For all you Texans, you get this. You probably have a Bucket List, but then you have a separate Texas Bucket List, for things that every Texan should do. For all you non-Texans, I’m sorry. Hopefully you can get here some day and check all these things off of your list. Luckily there is now a song dedicated to a Texas Bucket List. It’s called My Texas, and it’s by The Josh Abbott Band. There is also a little known guy named Pat Green that sings along with him. You may have heard of him?
Anyway, the list in the song has pretty much everything you need to do in Texas – here is the breakdown.
1. Climb Enchanted Rock CHECK At least 4 times
2. Drink a cold Shiner down in Luckenbach CHECK Of course I have! And I’ll do it again, too!
3. Take your baby to the River Walk CHECK And I’m planning on going in March again!
4. Float the Frio River CHECK Used to do this every summer as a kid!
5. Listen to Red Dirt music on the radio CHECK Back when I was in high school, we had a good Texas country music station. Not anymore….
6. Eat Cooper’s In Llano* (sort of) CHECK I have an * by this, because I have had Cooper’s from Llano, but I haven’t had it IN Llano. They were leftovers a friend brought for me to try
7. Go to the Houston Rodeo CHECK Pretty much every year of my childhood, and I showed a steer in Houston
8. Sing “Carry On” at a Pat Green Show CHECK I saw Pat Green AT the Houston Rodeo
9. See an Abilene sunset
10. Catch a trout in Port A(ransas)
11. Heard the words to “Corpus Christ Bay” CHECK Robert Earl Keen is one of the best – I know all the words!
12. Watch fireworks on PK (I had to look this up, it’s Possum Kingdom Lake)
13. Have a kolache when you go through West* (sort of CHECK) Again, the * means I had them when a friend (the same friend who brought me Cooper’s from Llano by the way, brought me some, but I haven’t had fresh ones. Doesn’t matter though – they were still A-MAZ-ING.
14. Heard of the Larry Jo Taylor Fest
15. Go to the Fort Worth Stock Show CHECK I showed a steer here too
16. Sing along with Cory Morrow CHECK Did this 3 times last year!
17. See a hill country sunset CHECK It’s beautiful every time
18. Hike through Big Bend CHECK I practically lived there for 6 years while I was in college!
19. Let your hair blow through the Lubbock wind
20. Be somewhere that they call you “friend” CHECK I count a lot of places, most of them in Alpine. You always run into someone you know there!
21. Go to the San Antonio Rodeo CHECK Showed a steer here too…
22. Sing “Everclear” at a Roger Creager show CHECK At least 8 times
23. See an El Paso sunset CHECK Best place in Texas to get factory direct boots, but it was quite a drive to get to even when I lived out West. So of course I saw the sunset!
So as you can see, it’s a lot of sunsets and listening to good country music. I’ve done most everything on this list. I think there are a few things that need to be added to it though. See live music at The Salt Lick (and get the Family Style bbq meal. Just trust me on this.), go to Wurstfest in New Braunfels, the Llano Crawfish Open, horseback riding on the beach on South Padre, have a beer on the Front Porch of Terlingua, swim in Jacob’s Well, see a Willie Nelson show, drive down a hill country road to see the bluebonnets at their peak, watch the sunset over Lake Travis at The Oasis, drink cold Texas beer on a hot Saturday night, go 4 wheeling on the Brazos River, eat Huevos Rancheros at Bob’s Taco Station, eat at ALL of the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ joints, and go on every brewery tour (this is going to be a hard one, since new breweries are popping up all the time!), smell the wild Mountain Laurel blooming, get a Round Rock donut, go to Pete’s Piano Bar, and climb Guadalupe Peak, the tallest mountain in Texas. Sounds like I’ll be busy, because I have a few more to do. And the things I’ve marked off the list already, I’ll probably do again.
On Earth As It Is In Texas.
Smell the Mountain Laurel
You haven’t done them all until you’ve seen Big Bend Brewing Company – the most remote Brewery in Texas, and one of the most remote in the USA!
Wow, it took a lot longer to get this post pulled together than I thought it would! I finally learned how to put Watermarks on my photos, so I was trying to get that done before I posted these photos. So, without further ado – here is the final installment of our epic Yellowstone trip! You can catch up and read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 here.
