Aussie Animals

We had the opportunity to travel to Australia in February to visit Barry. What a trip and too much to tell in one post, so I wanted to start with the animals. A photo and a little about each animal, more to help me remember what all we saw than anything. Enjoy.

Kangaroo sighting with joey

It was such a treat to see a wild kangaroo. Then to see the joey poke his head out from the pouch definitely put this experience over the top! I spotted this kangaroo and joey on the way down the mountain from O’Reilly’s.

Koala

A rare moment of movement! Koalas are marsupials and eat eucalypt leaves. Eucalypt leaves are low in protein, high in indigestible substances and contain compounds that are toxic to most species. A zoo worker said it is similar in nutrients to eating cardboard. This is why koalas are usually either eating or sleeping. We got to pet koalas and the fur is thick and reminds me of wool.

Wombat

Wombats are marsupials that reminds me a bit of a groundhog.  They dig burrows and usually move slowly.  Although when threatened, the wombat can run up to 25 mph for up to 90 secs. So be mindful of these guys.

Cassowary

Talk about a rocking head piece. The cassowary is a flightless bird that reminds me of an ostrich, but with a horn-like casques on its head. It eats fruit and one theory of the casques is protection from falling fruit.

Wild cockatoo

I have only ever seen cockatoos at an aviary or in a cage, but these two are wild. Cockatoos are easily recognized by their showy crests (head feathers) and curved bills. And boy are they loud squawkers!

Laughing Kookaburra

You know this bird call when you hear it. Imagine an obnoxiously loud laugh and you’ve got the laughing kookaburra.

Looks like an owl, but it's not

This is a tawny frogmouth, a member of the nightjar family. The wide beak helps derive its name. A nocturnal bird that rests during the day in trees, keeping still and using camouflage to avoid detection.

Lorikeet

We saw several lorikeets in the wild. I use the term “wild” loosely. They know people have food. That is why this one landed on my hand. I just held my hand out like I had seed in it and he flew down to check things out.

Brush Turkey or Scrub Turkey

This guy is not related to the american turkey. We saw numerous brush turkey in the rainforest at O’Reilly’s of all places.

Noisy Miner

On our first sighting, we thought this was a pretty neat looking bird, and then we saw them everywhere and they quickly became unimpressive. The noisy miner is a common and aggressive bird.

Lyre Bird

This is not the best picture, but it is a lyre bird. We spotted him in the Blue Mountains. It reminded me of a road runner. The lyre bird has an amazing capacity to mimic other bird calls. I wonder how the lyre bird would compare with the mocking bird on various bird calls?

Crested Pigeon

I may be able to get over my distain for pigeons if we had the crested pigeon in the USA. The feather spike headdress is a fun look.

Dingo

Most notable to me about Australia’s free-roaming wild dog is that they look very much like my brother’s dog, Sydney. Is she part dingo? You decide.

Sydney
Echidna

Porcupine or anteater? A bit of both, this little guy, the echidna, is known as a spiny anteater and is an egg laying mammal.

Bilby

With transparent ears, a long tail, long snout and sharp claws, the bilby is a most unusual nocturnal animal. Bilbies are great at burrowing, making elaborate systems of tunnels in the wild.

Creepy Australian Spider

I have no idea what kind of spider this is, but we saw TONS of them at the Sydney Harbour National Park. The idea of running into a spider’s web makes my heart race, so I kept my eyes peeled for these guys once we saw several. I attempted to identify him using the trusty Google, but quickly had my fill of looking at spiders and am comfortable simply calling him the creepy australian spider we saw too many of!

Goanna Lizard

This goanna was spotted at a park near Noosa. He was just wandering around. Take a look at the long tongue!

Oh the joys of seeing amazing creatures. God sure was imaginative when he created the creatures of this earth.

 

Grand Canyon Trip Bucket List Slide Show

This is a follow-up to the Valleys and Mountains post. After hiking into the Grand Canyon with 11 coworkers, we sat in the shade and shared some items on our bucket lists. After returning home a slide show was made with photos from the trip and our bucket list items. I can’t seem to watch this without smiling like a fool and tearing up. I hope you enjoy it a fraction as much as I did. Grand Canyon Bucket List Slide Show.

Valleys and Mountains

Donan Engineering:

I first have to tell you a little about the amazing company I work for, Donan Engineering. I took part in a Get Fit program earlier this year offered by my employer. The program worked like this:

(1) set a goal – mine was to hike, run, walk a total of 400 miles in six months

(2) use the Nike+ and iPod (both provided by Donan) to track the mileage – easier said than done at times, technology is so challenging!

