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Archive for the ‘Favorite Places’ Category

This photograph represents a magical moment in time that I relived when I came across this picture earlier today. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.” – J.B. Priestly

Reliving a Magical Moment

Bridge to an island in the lake at Frank Jackson State Park in Alabama. — Photo by Pat Bean

There are magical moments in your life that you hold dear, and always want to remember. For me, those memories include the feeling I had when I held each of my five children for the first time, moments of watching them grow up and achieve, my own sense of achievements during my 37 years as a journalist, and the feeling I get at the end of any day in which I feel I accomplished something good.

Beyond this stuff of everyday life, however, there are the moments of joy and wonder that I’ve experienced in nature, experiences that I have had, and still do have, that keep me sane in a chaotic world that does not always make sense.

There are hundreds of such moments, but the one I will tell you about today took place at Frank Jackson State Park in Alabama.

My camping site at the park. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Wow,” I wrote in my journal when I came across this place. While southern state parks usually impressed me when I came across them while traveling this country in a small RV with my canine companion, Maggie, this one outdid itself. I had a tree-shaded site with full hookups that backed up to the 1,000-acre W. F. Jackson Lake – and a cable TV outlet, a first for me at a public park.

The one night I had planned to stay turned into three, during which I took daily hikes across a wooden walkway to an island in the middle of the lake. One day I hiked it twice, first to catch the reflecting pink and soft orange glow over the lake as a sunrise welcomed the day, and a second to see bolder orange and red rays of the sunset that ended it.

A photograph I snapped at the perfect moment, after the sun had set and the glow had faded, captured a couple of fisherman silhouetted in a small boat floating on a lavender lake beneath a darkening sky.

This was the magical moment I relived this morning when I was looking through

my photos. Looking at the peaceful scene left me feeling as if I had captured a whole life time of living and reduced it to a single memory.

Bean Pat: The Path of the Spirit http://tinyurl.com/htrh8e5 Unweeded Edges

Frank Jackson State Park: 100 Jerry Adams Drive, Opp, Alabama (334) 493-6988. A 2,050-acre park with a 1,000-acre lake and three plus miles of trails. Entrance fee: $2-$4, Camping fee: $19 to $36 nightly, cabins $85 and up. Activities include boating ($4 launch fee), hiking, birdwatching, fishing. For more information go to: http://alapark.com/frank-jackson-state-park

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is soon to be released. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

 

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George Archibald took this photo of me at the end of our tour to see whooping cranes on the Texas Gulf Coast. I’m smiling because I saw these awesome endangered cranes. — Photo by George Archibald

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life. John Burroughs

The Man Who Danced with One

A page from my journal with a cutout of George Archibald in his whooping crane outfit.

I just finished reading To See Every Bird on Earth by Dan Koeppel. In it he mentioned George Archibald, a conservationist and co-creator of the International Crane Foundation. A day later, I read another mention about George, this time from one of my own journals. I had met George during a birding festival in Port Aransas in 2009, at which time he talked about the endangered whooping cranes that winter on the Texas Gulf Coast near Port Aransas.

In the 1940s, there were fewer than 25 whooping cranes left in the wild, and only a couple of these giant birds in captivity. Today, because of the efforts of Archibald and others like him, over 300 whoopers are now flying free, migrating between Canada and the lower U.S each year.

Whooping crame on Matagorda Island. — Photo by Pat Bean

During a workshop talk, George put on his crane costume and demonstrated how he danced with an orphan whooping crane chick as a way to teach it to dance the way whooping cranes do to attract and bond with a mate. Whooping cranes have to be taught this, as well as their migration paths, by their parents. Mom and Dad make their first winter migration flight with them.

I took pictures of George in his crane suit, and put some of them in my journal. Then the next day, I took the whooping crane tour aboard the Wharf Cat out to Matagorda Island to see the real whooping cranes. George was aboard and we had a nice long chat about the whoopers, and the work he and others are doing to save the cranes. It was a fascinating couple of days, and I’m glad both the book I was reading and my journals let me relive it.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Interesting Literature http://tinyurl.com/y8casam5 Edward Allan Poe’s The Raven. I first read this when I was nine or 10 years old. Although it was another 15 years before I knew I wanted to be a writer, this poem certainly helped me fall in love with the sound of words, even though I didn’t know what they all meant at the time.

