Friday, June 13, 2014

Colorado Gators, Mosca, Colorado


Almost halfway between Great Sand Dunes National Park and Alamosa, Colorado Gators is a fun spot to stop and stretch your legs and gawk at something you don't expect to see in the Rocky Mountain state: alligators.  Begun in 1977 as a fish (tilapia) farm, the gators were brought in to eat the dead fish. Within a few years, the farm became a tourist attraction, as people started stopping by to see the alligators.


The first part of the tour, holding the baby alligator, taking pictures and learning a little about the farm and gators, is held inside, in the dark reptile room. Very much like other reptile rooms we've visited (dark and smelly). I must admit, I was happy to move into the fish tank area. Substantially less smelly and brightly lit. I was fascinated with the hydroponic setup there. The fish-waste-to-plant-food-to-fish-habitat recycling system looked very efficient and all the plants I could see looked to be thriving.

water returning to fish tanks
hydroponic sprouts
fish tanks with hydroponic garden above



Finally outside in the fresh air we got to see dozens of alligators lazing in the sun. Even a movie star, Morris, of Happy Gilmore fame, as well as numerous other movie credits, including Dr. Doolittle, Jay Leno, and of course, Steve Irwin (the late, great "Crocodile Hunter").


Other critters on the property include a couple ostriches, emus, and geese. The farm also offers educational programs for schools, churches and other groups. Alligator wrestling classes are available for the crazy! more adventurous. Gatorfest, held this year on August 2nd and 3rd, features gator roping and wrestling, children's games and barrel races.


For more info, click on one of the links above, or contact Colorado Gators Reptile Park, 9162 CR 9 N, Mosca, CO 81146, 719-378-2612.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Surviving Slow Travel

Bluebird sitting atop beloved pet's grave marker
I believe I have endured enough road hazards to my work in my slow-travel, full-time-rv life during the last six weeks. I am ready for some smooth sailing for awhile. My son's other grandma died (my mom died 2 years ago) just before Easter. I posted on Facebook that I would be taking 2 weeks off to help the family with funeral arrangements and such. 

Quirky quail now populate the old homestead
As I geared up to get hard back to work, my computer crashed. So did my son's. Then, for 2 weeks at the Northern Arizona homestead, we had no internet or cell phone service. Luckily, the local library (7 miles away from the house, 20 minute drive each way) had their internet up and their computers working. This was good for quick email and Facebook checks, ordering new (used) computers from ebay, and having them sent to our next stop - my dad's. Not so good for keeping up with writing or posting blogs. Without a computer to get everything ready to post, it takes far longer than the librarians want a single patron to stay on the shared computers. Not to mention, I don't want my son playing computer games all that time...

Ginormous jack-rabbits forage in front of the old chicken coop
Out here in sunny, warm California (did I mention it is sooo nice to be out of the cold?) we spent our first week getting ready for my son John's wedding to his long-time sweetheart. Such a beautiful, wonderful time.


Now, having finished setting up, installing programs and testing our new computers, I can get back to work. I can't wait to tell all about the Alligator Farm in Colorado, finding community on the road, and our visit to some shrines in Chimayo, New Mexico. But first, some much needed California relaxation at the beach


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado


Colorado. Rocky Mountains. Forests. Farms. Water. The tallest sand dunes in North America. What? No kidding! Sprawling over 330 square miles, sand and sediment from the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountain ranges blew and washed into what was once a huge lake. As the lake filled in, the gusty, year round wind piled the sand into dunes and continues to feed and shift the dunes today. The park contains nearly half the Dunes, while most of the rest are part of  a National Preserve in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness.



Another anomaly of the park is that it contains 7 life zones and the many animals and plants that inhabit them. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep can be found in Alpine Tundra; black bear roam Subalpine Forests; bobcats prowl among the pinon and juniper of Montane Forests; brightly colored tiger beetles liven up the Dunefields; elk wander the Grasslands; sandhill cranes patrol the Plains; finally, there are Streams and Wetlands, where beaver can sometimes be found. So this is Colorado after all.



I find the Dunes to be particularly striking during Lent. The stark barrenness of the dunefield summoned us into its emptiness. The mysterious undulations teased us into pursuing their secrets. Were there hidden spaces, or just endless drifts? Daddy couldn't resist removing his shoes to sink his feet into the soft, silky sand. I left my boots on. The wind was icy and the dunes were not reflecting the sun's warmth on this day.



As Yak crested a steep mound, the merciless wind stole his cowboy hat and deposited it playfully on the even steeper backside. Despite my dislike of vertical slopes, I judged that even if I rolled down to the bottom, the worst I would get would be sand in my hair, so I went after the headpiece. Halfway there I was creeping on all fours. Just as I was within reach of my goal, daddy clambered over the ridge and stopped right in front of the topper, laughing at me. Refusing to admit defeat, I pounced upon the hat and we all sat down on the backside of the dune, out of the sandstorm, for a much needed rest and a good laugh.



The wind was in our faces on the way back to the truck. I held securely to Yak's hat, not wishing to repeat my recent heroics. Any trace of our hike in was already blown away. The lenten journey is all here in the dunes. The emptying of myself. The overcoming of fear to serve another. Laughing at my shortcomings. Struggling uphill in the sand one way and against the wind the other. Reaching the truck never felt so good. Closing the door on the tempest. Turning on the heater. Making hot chocolate with the thermos of hot water I brought. The journey is difficult, we screw up along the way. The destination is worth it.

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