Blackbutt Reserve…

Before you go getting any ideas, blackbutt is an Australian tree in the eucalyptus family. The Blackbutt Reserve, in Newcastle, is more than a park and not really a zoo. It’s a reserve providing a home to many Australian animals. And trees :-).

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This duck was the first critter I noticed. Does it look to you like he’s trying not to own that pile next to him?

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The high point was seeing the wombats (Catherine’s favorite animal) being fed. They are nocturnal but the reserve feeds them in the morning so that people can see them before they go to bed. This is Sally, 3 years old.

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And this is Clyde, who is 15. They live in different enclosures, side by side, because they are solitary animals. It appears to work for them very well.

 

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The koalas were sleeping. Very soundly.

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The kangaroos seemed thoughtful, as if they were plotting an escape.

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My favorites were the very pretty male Gouldian finches. The females were nice, but not as showy. And none posed for me.

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This fine fellow posed and posed.

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The rain started as we left. Excellent timing!

Storm King Art Center

On Friday, after Thanksgiving, we went on a road trip to the Storm King Art Center. It is an hour’s drive from the city. Jeff drove, Celia navigated, and Steve and I enjoyed looking out the windows :-).

The 500-acre grounds are perfectly designed to house large-scale modern sculpture. We spent hours walking the site and enjoying a perfect day.

The trees and grasses are perfect accents to the sculpture. And sometimes people are the perfect accent!

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The mirrored picket fence was unassuming from a distance but great fun up close, and low.

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My favorite was Andy Goldsworthy’s Wall, behind us, below.

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This trip was Celia’s idea. She has some really great ideas!

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We flew home yesterday. And even though it is always good to be home, we both miss the kids. Luckily, we have been invited to return next Thanksgiving!

Hiking Wheeler Peak…

Note: You may have read this post way too early. WordPress hiccuped and I couldn’t fix it. But here it is, in the intended order of posting.

We talked to a local who said that if we started our hike early, we ought to miss the storm that was forecast at Wheeler Peak so Chris, Steve, and I were out the door by 5:00 AM on our last vacation day. Lorna opted to stay back with the kids on their last day in Red River. She and her mom took them on a 4-wheel excursion up the mountain.

We parked the car at Taos Ski Valley (altitude 9439′) and started up the Bull of the Woods trail. This is longer, slightly easier, scenic route to the top, but it’s uphill all the way. It is 2.1 miles to this meadow.

We still have 5 1/2 miles to go to reach the peak. Oh my. This sign got my attention. If you ski, you know that a black diamond means ‘expert’. It may not mean that for this hike, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

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Some parts were only a little uphill, more were really uphill, and there were a few disheartening spots where we went downhill and then had to climb back up. Deep sighs all round.

We walked across snow a few times…

Honestly, our lungs were killing us. As we got higher, we stopped to breathe every 100 steps.

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You reach the 2nd highest point before the you get to the actual peak. And then you hike down a while before turning back up. It was harder than it looked like it would be but we did it. Wheeler Peak, altitude 13, 159′

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The views were amazing!

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This is Chris standing way closer to the edge than Lorna would have been able to tolerate…

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We took the short, steep way down. The first part were switchbacks over a huge granite talus field. I was happy to have on knee braces and to have a real trekking pole because this was the scariest part of the whole hike. No photos, I was focused on not falling.

The last part of this trail intersects with the downhill part of the Williams Lake trail that we had hiked earlier in the week. We went back to the Bavarian Restaurant to celebrate reaching the peak and hiking 11 1/2 miles with more Andechs beer. As we sat there, the rain finally came. Life is good :-).

 

 

More Mountain Hiking!

Steve, Chris, Lorna, and I had planned to hike up Wheeler Peak (the highest spot in New Mexico) 2 days before the end of our trip. Unfortunately, the weather changed and thunderstorms were in the forecast. We could have maybe stood being wet, but not being fried by lightening. Instead, Steve and I hiked the Pioneer trail in Red River.

