Monday, April 24, 2006

Today was a “bonus” day!

Betsy walked over and invited me to go with them to the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens in nearby Carlsbad. “You bet! I’d like to go,” was my quick response. Even though it is near by, this New Mexico State Park wasn’t on my travel schedule because it doesn’t have any camping facilities. So thanks to Betsy and Paul, my 5-park adventure became a 6-park one.

The 1.3-mile self-guided walking tour took us through a variety of habitats found in the Chihuahuan Desert. The plants were well marked; cacti and wildflowers were either blooming or ready to bloom. It was amazing to find plants growing in gypsum deposits. The aviary had a collection of native birds of prey and another area had 14 species of snakes.

We were there in the morning, shortly after feeding time. The javelinas were enjoying bell peppers and other fresh produce in the arroyo habitat.

The zoo is home to a 16-month old black bear that had been rescued from another state after its mother and sibling were killed. At first, he was nowhere in sight. We were about to give up looking and move on to another exhibit when he came bounding from one of many caves. What a sight. He was covered in loose straw and ran straight to the pond, jumped in and frolicked. He ran around, played with a toy for a while and then went back into a cave. We waited. Just after I said: “Put another quarter in” the bear came back out to play!

We almost missed seeing the most surprising critter – a colorful centipede. Betsy leaned down to look at a small plant at the base of a tree and immediately jumped back saying “Look at this!” It was about 6-inches long, was bright red head, a black body, a yellow rear end, and had bright yellow/orange legs. It is a giant desert centipede (Scolopendra heros). They are predators that eat other insects, etc. They have a painful bite that is not dangerous to humans. This is the best photo I could get.

It was such a treat to go on this outing, and reaffirms my belief that there are plenty of interesting and kind people in the world. I’ll remember the Desert Park with grateful and fond memories of Paul and Betsy.

I’ll end today with this quote attributed to Amy Grant:
“I realized that any act of generosity, large or small, truly makes a difference, becomes a strand of hope woven permanently into the fabric of life. When you give something, you become a part of something bigger than yourself. And both the person who’s giving and the person who’s receiving, feel equally blessed. That’s a beautiful cycle if you ask me.”