Monday, May 30, 2011

Sandhill cranes by Laura

Sandhill cranes mating dance:

What I love about this picture is that the female's crown feathers are pink. After all, she is the girl bird.  In real life both the male and female's crowns are actually red.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Snow, sun dogs and sunshine

I live in Wyoming for many reasons, but at the top of my list is the sunshine factor.  And so these last few weeks of persistent rain and snow have been hard. I know that the moisture is good, there will be good 'feed', reservoirs full -- blah, blah, blah -- but it makes me cranky.  Last week took the cake when the rain turned to snow.  Then the snow turned back into rain again.  We had something like 4" of snow here in town.  Is there anything more depressing than rain falling on snow?!

But finally, FINALLY the sun came out last Friday.  I had planned to bike up the switchbacks in the Sinks Canyon.  This is the same place I ski in the winter.  At the last minute I put my snowshoes in the car.  And good thing....

The situation on May 20, 2011 on the Popo Agie Falls Trail.  This storm dumped 47" of fresh snow in the Wind Rivers.

The "outhouse" picture as Laura calls it (it's a rock).  Middle Fork of the Popo Agie. 

I followed moose tracks for awhile which helped, but then the tracks went down to the river and I was sunk.  It actually got too deep for snowshoes, at least for me, in May.

I was on the trail for about 10 minutes when the sun broke free of the clouds and there was the most glorious sun dog (rainbow around the sun) that I have ever seen.  Hallelujah!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Zen of Travel & Random Thoughts About Going Home - Little Corn Island

My favorite stretch of beach.

Before we even left for vacation, I was lamenting that it would soon be over.  Yes, I do realize that on vacation, more than anything, the goal is to live in the moment. However, when you leave the comforts of home and venture into unknown territory, a subtle change occurs.  There's a shift in your awareness ~ when you are immersed in another culture you can't help but appreciate people and life more.  I love that about travel.  But when you come back through the same airport on your homeward flight, and you walk past the same StarbucksJambaJuiceChilis in DullasMiamiOHare, you get the eerie feeling that you have only been gone a day, or worse yet, that you never even left

And then when you get home and (ack!) return to work, everything is.... the same.  And you slip back into your same routine, and vacation memories begin to fade, no matter how many days you continue to wear your flip flops to the office.  I always struggle with this, and fall into the post-vacation blues.  And so, once again, at the start of our vacation, I was worried about it ending.


What helps with this is that after a few weeks of vacation, I usually come down with a touch of homesickness.  I love my home state of Wyoming ~ the wide open spaces and high mountain peaks.  So typically I am ready to come home, except for two vacations:  this past trip to Little Corn Island, Nicaragua, and in the late 90's when Scott and I went to Tanzania.  When our little plane lifted off from the Serengeti airstrip I actually cried. 

On our most recent trip to Little Corn Island, I became very attached to the place and I especially liked the pace of 'living' there.  The island is small and mostly undeveloped.  In fact, there are no roads, just paths through the jungle and not one motorized vehicle on the entire island.  It took us three flights over three days plus a boat ride to get there.  Electricity is spotty or non existent and you can forget about other modern comforts, like hot showers.  But because of this, the island is beautiful and unspoiled and you can walk on the beach all day and only run into a few other souls.  My kind of place ~ a place I could get used to, easily.

But more than missing this beautiful paradise, I knew that I would miss the rhythm of my days spent with my family.  It was heavenly to enjoy each other without the daily stresses of getting up for school, packing lunches, going to swim lessons/soccer/violin, rushing home for dinner and homework then bath and bedtime.  On the island, we could just enjoy each other's company and simply be.   We stayed up late at night reading Treasure Island to the kids and watching fireflies in the mangrove swamp behind our beach house.

In addition to our non-schedule, we had the freedom to be yes-parents.  Mommy, can we go swimming in the ocean tonight, under the stars?  YES!  Can we stay out a little longer to play, please?  YES!  Can I have a Coke?  YES!  (How can you pass up an ice cold coke in a glass bottle, with a straw, in the tropics!?) Can I finish my homework tomorrow (and tomorrow and tomorrow)?  YES! We would pay for that last one as Ben did all  2 1/2 weeks of his schoolwork on the last Sunday ~ 

Snorkeling by starlight.
One afternoon, just a few days before we left the island, Ben and I were playing in the sand.  I tried to empty my mind and just sculpt with my hands, to see what would fall out of my subconscious.  What came from my psyche was the Grand Teton, one of my favorite places on the planet, and just up the road from our hometown of Lander.  That mountain symbolizes a lot for me.  Well, I guess all thoughts lead to home, even if there aren't any roads to take us there.  Ben and I kept checking on our mountains and as the days went by, he said that they looked more 'real' to him as they began to weather.  Finally the sea took them away completely.

Middle Teton, Grand Teton (13,770') and Mount Owen

It occurred to me while contemplating the waves, the sand mountains, and in particular, Ben and Laura's footprints in the sand, that I can't hold onto vacations any tighter than I can Ben and Laura's littleness.  Everything changes and they grow up, too soon.  But I can embrace all these moments in between, and even try to embrace the going-homes.

And on the trip home we were stuck on Big Corn Island for what seemed like eternity, waiting for the plane from the mainland.  Here we were, our little family, far from home and stranded in a small, hot tropical airport.  In this limbo of waiting, this simply be-ing, it seemed like we'd become more like travelers and less like tourists.  And with this moment of insight (like at the beginning of our trip) I felt completely satisfied.  We did it, success! Success not in terms of a perfect trip, but in enjoying the moments and actually pulling off a trip that I didn't think was possible (or at the very least, advisable with kids!)  Success in being, not just going and doing.  And finally, with my family in tow, the trip felt complete and I felt like going home.  Well, sort of. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Nicaragua - Laguna de Apoyo

Laguna de Apoyo is said to be the most beautiful, cleanest and clearest lake in all of Nicaragua.  It is a geothermal 18-square mile lake contained inside the crater of the Apoyo Volcano.  It was such a treat to swim in a warm freshwater lake, coming from Wyoming where, as I write this in May, our mountain lakes are still rimmed in ice.

The pier at San Simian Lodge, on a Sunday when all the locals come to hang out too.
Surrounded by steep walls and lush vegetation, the laguna is part of the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.  There are dozens of reptile species, birds, two species of monkeys, and several endemic fish species - species that are found nowhere else in the world.   The lake formed approximately 20,000 years ago when the cone of the volcano imploded. Over time the crater filled with rain and subterranean water.  They say that the bottom of the lake is the deepest point in Central America.

After dinner we swam in the lake, on a moonless night, under the stars.
The laguna is a short taxi ride away from Granada (maybe 30-40 minutes).  Happily, the area around the laguna is relatively undeveloped, surprising in that  it is not far from Granada or Managua.  We stayed at a wonderful place called San Simian Lodge.

Our daughter enjoying the scenery in the kayak.

This place was an enormous hit with the kids.  We got there, threw on our swimsuits and spent an afternoon and evening jumping off the pier and swimming and kayaking in the lake.  Then we enjoyed a wonderful dinner with a view of the lake.  Then we went back into the lake at night and swam under the stars.

Our casita, the Mango Moon, was very nice. The staff moved in an extra bed to accommodate the four of us.  The kids loved the outdoor bathroom....

Breakfast of delicious scrambled eggs, fresh cheese, tortillas and rice & beans.

Do-Over Scoop:
It would have been neat to find out where the hiking trails are around the lake and do some bird watching. Or go touring in the kayaks all the way around the lake early in the morning or late evening.  (San Simian provides the kayaks at no charge to their guests.)  Mostly, it was great just to hang out and relax as we had been on the go since we arrived in-country three days earlier. 

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and left on a Sunday afternoon, which was plenty of time to spend here.  It was pretty busy, and I don't know if it's because it was the weekend or just the time of year in general (first week of April).   We really liked San Simian Lodge and I would recommend it.

A big score was that we saw monkeys right outside of San Simian Lodge as we were taking a taxi back to Managua for our flight out to Big Corn Island.