Pioneer Trail – Easy – 3 miles one way: Next to the Ski Area, this trail built by miners in the gold rush days, begins where Pioneer Road ends. You just might find an old claim as you explore this one.

OK. This is another one of those trails that is all uphill until you’ve had enough and turn around. Who decides what an easy trail is in New Mexico? But it was pretty, and it didn’t rain.

But it had rained the night before. The farther we went, the more water we found. There were 4 places where we either had to wade across or find another route.

In all cases, we opted to go around. Others had gone before us so it was easy to find a way across the streams and get back to the path.

People in 4-wheelers passed us going and coming.

The farther we went, the wetter the path got until it was more stream than path.

We gave up 3 1/2 miles in. Downhill was going to be hard without poles so Steve pulled out his trusty Swiss Army knife and cut us each one. I was both impressed and thankful.

It was a very nice hike and we were happy to have done it, but sorry to not have hiked Wheeler Peak. More on that next post.

 

Mountain hiking…

Our home in Sherman, TX, is 735′ feet above sea level. Red River is at 8671′. We were nearly 8000′ feet higher than normal and my lungs knew it. After taking 2 days to acclimate, we went on our first hike to Williams Lake. The trail begins at the Taos Ski Valley and is nearly 4 miles round trip. You start at 10,191′ and climb about 1000′ to the lake.

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This is supposed to be an easy hike and, in comparison to the next 2, it was. But walking uphill at that altitude is hard work! The kids were not mentally prepared and there was (gasp) a fair bit of whining.

Lorna took the Tula (a kid carrier) and she (mostly) and Chris (some) carried Bear most of the way.

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Bear is tall and weighs 40 lbs. I’m not sure how they did it.

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Jack embraced the challenge about a mile in.

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I always wonder, when I’m hiking, why I am doing it. My lungs were not happy when going uphill and my knees are not happy when I’m going downhill. What is the point? Well, one reason I hike is for the scenery:

The other reason I go on strenuous hikes is to prove that I can still do it!

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There is a Bavarian Restaurant at the end of this hike that serves traditional German food and Andechs beer on tap. Beer was the adult reward, the kids had sausage and lemonade :-).

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Red River, NM…

Sometimes you have to get away from your actual business to plan the future of that business. That is why I took my office manager (Lorna), web and social media consultant (Chris), shipping clerk (Elanor), and the man who does everything else that comes up (Steve) on a working vacation to Red River, NM. The boys (jack and Bear) had to come too because they couldn’t stay home alone and, besides, we love them :-).

Red River is a long day’s drive from Sherman. Lorna and I did a lot of talking on the way out and back. I made notes and took photos. The white van in front of me in most of these photos belongs to Chris and Lorna. It was a 2-car expedition.

The land is mostly flat from Sherman to the mountains. There are lumpy stretches (not really hills), and towns. There were trees in most of the towns but out on the prairie, not so much. The elevation rose as we drove west.

I didn’t get good photos of the mountains from the car on the way to Red River because the light was wrong. And I missed some lovely photos when I was driving. It’s better to be safe than wrecked, right?

We took a more scenic route on the way home, through Tucumcari and Las Vegas, NM. The mountains in Red River quickly gave way to plateaus. The trees gave way to scrubbier plants.

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And then it got flat again, all the way home, which is one reason why we who live on the prairie go to the mountains :-).

I do love being able to see off into the distance, and I love how big the sky is over flat land, but it’s not for everyone. I’ll share more photos of the trip, with mountains and people, later this week.

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Desert views…

Linda and Paul live outside of Buckeye, AZ, and the landscape is beautiful in a flat, dry, desert-y sort of way. The colors are intense and the sky is so big! I like the look of power lines running off into the far distance in the photo below.

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Sun City Festival, the community where Linda and Paul live, is planted with mostly native plants that don’t require a lot of water and can tolerate the heat. I’ve been walking this path in the morning.

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I had forgotten how green the bark is on a Palo Verde tree. They make me happy, especially against a blue sky.

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There are palm trees, but only where they get water.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in such an open place. It feels good, more relaxed, but maybe that’s because I’m on vacation with my best friend :-).