(3) meet set goal in six months – made it!

The reward was keeping the equipment and getting your name thrown in a pot for a chance to be one of eight spots on a trip to hike into the Grand Canyon with the boss and a coworker, who would lead the trip. Yes, I am totally serious here. A rewards trip for getting fit!

When it was all said and done, I had a spot on this trip to hike the Grand Canyon! What a thrill.

I most looked forward to meeting coworkers for the first time and getting to share this experience with them.  Donan has about 25 offices spread throughout the midwest, so needless to say, I do not know everyone. Spending three days with 11 other Donan employees would create bonds and camaraderie.

The plan was to hike into the canyon via the South Kaibab Trail, stay the night at Phantom Ranch and then hike out of the canyon the next day via Bright Angel Trail. I would then extend the trip and drive to Colorado to hike my third 14er, and my first solo 14er, San Luis Peak in the San Juan Mountains.

The Valley:

Our descent started at 6:30 a.m. at about 7,200 feet on the South Kaibab trailhead, about 7 miles and 4,654 feet above Phantom Ranch. The trail is full of switchbacks and amazing views.

Down and back and forth we go
Still smiling on the way down and taking in God’s glorious creation
Our fearless and experienced leader, Rob
First view of the Colorado River

I realized just how big the Grand Canyon is when it took 3 miles, and a descent of 2,040 feet, before the Colorado River was first spotted.

Where’s Alex?

We had a triathlete amongst us. He decided to run part of the trail. Can you find him in the above photo? I promise he is there. Look way down the trail.

Kaibab Suspension Bridge

We were getting close to Phantom Ranch when we crossed the Kaibab Suspension Bridge over the Colorado River. Phantom Ranch is only about a mile away from the bridge with a sizzling hot afternoon for us. In the sun, a thermometer read 139 degrees! If I remember correctly the thermometer read 115ish in the shade. We spent the afternoon sitting in a creek, in the shade, watching the canyon wildlife. It was a perfect way to pass the time on an otherwise insanely hot afternoon.  This dip in the creek also served as our showers due to a pipe break the day before we reached Phantom Ranch, resulting in limited water usage.

Lots of prickly pear cacti
Canyon at dusk
Home for the night

I spent the night in a bunk house with other ladies.  Pretty nice accommodations for where we were.

The following morning we got started a bit earlier, around 5:30, in order to hike the 10 miles out of the canyon. We crossed the Colorado River immediately and then walked on sand, like a beach, for a ways before heading up up up.

Silver Bridge with Kaibab Suspension Bridge in the background
The beach in the canyon!

One of the pleasant surprises of the Bright Angel Trail is that we were shaded for a huge part of the hike. It was such a blessing. Another pleasant surprise was that we hiked along a stream for miles. The gurgling stream added a nice touch to the challenging hike.

Got to get power down there somehow
Mule train

Mules travel the Bright Angel Trail and we encountered a couple mule trains. Those guys work hard to take supplies down to Phantom Ranch and bring out mail and garbage. Thank you mules for the delicious dinner last night.

Waiting at the top for the rest of the group

As members of our group finished, we gathered at the top to greet others as they finished. It was such a high to make it out of the canyon and have others to celebrate with. Overall, the hike was not quite as hard as I imagined, but way more beautiful. Something I will never forget. The shared experience allows for a unique bond with coworkers that is so cherished.

Mountain:

This next stage of the trip I experienced alone. I drove to Creede, CO to camp the night. Let’s just say God was present during this part of the trip, assisting and guiding me.

A little bit of home in Creede
The sky out west is just indescribable
The trailhead is up a gorge past old mines

I camped as close to the trialhead as my little rental car could get me, when I actually found it. It was a chilly night and I started the hike with all the cool weather clothes I had with me, including socks on my hands as make-shift gloves! I was not alone on the trail. I encountered several hikers at opportune times and had a blast watching San Luis get closer and closer, all the while soaking up the scenery of the mountains, ridges, basins and patches of trees.

Socks make good gloves when needed
Trail around the basin
The tough part

After enjoying most of the hike, I got up to the saddle and things turned vertical and tough. The Grand Canyon hike did not prepare me for straight up at 13,000+ feet. I was sucking wind, briefly wondered why I like conquering mountains so much, then I made it to the top and I remembered – the views and sense of accomplishment!

