After our day in Arches National Park, we decided to push our luck with our five-year-old daughter by spending another day hiking in the heat and admiring rocks. Canyonlands is a huge national park, so we only saw a small section of it, called the Island in the Sky. Below is the view as you enter the Island in the Sky – spectacular!
We enjoyed a short hike to Mesa Arch, admiring the blooming prickly pear cacti along the way. Mesa Arch may very well be one of the most amazing natural sights I’ve ever seen. A huge arch like this, formed along the edge of such a canyon, can only be described as incredible.
We also went on a slightly longer hike to overlook Upheaval Dome, a meteorite impact crater. It is difficult to appreciate the scale and scope of many of the views at Canyonlands through photos; Upheaval Dome is about 5 km in diameter.
After the Upheaval Dome hike, our daughter was just about done with hikes to see more rocks. We stopped to enjoy a few more amazing views along the road, and then headed to Moab for some well-earned shave ice.
After concluding our work in Quito, we traveled by bus for a brief tourist visit to the Cotopaxi area. Much of the two hour drive was on a rough cobblestone road, through beautiful farm country.
We stayed at The Secret Garden Cotopaxi, a truly unique hostel/paradise overlooking several volcanoes. Gorgeous flowers and adorable llamas abound. When we arrived, we learned that a baby llama had been born there just that day!
After settling in and having a delicious chickpea and rice lunch, most of our group headed out for a guided waterfall hike. We divided into two groups: the “fun/hard” hike (mostly hiking through a small river to the waterfalls) and the “easy” hike (mostly hiking on land to the waterfalls). I of course opted for the “easy” hike, which honestly wasn’t that easy for me. We still had to hike through part of the river, and there was some steep and slippery hiking on land. With the altitude, all of this was rather challenging for me, but the experience was awesome.
All meals are included when you stay at the Secret Garden, and nearly everything is vegetarian and grown in their substantial gardens. I failed to take any photos of my delicious meals and snacks, but the Secret Garden folks did an amazing job accommodating my vegan and gluten-free dietary restrictions.
On a cold winter New England day, a warm, humid butterfly house is just the place for me.
The Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens, in South Deerfield MA, is a great change of scenery and climate during the winter. You’ll find yourself immersed in beautiful flowers and greenery, with butterflies flitting all around you (and sometimes even landing on you).
In the main butterfly room you’ll also see uncaged birds (including a hummingbird and parrot), a tortoise in a large open pen, and a small koi pond. An adjoining room contains numerous terrariums housing many species of amphibians, reptiles, and insects.
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.
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 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.
We went camping in Colorado State Forest State Park for a weekend in early July. Almost as soon as we turned onto the dirt road that would take us to the North Michigan Reservoir camping area, we saw a tiny baby deer in the road, followed soon after by its mother. I can’t think of a better welcome to a park! As we got settled in our campsite, we had lots of hummingbird and chipmunk visitors. And when we walked down to the reservoir so the kids could throw some rocks in the water, we saw several fish jump up! The reservoir was very lovely, but swimming isn’t allowed. Maybe someday we’ll come back with a kayak or canoe to enjoy the water a little more!
As night approached, our neighbors told us that there was a fox that liked to check all of the campsites for snacks at night and in the early morning. Of course we were careful not to leave any food out overnight, and I heard some little fox-sized footsteps near our tent in the early morning. I also heard an owl, and a friend that we shared the campsite with thinks she heard a moose.
The next morning we took a nice kid-friendly hike around several beaver lodges.
We didn’t see any beavers or other people on the trail, but we saw so many beautiful wildflowers! The flowers along the trail were very fragrant as we hiked.
We had a great time, but this particular state park is well known for having lots of moose, and I hoped that by staying overnight we would have a good chance of spotting a few moose. We will just have to return another time to see some moose!