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Denali National Park ... Wikimedia Photo

Denali National Park … Wikimedia Photo

            “When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon

2006 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

After spending the night in the Red Room of a bed and breakfast, I shared the morning meal with a California couple whose daughter was attending school in Alaska to get a master’s degree in raptors. After that, on their recommendation, I toured the university’s Alaska Museum.

Many things at the museum impressed me, but I specially loved the photos by Michio Hoshino of polar bears and other Alaskan wildlife. My enjoyment, however, was diminished when I read that this magnificent wildlife photographer was killed in 1996 by a grizzly bear.

Coming Home -- Photo by Michio Hoshino

Coming Home — Photo by Michio Hoshino

The death of Hoshino,while doing what he loved, tickled through my little grey cells as I left Fairbanks and headed toward Denali on this bright sunny day. Hoshino was certainly not the first to be penalized for following his dreams, I knew. And while I mourned his death, I knew that I believed a well-lived life was one better based more on quality than on quantity.

It was the same thought I had in the 1990s when I made two trips paddling through the Grand Canyon and faced the tall and wild rapids of Lava Falls on the Colorado River.

At this point, in life, however, I have enjoyed both quality and quantity. And being privileged to visit Denali National Park, and to spend three nights in the park’s lodge during its last year of operation inside the park, covered both of those. Don’t you think?

Anyway, I checked into the Denali Lodge while there was plenty of light, which left me plenty of time to take a guided hike, and watch a slide show on wolves. What a great day?

Bean Pat: Anyway the wind blows http://tinyurl.com/zsctpad This is a blog by Pete Scully about sketching and is one of my favorite blogs.

The Sequoia Tunnel Tree

            “Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” — Kahhil Gibran

Looking up through the redwoods. -- Photo by scrubhiker/flickr/cc

Looking up through the redwoods. — Photo by scrubhiker/flickr/cc

Fallen Memories

I remember driving across Route 66 in the early 1950s in a brand new Oldsmobile that my uncle pushed to go 100 mph across the little-traveled desert scenery. I was along for the ride – from Texas to California – as baby-sitter for my baby cousin. I was about 12, and it was my first road trip.

Sequoria Tunnel Tree

sequoia Tunnel Tree

The trip expanded my wanderlust from a dream to a passion that is still pricking at my footsteps. The destination for that long ago journey was Sequoia National Park, and when we reached it, one of the things we did was drive through the Sequoia Tunnel Tree. It was an awesome experience, although I later learned that someday such carnage against the tree would shorten its life span.

And it did.

That huge old Sequoia, which fascinated me over 60 years ago, was toppled Sunday during a storm. The tree was estimated to have been about 1,000 years old when the tunnel was carved through it 130 years ago, an action taken to attract tourists. And, while the tree lasted longer than expected after it was wounded, the life span of a redwood can top 3,000 years.

On reading about the Tunnel Tree’s downfall, I felt as if I, and the world, had lost a part of its soul, but my mind’s eye suddenly focused on all the redwoods I’ve encountered in my lifetime. My insatiable wanderlust has taken me among these California monuments to Mother Nature many times, each time making me more thankful for life.

And the aftermath.

And the aftermath.

The linking of the redwoods’ roots, which spread out instead of going deep, speak to me of community, of support for one another that we humans should emulate.

I’m not sure I have ever felt more peaceful than when I hiked among the redwoods.. I feel grieved about the death of the Sequoia Tunnel Tree, but at the same time thankful that the downfall brought memories of my walks among the redwoods to mind. I especially remember the day, when I couldn’t get a good photo of the trees because they were too large. Instead, I simply lay down on the forest floor and looked up through the canopy of about a dozen of Mother Nature’s giants.

I felt small, but connected to the planet. It’s a good memory.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Forest Garden http://tinyurl.com/z9egrkv Following the winter sun.

There's no question but that I'm in the autumn of my life. But then I think the fall is beautiful. Don't you? -- Photo by Pat Bean

There’s no question but that I’m in the autumn of my life. But then I think the fall is beautiful. Don’t you? — Photo by Pat Bean

            The most important thing I can tell you about aging is this: If you really feel that you want to have an off-the-shoulder blouse and some big beads and thong sandals and a dirndl skirt and a magnolia in your hair, do it. Even if you’re wrinkled.” – Maya Angelou

            “Aging has a wonderful beauty and we should have respect for that.” — Eartha Kitt

Just Keep On Keeping On

Early in the day, my good friend Kim, her brother Robert, and his wife Carla, and I decided to visit the Anasazi Ridge petroglyphs near St. George, but it was late in the afternoon before we actually got around to doing so.

anazazi-2          We hadn’t gone far along the trail when I realized I was holding up the other three people, all 20 or more years younger. I had back problems last year that has slowed me down considerably. Anyway, I knew that at the rate we were going, we would never get up to the petroglyph ridge site and back down before dark.

