Monday, February 18, 2013

Texas Bucket List: Waco Zoo

About 18 months ago I created a list of things I'd like to do/see and places I'd like to visit while living in Texas, otherwise known as my Texas Bucket List. Since my list first came together, I've only been able to cross off a couple of experiences:
  • Attend a professional baseball game.
  • Buy myself a pair of cowboy boots.  Done.  Or at least I think this one is taken care of - can I consider this bullet point checked off if I purchased my boots in Chicago?
  • Visit the Dallas Cowboys stadium.
  • Swim in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Watch a football game at Kyle Field.  Done, though I'd still like to see the Aggies play at Kyle Field.  (We've twice attended the Consol. HS vs. Bryan HS varsity football game, which is always played at Kyle Field.)
  • Watch the TAMU Fightin' Texas Aggie Band perform.
  • Spend the day playing at Schlitterbahn Water Park.
  • Attend a rodeo.  Done, though Tom and I would still like to enjoy a rodeo without the kids in tow so that we can pay closer attention to the events.
  • Learn what chaps are.  Done.  Thank goodness I never committed to actually WEARING chaps.
  • Visit the Riverwalk and the Alamo in San Antonio.
  • Take a frame-worthy photo of Indian Paintbrushes or Bluebonnets.
  • Visit a Texas aquarium.
  • Visit a Texas zoo.  Done, which brings me to this post.
A couple of weeks ago, on a rare, event/activity/sporting event/birthday party-free Saturday, we drove up to Waco to visit the Cameron Park Zoo.  We'd heard great things about this particular zoo (it's 90+ miles from College Station, but we know quite a few College Station residents who enjoy the zoo so much that they've purchased memberships), and it delivered.  The entrance fee was reasonable, parking was free, nearly all of the animals were outside, there was a fantastic playground for the kids to explore once they'd tired of watching animals in their natural habitats, and because the day was overcast, the zoo was anything but crowded.  The one negative was that there were no real food options inside the park and we ended up cutting our visit a little short because we were all starving.  (I only brought two suckers for snacks because I assumed the zoo would have at least a couple of casual restaurants and food carts throughout, just like every other zoo I've ever been to.)

Here's a glimpse into our day among the animals!

First up, a few of the "regular animals".
The white-handed gibbon.  
The black bears were a bit sleepy.  I like how this guy's tongue is
hanging out of his mouth - way to keep it classy for the people, bud.
The ghost of a black bear past.  Or a black bear's reflection.  Whatever.
This kimono dragon, much to Hallie's dismay, did NOT breath fire.  Or move.  At all.
Dory.  When another zoo-goer told Hallie that Dory was poisonous, Hallie gave him a look that was at
least as poisonous as he believed Dory to be.  She clearly believed him to be an idiot of epic proportions.
Not surprisingly, the wolves were pretty tired after spending the previous night fighting local vampires.
The "balGEEgles" (which is how Will STILL
mispronounces their name) were gorgeous.
Spider monkeys make me think of the movie
Outbreak and consequently freak me out a little.
The capybara.  Cute little buddy.  Would have been cuter if he'd done something.
I would have loved to have spent a bit more time with the giraffes, but
it was at this point that the kids' blood sugar levels started dropping
rapidly and drastically and they started crying and misbehaving.
I love orangutans - this one in particular seemed
incredibly wise and peaceful.
The coy pond.
This elephant was hard at work when
we came across his enclosure.
Over and over and over again he lifted this log with his trunk
and tried oh so delicately to balance it across the top of the stump.
Poor thing never accomplished his goal, at least while we were watching.
I was impressed with his persistence though.
Next up, the big cats. (They're my favorite, so I feel like they should 
have their own, highlighted section of this blog post.)
The mountain lion, keeping an eye on an intimidating (or delicious?) Will.
She wouldn't look at me - she was too busy peeing
a river, which the kids thought was hysterical.
The leopards were busy pacing like their lives depended on it.
I absolutely love their fur - gorgeous.
Mufasa or Simba - it's difficult to know, because according
to Will, Daddies and their little boys look a lot alike.
He was a bit tired of or bored with us.
Another beautiful animal.
And finally, the animals that haunt my dreams.  Literally.
This albino catfish was larger and weighed more than Hallie.
Apparently this alligator (crocodile?  I'm not sure) was too
tired - even under the water - to hold up his own body weight.
Two nights ago this fellow starred in my dreams.  Will and I played the supporting roles, and
the plot centered around me having to swim through a swamp to save Will from the star's death roll tactics.
"Let's see how close I can get my head to this crazy animal..."
In last night's horrific dream, this creepy guy entered our house through the
floorboards and Tom had to kill him by plunging a massive screw through his head.
A snake.  I hate snakes, so I have no idea why
I took so many pictures of them.
Another snake.
Yet another snake.
There were so. many. snakes.  I think I started to hyperventilate at this point.
Hallie and I watched this rattlesnake's tail for quite a while - when she stepped up to the glass the snake's
tail began to rattle, but when she backed up the rattling stopped.  She clearly liked having that kind of
power (or what she perceived as power - it's not like she could ever "take" the snake in a match-up) over him.
A few pics of the family at the zoo.  They certainly don't showcase my best 
photography, nor the most cooperative moments any of my subjects 
have had, but at least they show us enjoying the zoo.
The kids went down this slide - which passed under water, through the penguin enclosure - at least 40 times.
When I'd had enough of the snakes, Hallie and I
played outside while we waited for the boys.
Walking on air.
Enjoying their suckers, and refusing to take the suckers out of their
mouths - even for just a second - to smile for the camera.
The best of many attempts at a photo of my three loves.
And to wrap things up, here are perhaps the two best animal photos I've 
ever taken, not so much because of anything specific I as the photographer did, 
but because I just happened to catch these animals in once in a lifetime moments.
We had a wonderful time at the zoo, and it feels great to be out there experiencing what Texas has to offer!

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