We celebrated the Fourth of July by going for a hike at Reservoir Ridge Natural Area. These wild sunflowers made me smile as we climbed the long uphill trail.
Over Memorial Day Weekend, we drove through the Medicine Bow National Forest on our way to Saratoga, Wyoming. There was still a lot of snow left at the higher elevations of the forest, which was really refreshing after the warm weather we left at home in Fort Collins.
We stayed on the Saratoga border of the forest, at a small cabin at the Ten Mile Inn. We loved taking in the beautiful views around the cabin, and watching hummingbirds flitting around the inn.
Saratoga, Wyoming is a small town located in the Platte River valley between the Snowy Range and Sierra Madre Mountains. Downtown Saratoga is tiny but charming, reminiscent of a scene from a classic western movie.
One of the highlights of Saratoga is the hot spring pool, which has no charge for admission and is always open! The pool was very hot while we were there (a quiet Sunday morning), and a sign warned that the water temperature may exceed 104ºF.
There is also a smaller “Not So Hot Pool” next to the main pool, but that water felt similar in temperature to us. The hot spring pools are located by a small branch of the Platte River, which is nice for cooling off a bit between soaks in the hot spring pools.
The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya is a Buddhist monument to human kindness, located at the Shambhala Mountain Center in the northern Colorado Rockies. The journey there, and the Stupa itself, make for a beautiful day trip.
I visited friends in Charlotte, NC in late March. The weather was beautiful, so we went for a morning hike around Lake Wylie in McDowell Nature Center and Preserve.
In the afternoon, my friend gave me a brief walking tour of uptown Charlotte. We relaxed in a quiet literary-themed pocket park called The Green. I enjoyed the book sculptures and colorful mosaic stools.
Speaking of mosaics, the Firebird sculpture in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is a sparkling mosaic wonder, reflecting bits and pieces of everything around it.
We went to the Denver Zoo in early March, and were delighted to find out that an adorable two-day-old giraffe was making its zoo debut that day. We also enjoyed seeing several animals playing with the toys in their habitats, such as the elephant and hippopotamus below.
We watched some amazing big horn sheep and mountain goats climbing on Sheep Mountain, and Bear Mountain had two beautiful grizzly bears.
This is a great zoo with all kinds of animals, but the thing we were probably most surprised to see was a Lego lion sculpture, apparently by the same artist as the Lego sculptures we saw at the McKee Botanical Garden in Florida. These awesome Lego sculptures get around!
We visited the McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach in February. The first thing that we noticed and loved was the huge stick structures, which you can go inside.
The gardens currently have a special exhibit, Nature Connects: Art With LEGO Bricks. These super cool Lego sculptures will be in the gardens through May 7, 2017.
Our favorite Lego sculptures are shown above. The smallest of these sculptures, the “Pileated Woodpecker,” is made of 4,424 pieces. The largest, the “Monarch Butterfly On Milkweed,” contains 60,549 pieces and has an eight-foot wingspan! These Lego sculptures were so impressive, and the beautiful gardens were the perfect setting for enjoying them.
During our Florida mini-vacation we visited the Manatee Observation and Education Center in Fort Pierce. When we arrived, we appreciated the manatee artwork on a bench and on the walkway to the entrance.
Inside, there was an optional scavenger hunt for kids, to encourage them to observe the different types of fish inside the building. Our three-year-old loves this sort of challenge, and the possibility of earning a little prize. There were also a few fun crafty activities for kids, and a short movie about manatees and the observation center. The best part of visiting the observation center, of course, is the chance of seeing wild manatees in the creek behind the building. The observation center has beautiful views of the creek and Indian River Lagoon, and we were lucky enough to see three manatees relaxing in the creek!
Admission to the manatee center was only one dollar per person (!), so I highly recommend visiting if you are in the Fort Pierce area.
We went to Vero Beach, Florida in early February to visit my parents and enjoy some warm weather.
Besides the beautiful ocean, sandy beach, and warm pool we had access to, one of the highlights of Vero Beach for me was a little vegan snack shop called Planet Yum. We went there twice and enjoyed vegan soft serve ice cream and milkshakes (the chocolate chai milkshake topped with coconut cream was fantastic), gluten-free waffles, and handmade chocolatey popsicles. Can’t wait to go back!
It should come as no surprise that Loveland, Colorado, the “sweetheart city,” is really into Valentine’s Day. Around this time of year, there are charming red wooden hearts with personalized dedications posted on all of the light poles on the main street. And the Fire and Ice Festival is celebrated all over downtown Loveland on a weekend near Valentine’s Day. We enjoyed the festival’s great live music, carousel, carnival games, kettle corn, and of course, ice sculptures.
There was also an awesome community art project that came together throughout the festival. People painted individual smallish sections of a huge mural and the finished sections were mounted on the side of a building, creating a beautiful, funky image of Mona Lisa in Loveland. What a cool idea!