Category Archives: travel/trips

Bandelier National Monument ~ field trip

Bandelier giant pottery

When the girls and I went on our New Mexico trip a couple of months ago, one of the places we really wanted to visit was Bandelier National Monument. At Home Dad and I went a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Since Miss E has been interested in the National Park and National Monuments for a while, this was a good one to put on the “must visit” list. Miss L had asked to study ancient civilizations this year so we were able to add this to her hands-on experiences in learning about them. (It also gave us a chance to visit my brother in Santa Fe!)

Bandelier is where an ancient puebloan civilization lived about 1150. While living here, they built homes that they carved out of the volcanic tuff walls, creating caves or cliff dwellings. They did not plant within the steep walls of the canyons, instead planting on the flat top of the mesa. They cultivated corn, beans, and squash, supplemented with plants that grew naturally here. They hunted for meat, eating deer, rabbit, and even squirrel. There was a fresh water stream that flowed through the canyon.

circular village

After about 400 years, the land was beginning to fail and was no longer able to fully support this civilization. Once a drought appeared, the people could no longer stay. By about 1500, they had abandoned this canyon almost completely and were living along the Rio Grande River.

Bandelier is a unique place. The people who lived here built their homes along the canyon walls and in the canyon walls to take advantage of the heat and protection they offered. Using the volcanic tuff, they also built a large circular village on the canyon floor. It is estimated that the village held around 400 rooms, all stacked and layered, made from volcanic tuff blocks. They used mud to mortar the blocks.

But what makes this place really unique is that the visitors are able to walk among the ruins, the homes, the kivas, even going into some of them. The hiking path takes you along the canyon floor and then to the canyon walls, highlighting many of the important places. Some of the caves have ladders placed so you can climb up and enter. Some of the caves are so small you can barely move around and probably served as storage. Others are multi-roomed caverns that you can stand up in and walk around. We climbed into several and got a neat view of the canyon.

Alcove House

The hardest climb, though, comes at the end of the canyon. It is up to Alcove House. Alcove House is carved out of the canyon walls approximately 140 feet up. It is reached by several ladders and sets of stone steps. It is believed that people did indeed live here but it was probably ceremonial. There is a large kiva, many viga holes in the walls (the supporting beams for roofs or second stories), and remains of walls and caves in the walls. It is a hard climb but if you are in shape for it, definitely worth it!

Bandelier is a wonderful place to visit and one that our family really enjoyed. Even if you choose not to visit Alcove House, getting to set foot inside caves that once house ancestral peoples is pretty neat. If you are planning a trip to NM, add this one to your list.

At Home.

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Antique Rose Emporium, Independence, TX – field trip

The Antique Rose Emporium in Independence, TX, is a fantastic garden center to visit. There are tons of unique and interesting plants for sale but also the arrangement of the area is just beautiful.

waterfall and butterflies

We enjoyed walking around the butterfly garden and asking about the various plants that were drawing the butterflies this time of year. We saw some lovely blossoms and enjoyed many fragrances.

butterflies and blossoms

The shade gardens were beautiful and we enjoyed the various greens we saw.

The gravesite for the broken pottery is a fun little side plot that Miss E absolutely adored. She had been wanting to visit since she saw the pictures from this summer.

broken pot graveyard

The maze! What can I say? This was just fun. We chased each other around and around on the little brick paths and laughed and giggled and just enjoyed it. I would love one of these strange shade “trees”.

fun and mazes

The ladies who work here are more than happy to answer questions and to point out interesting plants. They enjoyed talking to the girls and even called them over to show them a plant that eats bugs. What a joy to meet people who truly love what they do.

The blossoms during our visit in October were definitely different than those that we saw back in June. What an interesting comparison to make. And what a fun place to visit.

At Home.

Independence, Texas – field trip

Independence, Texas, is a place all its own. It has a pretty good claim to fame here in Texas – Sam Houston lived here. But also, two universities got their starts here – Baylor University and University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (originally the Baylor Women’s College). Independence was once an important educational and religious site.

Baylor University beginnings

There are several historic structures in the town and the cemetery is really quite interesting. There is a neat visitor’s center with very helpful, friendly staff. The walking/driving tour is well marked and interesting. At Home Dad and I visited this summer while the girls were at camp. It was so interesting for us that we went again not long ago and took the girls.

Baylor Hill

We visited the historic sites by driving. Even though it was October, it was a very hot day, so we drove. (And got some ice cream at the lone spot in town where you can buy anything!) We visited the Baylor sites and the rose garden. I’ll share that in another post just because we took so many pictures there.

historic buildings

During our summertime visit, At Home Dad and I also went out to the cemetery. Fascinating place!!! There are plenty of historic headstones, many of which have fallen into disrepair. While we were visiting, a man was working on restoring these important stones. Many are from founding families of the state, including Sam Houston’s family and some soldiers from various battles. It was a really neat cemetery to visit and talking with this historian made is even more interesting.

