Black Mesa State Park

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When you think of the state of Oklahoma, you might envision one of a very short list of things:

(1) The strange political nature of some of the area’s politicians

(2) Wheat and cattle, flowing over a flatly monotonous expanse

Oklahoma may have both of these things in excess, but it is also a land of surprising diversity. In it is contained a part of the wet and scenic Ozark Plateau, the Arbuckle and Wichita Mountains, the expansive and refractile salt flats in the north, the wet and sticky southeastern swamps, the deciduous forests of the east, and, of course, the plains regions. In the panhandle are plains and desert leading to the highest point in the state: Black Mesa, which stands at almost 5,000 feet elevation on the Oklahoma-New Mexico-Colorado border.

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Yosemite National Park

Back in April, the Other Half was scheduled to take an additional licensing exam in California (which he passed!). He had his choice of several sites, but he chose to take his test in the community of Visalia, a quiet city whose morning scent of cattle reminds you of its agricultural origin.

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Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

We headed south until we reached our final destination: Laguna Atascosa. Unfortunately, our GPS kept trying to take us through various cow pastures instead of down the road into the refuge. After tossing it out the window (figuratively, of course), we pulled past the entrance sign.

I have to say, the refuge is gorgeous, even with the severe drought conditions of south Texas, and being able to spend time exploring it with family made it that much more special.

The refuge office itself has attracted a myriad of jewel-toned birds with their birdfeeders and citrus. In the span of 15 minutes, we saw long-billed thrashers, black-crested titmice, green jays, an Altamira oriole, grackles, bronzed cowbirds, 2 species of woodpeckers, orange-crowned warblers, and several different species of sparrows.

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Excuse me while I walk the dog…

Really, having a dog (or an iguana on a leash) is a great excuse to go outside and enjoy the nice weather, especially on weekends before test weeks.

As a matter of fact, one of our test weeks in February fell during the Great Backyard Bird Count weekend. Over the course of several ’emergency study detox walks’ we found some pretty cool birds we hadn’t seen yet in our area, as well as some that we love to see, like these ring-necked ducks and our (recently-discovered) little flock of rusty blackbirds, which are listed on the IUCN list as a vulnerable species due to their dramatic population declines in the last two decades.

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Exploring the Bridle Path

Once again the Other Half and I decided to explore another lake nearby. Unfortunately, this one charges an entrance fee, which sucks, but it has several thousands of acres to explore (read: it takes this much room/running to wear the dog out), so it’s worth the cost.

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Climbing Around the Dam

Some people don’t have a great relationship with their in-laws. There is a lot of in-fighting or scheming going on to the detriment of their children’s relationship(s). My in-laws, however, take to practical jokes as a past-time, which means we get along just fine. This month, the other half and I were treated to a tour of an area north of us which contains…

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The North Trail Adventure

The other half and I love to go exploring. So when the local lake paved a bike path in an area I had been raring to go to, we took the chance. For background, as a child my parents found a house in the middle of a big horseshoe-shaped creek that my brother and I liked to wander around in.

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