Friday, December 31, 2021

Hurray for Snow!

 We'll get to the snow in a moment, but first I'll start with a bird photo, because, well, I really love birds! On the Snake Valley Christmas Bird Count (CBC), we came across this bird, which we thought was a Ross's Goose. I went back a few days later...

...the pond had frozen over, but the goose was still walking around and I got a better look at it. A friend suggested an immature snow goose, and I think he's right. Neither one had ever been counted on Count Day for our CBC. Woohoo!

After such a dry year, it was amazing to get some really nice snow this December. Great Basin National Park plowed up to the trailhead of Baker Creek, allowing for some different winter experiences. 

I found the trail up too steep for my skis, so went down to the Baker Creek campground on the connector trail. It was great!


Baker Creek itself looked beautiful, and I spooked an American Dipper, which was a fun find.

Here's a spring in the valley I went to in order to search for birds. I found a snipe near the springhead. The green watercress makes for a nice contrast with the snow-covered grass.

It was cold enough that the water droplets were frozen to the grass above water level. What a fun sight.

We got in a little sledding a couple days in December.

The short days made it easier to go enjoy sunrises at a reasonable hour.

This old wagon just looks cooler with a bit of snow on it!

Although I like landscapes, sometimes it's fun to focus in on the tiny stuff, like the bits of snow each barb holds on this barb-wired fence.

It's not often that it snows enough to cover the sagebrush.

When everything is coated in white, it just looks magical.

The park got some new road signs. This one replaced a sign with incorrect mileage.

This sign replaced one that had "Visitor" spelled incorrectly. It's nice to have correct signs!

One night it looked like the sky was on fire. It was amazing.

Wishing you a wonderful New Year! Hope it's full of lots of love and appreciation of your surroundings. The world is a beautiful place, especially when we take the time to slow down and savor it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Top 6 Places to Go in Chicago

After Memorial Day Weekend, the kids and I spent a few days in Chicago to soak up culture and help them learn to navigate city life. I went to college in the outskirts of Chicago, so felt comfortable showing them around. We bought the CityPass to get a reduced rate to attractions and then lived it up.
Here's our Top 6 for Chicago.
1. Shedd Aquarium. I think part of the reason we liked the Shedd Aquarium so much is that we got to interact with wildlife and see creatures we had never seen before, so it heightened our curiosity. My friend Kristin came down from the Milwaukee area to join us for the day, which made it even more fun.

The jellyfish were amazing. I could have spent hours just watching them.

Beluga whales, wow! Desert Girl says this was her favorite animal in the aquarium.

There are so many fantastic creatures on this earth!

I was also impressed with some of the decorative features in the aquarium.

It's Lobster o'clock, ready to go?

This place is just such a treat.

2. Field Museum of Natural History.  The Field Museum is so large it's a bit overwhelming. But we were ready for the task! 

We had fun checking out the jewels.

This exhibit about a meteorite going through a car stuck in my memory from childhood field trips. The exhibit is still there, unchanged. We found several halls of the Field Museum still stuck in the 1950s.

But there are more modern exhibits, like this awesome dinosaur, Maximo the Titanosaur. (We got to see Sue the T-Rex also.)

We also got shrunk to go into the soil exhibit, which was pretty cool.

I was glad to see this exhibit about horses. The modern horse was brought to the Americas in the 1500s. The previous horses that had been in North America went extinct about 10,000 years ago and were much smaller.

3. Museum of Science and Industry. The U-boat was the best exhibit for us. There were a lot of Covid restrictions and closures in this museum, so we didn't get to see as much as we wanted. Somehow, I didn't get a lot of photos.

4. Enjoying the Outdoor Sights.  Although we were in the city, our country instincts kicked in. How could we get some fresh air? Get some good exercise? The rental bikes turned out to be a fantastic option. We rode them all over, up to the Shedd Aquarium...

...along the lakeshore bike trail...
...where we even saw a fox next to the lake!
The bikes were a good way to go check out Buckingham Fountain.
We also took the el (subway) to and from the airport, so the kids learned more about public transportation. We walked over to the Bean, but it was cordoned off due to Covid. The kids were bummed, as they had remembered it from a previous trip.

The weather was great in early June, but it was a little chilly to have the fountain going here.

We also tried out all sorts of food. We were amazed at how ubiquitous Dunkin' Donuts were, on nearly every corner. I made the kids happy by letting them eat there every morning (but notice the banana peel, we did try for a tiny bit of healthiness!). Desert Girl said another memorable meal was a Chicago hot dog (no ketchup!) that we had outside the Field Museum.

4. Willis Tower. The City Pass included a trip up the Willis (Sears) Tower. I thought that would be fun. Our hotel was close by, so I elected to do an evening trip so we could watch sunset. The bottom floor has a museum highlighting Chicago's features.

We weren't in a hurry, so we explored them. Here's a very clean replica of the Chicago el (short for elevated train). 

Because I like taking photos, I made the kids wait for the best light. We wandered around and around the observation deck, looking at the landscape that is so different than the Great Basin.

The wait was worth it, with beautiful sunset glow on the skyscrapers.

Then it got dark and we watched the lights turn on.

We finished with our two minutes on the clear balcony. That's the street, way below my feet!

Desert Girl made the most of it!

What a fun way to spend an evening.

6. Art Institute of Chicago. The CityPass also included the Art Institute, and although we didn't have the proper amount of time we should to visit, I decided it would still be worth it to do a quick trip in to see some highlights. Plus it's in the movie Ferris Bueler's Day Off, so the kids could relate.

We found American Gothic.

I like Georgia O'Keeffe. Maybe because of her western theme.

I also like crazy Juan Miro. Those Catalans sure have a different way of doing art.

Neither the kids nor I were impressed with this "art."

We had to go see this famous pointillism by Georges Seurat.

There you have it. We packed a lot into a few days, and we had a good time. I was glad that they learned some basic life skills (how to get around a city) and got to see a slightly different culture (Midwest vs Intermountain West). Travel is so important so we can see how other people live.

If you know Chicago, what are your favorites?
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