Wednesday, August 19, 2015

CCAI, the Denver Zoo, and the Observatory

Today was a day out on our own, without Grammy or Grampy. we knew being in Estes we were very close to Denver. And being so, that is where Ashton's adoption agency, CCAI is. And we couldn't come this far and not go there.

And if we were going to Denver we thought what else while we're there would take Ashton's interest. We looked up the Denver Zoo online and saw they had the arctic fox. Ashton has seen a fennic fox, but never a big fox. This isn't a red fox, but very close. So we decided we'd go to the zoo too for our fox fanatic.

While driving down, we had to drive through the City of Boulder. Wow, was that city beautiful. We decided if we had enough time, we'd try to eat dinner in Boulder on the way back.

Once we arrived at CCAI's headquarters, we stopped at the front desk. Inside it was beautiful. I wish we got photos of the interior of the place, but it didn't seem right to. At the front desk we asked for Joshua, the co-founder of CCAI, for our tour. He told us to ask for him a couple weeks ago when we met him face to face for the first time at CCAI's First Midwest Reunion.

The receptionist buzzed him right down. Joshua had a big smile and remembered us from the reunion. He was very sweet and took us on a tour of the whole place. The place was breathtaking. The touches of Chinese art, wood workings, and wall hangings were just gorgeous. And what was also amazing was that all the office hallways were covered, practically every inch, with small 4x6 photographs of families or children from that agency. I could almost have sworn that the entire 11,000+ CCAI adoptions were all on those walls.

We got to meet most of the staff and it was exciting to meet Sarah who helped us through a lot of the process. Unfortunately, Pam wasn't in that day. And she was the one who sent me Ashton's file and who I called telling her that was my child. It would have been great meeting her but she was off sending her children to college!

What was so neat was though it was expansive, there were personal touches. Flags to represent each Provence in China. A ping pong table to play. Scrapbooks of families with their children. And I got a peek of the Joyous Chinese Cultural Center building.

After the tour we wanted to take photos of Ashton in front of the road sign. There was something very fulfilling having her photo taken there. Like we came full circle. This was the beginning and she got to see it. I don't know how to describe it. Though the tour was short, I am very glad we went and saw their headquarters at last; and that Ashton was there with us.

Then we headed off to the zoo. I went to Guest Services building to ask about the arctic fox, if there was anyone who could talk more about them. Come to find out, the arctic fox is no longer on exhibit. Don't know why. We were very disappointed. However, still on exhibit was the bat-eared fox. I was told it was similar to the fennic fox, but larger.

Well, as we were already there and technically there was a fox on exhibit, we decided to stay and check it out. Ashton loves animals of all kinds, not just foxes, so we knew she'd love the zoo. Not to mention she seemed more interested in riding the carousel than anything else. She kept asking if she could ride it and we told her if she were good throughout the day, then yes we'd let her ride the carousel.

When we got our tickets they gave us a map for the zoo and a map for the 30+ Lego exhibit spots throughout the zoo. Our girl loves Legos, so this was an added treat. Also, we loved that there was a lot of shade and that there were multiple exhibits for the same animal to be in, and we could see them outside, or inside or they could exit off to rest. It was really great for the animals and I loved that some of the sightings were inside so we weren't in the sun all day. Also, the layout was very low key. Not a lot of advertising, it was like you had to seek out and take your time or you'd miss something. It felt very under commercialized.

The art statues around the zoo was amazing. There were so many and I know I didn't catch them all. Coming in before the zoo there was a crocodile statue, giraffes, and gazelle statues "eating" leaves from the real tress.

What I also loved the most was the animals you could "interact" with, so to speak. For example, the peacocks were allowed to roam the zoo grounds. You weren't allowed to feed them or pet them, but that you could be do close to one or have one magically pop up somewhere you were, was very fun and enjoyable.

This was our first Lego exhibit we saw by the Felines section. They were so impressive!

Right near the sea lions was a restaurant. We stopped for lunch and had pizza and Parmesan fries. What was surprising was though completely over-priced it was some really good pizza and fries. If it wasn't pricey, we would have gotten a second helping. We didn't expect the zoo food to be good!

While walking we discovered 3 mother peacocks with their babies! It was so cute! We just sat and watched them for a while.

Though hard to tell, it was very cool that the penguins were out in the open. There were some behind glass, and in Indianapolis, we have lots of penguins, but behind glass. Here they were behind a wall, but so close. It was so neat not to have that diving glass between us and the penguins. We sat and watched them play and swim. It was really neat.