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James Bond Island == Wikimedia photo

James Bond Island == Wikimedia photo

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy

James Bond Island

            I was scanning through photos of what someone described as the most beautiful places on earth – dreaming over pictures of exotic places has been something I do frequently ever since I stopped wandering full time – when I came across one titled James Bond Island.

I recognized the place immediately as one of the settings for the James Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun.” I had read Ian Flemming’s Bond books before JFK made them popular by saying they were his favorite books, and have seen every James Bond movie, even though most had little to do with the books.

But I had no idea where the actual island used in the film was located. So I did some research on the Internet, which provided a quick answer to this non-wandering wanderer’s curious mind.

Bartolemeo Island in the Galapagas with its its Pinnacle Rock near the center of this photo. If you watch Master and Commander, you can see the scene again. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Bartolomeo Island in the Galapagos with its Pinnacle Rock near the center of this photo. If you watch “Master and Commander,” you can see the scene again. — Photo by Pat Bean

The island, until the release of the movie in the mid’70s was unknown as Khao Phing Kau, in Thailand. It became a tourist attraction following the movie, and is most recognizable because of a 66-foot tall islet called Ko Taou that sits just 130 feet away from shore.

In 1981, the island became part of the newly established Ao Phang Nga Marine National Park. I wished I had seen it in person, but armchair travel is the next best thing.

Meanwhile, the morning’s at-home expedition brought to mind another movie, “Master and Commander,” which contained a setting I had visited. It was Bartolomeo Island in the Galapagos. And I took the photo on the left when I was there.

I would also classify it as one of the most beautiful places on earth. But then if I made such a list, it would probably be long enough to encircle the earth. And that brings me to one of my favorite travel quotes:

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

            Bean Pat: A wee bee http://tinyurl.com/hyx5mp5 I love these photos, and they remind me of how important bees are to the environment.

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A snowy egret at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A snowy egret at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. — Photo by Pat Bean

        “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” — Henry David Thoreau

Some of my Favorite Places

There are 59 national parks, and in my lifetime I’ve been to 44 of them, mostly missing the ones in Alaska. They are some of my favorite places in the world.

This pond captured images of the Wasatch Mountains and the clouds above them. I love it. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This pond captured images of the Wasatch Mountains and the clouds above them. I love it. — Photo by Pat Bean

On the other hand, there are over 550 national wildlife refuges. And they are also some of my favorite places – even though I haven’t kept track of the ones I’ve visited. During my nine years of traveling this awesome country, I stopped at any refuge in my vicinity, mostly to bird watch. .

Among the more memorable ones that would be on my list of the refuges I’ve explored, if I had such a list, would be Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, located 15 minutes from my son Lewis’ Texas Gulf Coast home, and where I turned him into a birding addict like me. This refuge has added 16 birds to my life list of 710 species.

But that pales with the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge that has given me 31 of my life birds. This refuge is very special to me because the first time I visited it was in the 1970s, when it was lush and green – and long before bird watching became one of my passions.

In the 1980s, I watched as the now 80,000-acre refuge was inundated by Great Salt Lake flood waters, whose salty content pretty much destroyed everything, including an almost new visitor’s center. I then regularly watched as the refuge, less than an hour’s drive from my Ogden, Utah, home for 25 years, made its comeback.

Pickleweed. I remember how thrilled I was when I saw the tiny beginning of this plant in a place desolate of greenery.

Pickleweed. I remember how thrilled I was when I saw the tiny beginning of this plant in a place desolate of greenery.

It started with pickleweed, one of the first plants to come back and one that helped eliminate the salt in the landscape. This was all explained to me during a tour of the damaged refuge for a newspaper story I was writing. Have I ever told you how much I loved my journalism career?

