Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rock Pounding 2013

Six weeks he waited for this hot dog!
One of the greatest things we have done while homeschooling is to go rock hounding with Grandpa Don and Grandma Meredith.  Anticipation for this great event started soon after Christmas, with Puppy and Grandma making a special trip to the military surplus store for supplies.  I don't think Puppy quite understood that the trip wouldn't be until mid-February.

For about six weeks he would say things like, "Mom, can we talk for a little while?"

"Well sure, honey, what is it?"

"Let's talk about what we're going to to on the rock pounding trip." (You gotta love Puppy speak.  The way he talks is so pronounced my cousin calls it an accent.)

Then we'd have a long talk about what he wanted to bring and what he wanted to do on this two-night three-day trip.  We were so worried he would end up disappointed.  Thankfully our worries were unfounded.  We had a great time!

We headed out to Barstow Thursday night, so we could get a good start in the morning.  Good thing we did, because it was COLD and WINDY out there!  We spent as much time in the car trying to get warm as we did out looking for specimens.

Friday morning found us in Boron, California.  That's right, home of 20 Mule Team Borax.  Cloth-diapering, laundry-soap-making mamas everywhere will tout its usefulness.  I had no idea that borax was used in things like fiberglass, enamel glazes, and in forming compounds during medical lab tests.  Watching their operations, even from a distance, was awe-inspiring.  It is amazing to little ol' me that Heavenly Father gave us an earth full of treasure and the intelligence to know what to do with them.  Plus, the giant tire out front was a great playground.  Some of the children thought that was their favorite part of the trip.  You can see from Steve's face that we old folks were suffering, though!

Giant tires are fun for the whole family

My enthusiastic Puppy
 The afternoon found us out in the desert.  This is always my favorite part, as I love treasure hunting in the desert.  In all my days I never thought that I would love visiting the desert, but I do!  I don't think I would like living there--it would be too hard to garden, but our two rock-pounding trips have been some of the happiest days of my life.  When my whole family is out in the desert, I feel close to the majesty of God's creation.  The desert is not a gentle place.  Winter's winds are harsh and penetrating.  Summer is deadly hot.  But the power of creation is made manifest in the striations of geologic time-mapping made evident only through great physical force from underneath the earth's surface.  You are put in your place as a speck in history as it were.  I like knowing how small I am sometimes.  It eases the worry that I am not doing enough to make my mark.

My mountain goats at the top of the hill
As wild as the desert is, I feel very, very safe there.  We always go in the winter before the snakes are out--really there is so little wildlife it is eerie.  The children love to climb to the very tip-top of the hills we are exploring.  They are like little mountain goats!  They have no fear, and they just hop around easily.  I don't even feel like I need to follow them.  I can see them and they can see me.  I have always loved the mountains and the ocean, and pretty much dismissed the desert as being just plain ugly.  But here's the thing.  In the mountains, the kids can't go far because you can't see them, and it is easy to become lost.  I love the ocean, but now that I have children I find it terrifying.  It's just me against five crazy kids and the untamed sea.  (Steve hates the beach--too much sand--so is never anxious to go.)  But out there on the desert, EVERYONE is happy.  Even Steve, and even little Mike.  He's as much mountain goat as the rest of them!  And he loves to pick up rocks and try to rub in the shine.  He inspects each rock very carefully.  Steve will disappear up cliffs and around the side of the hill, then come back with all sorts of interesting finds.  All that arrowhead hunting as a kid has given him a great eye!  My great dream is to someday find a desert tortoise.

Ree Rock (That's what he always says when he finds one)

This reminded us of a Roman temple
The highlight of Friday evening was crazy Mike pretending to eat pizza from the mural on the ceiling of the pizza place in Barstow.  He can be a real goofball sometimes!

Rocky ground-no sweat!
Some of the rock formations were green
Saturday we headed into Rainbow Basin.  There is no collecting allowed, but the rock formations are so interesting.  There are supposedly fossils out there, but we aren't really experienced enough to find them.  There was some good exploring to do and we were able to stop at the campground for the much-anticipated hot dog BBQ.  Grandma and Pup had bought a little disposable charcoal grill that made terrific little hot dogs!  Grandpa Don is the best grandpa ever, and had bought a little pop-up tent that he was willing to put up (in high winds, mind you) for the whole HOUR that we spent picnicking.  Picnicking makes it sound very relaxing, but in reality we spent most of our time chasing our garbage so as not to leave the campsite in worse shape than we found.  We're good scouts in this family.  Puppy was happy.  Grandma and I sighed in relief.  The Pupster had not been disappointed!

Dad and Steve talk rocks
Mom is always laughing at how many kids I try to fit in the tub
Saturday afternoon we visited Calico Ghost Town.  Although the town itself is mostly touristy gift shops, they did have a little train ride that showed more of the outlying town.  We were able to peek into some of the dens (for lack of a better word!) that the miners would "live" in.  Basically they would find an outcropping of rock and then build stone walls around the outer edges to create a very primitive sort of shelter.   The way wind blows up there, I would take any kind of shelter.  I'm sure the rocks would stay fairly cool in summer, too.  We went down an old mine shaft that has been preserved, and I wanted to cry the whole time.  Once again I am glad there are people made of sterner stuff than I am!  Calico was surprisingly low-key about exploration, so the kids were able to practice their mountain goat skills (haha, get it?) some more.  I stayed at the bottom and hyperventilated.  We had quite a good dinner at the restaurant there, too.  My pulled pork sandwich was very good!

We came home Saturday night, ready for a full day of singing for ward conference.  The girls were all in the choir.  Singing "Beautiful Savior" with my children seemed a fitting end for a weekend filled with the wonder of God's creation.

Thank you Grandpa Don for helping us take these wonderful  trips.  I hope there are many more to come!  Grandma Meredith, I'm so glad you come and share your story-telling with the children.  We love you both so much!

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