Here's where we really got excited. The birds at this zoo are incredible. The Denver Zoo has nearly 200 exotic birds from around the world! And even more fun, is that they aren't just all caged or behind glass. There are several sections where we could be part of their environment. And they'd fly above your or walk across your path. We wouldn't think that birds are the thing to see. But there were so many, and ones we never even knew existed and we'd find more birds, and more birds, it was great and the best part of the zoo experience. Ashton was so good. She never chased them or tried to grab them. She would stay on the paths or sit and watch them. She loved it!

This bird was so fascinating. He'd sway his tail back and forth like a clock. And those teardrop feathers are supposed to be like that!

This condor was most impressive. He actually opened his wings and just kept them open. I don't know if it was to tell us to step back, or he was showing off or what that body language was saying, but he calmly just sat there with this impressively huge wing span and looked majestic.

After the condor there was a little shop. We stepped in and low and behold there was the cutest fox backpack. And when you opened it up inside it was green interior! It was a match made in Heaven. Ashton had to have the bag. So I bought it for her. And she loved wearing it!

Next, we made our way to the lorikeets' feeding station. We got a small paper cup with bird vitamin water of sorts and got to feed any lorikeet. There were many kids feeding all the "low" hanging birds, and they'd push Ashton out of the way. Also, our cup was very full, so we wanted to have her not spill it, so thought we'd feed some of the high birds first, that Daddy could feed so that the water level would be low enough in the cup for Ashton to feed the rest. All the birds were green with blue heads, but we saw one blackish bird, supposedly the friendliest and loves to dance. And we saw one red bird, named Captain America. He doesn't like most people and won't come to them. But he came to my husband. We felt very honored.

We then tried some lower handing birds that Ashton could reach, but she'd get in a couple of seconds and older kids would bump her out of the way. So we'd move in on another bird.

Here is the friendliest bird that loves to dance. Though we were told his moves weren't all that smooth.

Isn't that the perfect backpack for her?

Finally, we found a bird that Ashton could feed on her own. One of the zoo attendants kept the older kids away. This was a special bird named Roxy. She has one leg and didn't get around to well. But she came out of her hiding place to eat from Ashton's cup. And Ashton got a good minute with Roxy while she ate to her heart's content.

Ashton and her love for music. She ran to the drums and played each one for a bit. 

Though far away, this monkey was in one of the bird houses/area where it was a "natural habitat". He could have climbed on our arm if he wanted to. He stayed back, but it was so neat to be boundary free from this adorable monkey!

We were excited to see a Lego fox. Sure, it's not the red fox we've been waiting for. But it was still really awesome!

And of course Ashton got to ride the carousel. She was so excited. She loved it.

This was a beautiful hippo statue of a baby and mother. However, tons of kids used it as their personal jungle gym. We waited several times and came back a second time just to get this photo of her on the baby. There were at least 3+ kids up on the mother. So this was the best shot we could get. But it was a very sweet statue, and it seems the kids appreciated it too, but for very different reasons.

We got the the red panda exhibit right at feeding time. So we got to see the 2 red pandas be unusually active. They were pacing around and being so cute.

You can barely tell in the photo above, but the bottom red panda is sitting up begging for food. They were simply adorable.

Next to be fed was the bat-eared fox. There were two in there, but she lost her companion. She's very depressed. They're hoping to get her a male companion soon. This is Roo. She's just over a year old. If you can believe it, Roo loves to eat bugs!

It was really cool to end the zoo tour on the fox. And great that we got to see them fed. But it was time to head back to Estes Park.

On the way home we stopped by in Boulder for a bite. And we even passed by "Mork and Mindy's" home.

It was in a very lovely area. Boulder was great. We stopped briefly to eat outside and watch the sun set behind the mountains.

Then we called Grammy and Grampy and headed to meet them at the Estes Park Memorial Observatory. It was too dark and you couldn't take photos. But there we learned what constellations we could see right now and then looked at the moon, Saturn, some other stars, a white dwarf, and other galaxies. It was really amazing. Ashton liked looking at the moon, but after that, didn't care about any of the other stuff. But she did really well just sitting in our laps in the dark.

The observatory was done as a memorial for the founder's children. The whole experience was free; but he asked that a donation be made to help support the observatory. He had a real passion for astronomy. He was very patient and kind and answered everyone's questions. I highly recommend. The presentation must have been 2 hours or so. It was really fascinating and made for a really long, but very enjoyable day!
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