Seeing as how this was a trip to Yellowstone, it was high time we spent some time in the park. By this time we moved to our cabin on the Idaho/Montana border, just outside of the western park entrance. Based on my limited knowledge, the western portion of the park was where you were most likely to see the wolves, so I made sure to book several nights at these cabins to give us a good chance at seeing them. It was also cheaper than staying in the town of West Yellowstone, which is mainly just a tourist attraction since you have to go through the town in order to use the West Entrance. This is also where the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is located, and I wanted to be sure to check that out as well.
On our first full day in West Yellowstone, we headed straight to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. It was smaller than I thought it would be, but I still learned A LOT. They had dioramas of different seasons and species, and had a lot of information about why the grizzly and wolf numbers dropped so quickly. (Mainly, the government at the time thought of bears and wolves as pests, and hired government trappers to kill them off. But more on that later). We were able to watch the grizzlies in their enclosure wrestle and play, search for food under rocks, and munch on tasty elk legs! (Road killed animals go to the Center). The wolves that were there are all extremely old, for wolf standards. They all looked like they were about 15 or so years old and were happy to lay in the sun and get tasty free meals that they didn’t have to hunt down on their arthritic legs.
After the center we went next door to an Authentic Mexican Restaurant. I know, I know. Why on Earth would you go get Mexican food in Montana? It was there, I was starving, and I didn’t think about it. Okay?!
Needless to say, it was terrible food. No flavor. I mean really. I couldn’t make food that flavorless on purpose. Live and learn, right? Now I’m passing on my knowledge to you so you have a better meal somewhere else.
After lunch we headed into the park to look for wild wolves! Yay!
One of the best things about Yellowstone is also one of the worst things about Yellowstone: the number of tourists. We were there before the summer crowd, but toward the end of the week more and more people started coming into the park because it was a holiday weekend coming up. So by Wednesday the park was packed! However, like I said, this is also a great thing because when one person sees awesome wildlife, everyone pulls their car over and you are sure to see whatever it is that they are looking at.
We saw a bunch of cars pulled over so of course we pulled over too. We got to see a huge coyote hunting rodents in their tunnels by pouncing on the ground and breaking their tunnels open, much like they do through the snow (see Part 3).
We continued on into the park, headed toward Lamar Valley, where everyone said is where you see the wolves. We stopped at another pull off where we saw a ton of cars and people with spotting scopes, and sure enough, our first sighting of wild wolves! While talking to a gentleman who had a spotting scope the size of our rental car, we were informed that they had killed an elk earlier in the day, and they were still lounging around letting their fat, happy bellies settle. There was a black wolf, and white wolf, and a dark grey wolf. They were really far off so I didn’t get great pictures, but they were wolves!
After the wolves wandered off, we continued up to Lamar Valley. On the way we got to see a black bear or two, but our only focus was wolves. We got to Lamar Valley and it was the most beautiful place I think I have ever seen. It is now on my favorite places list. Mountains, rolling foothills, herds of bison and antelope, grizzlies grazing on grasses and flowers. It was spectacular. We knew we were in the right place because of the number of people pulled over on the roadside with their scopes and cameras ready. Normally you would wonder what they are looking at, but then you notice that everyone is mingling, and simply waiting. They knew something was coming, and I wasn’t going to miss it.
So while we waited with the pros, we got to see some great stuff. Antelope coming close, bison calves running and playing, a grizzly family running away from some mysterious unseen object up on the hill. Then we noticed the Giant Grizzly on the river below us. Now, I’m no good at judging distance, but I would guess she was about 500-600 yards away. She was feeding on a wolf kill from several days before (according to the pros that were waiting for the wolves to show up) and her name is Scar Face. I’m sure for good reason, but she was far enough away that I had to only take their word for it. According to the pros though, Scar Face has been photographed more times than the Kardashians; I’m guessing because she frequents the area that the wolves are often found in, so people do like I did, and take pictures of her while we are waiting for the main attraction 😉
However, while we waited, Hubby noticed that people were leaving. There were still the same number of people there waiting, but the crowd itself had changed; the pros had given up to try a different spot!
I suddenly panicked – What do I do? Do I stay here and hope that they show up? Or do I try my luck somewhere else? And what if I leave and then find out that the wolves showed up right after I left? Luckily Hubby was there to help me decide. Lamar Valley is pretty big after all, so maybe they will be in a different area. We headed back down the road a ways, and when we were sure we were no longer in the valley we turned back around and headed back to a different pull off we saw. I was getting a little discouraged because by hearing all of the stories, wolves would be everywhere! I wanted to get some good pictures of wolves! Not just zoom in on a picture and have to point out “See? That black speck? That’s a wolf!” I had to see them closer!
