Monday, May 30, 2011

A new Google Search feature

Nothing earth shattering, but convenient if you are traveling. Want to find out what the direct flights are between two cities? In Google Search, type "flights from xxx to yyy". The top entry will look something like this:

Flights from Salt Lake City, UT (SLC) to Baltimore, MD (BWI)

Non-stop flights:2–3 per day, 4h 16m duration
Airlines:Delta, Southwest
Valid through Jun 4
9:55 am4:04 pmSLC-BWI-M-WTFSDelta 1106
10:35 am4:42 pmSLC-BWIS------Delta 1106
11:10 am5:25 pmSLC-BWI------SSouthwest 546
2:05 pm8:20 pmSLC-BWIS------Southwest 2471
4:25 pm10:40 pmSLC-BWI-MTWTF-Southwest 820
4:55 pm11:08 pmSLC-BWI-MTWTF-Delta 1114
All flights from Salt Lake City - All flights to Baltimore

I think the most valuable feature is to instantly let you know which carriers have direct flights.

In playing around with clicking "All flights from Salt Lake City", it was great to see that Delta has a direct flight to Rapid City, SD but hasn't restarted the direct flights to Raleigh.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Our Memorial Day White Sale

Merry Memorial Day everybody! We have lots of white here in Park City and it's all on sale. In fact, you can have it. For free!

We woke this morning to three inches of snow and more is coming down. Hopefully it will melt as the day goes along. The good news is that Snowbird has announced that they will be open for skiing until the July 4th weekend.

And my question about what to do with all the aerator plugs? Doesn't much matter right now.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The search for healthy foods

I'm not the healthiest eater on the planet, but I do OK. Not much in the way of sweets, junk food, white trash carbs, or soft drinks. Every once in a while I read an article that gets me thinking a bit more. The latest was in Julie's Cooking Light, suggesting that everyone really focus on cutting back on salt.

We get most of our salt through processed foods, rather than something we add in cooking or at the table. So, I took a wandered around the kitchen, exploring all the food I had consumed. I learned some interesting things:
  • My oatmeal is sodium free
  • The milk I put in my oatmeal has quite a bit of naturally occurring sodium.
  • The rest of my oatmeal ingredients were sodium free (flax seed, raisins, cinnamon, and walnuts)
So, my normal breakfast is very low in sodium. The lunch I had just eaten wasn't as good.
  • A banana, no problem
  • The whole grain chips we buy at Costco were surprisingly low in sodium. I thought they would be terrible. Good thing, as we tend to buy 5 big bags each trip to SLC.
  • The can of all-white chicken breast was terrible! It has half my day of sodium by itself.
Chips good? Chicken bad? Go figure.

Off to the grocery store. I am on a weight loss cycle, to compensate for my apparent winter slumber. When I exercise hard and try to lose weight, I snarf lots of protein. At the store, I grabbed a nice can of healthy, organic black beans.

Then I read the nutritional info. One can of beans (not re-fried) was as bad as my chicken. You literally had half your days salt. Who is packaging this stuff and what have we done to our taste buds? I wonder how much remains if you rinse the beans really well.

Then I found something that appeared to be at the other end of the spectrum. One of the Kashi cereals listed 13 grams of protein per serving and 10 grams of fiber. My God! That's incredible for cereal. How do they do it?

Then I saw the ingredients, which they kindly put on the front of the box: "Naturally Sweetened Fiber Twigs". Yuck! I'm pretty sure I could get a lot of fiber in my diet if I hung out with beavers.

So, I continue my search for those rare healthy, but tasty foods.

Oh, one more surprise. The can of mixed nuts (again, from Costco) was bad for calories and fat, but surprisingly low in sodium, even though they are sold as "Salted". I checked another can of peanuts. I could eat several fistfuls of nuts and get less sodium than from a cup of organic milk. You just never know.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Little plugs

I knew I needed to aerate our lawn. It was compacted and I didn't want water running off. However, when you have such a small lawn, it is tough to justify renting a machine or hiring someone to come out. I got lucky this week. They were aerating the lawns around the condos and I offered a guy $20 to come do my yard. He was happy with $20 for 10 minutes work. I was happy having saved all the time and money.

Now I am left with all these little plugs. At first, I thought they were pretty interesting. You can see and feel how deep the grass roots went.

Then I realized the problem. There aren't hundreds of these, there are many thousands, even in a small yard. So what?

It turns out that Jasper goes to the bathroom in this very same back yard. Suddenly the challenge of picking up or just avoiding his dog poop grew ten-fold. In the picture above, can you tell which ones are grass plugs? Are you sure?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Sandhill Crane story continues and ends?