Independence, Texas, is a neat little place to visit. You can see it all easily in just an hour or two. We definitely recommend a visit here if you have the time.

At Home.

Hiking in New Mexico

Hiking In NM

During our trip to New Mexico, we spent some time hiking in one of the canyons above Bonito Lake. Just a few miles from where I grew up, this is something I enjoyed doing growing up and still enjoy now. The mountains are so peaceful (in spite of all the RVs leaving the forest on the day we were there). Listening to the wind blow through the pines. The cold water flowing through the creek. The grass whispering as it waves. Such a relaxing, joyful time.

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There is so much to be gained from experiences like this for our city-girls. The experience of just being able to run and play and explore without thinking of traffic or neighbors is so relaxing. Trying out new things like gold panning is fun. Seeing the variety of flowers that bloom in the mountains, some of which are the same ones we see and others which are different. Finding an elk hoof and talking about why it is there on the side of the mountain. Seeing the damage of the forest fires and the regrowth that happens with time. Fungi, new trees, weeds, seeds – so much variety of plants to look at. Learning the basics of traversing a mountain, even. Wonderful growth experiences you just can’t have in a city.

It was pleasant to just sit and watch the girls romp in the river and to explore as far as they felt bold enough to go. Panning for gold was a fun experience for them, though not productive this time around. I enjoyed the time and the hike up the canyon. We ended our day perfectly with a campfire and smores.

At Home.

Texas State Fair – field trip

We had a wonderful time with family at the Texas State Fair last week when it opened. Since we were there on the first day, it was clean and neat and we really enjoyed it. It was also a bit rainy so it was a tad less crowded than it might otherwise have been.

We visited the greenhouse with the trains that wind through Texas sites. We saw the giant pumpkins.

giant pumpkins

The girls rode the beautiful carousel.

carousel

We visited Big Tex.

We saw all the arts and crafts, from lovely quilts to amazing cross-stitching to fun collections of antiques and uniques. We got to see the 500 pound butter sculpture and visited the marketplace where we admired all of the Texas products.butter sculpture

We ate corny dogs (a State Fair tradition) and visited the textiles building. The girls rode the super slide. We visited the Texas Discovery Gardens to see the butterflies.

Texas Discovery Gardens

And, of course, we all rode the Texas Star, the highest ferris wheel in the western hemisphere. All in all, a day of joy and fun.

Texas Star

At Home.

Finally – a Texas Butterfly field trip

Texas Discovery Gardens

 

Miss L has enjoyed butterflies for a long time now. She is known affectionately as the Butterfly Whisperer by many of her friends for her ability to coax butterflies onto her finger and for her patience to be still and wait or to just be still and enjoy watching them.

Yesterday, we went to the Texas State Fair and visited the Texas Discovery Gardens. The Texas Discovery Gardens is a butterfly garden. We were able to get special pricing during the State Fair so it was very reasonably priced. We spent a good hour there, maybe an hour and a half. And the space is not that large but she did enjoy it tremendously. The joy she had just running around and looking at these lovely creatures was wonderful.

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There were volunteers and staff members here and there throughout to offer information and answer questions. But mostly, we just enjoyed observing and watching to see what all we could see. It was wonderfully peaceful in the garden.

The flowers were also something to see. I was fascinated by the beautiful flowers throughout the butterfly house. All sorts of colors, shapes, sizes, and types. I don’t have names for most of them but one that had a name plaque there was the pitcher plant. It was really neat. The plants alone were just lovely.

They also had a bee tree. The bees came into the tree from the outside through a tube and there was a plastic viewing place where we could watch the bees moving around inside the tree/hive. We could watch them and look at the combs. Miss J had a magnifying glass and spent quite a bit of time studying them up close through it. Miss E also seemed to find these pretty fascinating and spent some time viewing and reading about the bees.

From the lovely Blue Morpho to all the others that I don’t have names for, we saw a lot of lovely butterflies. It was definitely an experience worth repeating. If you haven’t gone, it is definitely worth going.

At Home.

Carlsbad Caverns

At the end of August, the girls and I were able to take a field trip to New Mexico, my home state. We visited a couple of sites that are pretty special to me and enjoyed our time there and with family quite a bit.

This is the highlights of our time in Carlsbad. We did see the Bat Flight program the night before we hiked the cavern but it is not safe for the bats to have any kind of a device on, so we turned off the cameras and phones and just enjoyed watching. The estimate was that there were about 500,000 bats the night we were there. The Brazilian Free-tailed Bats are a migrating bat so they are not there year round. We truly enjoyed seeing them. The next day, we hiked the cavern and saw lots of beautiful sights. The girls really seemed to enjoy it and we had a pretty good time.

Carlsbad was a specific destination for us since watching the videos about the National Parks. This was one that Miss E has been asking to visit. It was not difficult for us to get there and we definitely enjoyed checking this one off her “bucket list.”

Enjoy our pictures.

At Home.

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