and renewed by this closeness to the dirt from which we are made.

If we are suffering from nature deficit disorder, a disorder which causes anxiety, stress, and a lack of purpose in our lives, perhaps we should consider the butterfly.  Find a puddle.  Play in the mud.

And maybe then we will be able to appreciate the nectar again.

How do you treat nature deficit disorder?  Please leave me a comment below.  Here’s hoping you find yourself a puddle today.