I was already retired, and traveling, but I made it to the grand opening of the refuge’s new visitor’s center in 2006. This time the center was located a good ways away from the flood zone, and next to Interstate 15 near Brigham City. The site offers visitors a convenient and quick view of a bit of what the refuge has to offer without the 10-mile drive on a rutted, unpaved road to the main refuge area.

I used to hate that rough ride – but I loved it, too. It kept the crowds away. Sometimes it seemed as if I had the whole refuge to myself, and if not, the other visitors were most likely to be nature lovers who, like me, thought the birds, animals and scenery were worth the bumpy drive.

If you’re one of us, along with visiting a national park during this year celebrating the system’s 100th birthday, you might want to also check out a national wildlife refuge. Most likely there is one not too far from where you live. https://www.fws.gov/refuges/

And if you’re interested in a good book, check out Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. It’s much about the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Living Life Almost Gracefully http://tinyurl.com/h97kl2v Chasing the Sun

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Looking down from one of the many overlooks on the Sky Island Scenic Byway. I stopped at almost every overlook. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Looking down from one of the many overlooks on the Sky Island Scenic Byway. I stopped at almost every overlook. — Photo by Pat Bean

The Wanderings of a Nested Wanderer

Sky islands are isolated mountains surrounded by radically different landscapes. My wondering-wandering curiosity had me looking up the term after I drove the Sky Island Scenic Byway to the top of Mount Lemon as a day road trip to pacify my wanderlust. We left before the sun came up and my canine companion, Pepper, and I didn’t get back home from the 60-mile round trip until mid-afternoon.

Hoodoos, like this, were plentiful along the way. I love the word hoodoo -- and the most colorful ones can be found in Southern Utah. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Hoodoos, like this, were plentiful along the way. I love the word hoodoo — and the most colorful ones can be found in Southern Utah. — Photo by Pat Bean

It was a great, soul cleansing day.

I hadn’t really heard the tern sky island until I settled in Tucson three years ago, and then it seemed to be frequently popping up. That’s because, the Catalina, Santa Rita and the Chiricahua mountain ranges that surround Tucson are all perfect examples of sky islands.

I live in the 3-000-foot shadow of the 9,159-foot tall Mount Lemmon, meaning my road trip took me from an arid desert landscape to a much cooler landscape 6,000 feet higher. It was the perfect escape on a hot day. A gazillion bicyclists thought so too. Next time, perhaps, I’ll take the drive on a weekday instead of a weekend.

Real soon, I decided.

I called this one spaceship rock. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I called this one spaceship rock. — Photo by Pat Bean

Bean Pat: Raspberry Sunset http://tinyurl.com/j68j4cf Great Yellowstone wildlife capture with a camera. I love this blog.

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“This idea that being youthful is the only thing that’s beautiful or attractive simply isn’t true. I don’t want to be an ‘ageless beauty.’ I want to be a woman who is the best I can be at my age. ” –Sharon Stone

Photo by Pat Bean

The fossilized rock tree, araucarioxylon arizonicum, known as Old Faithful, can be found in  Petrified Forest National Park — Photo by Pat Bean

An Old Tree 

Araucarioxylon arizonicum: I can’t pronounce it, but I did learn that it was one of the most common trees found in a 225 million year old forest that once thrived in what is now Arizona.

A more lively sight near the fossilized tree. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A more lively sight near the fossilized tree. — Photo by Pat Bean

The petrified remains of these trees, which are now extinct, can be seen along old Route 66 as it winds through Petrified  Forest National Park between Interstate 40 and Highway 18 in Arizona. It’s one of those great travel adventures that are so readily available when you exit the freeways.

These great conifers were buried by mud, silt and volcanic ash in ancient days, then at some point were exposed to silica-laden water that transformed organic tissues into quartz.

That, at least, is the abbreviated version of the science behind the stone trees. If you want more details, you’ll have to do your own research. It could be fun.

I tried to picture the forest as it once was, with dinosaurs roaming through it, as I stood in front of 225-million-year-old “Old Faithful,” the oldest petrified araucarioxylon arizonicum tree trunk in the park. It is located along a short hike behind the Rainbow Forest Museum near the south entrance to the park.

