Every now and then I get this wild and crazy idea to do something wild and crazy. Now, I’m not talking about bungee jumping off a bridge above a wilderness New Zealand river canyon, or heli-skiing down a remote peak in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska, or sky–diving out of a plane above the Tibetan Plateau and parachuting into some unsuspecting yak herder’s living room. What I’m talking about here is going out into a sub–freezing January morning to hang with a group of birders from the St. George, Utah Winter Bird Festival.
Winter weather in southern Utah is hard to beat. That’s why snowbirds flock here by the gaggle. It rarely snows in the lower elevations around St. George, and if flurries happen to fall they melt by noon. You can golf (you, not me) in the morning and drive an hour away to ski in the afternoon. Hiking and biking opportunities are practically endless.
That said, southern Utah is not perfect. There is no beach. California is close enough, but there is another particular stretch of coastline I find worth the effort to get to, where you can wiggle your toes in the sand and soak up some spf–4 winter sun. It’s been called the Redneck Riviera of the Gulf Coast. I’m talking about the Florida Panhandle.
|Fort Walton Beach, Florida|
It can’t be helped. During the winter I find myself drawn to all sorts of hidden corners of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. If you have ever been to southern Utah you will understand why.
|Yellow Knolls In the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve|
Besides watching for rocks everywhere, I also like to watch for anything else that might catch my eye. People–watching is always fun, and I am forever on the lookout for interesting architecture. In particular, though, I like to watch for birds. Sibley’s Guide to Birds is second only to Glossary of Geology for the most–referenced book on my shelf.
Since there are so many unique destinations in the world, and so many intriguing places to visit, why on earth would anyone want to return to anywhere?
If you have ever visited Moonstone Beach, California, you would know the answer to this question.
|Moonstone Beach, California|
If it weren’t for the Hurricane Canal, the southwestern Utah town of Hurricane would not exist. Begun in 1893 the canal was constructed to take water from the upper reaches of the Virgin River near present–day Zion National Park and deliver it to the early Mormon settlement of Hurricane. With a keen eye, hikers and mountains bikers today can discover ancient fossils and historic artifacts while walking or pedaling the pathway of the original pioneers who created this engineering marvel.
|Virgin River and Hurricane Canal from rim trail|
You just never know what you’ll discover when you walk in to the Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm in St. George, Utah. I volunteer at the museum lab there in the winter, and have occasionally written about fun with the Farm (such as hereandhere). Usually I just walk directly back to the lab, bypassing the extensive display of trackways. But one day a few weeks ago I decided to spend some quality time walking around and investigating the exhibits. Hey, I’m a volunteer. I can do whatever I want!