Sunday, August 16, 2015

Powell Gardens

Last weekend Grandpa Mike and Grandma Cindy visited and helped us settle into the new rental unit and work on a few projects. We were quite successful with the projects; the girls love their new play table downstairs, the house is quite cooler, we love having correct wiring so the ceiling fan works properly, and we upgraded the TV as a result. Between projects we played games and attended the Festival of Butterflies, our first visit to Powell Gardens.

The Lego exhibits throughout the gardens were AWESOME!!

The gardens were wonderful and the special attraction was the butterflies. Informative and entertaining exhibits were throughout the gardens and the girls enjoyed taking photos of as many butterflies as they could.

Blue Morpho Queen Giant Swallowtail

Monarch Pipevine Swallowtail
Blue Morpho, Queen, Giant Swallowtail, Monarch and Pipevine Swallowtail (Left to Right, Top then Bottom rows)

The Monarch Watch tent allowed the girls to touch caterpillars and they watched a Monarch Butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. The girls also played with arts and crafts, finding the air conditioned inside a relief from the outside heat.


I love how these pictures seemingly reveal their "natural" smiles.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park: Part 2

In between our ventures to higher alpine elevation along the Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain national Park we stayed in lower elevations for one day and hiked around Grand Lake and Kawuneeche Valley.

The girls picked up a junior ranger booklet and had many different activities to complete in order to receive a badge. We decided to take a hike towards the "Never Summer" Wilderness and Bowen Gulch.

The view to the north looked promising but the view south concerned us for rain. 

Overcast skies and mild weather was perfect for the walk and we spent most of the afternoon seeing only a handful of other people.

The girls worked hard to find the wildflowers in their booklet on our walk.

The junior ranger booklet was a challenge for all of us, as I know almost nothing about plants and trees.  The girls thought it was a good idea to take pictures of the items, in case we could find a ranger to identify the flowers for us.  Soon they were using my phone to document all they saw.




Sometimes my phone actually focuses ...... like narrow-leaf paintbrush top right.....


...... other times my phone ignores the desired items like the Colorado Columbine below.

The attention to flowers only lasted so long however, and Christine captured this photo below.  The girls belly laughed showing us their "flower" selfie.

 Dark-eyed Junco
Christine found this young Dark-eyed Junco about the same time as capturing the girls above.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park: Part 1

We were delayed Monday July 20th while traveling east on our way back to Kansas and unexpectedly stayed in Boise Idaho and let the girls swim at a hotel while the van's transmission fluid was changed. We had it changed the week before and the seal was faulty, resulting in a slow leak.  There were no residual effects of this problem however beyond the one day delay, and we were back on the road late afternoon the next day. With warm temperatures and our delayed travel we decided the last stop of the summer whirlwind trip would be Rocky Mountain National Park.

We pulled into Walden Colorado and found out it is claimed to be the Moose capital of Colorado. We saw this bull moose the next morning on our way to Rocky Mountain NP. We would see a handful of cow moose during our visit but this was the only bull.

This stop was not only Michaela and Danielle's first time in the park, it was also ours as well and we loved the views.  


The alpine views available from the hike almost offset the huffing and elevation sickness.

All our bellies hurt a bit after the high elevation hike, so we stayed lower in the park the second day which is described in the second post of the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The last day we ventured back to Trail Ridge Road and the Alpine. Shortly after leaving trees we found a traffic jam and found elk and bighorn sheep.  We parked the car down the road and waited for the bighorn sheep to walk toward us.

We spent the next half hour sitting along the road watching animals.

Bighorn Sheep

We sat back from these wild animals, but not everyone did. :(

There were a few small animals in the park as well.

Least chipmunk  
Least Chipmunk, Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, and American Pika were throughout the park.

The large animals animals were easier to find however.

Elk were everywhere but Bighorn Sheep were limited. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pacific City

Steve got stuck at the kids table with curds, poor lactose intolerance,
During our Oregon visit the entire clan packed two cars and visited Pacific City, Oregon for three days.

On our way we stopped at the Tillamook Cheese factory for lunch, ice cream, and the tour. We brought the girls here three years ago but they did not remember it. Deep fried cheese curds were the favorite of many, but Mulberry Pie ice cream was a close second. The four of us stopped for  Tillamook ice cream later the next week on our drive back east, finding that exact flavor!

We had daytrips to the beach all three days.

Flying kites is easier with strong constant winds. The dune in the back has people climbing it.

Climbing the sand dunes was a daily challenge for many, but one I did not directly complete as I wandered off a different dune in search of birds.
Going up is slow.
Coming down is much quicker.

While others were climbing the dune I scoped the ocean and Grandma Cindy buried Zach.


The second evening we were able to watch a humpback whale out near Haystack Rock.

The last day we went fishing, but were back earlier morning after getting seasick in the Dory boat. In the short time we were out we caught out limit of sea bass and came home with over 50 Dungeness Crabs. It took the entire family much of the day to clean and package the meat.

I would have loved to stay out longer not only to fish more but also to take pictures of the pelagic birds. Tufted Puffin, Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, and others were close enough to the boat no binoculars were needed. I had much of the second day to search for birds, so missing the pelagic birding opportunity the third day didn't sting much beyond the missed pictures. I added Cassin's Auklet and Brant to my life list looking at the ocean! Those birds, and birding the past week, will be described in the next blog post.

After packing up the rental house we stopped at the Tillamook Forest Center on our way back from the coast. The kids stuck behind with us for a short hike while we sent the adults back to be responsible and clean crab. The coastal stay was truly amazing!

A quick butterfly program, lunch and photo of every finished off the trip.

The rental house comfortably fit us all and had a couple of games there. Guesstures (charades) was clearly Danielle's favorite. Enjoy the videos below and switch to HD for the clearest picture.