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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

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Candy-striped rocks in Badlands National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Landscape is a piece that is emotional and psychological.” – Jim Hodges

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Remnants of an ancient jungle can be seen in the Badlands. — Photo by Pat Bean

Alone on a Windy Day

In the neighborhood of a million or more people from all over the world annually visit Badlands National Park, a rugged, colorful, wind scoured, sun-bleached, South Dakota landscape that took my mind back through endless eras of time. It felt magical, and the windy autumn day I drove, and hiked a bit, through it seemed as if I had the park’s entire quarter-million acres of rock and prairie to myself.

         I had spent the night at a small campground in Interior, a city of less than 100 residents that sits just outside the park. It is home to the Horseshoe Bar, whose sign out front said: “All Bikes Must Stop,” and a gas station, where I had to go inside to pay. The friendly clerk there old me to drop by for a hot meal later. I bypassed the bar, and did just that.

South Dakota is known as one of this country’s windiest states, and it was living up to the reputation when I awoke the next morning after a night of rocking and rolling in my over-the-cab bed. The smart thing to do was to stay put for the day. But the Badlands, which I had never visited before, was calling me.

My canine companion Maggie and I answered the invitation. We did get bounced around a bit in our undersized, 21-foot class C home on wheels. But, oh was it worth it! As more and more people seek relief from the world’s chaos in nature’s wild places, it is becoming rare to have time alone with Mother Nature. Well, unless you are a backpacker able to truly go into the backcountry, and age has put me at a point where that kind of adventure is behind me.

Besides the kaleidoscope of candy-striped boulders, remnants of an ancient jungle, and fossils of animals, like the saber-toothed tiger that no longer exist, I saw bison, prairie dogs, antelope, rock wrens and prairie falcons.

But the day’s furious winds, which calmed down for a bit every now and then, evidently kept other visitors away. I saw fewer than a dozen cars on the Badlands Highway 240 Loop Road, and only three other people during my several short hikes.

It rained shortly after I arrived back at the Interior campground, and I spent another night rocking and rolling as my RV danced with the wind. Then it was off for another day of exploring the “good” Badlands.

Bean Pat: An invitation https://natureontheedge.com/2018/01/27/ The adventure begins Feb. 16. Sounds like fun and a good cause.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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The sky broke like an egg into full sunset and the water caught fire.” — Pamela Hansford Johnson

Sunset Bay State Park — Oregon State Parks photo

A Moment Not to be Forgotten 

It was a misty, early morning at Sunset Bay Park where I was staying while attending the Oregon Shorebird Festival (See previous post) held nearby.

Sunset Bay State Park near Coos Bay in Oregon. — Wikimedia photo

The Oregon coast campground oozed beauty and peacefulness as I stepped out of my small RV for the morning walk with my canine companion. We strolled down to the beach, where not another soul was yet around. The quiet swishing of the waves against the sand poured calmness into my soul and made me glad to be alive – even though I hadn’t yet had my coffee.

As I walked along the water’s edge, I saw a flock of western sandpipers in the shallows ahead, marching slowly along and constantly dipping their tiny beaks in and out of the water in search of breakfast tidbits. I watched them through my binoculars, staying far enough behind them that they wouldn’t startle and fly off. Maggie was too interested in sniffing at the water’s edge to even notice. But then something, I’m not sure what, did disturb them. In what seemed like less than a second, as a unity of one, they soared into the air, circled for a moment, then flew farther down the beach, their feathers flashing silver when catching the morning sun.

As I stood there, I recalled  a quote by Cesare Pavese that I had written in my journal: “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”  My heart told me that this was a moment I did not want to forget.

Bean Pat: A strange bird story  https://apetcher.wordpress.com/2018/02/08/ This qualifies as my learning something new for the day. The post both made me laugh, and made me sad, first for the caged bird and then for the unethical humans. I know for a fact that there are more ethical people in the world than the other way around. But boy do the rotten ones leave a bad taste in the soul.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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“I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore … I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”  – William Butler Yates.

A tree full of double-crested cormorants at Lake End Campground. — Photo by Pat Bean  

Water and Birds for Double the Pleasure

A walk among the moss-dripping trees. — Photo by Pat Bean

One of my favorite things to do when I traveled across this country in my RV was to spend the night parked where I could be lulled to sleep at night by the sounds of water gurgling, lapping and laughing. It was better than any sleeping pill, assuring me a good night’s sleep, and a morning eager to take a walk by the water.

It didn’t hurt either that lakes and ponds and oceans were also the stomping grounds of birds to feed my birdwatching passion.

