Monday, February 18, 2013

President's Day Outing

Today we decided to take advantage of the day off of work and school to get out and enjoy the good weather together before the next snow storm rolls in this week.  Although we had a lot of things that we should have stayed home to do, the combination of a couple of very busy weeks, the time spent studying/working towards 12 credits this semester, and the tragic loss of a close friend and co-worker this weekend, we knew it was probably best to get outdoors to unwind and get our minds off of things.  It was long overdue!  What a great day spent with the wife, kids, and the dog. 

We decided to head to a favorite shed hunting spot in hopes of finding some "brown on the ground".  We have been watching a herd of nice bucks in this area all winter, along with a couple of really good muleys.  This is also a spot that has paid off for me very well in past years, and although I know a lot of bucks were still packing, maybe, just maybe I would have similar luck as last year.  An early trip yielded an amazing 5-point set just a short distance from the truck.  After a rough morning of dealing with more phone calls and messages about my friend, I was finally able to put the phone away for a bit and get out of town.

As we left the pavement and started down a dirt road, it was no time at all and we were spotting deer, including this nice 4-point! 

Although we were stoked to get a good look at this buck, and some video, this is not what we came for.  I hate to get in among the deer before they drop, first of all, because I don't want to push them out before they drop, and second, I hate to pressure them this time of year when the winter feed is about gone, and they are really giving it their all to survive.  This wasn't quite the spot we were heading to anyway.  So, we made our plans and made a wide swing to stay away from them  We did jump a few more small bucks, still all packing head gear!

As we were getting into deer, I thought maybe it was time to turn to a new area, where I was fairly sure the deer had moved out of the week prior.  So we shifted our search to this new bench and began to grid.  The sign confirmed that while a few deer lingered, most had moved on.  After nearly 2 miles things were looking bleak, so we decided to turn back.  Just as we approached the truck I looked down and nearly stepped on our find for the day.  It still had a bit of blood on the base.

Well, it's not much, but the season has to start somewhere I guess.  I have high hopes that a planned trip in 2 weeks will turn out big!  It just amazes me that a big buck can be carrying antler still, and a buck as small as this was already shed, at least on one side.  Oh well, it was great to get out and about on such a nice day. 

It was an excellent opportunity to get my future TV show host on the camera!  I heard Dallin telling his bothers about the day, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to let him sum up our experience of shed hunting for the day.  Looks like he needs a bit of practice, but it's probably better than Dad can do!

On the way home, my very observant 5 year old pointed out a road that I had promised to take the family down once the weather got better, the area is called Spencer Flat.  Jackson had been eager to see the area, since I spoke of the "Moqui Marbles" that covered the area's sand dunes and sand stone features.  Well, it was a good day, so why not?  We turned south from the highway into the desert country south/southeast of Escalante. 

I have been wanting to take the family to a awesome feature known as the "Cosmic Ashtray", but today we would not have enough light to make the nearly 5 mile hike.  That's a story for another day that we hope to share within a couple of months as we try to showcase more of the awesome country around our home.  So, we settled for a ride into what was new country for the family, and explored the Moqui marble deposits.  The kids were amazed as they sorted through the piles upon piles of these unique rocks located on the surface of sandstone and even in the sand of the dunes.  From little "BB marbles" as Jackson called them, to the flying saucer looking ones, huge ones, doubles, and more the kids had a blast discovering all they could.  We even found a few that had been cracked, revealing the multiple colors of sand frozen within the hard shell.
Moqui marbles are actually iron oxide concretions, created by changes in chemical compositions within Navajo Sandstone during the weathering process (can you tell one of those 12 credits is Geology?).  They are also commonly called "sand bombs" due to the sand contained within the hard shell.  The name Moqui marble comes from the Hopi term Moqui (meaning "the dead"), as pertaining to the ancient Moqui Indians (Anasazi tribes) that inhabited the area.  As a kid I was told that the name came from the idea that these Indians played marbles with these natural marbles.  Enough for the geology lesson, the short story is I was fascinated with these rocks as a kids and can remember buckets full of them at people's houses around town.  Today however, with the designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument it is now illegal to collect these rocks.  Heck, it probably was when I was a kid anyway, we just didn't know it back then.  So after a fun while of hiking and playing with rocks in a massive sandbox, the kids returned their toys to the sand and we headed for home.  It was a perfect day, even if we only had a 2-point antler to show for it.

So, we will weather another storm this week it looks like, and another busy weekend to come.  Hopefully, we start to see more photos roll in for our shed photo contest once these guys decide to start to drop!  March and April will be fun no doubt!  We look forward to seeing your pics!