Botanical gardens

My favorite part of Austin was exploring the Botanical Gardens.

For a whole $2.00 we were given the chance to see more species of flora than I’d ever before in my life! Lily pads, trees, ferns, and flowers I’d never seen before. I can’t describe how much I loved being there. I loved every moment of it. It was cloudy and humid and quiet and I smelled and touched everything.

I never wanted to leave.

Underground adventures.

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Two weekends ago on my home, I was feeling frustrated and restless.

So naturally I decided to get it out by taking a 3 hour long tour 550 feet underground at Lewis and Clark State Caverns.

I went alone, and everybody seemed to be surprised that a lone female was hiking the 1/2 mile to the entrance and on the tour. The tour guide was very friendly and kept asking me questions, and an aloof couple from France kept holding up our tour group trying to get pictures without any of the ‘Muricans in the frames.

It was cool, humid, and beautiful. I couldn’t believe that nature can simultaneously allow caribou calves to run 12 minutes after birth and yet take 2,000 years to grow a single stalagmite. It’s incredible and humbling, but also sad- early explorers had dynamited the cave 100 years ago and only a few inches of limestone had grown back in some places, and none at all.

The darkness made it quite hard for my little flimsy digital camera to capture much of value but I hope you enjoy some views of what our beautiful world looks like underneath everything, if conditions are right and humans don’t ruin the good things.

 

The residents of Lewis Hall (Birds of Montana)

 

After class sometimes I wander thru other buildings on campus. I found the biology building full of beautiful, taxidermied birds and other critters.

And, here they are!

In order:

1. An osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

2. A Swainson’s hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

3. A Western screech owl (Megascops kennicottii)

4. A ruddy duck (Oxyjura jamaicensis)

5. A great horned owl skull (I saw one hunting with my father in December!) (Bubo virginianus)

6. A little 5 oz. burrowing owl (Athene cuniculana)

7. My favorite, the beautiful Bohemain Waxwing (Bombycilla Garrulus)

I love living in Montana where so many birds are always present! Normally you just see crows, magpies, chickadees, and sparrows, but kestrals and hawks are seen in town on a regular basis and eagles build the most gorgeous nests right near major roadways. We’ve got such a wealth of critters always roaming around! This year alone I’ve seen bighorn sheep, woodpeckers, enormous elk, a beautiful baby rubber boa, antelope, all kinds of ducks, and a few owls, and I haven’t been nearly as outdoorsy as I could be.

Secret secrets

002_11 This weekend was a blur. A magnificent blur.

The drive to a mountain hot spring was beautiful- the clouds were phenomenal, and evening was enveloping us in lovely tinted darkness. Chris and I awed at the kaleidoscope that the sunset was giving us, and I brought out my camera to document it.

Full darkness seemed to never show up. We parked after driving through a stream and put on our packs full of towels, water bottles, and a spare apple, and began the meandering hike to the hot springs.  We intermittently yelled WHOA BEAR, as no bear spray was to be had, and finally made our way down to the spot. Taking off our layers, our toes met cold, squashy mud and slick rocks. We scrambled our way down and into the hot spring, full of dudes drinking beer. I marveled at the temperature changes all around the small pool.

The stars were dim- the moon, though not yet visible, was working with the sun to tinge the edges enough. Chris still managed to find the Summer Triangle and expertly pointed out stars, constellations, and various Greek myths associated with them. I eagerly listened to him tell these stories.

Soaking, melting, relaxing, and letting go while watching the moon shyly ascend from behind a ridge, past a tree, and finally into the mountain valley, I think I felt surreal, not totally sure if I was dreaming. I floated and meandered, my fingertips finding sand, rocks, and slippery greenery everywhere.

On the way back in several clearings it wasn’t even necessary to turn on our headlamp or flashlight- the moon was the perfect beacon. The walk through a glacier boulder strewn field felt especially bizarre. It was the most gorgeous experience I have had.