Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School trip to "the Alum Mine"

A few miles west of Cedar Ridge, namesake of Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School, there is another ridge. This other ridge is known to local residents as "the Blue Hill", and some of them know that part way up the ridge, a hole was dug into the side of the slope for the purpose of mining alum. Cedar Ridge Academy's science teacher, Chad, first visited "the Alum Mine" as a young Boy Scout, and has visited the site many times since then - with family, as a scoutmaster with his own troop of  Boy Scouts, and with students. Recently he took a group of co-ed students from Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding school to "the Alum Mine" where they not only explored, but got a chance to practice their Karate moves! (Shotokan Karate is taught to all students at Cedar Ridge Academy.)

Co-ed students from Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding school hiking

The trip starts on relatively level terrain, in a mix of Utah Junipers (known locally as "cedars"), sagebrush, and other high desert plants. The students and staff hiked into a draw where the trail quickly got steeper. They scrambled up over the rocks, and then hiked up a bare slope made of clay. From the top of this slope, the group could see an opening into the hillside. They hurried over to peer into the hole. As they looked into the dark passageway, one of the boys yelled "boo" - and got the desired response from his startled peers.

Armed with a little LED light, Chad and his students made their way into the mine. They had to crouch to get through the opening, but once inside, most of the  group could stand upright.

Co-ed students from Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School visit small mine

The mine isn't very deep - just enough to give the group an adventurous feeling. Toward the back of the mine there's a shelf in the rock with numerous little juniper twigs and other material piled on it to form a nest. This indicates that a pack rat is in residence (the official name of the species is Desert Wood Rat). Chad once saw one in the mine when he was there with boy scouts. The idea of seeing a Norway rat (the kind that roams back alleys in cities) strikes fear in Chad's heart, but seeing a wood rat has the opposite effect - since these rats are actually cute. They have big eyes, rounded ears and are colored similarly to a gerbil.

While the group looked at white streaks in the mine, Chad explained that they are veins of alum - a white powdery material that has historically been used in making pickles (it helps keep the cucumbers crisp). The powder has a sour taste.

Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School co-ed students hiking in Utah

After leaving the mine, the group hiked up the slope, then traveled along below some cliffs. While hiking below the cliffs they found several snake skins - five in all. They also saw a snake (Chad didn't see it, but from the description it sounded like a Racer).

At the top of a knoll the students paused to perform a Karate kata in the outdoor air.  They then hiked back down to the vehicle and headed for the campus, tired, but refreshed by their outdoor adventure!

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