By this time my back was aching pretty bad, so I wasn’t going to get out of the car unless there was something photo-worthy, so Hubby got out and made friends with some Canadians who are living in an RV and watching the wolves for the summer. (Fun Fact: the wolves of Yellowstone came from Alberta, Canada. It’s funny that the Albertans come all the way down to Wyoming to see the wolves they gave us!) Suddenly, out of nowhere, a black wolf runs by, down on the river about 1,000 yards away. I’m not sure where she came from, but we saw her swim the river and dash up the mountain before she was gone. I got a couple pictures of her, but nothing spectacular since she was running pretty much the whole time. Apparently she was Number 89, and she is a rogue female that frequents the valley.
We learned a lot about the wolves by talking to all of the “wolf chasers” (or “sighters” I guess would be a better term). Because the National Park Service is broke (because it’s always the good programs that get their funding cut first) they could no longer afford to tranquilize the wolves from a helicopter. This leads to shotting them with net guns and tranquilizing them once the researchers have gotten up to them, so the wolves have gotten a bit skittish of people. We also learned that the research program is now on a voluntary basis. The rangers that were paid to follow the wolves now must volunteer their time because the park service can’t afford to pay them. Such a sad situation. What is good though, is that there is such thing as “Citizen Science” much like with bird surveys. Enough people are interested in this subject, that they seek out the animals, watch their behavior, and report back to the rangers. Many of the observers know the rangers and vice versa, so the data that are provided are understood to be factual and non-biased (mostly).
After Number 89 ran up the hill, we started heading back, since it was getting late and we had several hours to drive back to our cabin. We stopped again at our first location because I saw something feeding on the same carcass that Scar Face had been eating earlier.
IT WAS A SILVER WOLF.
We stopped the car and I ran up the hill with my camera and tripod (I had the speed clip this time). While we were watching this grey, I decided to get some video of him feeding (unfortunately, WordPress won’t let me upload my awesome video…I’ll have to figure out how to get it onto YouTube or something). In the video you can hear Hubby and I quietly discussing if the wolf was wearing a collar or not, and if Hubby was going to hide behind me so he wouldn’t get eaten. I stopped filming right before the wolf came right passed us so I could get some still shots of him as well. I probably should have just kept filming because the pictures didn’t turn out great (it was getting dark and he was running) but live and learn, right? (that seems to be a theme for today). After the grey ran across the street into on-coming traffic and almost got plowed by a car, he disappeared up the hill and was gone. At his closest, he was probably 20 yards from us.
Ah. Maze. Ing. I was so happy, and he had gotten so close! I was in heaven. But of course you know what that means, right?
I HAD TO SEE THEM AGAIN. This wasn’t nearly enough. Andrew and I were already planning the next day. Get up SUPER early and get to Lamar Valley before sunrise because that is reportedly the best time of day to see the wolves.
Of course then it took us a few hours to get back to our cabins. And it doesn’t get dark until about 9:30…So we didn’t get back to the cabins until midnight. Last thing we needed to do was get up at 3:30 am after going to sleep at midnight, so we decided that the next day we would relax, get up whenever we felt like it, see the rest of the park, and go to bed early that night so we could get up super early the NEXT morning.
So we did the whole “geyser” thing again the next day and relaxed, doing our last bit of souvenir shopping as well. We had dinner at a restaurant/bar in West Yellowstone called The Slippery Otter, and this place was great! The owner was super nice, they had great food, and really good beer. Finally, we had found good food in Montana!
The next morning we got up at 3:30 am and I drove into the park. At about 5 am we were flagged down by a truck coming up the road, telling us to pull over because 4 HUGE BOATS (on trailers, duh) were about to be coming down the road, and they needed as much road space as they could get! Well of course he flagged us down at a terrible spot – not only was there no shoulder to pull onto, but there was actually tons of tree debris on the side of the road from doing road work in the park the day before! HOW MUCH SPACE DID THEY NEED?! I hoped we had scooted over enough; all we could do is wait. And all I could do while I waited was think about how I’m going to miss the wolves because I’m pinned between a boat trailer and the hillside! Finally they drove by without incident and we headed down the road again, but slowly this time. One thing I didn’t count on was the mount of fog that we had to drive through. Cool morning+geothermal activity=lots and lots of scary fog. I love looking at fog; I hate driving in it. I was super nervous that a herd of bison would be in the road in the fog and I was going to miss my opportunity to see the wolves because there was a dead bison on the hood of my car. So I drove carefully and as quickly as I dared. As the sky began to lighten, it was easier to see that we were engulfed in fog, and it was much brighter than I had thought it would be. I was going really to miss the wolves!!!