The Sandhill Crane family I have been photographing took an interesting twist this past weekend. A young boy in Park City came walking home with his newly found pet, a baby duck. The baby duck was actually a young crane. The neighbors called the police, who called the Division of Wildlife. They came and got the baby crane from the boy.

Do you try raising the crane? Nope. Simply take it to my crane family and see if they will adopt it. If you remember, a crane family normally has two babies but this family only had one. Apparently the adoption took and the parents were caring for both of young ones.

On Monday I went to take pictures of Junior and his new adopted sibling. No such luck. Everyone was gone. Mom, dad and both colts. I checked again on Tuesday and Wednesday and they seem to have packed up and headed for a better home.

A big thanks to the family for being so cooperative photographically. I wish I could watch the little ones grow up, at least a few more weeks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A double winner

This is the second one of these I have received this morning. Am I going to be rich or what? Thanks United Nations! Thanks for elevating poverty from my territory!

Just awarded you a Grant winner of $500,000.00 from UNDP Reply Email: United Nations has Donated $500,000.00 to you in order to elevate poverty from your territory. Your personal reference number (UNF/FBF-816-1119 G-900-94). This is to notify you that you have been chosen through your e-mail address By the Board of trustees of the above International (Charity & Human Developmental) Organization. Beneficiaries have been chosen from every UN Member Nation from all continents.The I.T.I.L Foundation, UK has been appointed to oversee this development affair.Beneficiaries have been chosen from every UN Member Nation from all continents. Contact For Claims via e-mail

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sandhill Cranes

If you have been following my blog, you know I was watching a Sandhill Crane nest, waiting for the chicks (called Colts) to hatch. It turned out there was only one, but I have spent a lot of time watching the family over the past two days.

Here's dad, making his call. It is loud and not all that pleasant.

Mom, with Junior about 3-4 hours after he hatched.

Fluffy little Junior. He kept standing and walking around. Then he would fall down and roll off the nest. Unlike worried, over-protective human parents, they would just wait for him to drag his unhappy butt back onto the nest.

He desperately wanted to climb onto mom's back, but it wasn't until day 2 that he had enough strength and coordination.

This was the first I saw Junior getting fed. Not sure what the food was.

When he wanted to be with mom, he was quite the hugger.

A little game of Where's Junior?

The relationship between the parents and the colt was interesting to watch. They were ever-observant and always protective. However, most of the time they seemed to let him do whatever he felt up to.

I was stunned to see that late on his first day, little Junior was out swimming in the 33 degree water. He got about 30-40 feet from the nest, but was never further than four feet from one of the two parents.

Mom had been off feeding while dad watch Junior on the nest. When she flew in, you got an impression of just how big their wingspan is.

On the morning of day 2, they were venturing a good bit further from the nest. Here's mom watching Junior in the bottom right. They are about 100 yards from the nest.

Then dad flew back in from his brunch. They each seem quite happy taking their shifts with Junior while the other goes off to feed. I couldn't tell any real difference in how the two parents cared for the colt.

It's been fun getting to watch this happen, especially from such a close distance. I'll keep stopping by as long as they hang out in the same general area. I can't imagine ever getting another opportunity like this to photograph these birds.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A wonderful day in the neighborhood!

First, it was sunny and 60 today! No snow! No rain! It was almost like spring!

Then I went down to check on my crane family. Sometime this morning, a little chick hatched. It turns out there was only one egg in the nest instead of the normal pair. I spent way too much time shooting photos, and it will take me forever to sort through them all, so I just put up a quick one. This is Junior with Dad.

Not only did I get to meet little Junior, I got to meet Bill and Loris Benson's newest resident: a Yellow Bellied Marmot. I haven't met a lot of marmots in my time, but this one has to be right up there for the laziest. He just hangs out on their retaining wall, soaking up the sunshine. I guess after four days of snow in May, I can't blame him. If you haven't seen a marmot before, imagine the offspring of a squirrel with a woodchuck or a beaver.

More pictures as I sort through them.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day 272 of winter....

OK, maybe it really isn't day 272, but it is day 4 of our recent snowstorm. In theory, it should be the last one in this batch. At this point, I will believe it if I see it.

Good thing I got the cushions out and put them on the lounge chairs. Hate to miss out catching some rays.

This is looking at the trees behind our house. What you can't see is the fox that ducked into the trees about 3 seconds before I took this. I was hoping he would pop back out, but I didn't see him again.

