A Little Piece of Heaven on Earth

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For our second anniversary we re-visited a favorite location in the Vedauwoo Recreation Area near where we live in Wyoming. My husband found this beautiful “crow’s nest” on top of a rocky hill and knew of it before he took me up there to camp one night. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been yet in my life and it’s our favorite spot to be.

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The camp site is like a bowl, surrounded by boulders and rock formations on all sides. At night, the wind can absolutely howl at this height. But we were there to watch the sun set and it was perfect, with just a slight movement of air (not even a wind) now and then. Sunset and sunrise here are magical hours.

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Everywhere you look, it’s a scene to be photographed. It’s important though, to put the camera down now and then and just take it in as God intended. On hiking up to the top this day, I took all the photos I wanted and then did just that. Put my camera away and sat with my husband taking in the views and roasting marshmallows.

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I find the trees and dead wood make their own composition just as strikingly as the far away views of mountains and plains. There is something interesting to see at every turn.

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My husband is a tireless worker and is always busy. His happy place is being outdoors and I love to see him relax when we venture here. It’s different when you’re somewhere that has quiet like this place. Even I feel it when I arrive. You are compelled to not talk so much, to sense everything around you differently and you just are different. It’s the re-set that happens when you’re in nature. It’s how we should be, but how we forget to be.

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On the way up the trail to get to the crow’s nest, we stumbled right into this pair of bull moose. They were happy to be left alone and continue to munch around the underbrush. (They seemed to realize we didn’t pose any threat but they kept a wary eye on us and never got too close).

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Once we had made it up to the crow’s nest, we caught sight of them again; this time much farther away but still on the move on a neighboring hilltop.

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There is abundant birding up here as well. We just had to sit still and watch around us and birds were everywhere, flitting this way and that, making final runs for food and what not before the sun set.

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This one seemed to set a reverie of evening light and stillness as it perched calmly in this tree. It was as if it knew the day was ending and it wanted to take it all in before retiring.

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It’s our little piece of heaven on earth. No better way to spend a special day 🙂

Thunderbirds

We were treated to a free air show from our front yard in Cheyenne, WY while the USAF Thunderbirds performed their annual air acrobatics as part of the 2019 Cheyenne Frontier Days celebrations.

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My sister-in-law and her husband were in town to see the bull riding competition and stayed with us during their trip. As they prepared to leave, we heard the tell-tale sound of loud aircraft overhead and went outside.

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These photos were taken as we sat in the grass and watched the show. They flew northward towards our home over and over as they used the area to prepare their formations and fly over the airshow viewing area (this year at F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

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The precision flying on display was nothing short of amazing and was a treat to get to enjoy unexpectedly from the comfort of our own home. The skies were blue with just the faintest clouds here and there; a perfect day for an air show.

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My husband and I traded off the mobile and SLR cameras as I bounced back and forth between taking photos and taking videos. Ultimately my husband snagged most of these photos (because he’s pretty handy with photography). We both loved the opportunity to get shots of the jets flying in front of and around the moon still visible in the late morning sky.

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This shot was similar to the jets in formation above, but the contrast was terrific against the clouds and if you zoom in, you can almost make out the pilots in each cockpit.

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I can’t fathom the knowledge and training that goes into making performances like these look so smooth. Undoubtedly, it’s a lot of skill and trust amongst teammates.

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Even with a strong telephoto lens, this guy was wayyyyy up there.

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By the time this formation finished, it looked almost like the outline of a morning glory in bloom. The timing was exact and each jet was in identical position from each of the four points while a fifth jet flew straight up from the middle.

All in all, a really fantastic opportunity to get to see the USAF Thunderbirds in action and be in awe of a tremendous team of airmen. We look forward to seeing them again next year hopefully!

A Warm Oasis in Winter Wyoming

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Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

I am a North Carolina gal now calling Wyoming home sweet home. I have embraced all things snowy, cold and windy without too much complaint. Of all the things I miss the most about the East Coast, #1 has to be the year-round greenery of grass and trees and the variety of common garden flowers found in most yards and commercial properties.

Today being a wonderfully quiet and free day, I decided to take myself to the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens here in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In the last several cities I’ve called home, I’ve always gravitated towards the local gardens available to the public. It was just what the doctor ordered for a typical day of freezing temperatures and whipping winds – a long morning walk in the sunny mist of a tropical oasis. One can’t enter the conservatory on the grounds of the gardens without seeing this beautiful, very big boot on display as you walk in.

It’s very much all that is Wyoming to see boots sitting outside public properties crafted by artists. In brighter light and contrast, the coloration appears like a large sculpture of stained glass.

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Artwork by Vickie McSchooler on display at the Botanic Gardens, Cheyenne WY
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Fairy Garden, First Floor

The first thing you see in entering the inner conservatory structure inside is a lovely fairy garden display. Simple, yet whimsically detailed, it’s easy to find yourself slowing down to look into every corner and over each pebble and leaf at the many intentional little corners and crevices where any fairies might venture from.