I opted to stop at a pleasant spot along the trail and wait for them. They, being good people, tried to persuade me otherwise, but I was more persuasive, and so they left me behind.

A few years earlier, I would have been upset at my inability to keep up on a hiking trail. In fact, I cried the first time it happened. But the years have been good to me, and I’ve learned that there is always, and in my case I do mean ALWAYS, a silver lining for my slower hiking pace.

More Anasazi Ridge petroglyphs

More Anasazi Ridge petroglyphs

This day, I took some photos of St. George’s rare autumn colors (this was the day after Thanksgiving) and then settled down on a large flat rock and enjoyed my surroundings.

A bit later, a good-looking, grey haired man sauntered down the trail, and stopped to chat with me. It was a pleasant interlude. I’m not so old that I didn’t enjoy his effortless masculinity – and may I never be.

“You know you’re sitting right beside some petroglyphs,” he said, then showed me two spiral stone carvings hidden in a rock crevice. One of the spirals turned clockwise and the other counter-clockwise. “One represents birth, and the other represents death,” he said. We chatted for a bit longer before his long legs sauntered on. I was then eager for my friends to return.

“Did you see the petroglyphs?” I asked, when they finally came into view. They replied that they had. I then smiled, and asked if they wanted to see some more?

“When one door closes, another opens,” said Alexander Graham Bell, who then went on to say that too often we focus so much on the closed door that we fail to see any new openings. Thankfully, I see new doors opening everywhere these days. It’s the reward for the aging of my body that can no longer do the same things it once did, certainly not at the same speed.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Cravesadventure http://tinyurl.com/z9w3bs2 Some good thoughts about one’s hopes for the New Year.

A Christmas Story

    “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” — Norman Vincent Peale

Merry Christmas to all! I'm taking a break until the New Year.

Merry Christmas to all! I’m taking a break until the New Year.

When Two Thought as One

The year was 1979. I was recently divorced, four of my five children had left the nest, and I had just moved to a new town where I and my youngest teenage daughter knew no one. After school let out for the holidays, my daughter went to visit friends 50 miles away for a few days.

After she left, I thoughtfully looked at our Christmas tree.  It was large, and generously decorated with the ornaments I had collected over the years, including the bright red plastic poinsettia flowers that had been the only decorations I could afford for my first Christmas tree.

So why did it look so sad?

In years past, with my large family still intact, the floor beneath the tree had always been stacked high with wrapped presents, as everyone bought gifts for everyone. But all that was under the tree on this day were the two gifts I had bought my daughter, and the one she had bought for me.

This wouldn’t do, I decided. While money was tight, and I couldn’t afford big gifts, I did have enough for a lot of small items, whose presence beneath the tree would go a long way to cheer it up before my daughter returned home.

Unbeknownst to me, my daughter had come to the same conclusion about our tree. And when she returned, it was with a lot of small gifts that she had bought for me with the small amount of money she had with her.

Our tree no longer looked sad – and when I think of Christmases past, this is always the one I remember first.

Merry Christmas to All!

Alaska: Day 11 … Top of the World Highway

            “Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well … The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” — Jack London

The Yukon River near Dawson City. -- Wikimedia photo

The Yukon River near Dawson City. — Wikimedia photo

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wonderer

It was a good thing that I was in a part of the world where summer days were long, because I had nearly 400 miles to drive today – and lots of things I wanted to see along the way.

img_3934But before I got on the road, I took time to drive around Dawson City — which didn’t take much time at all. It was a small town, and the only thing I discovered of interest was Jack London’s cabin.

But for a writer, and avid reader, that was thrill enough. London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang had been two of my favorite books growing up. A bit later, I was thrilled even more when I drove onto a small ferry to cross the Yukon River. All the romance of adventure from London’s books crept into my day, making me feel glad to be alive and on a road I had never traveled before.

And what a road it was. I took the little-traveled and only partially paved Top of the Road Highway out of Dawson City, which would take me on a side trip loop through the tiny town of Chicken, population of 25 nice people and one old grouch – according to a roadside billboard.

