Monday, January 23, 2012

A Polynesian Expedition

There is nothing like a cold January day in land-locked Arkansas, to get one's mind to take an imaginary trip to a tropical Polynesian paradise. Such was the case that made my mind recall my visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center ( on the north shoe of Hawaii's Oahu island. The Polynesian Cultural Center is a 42-acre facility that employs about 1300 people, with approximately 70% of those employees being students at nearby Brigham Young University/Hawaii. In fact, that was the purpose of this non-profit entity when it was founded in 1963. The "edutainment" complex enables BYU students to work 20 hours per week while school is in session, and 40 hours per week during breaks. (This is similar to a college near where I live, called College of the Ozarks, in Hollister, Missouri or ) The students at the Hawaii branch of BYU come from an area that covers about 12 million square miles of Pacific Ocean.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

WE BOUGHT A ZOO!! (i.e., a zoo ticket!)

Some of you may have recently seen the heart-warming movie, called We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon, which is based on a true story. If that movie aroused feelings of nostalgia about the last time you visited a zoo, or planted a seed in your mind, to take a "zoo expedition", I would encourage you to do so! There are zoos , big and small, located across the country (and around the world), and to find one in your area, all you have to do is go to your computer's search engine!

This blog post is to tell you about a winter-time expedition I took to the zoo at Tulsa, Oklahoma.

There are many good reasons to visit a zoo during the cooler months of the year, and one of them is that the animals are usually more active. The "blur" of this tiger's hind legs in this photograph is intentional. I wanted to illustrate that the tiger was actually up and about!

Another good reason for a winter visit is that the crowds are smaller, and a visitor can take their time observing or photographing the zoo residents. There is not someone bumping into you, or clamoring for the spot you have picked out, to get the perfect view or photo of an animal.

When I first arrived at the Tulsa Zoo for this visit, the smaller crowds made the whole place quieter, and I heard animal sounds bellowing out across the acreage, that I had never heard before! Following those sounds, I discovered the sounds were coming from the habitat where the "big cats" like this one lived.

There are also lots of "fowl sounds" you will hear at this zoo, as they have a wide variety of avian species. In fact, the zoo boasts that it has "2,800 animals, 84 acres, and is open 363 days per year!"

I don't want to forget another reason for a winter visit to the Tulsa Zoo---in January and February, they have a promotion called "MONDAYS ARE DOLLAR DAYS", where it only costs a buck to get in! Add to that, the fact that there is no automobile parking fee January through March, and you have yourself a real entertainment bargain!

There are very few children who will not enjoy a zoo visit, and one reason is that so many of the attractions are specifically designed with youngsters in mind!

I enjoy attractions that have "photo ops" like this one, where you can get a picture of yourself and/or others, in a scene created to give you a souvenir image of your visit!

The young (or young at heart) can even add to their "intellectual tank" by learning big words like "brachiation" from the zoo's educational placards. Adding some "kinetic memory" techniques to the word, by actually attempting some brachiation on the nearby monkey bars, will make this part of the zoo truly MEMORABLE! (even if it happens to include sore muscles the next day!)

Regardless of the weather outside, you will always be comfortable inside the zoo's climate-controlled Conservation Center.

Comfortable, that is, if reptiles of every description do not frighten you----even if they ARE behind glass!

Notice that there is no "blur" in this photograph. It seems the purpose of these guys is to be the illustration of the cliche about being "slow as a turtle"!

This photo illustrates other good reasons to make a winter zoo visit---it is a great opportunity to spend some quality time with your family---in an environment beyond playing video games indoors, while sitting on the couch! Likewise, the background shows that, with the leaves off the trees, you can get a more open "safari-like" experience.

Speaking of safaris, you need to know that one of the perks of Tulsa Zoo Membership, is that you are eligible for a "Starry Safari" where you can bring your camping gear, and actually camp inside the zoo! I had a similar experience (mine was called "Roar and Snore") at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in California, and can heartily recommend it!