Araucarioxylon arizonicum, by the way, is Arizona’s state fossil.

Hmmm. I wonder if I can learn to speak the name of the tree as easily as I learned to say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: About Elephants http://tinyurl.com/htk8jt9 This blog is really about the baobab tree, which was one of my favorite trees to see during my African safari. I loved learning more about them.

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“Fame is like a shaved pig with a greased tail, and it is only after it has slipped through the hands of thousands, that some fellow, by mere chance, holds on to it!” – Davy Crockett

Lake Jackson, where I lived for 15 years and where I still have family, is called the City of Enchantment. Being able to see great egrets -- this one was photographed at the city's Sea Center but you can also see them in drainage ditches all over town -- is enchanting. Don't you think?

Lake Jackson, where I lived for 15 years and where I still have family, is called the City of Enchantment. Being able to see great egrets — this one was photographed at the city’s Sea Center, but you can also see them in drainage ditches all over town — is enchanting. Don’t you think? — Photo by Pat Bean

Travel is so Enlightening

On road trips, when I’m driving the back roads that take me through the middle of small towns, I look for the one thing that makes one place stand out from another.

For instance, did you know that Venice, Florida, calls itself the Shark Tooth Capital of the World? People actually visit this quaint, snowbird town to find them, which isn’t hard to do as the tide and waves are constantly bringing shark’s teeth and other fossils up onto the city’s beaches.

Ypsilanti's Dick Brick, errrr Water Tower. -- Wikimedia photo

Ypsilanti’s Dick Brick. Oops,  I mean Water Tower. — Wikimedia photo

Sharks, which have an abundance of teeth to begin with, are continually replacing any that are lost – and a tiger shark, for instance, can produce as many as 24,000 teeth during its lifetime. That’s according to the web site of Sharky’s Shop, an online store where you can buy shark’s teeth if you don’t want to go beach surfing.

The small town of Woodstock, Vermont, which I passed through one rainy day, as were all the days I spent in this Green Mountain State, doubled up on its privileges to fame. It claimed: to be the only town in America with four Paul Revere bells, to be the site of the first ski tow, to be the birthplace of Hiram Powers, the sculptor of “Greek Slave” for which Elizabeth Barrett Browning created a sonnet, and to be the home of railroad empire builder Frederick Billings.

Perhaps the most outrageous claim to fame by a town I’ve visited, however, is the one made by Ypsilanti, where I spent a few days. This Michigan’s town’s brag is that it is home to the “World’s Most Phallic Structure.” That title was won by the city’s 147-foot limestone water tower during Cabinet magazine’s 2003 contest to find the building most resembling a human phallus.

One look at the tower – built in 1890 by someone either with a macho bent or a sense of humor – and I could see why it must have easily won the contest. Locals call it the “Dick Brick.” It’s said that if an Eastern Michigan University student graduates while still a virgin the tower will fall down. Travel is so enlightening.

Then there’s:

Hico, Texas: Where Everybody is Somebody.

Hico, Texas: Where Everybody is Somebody.

Hico, Texas: Where Everybody is Somebody.

Camden, Arkansas: Home of the Grapette.

Hatch, New Mexico: Chili Pepper Capital of the World.

Green River Utah: Watermelon Capital of the World.

Louisville, Kentucky: City of Beautiful Churches.

Aberdeen, Washington: Port of Missing Men

Rumney, New Hampshire: Crutch Capital of the World

Abbeville, Georgia: Wild Hog Capital of Georgia

Belle Glade, Florida: Muck City

St. John, North Dakota: City at the End of the Rainbow. I’ll stop here, but if you are interested in more town nickname trivia check out: http://tinyurl.com/z9odvg6

So what’s your town’s claim to fame?

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Have Bag, Will Travel http://tinyurl.com/zodt2r4  This blog appealed to me because I’m always visiting odd museums when I travel. This blog about a visit to one such museum made me laugh.

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