#3 San Luis Peak 14, 014 feet
What a pretty 14er - San Luis Peak

A large portion of the trail to San Luis Peak ran along the Colorado Trail (CT), which starts in Denver and ends in Durango, 483 miles away. Apparently, it is a popular trail to hike in the summer months. I ran into several conversation starved hikers on their way to Durango from Denver. I think I had a conversation with every hiker I encountered.

Me and San Luis Peak

As a matter of fact, the gentleman who snapped this shot of me was hiking the CT. He is from Nashville, TN. So us easterners hiked together for a while.

Mountain flowers are beautiful

I took more time on the way back down to look at flowers and try to see wildlife. I knew I wanted to ascend the peak as early as possible to avoid any weather hazards. The day turned out perfect for hiking and so the hike back down was quite enjoyable. There is so much variety in the mountain flowers. As far as wildlife goes, I saw so many pikas, no marmots though. I ended at the rental car 7.5 hours and 13 miles after I started, with tired legs and a huge sense of accomplishment.

Made it!

Guide Dog

My parents came to visit this past weekend and we decided to hike the Pinnacles in Berea. The day was overcast and we hoped not to get rained on. Among the clouds a very bright spot shown itself the moment we pulled in the parking lot and her name is Tillie.

Tillie

Those of you who often hike in the Indian Fort Mountain Trail System, more than likely are acquainted with Tillie, but we had not met her. Tillie looks like an Australian Shepherd and her tag says this:

A hike was on the list for Tillie today

Needless to say she followed us on our hike to West Pinnacle and eventually lead us to Indian Fort Lookout. We gave her the title of Sherpa.

Our Sherpa leading us on the trail

Tillie seemed to have a rock at each stopping point where she would patiently wait for us to take in the sights, eat lunch or drink some water. She would watch us closely and be on the trail the moment we made a motion to move on.

Mom and Tillie

Toward the end of our hike we realized food may play a part in her decisions to join people. We met a group of college kids having lunch on East Pinnacle. When we made our move to leave, Tillie curled up on a rock near the kids. So much for our Sherpa. It was a lovely addition to our hike and she truly did assist us in finding portions of the path. Thanks so much Tillie!

Tillie and her new friends

Anniversary in San Antonio, TX

Each year Peter and I take a trip over Labor Day weekend to celebrate our anniversary.  This year frequent flier miles landed us in San Antonio, TX for the weekend.  The two things we were told by several people to make sure we did while in San Antonio was walk the River Walk and eat at Boudro’s making sure to order the guacamole made table side.

River Walk - check.
River Walk - check.
Guacamole at Boudro's - check.
Guacamole at Boudro's - check.

What else did we get into? Well, we found the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch African Safari – Texas Style. AWESOME. A 4 mile drive through 400 acres of Texas hill country to see some of the over 500 animals. Some close, some not so close and some a little too close. Check it out:

Too bad I can't remember the animal names.
Too bad I can't remember many of the animal names.
These guys are cute.
I like the stripes on these guys.
Long horns are HUGE!
Long horns are HUGE!
Definitely well fed animals.
Definitely well fed animals.
Did I say well fed yet?
Did I say well fed yet?
The ostrich is up to no good.
The ostrich is up to no good.
He made his way down the line of cars sticking his head in each one looking stir things up.
He made his way down the line of cars sticking his head in each one causing squeals and laughter.
So many differnt horn styles.
So many differnt horn styles.
Peter likes the horns on this guy.
Twisted horns.
How many people share the road with such a horned beast?
How many people can say they shared the road with such a beast?
This occurred just after the educational cd we were listening to said the zebras should be avoided. Instead, Peter gave him a little pet!
This occurred just after the educational cd we were listening to said the zebras should be avoided because of the danger. Instead, Peter gave him a little pet!
Baby zebra!
Baby zebra, oh so cute.
This park has a different kind of traffic jam.
This park has a different kind of traffic jam.
Sicilian donkey. See the cross on his back? I touched one!
Sicilian donkey. See the cross on his back? Yeah, I touched one.
I think it is an emu and I think he is crazy.
I think it is an emu and I think he is crazy. You can see it in his eyes.
We ended of safari at the petting zoo hoping to get rid of extra food and all they wanted was the bag!
We ended our safari at the petting zoo hoping to get rid of extra food and all the goat wanted was the bag!

If you ever find yourself in San Antonio, TX, we recommend you check out the River Walk, guacamole at Boudro’s and the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. Oh and don’t bother with the extra bag of food…you don’t need it.