Sunday, February 10, 2013

Visiting Family In Lafayette, CO

After the Ultramap User Meeting dinner on Friday I was picked up downtown by Uncle Roger, Aunt Catherine, and Cherie whom I hadn’t seen in over 15 years!  I had a choice between going skiing or spending time with family and decided it would be great to really spend time with them as I’ve always hit off well with my aunt and uncle.  We seem to think very similarly about things in life.  On Friday night we all stayed up pretty late catching up on our lives, my wedding, and their big move to Boulder to be closer to Cherie and their grand daughter Asia.  

On Saturday we all rented a van at Enterprise and headed to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, just over an hour south of Boulder.  I had no idea what to expect and was completely blown away by the zoo.  It was great to be there with all 5 of them and finally get to spend some time with Asia whom I’d never really met before (maybe as a baby?).  

The zoo is known for having the biggest captive giraffe population.  I counted at least 20+ before I lost track of them.  Visitors follow an elevated wooden pathway above their enclosure and they are completely free to come up to the railings and stick their faces right in yours.  With 14” tongues always sticking out looking for food they looked pretty hilarious to us.  We bought some lettuce and crackers from a stand and spent a long time enjoying feeding their constantly searching long black tongues.  We even got to see a little baby inside a building that was less than a few weeks old!  Asia got a kick out of me messing with Catherine by putting crackers on her head for the giraffe to smack off with its tongue.  

We then spent the rest of the early afternoon strolling up the hill the zoo is built on to see the many different animals which surprisingly seemed mostly to be fine out in the cold weather.  We visited the inside of an aviary and got to feed the little canaries with tongue depressors as they flew all around us.  We even got to get up close and personal with a male peacock that was constantly on display trying to scare off any competitors to the hens he was looking at.  

We spent some time checking out snow leopards, bengal tigers and a whole slew of mountain lions on our way up the hill which had a ski chairlift running to take people back and forth.  What amazed me about the zoo was that all of the animals seemed to be happy and out and about in their enclosures.  Almost every other zoo I’ve been to always had a few big animals that just didn’t want to come out of the safety of their homes or just didn’t seem very active but here they all were acting like they wanted to give us a real show.

My favorite moment at the zoo, even beyond the physical feeding of the many giraffes was how close a massive grizzly bear came to the window of its enclosure.  It slowly lumbered down from its cave to sit on a rock just a foot or so away from us on the other side of a plexiglass window.  I had never before been so close to bear that size and it even with the barrier between us it was truly humbling.  Asia and I both took turns taking a lot of photos!  

From there it was on past the lizards, snakes and other reptiles to the ape exhibit.  Once again, all of the animals seemed to be out and about swinging on ropes or eating snacks left around their enclosures.  There was a brand new baby gorilla at the zoo that remained hugging its mother as she walked all around the enclosure providing great photo opportunities for me.  The only thing I was sad about was that I didn’t have my long lens.  All animals except one sad looking little monkey looked like they were well treated and in good moods.  

After the zoo we headed to Garden of the Gods to see the towering red spires of rock in the golden hour light of sunset.   The towers of rock are actually sedimentary layers of red sandstones and light limestones that have been tilted skyward by the youthful (geologically-speaking) growth of the Rocky Mountain Range.  The area was littered with massive fins of bright red rock and reminded me a lot of Smith Rock in Bend.  Just like Smith this National Natural Landmark has amazing rock climbers and I could see a few bolted routes and hangers far up on the rock faces as we walked the well built footpaths below.  

In the distance, under growing snow clouds, we could see Pikes Peak and the setting sun on the rocks really lit them up incredibly.  We stopped at another location on the park road that wound it’s way between two towers of red sandstone for some more pictures of the family all together.   From there we headed to The Stagecoach Inn restaurant in Manitou Springs, CO for some dinner.  The town was celebrating Mardi Gras and there were a lot of people running around with beads on heading to bars in town.  

We noticed a big police presence.  I ordered local trout and a really good pheasant chowder.  Adam and I also split an order of real Rocky Mountain Oysters (look it up) which was certainly interesting and actually didn’t taste that bad when dipped in cocktail sauce (no pun intended).  After a pleasant ride back to Lafayette where I learned Cherie and I have the same music tastes, we ended the night watching a movie together.  

On Sunday I had a very relaxing day just chilling at the house with Roger and Catherine.  Later in the afternoon Adam came over and we watched All.I.Can, a ski film with incredible cinematography.  Cherie had homework and wasn’t able to make it over but I was pleased that Adam and Asia wanted to see me again before I left.  Adam is a world traveler and into the same outdoor sports Emily and I are into so we hit it off well over the weekend and I look forward to seeing them at the wedding.  

They dropped me off at a convenient bus stop for a quite ride to the airport and an uneventful, although delayed, flight back to Portland.  I can’t say enough how great of a weekend it was with them and it makes me feel bad I didn’t spend more time with them while I was living in Saratoga.... but I’d like to think I’m wiser and more mature now and I bet they totally understand.  

No comments: