Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Going to the Zoo

    My husband and eldest son are backpacking for a few days.  Last year he took our daughter.  Next year the youngest gets to go camping (not sure he can carry his own pack at his age).  So I thought it would be nice to do something fun with the two who stayed behind.  We went to the zoo.  There are two small zoos within about an hours drive from us.  I chose the one to the north - just a whim - eeny, meeny, mieney, moe, point to the paper and that's where we go.
    I went armed with Mapquest directions that had my daughter and I in stitches.  The zoo is in a town I had been to before, but I couldn't remember the way.  Well, these directions had us touring every small town and corn field, and with one exception, we were on no road for more than 6.3 miles.  A 60 mile drive took about an hour an a half, since we missed the turn off for two of the roads because they are not marked until you turn onto them. Hmm...
    The return trip, we dutifully started reading the reverse instructions and it was evident we were being led home by a different, yet equally circuitous route, so I threw caution to the wind and drove by the seat of my pants.  I am a person who generally does better with land marks than road names anyway, so it wasn't too bad.  At one point I thought I'd gotten us off track, but then a sign for the man who sells elk meat  appeared, and I knew I was still okay.  (Elk meat???) Three roads and an hour after leaving, we were home.
     But the zoo - what a sweet place. I have been to the Bronx Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, the Beardsley Zoo,  the Como Park Zoo in  St. Paul,  a few small European zoos, but I am afraid that in my young adulthood I was quite spoiled by going to school in MD and later living in DC.  There is nothing quite like the National Zoo - it is part of the Smithsonian system, free to the public, and in a word, magnificent.  However, this zoo is quite lovely. Part zoo, part garden/forest trail, they had a children's zoo which allowed us to pet and feed goats, sheep, and alpacas.  We saw the 3 pm feeding of the sea lions along with a short discussion of their care, habits and habitat.  This zoo is too small for pachyderms, but the two bactrian camels seemed to be a fine substitute.  There was even a Siberian tiger, which, I will admit, looked a little lonely, but healthy.
Siberian (or Amur) tiger

The alligators were a big hit with my son, especially when the male decided to raise its head, move it 6 inches to the right and shift the position of 2 of its feet while we were watching.  (They are not the most active animals on a warm summer afternoon!) The tortoises even chose this  afternoon to practice their mating techniques - my four year old thought it very funny!
Cotton topped tamarin
    The primates were few, but active and included two type of tamarins and white handed gibbons who hooted and howled at earsplitting volume.

 The reptile house has a surprising number of snakes and lizards. Another hit. I thought once around the zoo was enough, but before we left we had to see the tortoises and alligators again, the reptile house and stop to buy each child a small souvenir necklace
     We left the zoo and decided on a dinner with things we really wanted to eat. So a quick stop at the store and our day ended with herbed snapper, ambrosia, corn, and hot fudge sundaes for dessert. Perhaps no the most well balanced of dinners, but yummy, and sometimes that is okay too!

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