Friday, March 19, 2010

The Zoo

It's March in Wisconsin. It's March everywhere, but in Wisconsin, March is typically the snowiest month of the year. Strangely, this year we have not yet had snow fall at our house this month. But, we pretty much had a solid white snow cover from October until now. I LOVE snow, but by this time of year the snow has gotten dirty, crusty, and all around icky. I recently heard it referred to as 'Snirt' - the icky, gunky, icy, dirty snow that's left at the end of the snowy season. This is the time of year when we need a vacation more than ever! A lush, tropical vacation!

The last weekend in February, we got as close as we could to the tropics. We went to the Como Park Conservatory and Zoo! We took Cliff's Parents with us and his Uncle Herman. It was a clear spring day and although the conservatory was a moist, hot, tropical atmosphere full of lush plants, flowers, and trees, the walk outside - around the zoo, was my favorite part. It was warm enough that there were puddles on the walkways, but cold enough that we needed hats and coats.

The Como Park Conservatory has undergone several updates and renovations in the last few years and it seems like there is something new each time I go. Yet, it's comforting to still find the same old 'rooms' there that I remember from when I was a little kid. There is only one room that I remember that isn't still there today. It was the room where one side was higher than the other and there were lots of ferns and mosses growing on the rocky limestone walls and at the far end of the room was a limestone wishing well cave. Ferns and vines hid the secret cave where water trickled down the limestone walls and the coins representing each visitor's wish sparkled in light from the tiny hidden spotlights. That room was magical to me. There is a new fern room now, but it's open and airy and not at all secretive or magical.

One of the new rooms at the conservatory has live animals in it, other than the local birds that have always found there way in to perch. The new room has a Sloth named Chloe who sits in a tree napping while the visitors walk below (see photo above). She didn't move at all while we were there, but there is a staff person assigned to her who calls for "back up" if she reaches a pre-designated point on the trunk of the tree. This is a signal that she's climbing down and although Sloths do move slowly, her claws sure looked long and unfriendly to me! Gavin enjoyed watching her for a minute, but got antsy when she didn't do anything entertaining!

There is also a great big Anaconda in an aquarium as well as aquariums full of fish at eye level for a little guy like Gavin. One of the funniest things we saw in the conservatory was the field mice! There was actually a mouse exhibit area, but they were just running around the garden area among the tree roots and plants. We could have picked them up if we wanted to as they weren't in any enclosure. I assume they had some sort of electronic fencing to keep them confined to that area, but whatever the tactic was, it was invisible.

"Here fishy, fishy, fishy.."

Our biggest challenge was actually just keeping up with Gavin. He's very independent these days and likes to get ahead of us - especially when he knows we can't easily catch him. He runs all over the place and tends to make his way through crowds, not minding whose legs he's crawling between or whose feet he's stepping on. It was a real work-out in an 85 degree steam room to try to keep track of him without plowing through everyone else trying to enjoy their visit. Gavin really enjoyed the "freedom" to run, when there had been too much snow outside for him to easily walk.

"You can't catch me!"

After we finished up in the conservatory, we headed out to explore the zoo. We appreciated the space we had without summer crowds, but missed seeing some of the animals that are only around in the summer. Some favorite animals that we saw were the giraffes and zebras, but we also saw timberwolves, bison, penguins, monkeys, orangutans, gorillas, lions, leopards, and of course, Sparky the sea lion!

"Is that a Leopard on your head?"


Kat said...

I miss the fern room too! The conservatory was magical. It still makes me feel like I slipped into a magical kingdom everytime I visit there. Thankfully the koi pond is still in there.

Donna Boucher said...

This makes me want to go to Olbrich gardens.

Looks like fun!