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Tag: natural history (page 1 of 2)

family fun and fermi

Earlier this summer, we spent the day at Fermilab National Laboratory with some friends enjoying their annual “Family Outdoor Fair.” It was good fun. We scooped for pond life, netted for prairie insects, took and examined soil samples, observed an amazing menagerie of raptors, tested a falconer’s tracking device, saw a collection of fossils, tried our running speed against that of an American buffalo, observed an actual herd of bison, and a lot more. All in all, not bad for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. Check out the photos.

the petrifed forest, where the wood is stonier

Well, we’ve been busy (and a little lazy, which is what vacations are all about, right?). Since we arrived in Sedona, AZ last Thursday night, we’ve spent much of our time just hanging out around the house. It’s a nice place–much nicer than the house in Santa Fe–but not quite as remote or private. The bed is much more comfortable, I can say that, which has made a big difference in terms of rest and relaxation. Like I said, we’ve been sticking close to the house for the most part–enjoying time on the deck, barbecuing, reading and writing.

We did venture out on the fourth to Flagstaff to catch some fireworks–apparently the first in several years due to fire hazards. Aidan had a good time, sitting on the roof of the Jeep watching the show from the BestBuy parking lot–not exactly an idyllic spot in the park, but I think “Fire Safe Fireworks” means over pavement. The hum and glow of the mercury vapor lamps in the parking lot didn’t seem to bother Aidan any. He’s a good sport (most of the time).

Yesterday, we hiked into the nearby Coconino National Forest and hiked a 2.6 out-and-back trail up to Crystal Point. It was a beautiful trail through the woods and up the side of a red-rock mountain. It wasn’t too easy, though, as the trail was strewn with red volcanic rocks and boulders. Plus, Aidan was getting rather tired half way up the mountain. He made it, though–out and back–with just a few scrapes, a few tears, and a little whining. In the end, he said he was really glad he did it, and he was excited to have the opportunity to sign the logbook stowed at the summit. He’s a trooper.

Oh, I forgot to mention, last Thursday, before arriving here in Munds Park, where we are staying now, we made a little side trip through the National Petrified Forest. It was quite something–a barren but beautiful landscape strewn with the fossilized remains of an ancient forest 225 million years old. Some of the logs, long ago washed across the prehistoric flood plain, look like they could have fallen last week. Closer examination reveals that they have turned to stone and crystal over the course of eons. We drove through the portion of the park known as “The Painted Desert,” stopping along the way to take some photos, and then spent a good portion of our time in floodplains of the Rainbow Forest that I described above. We also spotted a couple Pronghorn antelope grazing near the road. It was a good time. Check out some of the photos below.

Oh, I can’t forget to mention that Aidan earned a Junior Ranger badge while visiting the Petrified National Forest. He completed a series of activities for his age range, talked with the ranger, raised his right hand, and took his ranger oath. He even repeated the oath word for word after the ranger (which is a big deal for Aidan, as he becomes quite reserved around people he doesn’t know). Note one of the photos in the collection above where he is holding his badge and raising his hand. (That one was posed for the camera.) More later.

santa fe adventures

We’ve been quite busy the past couple days hanging out in the greater Santa Fe area. Today is the first day we’ve really just hung around the house, venturing out only for dinner and a walk through the downtown area.

The past three days, though, have been filled with adventure. On Wednesday we visited El Rancho De Las Golondrinas (The Ranch of the Swallows). This place is rich in history. It dates back to 1710 and A mountain grave yard  Mountain Gravescomprises buildings and artifacts that range over a 250 year span. The historic records indicate that this site was the last encampment before reaching Santa Fe after the long trip on horseback from far away Mexico City. It is here where Mexican and Native American culture mixed, contributing much to the culture of New Mexico today.

Thursday we took a drive to the Randall Davey Audubon Center to do some hiking and get in a little birding. This wildlife refuge covering 135 acres at the mouth of Santa Fe Canyon is the home of over a hundred species of birds, 120 plants, and a wide variety of mammals. We hiked along the mile-long loop trail and thought we had scared all the birds away, as we saw very few. (I’m sure it had little to do with our louder-than-most five-year-old.) We did observe some beautiful views, though, an amazing dragonfly up close, an interesting array Dragon  A Patient Dragonof cacti, and more beautiful rocks than you can imagine. (We were walking all over them.) Just as we were about to leave, we noticed a small garden through an archway and beyond the restrooms of the visitors’ center. Apparently, this was where all the birds were hanging out. We saw a bunch of hummingbirds (which was cool for me, because I had only seen one once before in my life.) I snapped a bunch of pictures, but they are fast little buggers, that’s for sure. The Audubon Center proved to be a nice little escape–and just a short drive from downtown Santa Fe.

Friday we ventured out a little further and made the hour-long drive to Bandelier National Monument to Hummingbird  Hummingbirdhike and visit the ruins of the ancient cliff-dwelling ancestral Puebloan culture. This was amazing. We climbed amongst and even into wonderfully preserved cave homes dating back between 1100 and 1550 AD. On the way to Bandalier, we stopped at a White Rock Overlook, just off state highway 4. Nestled within an otherwise typical suburban neighborhood, we found a small park with stunning views of the Rio Grande River Valley and faraway red mesas dotted black with distant Junipers and Ponderosa pines.. On the way back, we pulled off highway 285/84 to snap a couple photos of “Camel Rock.” It really looks like a camel.

We took so many photos over the past three days, it’s difficult to share them all here. To give a little better taste, I’ve assembled some of the highlights below in this quick slide show.

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