The zoo not only has examples of species that live on land, but also examples of species that make their home in the water! This beautiful aquarium is an illustration of that.

Most zoos I have visited have one section devoted to teaching about the animals/habitat of the area where the zoo is located. This photo shows how Tulsa does this with their well-labeled "Oklahoma Trail".

Lest us modern-day folks think we are the ones who popularized the concept of a zoo, remember these words in the seventh chapter of Genesis, when God was speaking to Noah: "You are also to take two of each living creature, a male and a female, on board the ship, to preserve their lives with you: two of every species of bird, mammal, and reptile---two of everything so as to preserve their lives along with yours." (The Message) So just like the Tulsa Zoo has its "Conservation Center", one might think of Noah's Ark as an early "Conservation Center"! If you would like to start planning your trip to this lovely zoo on the edge of the Ozarks, just log on to . I know that your expedition to this, or a zoo near you, will bring you "miles of smiles"!! Tricia

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pedestal Rocks Hiking Trail

The trail is within an area of the Ozark National Forest, designated as the Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area. Besides the 2.2 mile Pedestal Rocks Trail, there is also the Kings Bluff Trail, which is 1.7 miles long.

The great thing about hiking in this part of Arkansas in January (besides the fact that you don't have to worry about ticks and chiggers) is that a hiker is better able to see the contours of the land, because the Ozark National Forest is primarily comprised of oak and hickory trees that lose their leaves during the winter, allowing for more "wide open" views.

When one reaches the edge of the mountain where the bluffs and pedestal formations abound, you begin spotting more of the evergreen trees that are also found in Ozark National Forest.

The bluffs provide a wonderful place to sit down, rest, and have a snack. Although there are picnic tables and a vault toilet at the trail head, there are none located along the actual hiking trail. But who needs a man-made picnic table and bench, when God has so marvelously provided a place to dine, like the one shown in this photo!

As the bluff extends far out above the land below, you get the sense of a "Rock Island" floating above the valleys and hills that stretch to the horizon.

The reason you can only see the top half of my torso in this photo is because the bottom half is down inside a large depression of the rock surface. Sometimes these rock depressions are so weathered through erosion, that they go completely through the top of the rock, opening up to the valley floor, several feet below.

There are occasional access points along the trail where one can "boulder" their way down to the lower section of the formations, and this is the spot where I carefully made my way to the bottom of the cliff. Although I did not see any climbers with technical rock climbing gear at Pedestal Rocks, rock climbing is popular along similar bluffs located nearby at Sam's Throne and Horseshoe Canyon. I have hiked in both these locations, and could recommend them for anyone wanting to see or participate in the sport of rock climbing.

Being on the bottom side of the bluffs enabled one to see some of the caves and open rooms that lay beneath. Fred Flintstone would have found plenty of room for him and his entire family to inhabit in true "flintstone" style!

One of the natural features creating these caves are the seeps and springs that flow through the forest along the limestone and dolomite bluffs. These supply the baseflow for Ozark streams. Even though the temperature got up to sixty degrees on the day we hiked, I spotted this icicle hanging off of the side of a bluff where spring water was running across the top.

Posted by PicasaBeing out in this beautiful area on such a gorgeous winter day, made me give thanks to God for the beauty of his creation, both in the surrounding countryside, and in his creation of the human body that carries us outdoors to see that creation! Being able to enjoy a hike such as this is one reason I promote participation in First Place 4 Health ( , because it gives you the tools you need to be a good steward of the body we have each been given! One thing we do in First Place 4 Health to keep our mental health functioning well is Scripture memorization. The memory verse that came to mind when I was inside the rock house, looking out onto one of the tall rock formations was from Proverbs 18:10 that says "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." Before you run right out to see the towers at Pedestal Rocks, log onto to get driving directions, safety tips, and trail maps to make your expeditions a truly memorable one! Miles of smiles! Tricia