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Wildlife in the West

I wasn't quite sure how to approach the topic of wildlife for this post. We saw quite a variety of wildlife during our time in Colorado. We saw very few animals during our time in New Mexico and Arizona.

While we were staying in the YMCA camp our friends took us on a couple of day trips to nearby places of interest. One day we went to Bear Lake which was pretty close to where we were staying. The water was a beautiful blue and there was still snow on the ground in a few places near the lake.


As we were driving to the lake we had our first glimpse of elk and we also saw a magpie. We had seen magpies in France before and of course we remembered Heckle and Jeckle from our childhood. :)


On another day we drove into the Rocky Mountain National Park and went up nearly 12,000 feet above sea level. We saw many elk from a distance and while we were eating a picnic lunch some very friendly elk came pretty close to us.


We also were fortunate to see some moose. We saw some from a distance and then we happened upon a female standing quite close to the road.


When we were pretty high up in the mountains it actually began snowing a little and we got a picture of a few flakes that landed on Rob's shirt. He wanted to "enjoy the cold" so he didn't wear a jacket.


There were signs up at the higher elevations asking people "to respect the tundra" by staying on the paths which were provided.


Some very cute little animals who live at the higher elevation are the marmots. They look sort of like groundhogs and we saw several of them sunning themselves on the rocks. We saw one who appeared to be kind of a ham. He stayed out while many tourists were taking his picture and he kept turning to allow us to get shots from different angles.


We also saw wildlife near our cabin at the camp. From the porch we saw chipmunks, ground squirrels, and mule deer. Rob got this picture of a mule deer one evening when we went for a walk.


Late in the first afternoon we were at the campsite we went for a walk and talked with a couple who were staying two cabins away from ours. They told us that while they had been away that afternoon a bear had come onto the porch of their cabin and had gotten into their hummingbird feeders.

The next afternoon when we returned to our cabin we noticed the rangers were at the cabin next to ours. While the people were out in the afternoon a bear had broken in the screen in a window they had left open.


The bear crawled through and had made a real mess in the cabin. She had opened the refrigerator and had eaten lasagna and yogurt and had smashed eggs all over the floor. She had opened cabinet doors and had smashed in the microwave (apparently she couldn't open it without thumbs.) She had opened a jar of nutella and a jar of peanut butter. She took the peanut butter with her. When we arrived on the scene she was sitting behind the cabin eating peanut butter. The rangers kept trying to run her off but she kept coming back for the peanut butter. We later found out from the neighbors that she had two cubs up a tree behind the cabin.

Below is a video Steve captured of the bear not far from the cabin she broke into. If you are reading this blog post in e-mail or in a blog reader, you will probably have to go to the blog post itself to view the video. Be patient - it may take it a few seconds to load.

The next morning we learned that the bear had come back during the night. The neighbors had two cars. One car was locked and one was unlocked. The bear got in the unlocked car and just walked around a bit. She actually tore the door handles off of the locked car. We discovered that she had investigated our car but fortunately didn't do any real damage--just some minor scratches and some paw prints.


Before we started our trip Rob had opened a private Facebook account just for our family so we could tell our kids what was happening and post pictures for them. He named the account Rob and Becka's Great Adventure. Our friends Steve and Karen had never seen a bear at the camp before and they blamed it all on us for wanting an adventure. :)

We had one last encounter with wildlife when we returned to Steve and Karen's house. They had a friend dog-sit their little daschund, Nikki while we were at the cabin. In the early evening when we returned they let her out in the backyard and she ran to a corner and was barking her head off. There was a raccoon in the yard and he quickly climbed the fence and scrambled up a tree. Nikki even barks at animals on TV. Here she is in action:


In my next post I will tell about some of our adventures in Arizona.


Something good to do with those tomatoes


I'm working on the next travel post but wanted to share this idea for using tomatoes once again. We really like these and they are easy to prepare. I think this would work best with a Roma type tomato. Rob planted what was called a grape tomato plant in the garden this summer and the tomatoes are more like small Roma tomatoes, so that is what I have been using for this recipe.

Roasted Tomatoes

Slice Roma tomatoes in half and then place on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet with the cut side up. Brush the cut side with olive oil and then sprinkle with garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and roast for an additional 20-30 minutes. Watch carefully to see if they are getting done to your likeness. If you are using very small tomatoes they may take less time.

You may wonder what to do with your roasted tomatoes. Well, they are quite good for snacking. :) They are also good on sandwiches. Be sure to try them on a grilled cheese sandwich. They are also good chopped up and added to green beans or in this White Bean Dip. I like to make a tray full and then divide them into little snack bags and freeze them. Then when they are needed for a recipe you can just take out a portion and thaw for your recipe.


Enjoy those tomatoes!


Our Colorado Adventure

We had a wonderful time visiting our friends Steve and Karen in Colorado. They are the perfect host and hostess and tried to think of everything to make us comfortable and to show us many of their favorite places in the mountains in the days we were with them. They rented a cabin at Estes Park Center YMCA of the Rockies. The YMCA has 137 cabins that they rent out and they have summer camps for children too. They have a cafeteria, a post office, a general store, miniature golf, etc. Here is a picture near the front of the campground:


Our cabin was one of the highest in the park. We had this lovely view from our front porch:


Here are some pictures from the interior of our cabin:




Various donors have donated money to build the individual cabins over the years and each is furnished by the donors. Our cabin was very well equipped and Karen did a wonderful job of planning the meals and gathering supplies to bring.

The views from around our cabin were spectacular. The mountains were truly beautiful. Here is the view behind our cabin:


Last fall there was severe flooding in the area and we were told that because of the extra rainfall that the wild flowers were especially plentiful this year. We saw many, many fields full of all kinds of wildflowers. Here are pictures of a few:




We were able to see quite a variety of wildlife during our time in the Rockies and in my next post I will tell about some of our close encounters. :)

Here's a final picture of sunset in the Rockies:



Our big adventure

For several years Rob and I have talked about the possibility of taking a trip out West since neither of us had ever been west of St. Louis, Missouri. Well, after much talk and planning we took the plunge and just returned from a nearly two week trip. It will probably take me several posts to say all that I want to say about our adventure, so if you get bored you can just stop reading. :)

We flew from here in Greenville to Denver for the first leg of our trip to visit with our friends Steve and Karen. Steve and Rob used to teach together and had offices on the same hall. When Steve and Karen moved back to Colorado last year they encouraged us to plan a trip to visit them. After many phone calls and emails they helped us plan our trip.

We arrived in Denver on a Saturday night and the next morning we attended Beth Eden Baptist Church. Although the pastor was away the day we were there we did hear two very good messages. In the morning one of the assistant pastors spoke and in the evening there was a visiting evangelist. After the services we were able to talk with some former students of Rob's and even a former student of mine from one of the first years that I taught Home Economics back in the last millenium.

One fun thing that Rob got to experience that afternoon was playing the handbells. Steve is in a group at church learning to play handbells and Rob was able to attend practice with him and participate. Here are Rob and Steve hard at work:


In my next post I will cover the highlights of our time in Colorado.


Another favorite cookie


I recently saw a recipe for an oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookie and decided to try it. It has become a new favorite around here. I did change up the original recipe quite a bit so I'm posting it with my changes.

Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup raisins (microwave for 1 minute with 2 Tbsps. water then cool)
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
Add salt and baking soda. Blend and then add flour.
Finally stir in oats, cooled raisins, and chocolate chips.
Use a small scoop to portion out onto baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. I get five baking sheets of cookies from this recipe and they are very good.


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