Finally we made it to Lamar Valley. I was in such a hurry to get to my spot and wait, that when we saw a truck stopped in the road I almost went around him. Then Hubby saw why he was stopped – the same Silver wolf from before was standing on the hillside!
The next events were a blur – I took tons of photos, and he wandered off into the sage brush. The truck drove away, and we waited to see if he would come back. He did, and he was actually carrying a child’s stuffed animal in his mouth. No, I wasn’t confused and he really had a live dead squirrel in his mouth – it was a toy. You could see the tag on the plush, and the little stubby legs. We have no idea why, but he was carrying around a toy. He dropped it after a few minutes of carrying it around, and then he sort of zig-zagged in front of our car while he tried to decide where to go, until he walked across the road back toward the river where we had first seen him a few nights before. Then Ranger Rick pulled up. Seriously. That’s his name. He’s a Ranger named Rick. He asked what we were looking at, and when we told him a wolf, he pulled over and got out his radio telemetry equipment – SCIENCE AT WORK! Sort of. Rick couldn’t identify the wolf because the batteries on his collar were apparently dead; but that didn’t matter, because I got some amazing photos of him while he was with us. Suddenly more and more people started showing up, and we met a huge group of wolf chasers. Rick told us that the black female would be coming by soon (her radio collar was working so they knew where she was), so we waited until, far off in the distance, we saw her making her way through the river valley.
By this point my back was killing me. I could no longer appreciate the magnificent scenery I was surrounded by, because I was in blinding pain. I told Hubby we had to go to the doctor now. We headed to the northern portion of the park where the doctor’s office was, but they didn’t open until 8:30, so we had to wait. I was about in tears by this point and when they finally opened, I was at my breaking point. Talking to anyone would cause my voice to break, and I finally broke down and cried in front of the nurse while he asked me all the questions that he had to ask, and cried some more while talking to the doctor. He wrote me prescriptions for muscle relaxers and Vicodin and we had to drive up further north to get them filled at the pharmacy. By the time I received my prescriptions and ate some breakfast, I was done. It was probably 10 am on my second to last day of my vacation, and I couldn’t move without being in blinding pain. I was heartbroken that this is how our vacation ended. Hubby had to drive for the next 2 days because my drugs kept me knocked out. But while I was awake I was still in pain.
Our last night was spent in Centennial, Wyoming, through the Snowy Range. The Snowy Range is one of my favorite places in the US, but I slept through it because of my medicine. We got to the hotel and ate dinner in one of the 4 restaurants in town, and then I went to the room to sleep. Hubby, since he was still on vacation, wanted to go check out the town, so he bar-hopped at the 4 bars in town and met wonderful people wherever he went. I was glad he had a good time, because I felt guilty for being the reason we had to cut the trip early.
Now my back is feeling better, although not 100%, but Hubby and I are already talking about going back to see the wolves again.
One of the items on my Bucket List is to visit all 50 states. I’m so close to finishing this goal (I only have 15 states to go!) and last month I was able to knock three off my list in just a weekend!
I was visiting my good friend, Patella, who lives in New York, but is from Vermont. Because of frequent flyer miles (thank you Southwest!) I was able to fly up to visit her for a four day weekend for free during the best time of the year – while the fall leaves were changing to their infamous golds, reds, and oranges!
Now, at the moment I am between computers (I have an old laptop from college that is on its last leg and a work computer) so all of my Vermont and New York photos are on my personal laptop. HOWEVER, I thought I was doing good by uploading all of them to Flickr in case my trust computer died suddenly. (I have an intense fear of this happening and I lose all of my photos).
So for your viewing pleasure I have linked to my Vermont and New York set in Flickr (I hope this works!)
This is a sort of continuation of my Bucket List posts. Soon Hubby and I will be embarking on another adventure – going back to Key Largo. Some people might think that if we have gone there before, it shouldn’t count as an adventure, but I say no trip is ever the same trip twice.
Last year we discovered that driving to Florida was A LONG TRIP so we are flying again. I also got free flights this year, because of Frequent Flyer Miles, so that was a big reason why we picked Key Largo as our destination again.
