7 of Our Favorite Outdoor Moments of 2014

Today has been devoted to packing up Christmas decorations, writing thank you notes, and watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  For the first time in a month, I can see the flat surfaces in my house. It’s a Christmas miracle!

As I unwind lights from the tree, I’ve been making resolutions and reflecting on what a great year it’s been. I’ve made a mental note of all of the good experiences we’ve had this year.

Here are my Top 7 Outdoor Moments of 2014.

1. Snorkeling with sea turtles and sting rays in the US Virgin Islands.

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Caneel Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands, sits at the foot of a 7,000 acre national park, and the wildlife is abundant.

Snorkeling at Caneel Bay was one of the most real “one-with-nature” experiences I’ve ever had. One morning early in our stay, we headed out into the waves of Hawk’s Nest Bay with our snorkels. Twenty five yards out, we ducked our heads underwater. We were swimming next to three giant sea turtles, just hangin’ out in their home waters. Before I could process what I was seeing, a spotted sting ray darted by.  A few days later, I saw the same sting ray buried under the sand on the seafloor. His 3-foot stinger gave him away. It was so incredible to see this and I can’t tell you how beautiful each of those creatures was.

2. Watching the bats emerge from Bracken Cave.

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Every evening in the summer, fifteen million bats spiral out of Bracken Cave in the Texas Hill Country and spread out like a fan into the night sky in search of insects. Sitting underneath the cloud of their fluttering wings is a sight to behold.

3. Skiing Breckenridge with Brandon and my college friends.

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There’s nothing like snow-covered pine trees, a warm fire in a cozy mountain lodge, and the view from the mountains!

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It’s good for your soul. So is laughing with your best friend as a snowstorm blows in awhile you’re rushing out to the car.

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4. Waking up on the H. Yturria Ranch.

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One crisp fall evening this past October, I arrived with friends at this historic Texas ranch and was greeted at the gate by our host, who handed us each a glass of South African wine.

After a three mile drive to the hunting camp, we warmed up around the fire and chatted. I looked up in the light of the campfire I could see a huge white owl circling overhead. Hedwig!

The next morning, I rose early in search of coffee, and stepped outside of my cabin into a cool frosty South Texas morning. As I walkedacross the short grass lawn in front of my cabin, I could see dozens of little orange and black butterflies laying on their sides with their wings folded.  They were covered in frost.  I tip toed around them, not wanting to squash any, but assumed they were all dead but was told later that is how they sleep at night.

5. Hiking at Pedernales Falls State Park.

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My husband, Trooper and I spent a Saturday afternoon hiking across the falls. It was a great day trip only an hour and a half from Austin. We’re going back to camp this spring.

6. Taking Brandon on his first hunt

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Brandon had never hunted until this past October, but waited patiently one evening from a blind as deer trotted across the horizon line.  He harvested a buck, and since then, we’ve been eating venison almost every night for dinner.

A few mornings after our hunt, we were written up in the Goldthwaite Eagle. I told Brandon that not everyone gets written up in the paper for their first hunt!

7. Going to Albany, Texas for the Fandangle.

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Texas’ oldest outdoor musical, put on by the residents of Albany, Texas, takes place each summer on a prairie stage . It is fantastic. The musical tells the story of Texas, from the time of the Permian sea, through through the blooming of the prairie’s first wildflowers to the Native Americans to modern day. The most impressive part is when the State Longhorn Herd is driven onto the prairie stage.

(Read my post here.)

And that is something you will only see in Texas.

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Twenty fourteen has been real.

Back to the Housewives…and on to bigger and better things for 2015.

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