We made it to St. Louis! The first leg of our trip (Florida to Missouri) was pretty uneventful. The movers got to our apartment an hour late on Friday morning and we didn’t end up hitting the road until 3 hours after I originally planned so we kind of had to just drive all the way through to make up time. We got about half way by 11p Friday and stayed in Marietta, GA and then drove the rest of the way yesterday. Like I said, fairly uneventful. We will be visiting our families for a few days before the Missouri to California portion of the drive. I think that will be more eventful and scenic. I hope to get a picture of each state sign as we cross into them and I hope to find fun sites along the way to stop at! We will have quite a distance to cover in just three and a half days.
As noted in previous posts, I am currently in St. Louis visiting my family. It rained once again today but around 5:30pm it cleared up and the sun came back out. There is a park not too far from my parent’s house called Lone Elk Park. This is a little gem that I think is often overlooked by tourists to the area and even many St. Louisians don’t realize it’s there.
Lone Elk Park is a drive through park in Eureka, MO (a suburb of St. Louis) where you can see free roaming elk and bison. Depending on when you go (season, time of day, etc), you may hit the mother load of awesome photo opts, or you may just get some nice woodsy scenery. Today happened to be an awesome day to go. I think the animals were out and about because it was early evening and the rain had just stopped so everything was cool, moist, and refreshed. In addition to some white tailed deer (not a unique or special siting in Missouri), we also saw several elk and a small herd of bison. There were at least three or four baby bison calves with the herd and they were laying pretty close to the road. We also saw a woodpecker and a red tailed hawk. All in all it was a fun and eventful outing to Lone Elk.
I definitely recommend Missouri and St. Louis visitors try to find time to swing by Lone Elk Park. In my experience, the best times to see animals are in the morning or in the evening just before dusk, and when the weather isn’t too excruciatingly hot.
There is a donation box at the entrance of the park. While it is free to enter and drive through, please add a couple of dollars if you can. The county recently looked at closing some parks because of budgeting but because of community backlash, they opted to keep Lone Elk open.
At 4:30am today, my alarm on my phone went off. Time to get ready to head to the airport in Tampa. After four and a half months, I was finally flying home to visit my family in St. Louis. This was the longest I’d ever been away from home. I slept most of the flight. As I exited the security check point, I saw my parents waiting for me. The plan was to go to the zoo and go for a bike ride. Well, the sky was gray and thunder rolled in so I went to the mall with my mom instead. Around 3:30pm we noticed the rain had stopped. Since the trails were probably muddy from the rain, we decided the zoo was our best option.
Now, I may be a little biased because I was born and raised in here, but the St. Louis Zoo is and always will be my favorite. The River’s Edge, the region of the zoo where the elephants, hippos, cheetahs, rhinos, etc., are located, is one of my favorite parts of the zoo. I was eager to see the newest member of the zoo’s three generation elephant family, Priya, but she was only born recently so I didn’t expect her to be out and about. Sure enough though, she was out with her sister and mommy. What a sight! I tried to get a couple of pictures of her with my phone.
In addition to The River’s Edge, there are some other nicer and newer aspects of the zoo. There is an underwater viewing tunnel for the sea lion exhibit which was just opened last summer. It is a major improvement compared to the previous sea lion exhibit. When it first opened, the water was crystal clear and blue and clean. Now, maybe today was just an off day because of the rain earlier but the water seemed green and murky. Visibility wasn’t that great. I wouldn’t let this one instance deter me from going back again because when I have been before, the exhibit was wonderful.
Currently, the zoo is working on building some new bear enclosures, which is long overdue if you ask me. The old bear enclosures that have been in use even farther back than my kindergarden field trip are small, drab, and concrete. They don’t seem to offer much in the way of a “natural” habitat for the bears. There used to be polar bears, and instead of having an icy indoor enclosure, they were out in the hot St. Louis summers in a concrete enclosure with a pool. The polar bears have been gone for many years but a grizzly is now in that enclosure. There are hardly any tree like structures to resemble a natural habitat. I commend the zoo for finally making the improvements needed for the bears.
Other areas I hope they improve soon:
- The chimpanzee and orangutan enclosures are nice and lush but should be larger.
- The penguin exhibit is nice but overcrowded, I feel it should be larger or there should be fewer birds.
- The rhinoceroses pace back and forth in one area of their enclosure. I don’t know this for sure but that seems to me like they need more enrichment.
- I wish the monkey house had bigger enclosures for some of the monkeys and sunroofs for natural light in each enclosure.
All in all, I will always love the St. Louis Zoo and think it is great. They do wonderful work in the way of research, species survival plans, captive breeding, and more. They even have the Institute for Conservation Medicine. I think that they are on the right track with the improvements they have made to enclosures, are currently working on, and have planned for the future.
Also, something rarely seen in a zoo this size: free admission!!!