Also, we have no more diving classes that we need to take because after our Key Largo trip we will be MASTER DIVERS (Going to be crossed off the Bucket List even if it wasn’t written down in the first place!). That’s right – I have mastered something. Now I’m sure most people don’t know what constitutes a Master Diver Certification, but you need 5 Specialty Classes and 50 dives. We have already gotten our 5 specialties, so by the time we are done with our trip, we will be done! Our last two trips to Key Largo were concentrated around classes, so because we have no more classes to take, we will have time for other fun things, like kayaking in the only underwater state park, John Pennekamp State Park and going to a wild bird sanctuary. Who knows, I might go back to the sea turtle rehab center, but adventures are sometimes more fun when repeated 🙂
I also bought myself a wonderful new camera for Christmas, so I am planning on having some spectacular photos to share when we return.
Also on the horizon is a trip to Vermont and New York in the fall. The only New England state I have ever been to was New Jersey. I have to make up for that by seeing the leaves start to change with a good friend of mine that lives up there, and who I haven’t seen in years. I will force her to be my chauffeur (I will even sit in the back seat and get her a little hat to wear, I’m sure), force her to be my tour guide, and force her to take me to drinking establishments for adults.
Since one item on my bucket list is to see all 50 states, I am planning to knock out at least two states on that trip, and maybe more. I mean, the states are so small up there, it only takes a few hours to get across them! Maybe we will go to Connecticut for a chowder lunch, Maine for a lobster dinner, and Massachusetts for drinks afterwards! That’s how that works, right?
Not a lot of people have the ability or the ambition to cross things off their Bucket Lists. Not only am I thankful that I have the drive to do the things that I say that I want to do, but I have a husband that wants to do the same things. Who knows…in a few years, I might have to write a whole new list!
So keep checking back, World Travelers! I’ll be sure to share our adventures, and hopefully be able to give some good travel tips if you want them!
There have been many things I have accomplished in my relatively short adult life so far. I graduated with my bachelors degree in 3.5 years. I got my masters degree right after that. I have been to Europe. But the things that I have crossed off my bucket list are what I’m really proud of.
1. Swim with manatees
2. Hold a wild nurse shark
3. Drive to Alaska
4. Live in the rainforest (it was only for a month, but it was far from a vacation!)
5. See wild humpback whales (recently accomplished!)
6. Dive Monterey Bay (also recently accomplished, on the same day as the whales!)
7. Foster MULTIPLE litters of kittens and several dogs
8. Gone on a cruise in Hawaii
9. Ran a half marathon (accomplished March 23)
10. Go parasailing
I have also added a few things to my bucket list, and thought of a few more things that I have always wanted to do, but forgot to add to the last list:
15. See a wild whale shark
16. Witness a massive hammerhead migration (while diving below them)
17. Go to India (This had actually been on my list for a while, but I just forgot to write it down)
18. Bathe an Indian elephant in a river
19. See the whooping cranes
20. Work on coral reef restoration
Not too long ago, a couple girls at my office, Zombie and Poltergeist Prevention, Inc. asked me what I was going to do for my birthday. Jokingly, girl #1 said “what are you doing for your birthday? Climbing Mount Kilamanjaro?” And girl #2 agreed with her that we are always adventuring, so there is no telling what our weekends have in store. And again today, I ran into an old friend from high school, and in casual conversation with her boss, whom I had just met, my friend explained to him that we are adventurous people. This is probably one of the nicest things someone has said about me. So it made me think about creating a bucket list.
So, without further ado, and in no particular order other than this is the order I thought of them, my bucket list:
1. Go to South Africa and Kenya for my 30th birthday
2. Climb Mt. Kilamanjaro for my 40th birthday (the girls at work had a good idea!)
3. Dive the Great Barrier Reef
4. Meet Jane Goodall
5. Swim with polar bears!
6. Swim with great whites! (Ok, ok. In a cage).
7. Visit all 50 states of the US
8. Visit every continent (I got this idea from my dad, the Intrepid Traveler, who has almost done this!)
9. Run a marathon
10. Hike the Pacific Crest trail
11. Dive every sea
12. See an octopus in the wild
13. See the aurora borealis
14. See the aurora australis
Now, by no means is this a finite list. I will continue to add to it, and I have already scratched something’s off my list, before I ever really wrote it down.
Like I have hiked the tallest peak in Texas. Twice.
I have been to Alaska and Hawaii, the two hardest states to hit when attempting to hit all 50.
I have been parasailing in the Florida Keys.
I can’t wait to start crossing a few things off my list, so I have room to add more to my list!
These are my silly travel stories where I use humor and sarcasm to explain other cultures and world events. I use this forum to be a voice for the Little Guy. Little Guys have tiny, squeaky voices and no one wants to hear them anyway.