Head in the clouds

I’ve come a long way since my early flying days. Heights have never agreed with me, and I’ll never forget that red-eye trip coming back from California when I dozed off while reading a Stephen King novel. When I awoke, we were “rockin’ and rollin’,” and I had myself nearly talked into a panic attack before I realized the only person alarmed by the bumpy ride and the message to “fasten your seat belt” was me.

A few more flights around the country settled my twitchy nerves, though, as I discovered the joys of the window seat. I was assigned an aisle seat on the first leg of my most recent trip, but was happily entertained by the sight of an adorable baby being fed, and shortly thereafter, put to sleep on a pillow on her Mama’s lap. When she woke, she fastened her eyes on me, and after reaching out to her with some simple smiles, she rewarded me with a few big ones of her own. That more than made up for missing the scenery outside the airplane.

I ordered and scarfed down a delicious, but pricey lunch in New York before boarding my next plane. This time, I happily sat in the window seat. About halfway to St. Louis, we flew into some clouds. I’m talking 3D, towering, beckoning pillows right outside. I wanted to keep flying forever.

into the clouds
Now, it was getting interesting.
coming out
All good things must come to an end. But, what a ride.
about to land
Getting read to land. Someday, a view from the cockpit would be nice!

Top cats at the St. Louis Zoo

I was lucky enough to visit the St. Louis Zoo twice this year, and while it includes a number of fascinating animals, my main reason for visiting is seeing the big cats. Jaguars, I discovered, can still be found in parts of the southwest.

Tigers are more rare, however. Several sub-species, including the Amur tiger in St. Louis, are critically endangered. Tigers are also the world’s largest cats, and used to be my favorite, but there are so many lovely big cats, it’s difficult to pick just one!

watermarked tiger
I stayed long enough on my last visit to see this tiger enjoy an afternoon bath.

The snow leopard on display was content to “hide” in its tree all day. I say all day, as I was there for five hours, and the lower branches of the tree were where it stayed.

Can you see why snow leopards are so hard to spot in the wild?

But I was delighted to find the Amur leopard awake, and so close I could see its golden eyelashes as it paced. I could watch big cats all day, and on this visit, I nearly did!

angry amur
I discovered Amur leopards at the St. Louis Zoo. They quickly became one of my favorite big cats.

Check out my big cat videos on my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/writerdiljak.



There’s more to the zoo than big cats!

There is so much to see in St. Louis, and I am behind in posting both stories and photos. I just returned from my second trip to Missouri’s Gateway to the West, and of course the first place I (re)visited was the zoo.

The St. Louis Zoo is tucked into the southern end of a nearly 1,400-acre marvel called Forest Park. A walk through the zoo is free; parking costs extra, but if you don’t mind the extra walking, there are other areas in Forest Park where you can park at no cost.

My main goal in returning to the zoo was to visit the big cats, and as I stayed for most of the day, I was not disappointed (except by the shy and sleepy snow leopard, which I will talk about in another post).

I missed a lot last time, so chose first to ramble through the River’s Edge. (A cheetah was in there somewhere.) I found some hippos, a rhino, and a Malayan sun bear, which has an exceptionally long tongue, which it uses to capture both insects and honey.

hiding hippos
You’d think it would be hard for hippos to hide, but these two figured out how.
I captured this rhino soaking up the sun.
I captured this rhino soaking up the sun.
Malayan sun bear, mid-yawn.
Malayan sun bear, mid-yawn.

Unfortunately, the cheetah was occupied elsewhere. But I did manage to find a baby elephant.

Baby elephants are still quite big!
Baby elephants are still quite big!

I meandered around a few other areas before making my way over to Red Rocks. Once I see the giraffes, I know I am getting close.  The weather was warmer than my last visit, and the giraffes were much more active.

I am always amazed at how tall giraffes are. Newborn giraffes are six feet tall, and weigh about 150 pounds!

I have more photos to share, but I’ll end this post with one of my other favorite animals: a polar bear.

No visit to the zoo is complete without seeing a polar bear!
No visit to the zoo is complete without seeing a polar bear!