Downtown Chicken

Downtown Chicken

I refueled, bought postcards, and then continued on to Tok, where I rejoined the Alaskan Highway. From Tok, it was yet another 200 miles to Fairbanks. If I had to pick out my favorite driving day on this 30-day trip (the longest vacation I had ever taken away from my job) this day would be it. I loved driving for long minutes without another vehicle in sight – and the landscape truly did make me feel as if I were on top of the world.

Bean Pat: A New Year’s Tradition  http://tinyurl.com/hzxlk4n  I like this one. I once did a similar thing by walking down a steep ridge and dropping things I didn’t want in my life, and then picking up things I did want on the way back up.

 

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” — John Steinbeck

Dawson City -- Wikimedia Photo by Michael Edwards.

Dawson City, which sits on the Yukon River, which I crossed on a kind of raft ferry. — Wikimedia Photo by Michael Edwards.

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

In 2001, when I make my Alaskan Highway road trip, I didn’t yet have a digital camera, and I took very few photos, most of which turned out badly. So I decided to purchase post cards along the way of the sights I saw – and only those.

My Alaska postcard journal.

My Alaska postcard journal.

So in Skagway, I bought a card depicting the White Pass-Yukon Train. On the return trip back, I noted that our conductor was the same one pictured on my card. What fun I thought, and I let myself enjoy the scenery outside the train. It’s always different looking at landscapes from a different angle, but everything was just as spectacular.

The Klondike Gold Rush took place over 115 years ago, but evidence of its activities are still isible on the Alaskan Highway between Whitehorse and Dawson City. .. A page from my 2001 journal.

The Klondike Gold Rush took place over 115 years ago, but evidence of its activities are still visible on the Alaskan Highway between Whitehorse and Dawson City. .. A page from my 2001 journal.

Once back in Whitehorse, I quickly retrieved my car and took off for Dawson City, some 300-plus miles away. It was going to be a long day. But the scenery along the drive kept me energized.

The highway mostly followed the same route used during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, and evidence of the prospectors’ hopes and dreams were often seen scattered beside the road. And driving into Dawson City on its unpaved roads was like stepping back in time.

My lodging was the Eldorado Hotel, which could have been used in any John Wayne western movie without a bit of extra staging. The clerk, who checked me in, was clearly drunk, but the waitress in the hotel’s café was friendly – and my Jack and Coke to end my long day was healthy.

Funky was the word I used to describe Dawson City. But then I like funky.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Janaline’s Art Journey http://tinyurl.com/zy2qcgs I love the creativity of her pieces.

The White Pass-Yukon Train I took to Skagway. -- Wikimedia photo

The White Pass-Yukon Train I took to Skagway. — Wikimedia photo

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert

A Train Ride to Skagway

            I left my car in Whitehorse, and took a morning bus ride to Carcross. This tiny community, originally called Caribou Crossing, began as a hunting and fishing camp for the Tlingit and Tagish people. Located on the shores of Lake Bennett, today it’s mostly a large bus stop for people wanting to catch the narrow gauge White Pass-Yukon Train to Skagway, which follows the same route as used by early miners during the Klondike Gold Rush.

It was an exhilarating ride, with me standing outside the train car in the bracing wind most of the time. I wanted to experience the wild and scenic landscape to the fullest. The ride was even more breathtaking as the short train clickity-clacked over the tall trestles built to navigate the narrow, winding canyon.

 

An aerial view of Skagway. -- Wikimedia photo

An aerial view of Skagway. — Wikimedia photo

I pitied, however, the prospectors, who took the trail before the train began running in 1898. So many horses died along the trail that it became known at the Dead Horse Trail.

At one point along the route, the train stopped to pick up a group of hikers. Then at the top of the pass, a thick mist engulfed the train. And it was raining lightly on arrival in Skagway.

While I was a bit damp after the short walk to the White House, a bed and breakfast where I was spending the night, the freshly baked cookies waiting for me there quickly cheered up the overcast day.

Skagway is a small town of only about 1,000 people, but it is visited by almost a million tourists annually, most arriving on large cruise ships. The sleepy town, to which I had arrived, had become a booming shopping mall by the time I repeated my walk the next day to the train station. Two of those big boats had arrived.

As quaint, and historic as I had found Skagway on arrival, I wasn’t sorry to get back on the train for the delightful ride back up White Pass, followed by the scenic drive back to Whitehorse on the bus.

Bean Pat: Addendum to a Eulogy: http://tinyurl.com/h6adegr I loved this story because it’s what real families are all about.