Monday, September 15, 2014

Cox Arboretum

 I haven't visited Cox Arboretum in years, but yesterday Tom and I enjoy an afternoon at the 189 acre facility. It's had many improvements made over the years and has turned into quite a natural showplace for the Miami Valley  In fact, neither of us have seen a finer facility anywhere..

 The Visitor Center is a new building - or at least an addition to what I remember. It's quite extensive in its use of rocks, wood and glass.

 The building - which also encompasses the Zorniger Education Campus - uses natural wood and is a bright, open, airy structure. There weren't any classes being conducted on this Sunday afternoon; everyone was outside enjoying the late-summer sunshine.

 A large pond behind (west of) the building is also much larger (and probably deeper) than I remember. The Arboretum is open year-round and is quite a feather in the cap of local land stewardship efforts.

 Turtles enjoy basking in the 70° sunshine on this pleasant day. It won't be long before they're hidden from view and their long winter slumber begun. What must that feel like? ... falling asleep as the air chills and waking when it begins to warm?

 Though safely separated from visitors by an expanse of water, the turtles watch passers-by carefully, angling their necks as Tom and I walk along a nearby bridge.

 This turtle balances on an old log. Others swim underwater, momentarily lifting their heads above the water to breathe, then dive again into the cold cloudy depths.

 Looking back towards the visitor center from a bridge on the west side of the pond.

 I spotted a rare Midwestern butterfly on my walks but was able to catch it with a photograph before it flitted away. I believe this is the elusive Danaus buhlerious. Say what you will, this butterfly actually exists even though it is very rarely seen.

 I think this is a Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus). This shot was taken inside the Butterfly House, a netted enclosure open to the weather. The season of the Lepidoptera is fast coming to a close this year. Though we reached 70° during our afternoon walk, the morning temperature bottomed out at 43°.

 The Tree Tower is quite an imposing structure. I suspected it was made of metal - and there are plenty of metal fittings - but the bulk of the structure consists of three long logs, standing vertically, around which the rest of the tower is built. Are they redwood as Tom suggests? The tower is 46 feet high and is valued at $500,000.

 Interior to the tower and looking up from below, this must have been an architectural puzzle to assemble. I wonder how extensive the upkeep that will be needed to keep the tower in top-notch condition?

 Tom rests at the top and enjoys the view to the southeast.

 Here's a shot of me at the same spot.

 ... and here's a view down through the center of the tower as others climb up. I can't imagine being able to build something this intricate, even with detailed plans. It is a tinker-toy-like maze of parts.

 Here's an exterior view of the tower. Groundbreaking was on November 30, 2011; the tower was opened to the public on October 12, 2102, less than eleven months later.

 Tom and I walked the "red trail" and passed through a prairie where wildflowers and bees were everywhere. This is a "Giant Sunflower" (Helianthus giganteus), hardly the common garden variety. The "giant' refers to the size of the plant, not to flower (which is actually fairly small). The plant stands anywhere from 3' to 12' tall.

 We plowed through the afternoon powered by a large pizza we got at the Pizza Hut in West Carrollton. Normally on special for $11, we received a "senior discount" and got the pizza for $7.99. Even then, we each saved a slice for lunch tomorrow.

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