As you stroll further, the sound of trickling water soothes the soul and you are met with the most popular spot on the main floor: A larger corner of waterfall fountains that feed a small koi pond and stream. The whole area feels secluded being surrounded by thick and lush green plants and small trees. Most visitors saunter slowly throughout the three floors of the entire conservatory, but all (including yours truly) stop at this relaxing space to take in the visual feast for the senses.

Next, your feet and the pathway will take you to an open door that leads into a side room called a Theme Garden. Among other plants and growth, this tree trunk caught my eye. On further examination, it has been carefully planted with lightly affixed succulents. It’s so natural looking you almost have to do a double-take to realize the greenery is not moss or lichens. Someone spent considerable time on this, undoubtedly. Would love to try this in our yard someday.

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Second Floor Misters and Balcony

On taking the stairs (there is also an elevator) to the second floor, it was a pleasant sensation to walk into the misters being turned on briefly. Actually, these aren’t even “misters” per se. The spray and moisture are much finer than it looks. I stood directly under the falling moisture and I could hardly feel it. In a region that is as dry as Wyoming, it was a welcome experience. These misters are positioned all around the conservatory and high above across the angles of the ceiling. In fact, they help keep the place cool as well as moist. It’s not hot at all here. I toured the entire facility with a t-shirt, a fleece long-sleeved work shirt and an outdoor light jacket complete with a large SLR camera cross-body bag and I never felt hot.

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Second Floor Overlook
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Second Floor Quiet Space

A really great (and surprising) feature of the conservatory is that on the second and third levels, visitors find small cafe tables and chairs positioned quietly around the balconies. I imagine this would be a great place to come to with a book or your laptop to sit in the sun and light and breathe in the clean air and list to the water feature below on a lunch hour or a weekend day. It also allows you to sit and simply look and take in the entire space; a nice change of pace from continual walking. When was the last time you were able to stop and sit in quiet in a place you enjoyed?

Also on the second floor is an aviary gifted by philanthropists housing a variety of very tiny birds. It’s a popular pause-place (especially for little ones, thus the signage) and enables you to faintly hear these sweet birds singing and chirping as you travel the upper floors. The care that was taken to construct this habitat is obvious and even the branches dip and sway like real tree branches.

Despite it being late January, and everything outdoors being asleep and dried out for the winter, indoors new growth continues and can be seen everywhere. Nearly every plant or tree has some budding or new shoots of various types happening year round here.

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Flowering Maple, Second Floor

On reaching the third stairway entry (elevators reach this floor as well), the entryway before you re-enter the conservatory is lined with succulents and cacti. It’s fascinating to see more common household varieties as well as several I’ve never seen before. Likely these are better suited to the more dry, outer hallway, but sunshine and warm is abundant here as well.

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Entryway corner with general cacti and succulents

This area was also a calm and welcoming spot to sit and rest while taking in the third floor of the conservatory. The flooring of the balconies is grate-patterned (so heels are not advisable). The sunshine and comfortable quiet enticed me to sit for a while, enjoying the respite it provided both from the cold outdoors and from the noise (both literal and analogous to daily distraction). It certainly could be appreciated that this small space was surrounded by shelves of orchids and hibiscus which added an exotic aesthetic.

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Third Floor Quiet Space

Last stop on the third floor was a look at the bonsai on display. I noticed on the outside observation deck just outside this level, there is a seasonal “bonsai hut” but this seems to be the winter location for bonsai specimens being cultivated at any given time.

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Bonsai Display

As the walking adventure of the indoor conservatory ended, I elected to step outside briefly into the wind and cold to see what the outside observation deck offered.

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Variety unknown but beautiful!

I can imagine in the warmer months, this is a very popular place to gather with friends and enjoy the sunny Wyoming spring, summer and fall months. What a great spot to bring a lunch and grab some Vitamin D! (See the bonsai hut in the background).

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Outdoor Observation Deck, Third Floor

If you stand at the rail of the observation deck, you can overlook Sloans Lake which at present is frozen over quite well. We commonly see ice-fishing huts and set-ups on the lake when we pass by in the winter. In the far distance, you can just make out the local National Guard Airport.

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Sloans Lake, Cheyenne WY

This wonderful public garden and conservatory is a true oasis in the cold winter months. I’m so glad I took the time to visit. It’s free to visitors but there is a donation box at the entrance that should receive a few dollars on your visit, as it obviously takes a lot of effort and passionate volunteerism to keep a high-quality organization like this running. And that friends, is money well spent.

Morning Hoar Frost

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This morning started off with fog rolling in and enveloping much of our area with crystalline hoar frost.

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The back yard aspens were in greater contrast when covered with the briar-like formations but they quickly melted away with the rising sun.

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The pines also sported their own armor of white spikes as well. Interestingly, there must have been a slight breeze or wind as the frost only formed in the direction of that air movement and other parts of trees and structures had no frost at all.

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It did make for a very interesting winter wonderland scape while it lasted.

Sunset Over Cheyenne

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My husband and I pulled over on the side of a road overlooking the city of Cheyenne, WY on our way home from errands as the sun was setting.

We are blessed with many beautiful sunrises and sunsets here on the high plains, but every once in a while, we get a really spectacular one. Tonight was a really lovely display with the city lights stretched below us and the Rockies in the far horizon, backlit by the sun’s final rays.