As I drove down the hill to go do my CrossFit workout, the change was dramatic. At our house (7400 feet) there was nothing but snow. Two miles away, at the city park (7000 feet) there was mostly slush. Three miles further, the White Barn (6800 feet) had nothing but rain. From 6 inches of white to green grass in only 5 miles.

However, even with the rain I am worried about my crane. No signs of little ones hatching yet, and the 33 degree water just keeps on rising.

This area normally has a 4 foot wide creek and some marshy area around it. The snow melt from the mountains and the precipitation are mixing to cause some minor flooding. I hope they built that nest with some flotation!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Basketball recruiting

NC State has a new basketball coach, so I have been paying a bit more attention to recruiting. After only a few weeks on the job, he signed one excellent recruit for 2012. I was poking around a recruiting site and saw Kentucky's incoming class for this year. They have signed the:
  1. Number 1 point guard in the country
  2. Number 1 small forward
  3. Number 1 power forward
  4. Number 2 center
That just doesn't seem fair. Even Duke's recruiting is bad by comparison. Check out the list. I guess that crappy center will have a lot to prove, being second best and everything.

What would you expect for May 19th?

The past three mornings, we have woken up, glanced out the windows and groaned. It is just hard to imagine it keeps snowing. This morning was the worst. The roads and driveways have spent all their stored up sunshine and now a lot of the snow is hanging around. I decided it was time to stop fighting it.

Somewhere up in that snowy cloud is Deer Valley, and it was time to break out the winter gear and go snowshoeing with my sidekick Jasper.

While the snow at our house was constantly in an epic battle between melting and piling on more, higher elevations had no such fight. The snow had already won.

Snowbird is the only Utah resort still open for skiing, and only on weekends. They have gotten over 30" this week and it is still snowing. They may not open tomorrow as planned because of too much snow. Their mid-mountain base is 182".

And no one on the planet was happier about that than Jasper. After watching him for about 30 seconds, one of the Deer Valley employees said "Man, he really loves the snow, doesn't he." Pretty damn obvious.

We hiked from Silver Lake up to Cushing's Cabin. I was very disappointed to find it closed. A cup of hot chocolate would have been really good with the blowing snow.

A lot of the people who ski DV lust after the big houses up in the Red Cloud subdivision, right on the slopes. Perhaps it is nice for ski-in, ski-out in winter, but how will spring and summer fair, driving 15 minutes up the hill to find this? Don't think they will be planting their tomatoes anytime soon.

Jasper took the lead most of the time, getting first tracks all the way. If you double-click on the picture, you can see from his tracks that he is getting some nice turns. I'm a proud ski father.

I was going to hand the camera to someone else and ask them to take a shot. Then I remembered that there wasn't anyone for miles around. Self portrait.

And we end with some humor. This is the sign where we parked. The only reason it wasn't piled in snow is that it was under a roof.

On the way over to DV, I heard a radio ad for golf lessons. On the way back, I heard a reminder that PCMR starts it summer rides (including mountain biking) in about a week.

The good news is that the chance of snow drops to 90% tomorrow. Yeah!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some days it sucks to be a crane

After a few wonderful days in the high 60s and low 70s, it is snowing here again and will on and off all week. Quite frankly, it is driving us all nuts.

At least we don't have to sit out on a nest keeping the eggs warm. I paid a quick visit to my Sandhill Crane nest and took a shot or two. What dedication. Then again, I guess the bloodlines of the ones who weren't terribly dedicated ended long ago. Darwin at work.


There is another crane nest in town that has gotten some interest. It is located in the Swaner Nature Preserve. Some people who live close by have set up a long distance "nest cam". You can watch them do their crane things, which yesterday included the eggs hatching. The picture quality is poor today because it is shooting a long distance through a snowstorm.

I haven't seen the chicks yet, but occasionally they have come out to play. Tough first day. Should have waited to be born next week.

This gives me some hope that the nest I am photographing may have chicks soon!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Today's blurry picture

Can you guess what this is?

It is a butt-view of this red winged black bird flying away faster than I could focus.

Just seemed like a cool picture when I pulled it off the camera.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sandhill Crane

I recently found this Sandhill Crane sitting on her nest.

My goal over the next few weeks is to get some good photos (without disturbing her). Hopefully I can get some as she hatches and raises here chicks. I haven't seen the nest without her in it, so I have no idea how many eggs are there.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Snow Canyon in St George

The last step in our trip through southern Utah was St George. We stayed at a very nice spa/resort, the Red Mountain Spa. One of the best features of the resort was its proximity to Snow Canyon State Park. This park is about 6 miles long and is full of trails, both single track and paved.

When we were there, it felt like we had the park to ourselves. We did a 6 mile hike and probably ran across six or eight other people.

Like so much of southern Utah, the scenery is all about the rock. Red, yellow, orange, pink, and white, all mixed together in layers. Here you can see Julie hiking on the appropriately named White Rocks Trail.

There were a number of different cacti growing in the park. Some were blooming in pretty pinks and yellows, but these were my favorites. You wouldn't want to fall into one.

When you got into the white rock and the sun went behind the clouds, you lost all the color. No problem, just start looking for texture.

This is the view from just outside our hotel room, looking back towards the state park at sunset. In addition to the glowing red rock, you can see lots of black lava rock in the field. There were active volcanoes around the park as recently as 10,000 years ago. You can actually climb down into some of the old lava tubes that run through the park.

Snow Canyon is a wonderful little park. To see the best colors, go sometime close to sunrise. Most of the big, colorful walls get morning sun and afternoon shade.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Zion National Park

This makes more sense if you first read the Bryce entry below. Blogs always seem a bit broke if you have one event spread over multiple days.

After two very nice days in Bryce Canyon, we took off for Zion National Park, about two hours to the east. When we arrived, it had clouded up and looked like it might rain soon. The bad part was the howling wind, gusting up around 40 mph. So much for hiking.

Fortunately we have found a wonderful hotel to stay in when visiting Zion. We visit the Cable Mountain Lodge in Springdale. It is a very nice, comfortable, spacious place to stay and is a two minute walk from the entrance to the park.

The Virgin River runs through the park and right behind our hotel. After a night of heavy rain, it had transformed from a swift current to standing waves and big rapids. I was glad to see the water still had a ways to go before filling our parking lot.

Another day of no hiking. We decided to head to St George where the weather was supposed to be better.

Since we stayed at the Cable Mountain Lodge a year or two ago, they added some new high tech toilet seats. Here is the remote. Yes, this is the remote for the toilet seat. I was a little uncomfortable sitting on a toilet seat that was plumbed and had an electrical cord. I was going to take pictures of the auto-bidet in action, but I never could get our to work.

The timeline gets a little confusing, but a few days later, we drove the hour back to do some hiking in Zion. We will keep the organization by park instead of time.

This day brought gorgeous weather. It was sunny and warming into the mid 70's.

One thing you lose in photographing Zion is the scale. This picture looks up at a sheer rock wall. Hard to tell that it is about 3,000 feet high.

Our big hike for the day was up to Angel's Landing. This hike is about 5 miles round trip and is one of the more interesting mixes of hiking you could put under one name. It starts with a 2 mile walk up about 1,000 feet of vertical. We were expecting a decent trail. Instead we got a concrete sidewalk. Some poor guy was building a concrete sidewalk two miles and 1000 feet up from the nearest road. Have you ever seen how heavy a small bag of concrete is?

When we get to Scout Lookout, they actually had a pair of outhouses. I can only imagine the conversation between the manager and the workers. "You want me to build what? Way up there?"

From here, the last half mile got very interesting. Instead of a nice paved sidewalk, you had a trail that wandered along the narrow edge of a long, steep ridge, with thousand foot sheer drop-offs on both sides. They lose about one person each year to falls. At least you don't hit much on the way down.

There were big metal chains bolted into the rock for you to hold on to, but if you had any fear of heights, this could be a miserable experience. Julie and I both ventured part of the way, to a nice overlook. Julie stayed there while I went on to the top.

It was a game of attrition. The further you went up, the harrier it got, and more people decided that they had ventured far enough.

This is a view from part of the way up the last climb. If you double-click on the image, you can see two small buildings. Those are the outhouses we just left.

And if you get to the top of Angel's Landing, here is the view you get. It's pretty spectacular, but I was bummed that it had gotten cloudy. Of course, 30 minutes later, heading back down the hill, the sun was out in all its brilliance.

Chipmunks and squirrels are everywhere in the park system. Even when people don't feed them intentionally, there is nothing like a stiff breeze blowing a half full bag of potato chips down the hill. None of these animals looked like they had just struggled through a long snowy winter.

For our last hike in Zion, we walked down towards the mouth of the Narrows. In drier weather, you can walk up the Virgin River through a 16 mile slot canyon. With the river running so hard, the Narrows were closed.

There is a little beach area at the mouth and several people had decided to decorate it with rock art. They built carefully balanced Zen-cairns out of rounded river rock.

We got robbed of our first day exploring Zion because of the high winds and rain. We were very glad we did the one hour drive back from St George to get a good day of hiking in. The cliffs and canyons of Zion are amazing.