Great Blue Heron at Lake End Campground, Louisiana. — Photo by Pat Bean

So, it was that I found myself spending a few nights on the western edge of Louisiana’s Lake Palourde at Lake End Campground, sharing it with an abundance of double-crested cormorants and great blue herons. An additional bonus was its scenic walking trail.

Palourde is an 11,250-acre lake near Morgan City, Louisiana. It was originally called Lac Palourde by early French settlers, which means Lake Clam. The name came because of the abundance of clams that once lined the shore.

I didn’t see any clams, but I did see lots of birds – and I slept well.

Bean Pat:  Living outside the lines https://tinyurl.com/y9ho6t7r Be sure and listen to the music. I really loved this blog

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” – Cesare Pavese     

The long-billed curlew — Wikimedia photo by Jerry Kirkhart

AKA the Candlestick Bird

It was a June Day in 1998 and photographer Kurt Duce and I were on the unpaved, closed to the public, south causeway to Antelope Island. We had permission to four-wheel it on the rough passage because I was doing a series of newspaper articles on Great Salt Lake.

Long-billed curlew_– Wikimedia photo by Frank Schulenburg.

Since the road was rarely driven, a pair of long-billed curlews had built their nest right beside the one-lane passage. We stopped and got out for a better look, and several young chicks began and skittering to and fro in front of us. It was a great opportunity for me to quietly observe with my notebook in hand, and for Kort to get some rare photographs of this large shorebird and young.

We weren’t out of the car for more than about 30 seconds, however, when the two parents began dive-bombing us. It took off Kort’s hat with one pass. In less than 30 seconds the two of us were both back in our vehicle. I dare say you would have ducked for cover, too, if you got a close-up look at this bird’s wicked bill.

But it was one of those remembered moments that claim a prominent place in the file cabinets of my brain.

According to Wikipedia, the long-billed curlew was once known as the candlestick bird, and Candlestick Park and Candlestick Point in San Francisco, where these birds once inhabited, were named after this bird, which, however, disappeared from this landscape in the early 1900s.

Thankfully, however, it found other habitat and is currently not in danger of becoming extinct, as did its cousin, the Eskimo curlew, which has not been seen in over 30 years.

Serendipitously, a short time after I was dive-bombed by the angry bird parents, I heard a talk by author and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams,  who remarked: “I can’t help but believe that as long as the world supports the life of the long-billed curlew, we can be supported, too.”

I certainly agree.

Bean Pat: Watch a YouTube video of a long-billed curlew at https://tinyurl.com/y9tzvygf

         Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Advice from a Tree: Stand tall and proud. Sink your roots into the earth. Be content with your natural beauty. Go out on a limb. Drink plenty of water. Remember your roots. Enjoy the view. – Ilan Shamir

They’re Huggable

Ralph Marston, author and publisher of The Daily Motivator, asks: “When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?”

This live oak tree, thought to be more than a thousand years old, can be found on Goose Island State Park in Texas. It too, is one, whose sight causes me to linger. — Photo by Pat Bean.

My answer is yesterday, when I sat on my third-floor living room balcony, at first watching for the hummingbirds that visit my nectar feeder. When they didn’t come, I then simply stared at the multitude of trees visible from my perch. I know of no better way to calm my body and to fill it with a sense of rightness and peacefulness.

Seven tall Ponderosa pines grow in the courtyard. I often wonder why they are

here in the desert where they don’t belong – but I’m glad they are here. Also growing in the courtyard are the deciduous trees whose names I do not know, plus quite a few black olive trees, whose twisted trunks look as if they have been carved into artistic arrangements.

In the undeveloped desert area around my apartment complex, through which there is a short trail, grow a multitude of Palo Verde trees sporting green trunks and limbs. I’ve observed them through the seasons, sprouting greenish-yellow leaves during monsoon and then dropping them to conserve energy when the desert dries up and the heat sends all living things in search of shade.

Me, hugging a tree in Custer State Park in South Dakota. — Photo by one of the day’s traveling companions.

My former home in Utah, which I sold to go traipsing all across North America, had a huge wild elm tree in the backyard. It was the primary reason I had bought the home. It was so huge that it shaded my entire house, which also benefitted from the shadows cast by a tall Ponderosa pine tree on the opposite side. I needed no other air conditioning.

The trees here at my apartment complex in Tucson, where summer temperatures can reach 120 degrees — air conditioning is definitely needed — provide me the shade I need for the brief walks I take with Pepper, my canine companion, during the hottest part of the summer.

I don’t think I could live in a place without trees. And laugh you might, but I’m not just a tree lover, I’m a tree hugger, too. And I have the photo to prove it.

Bean Pat: The Silence of Nature https://travelsandtrifles.wordpress.com/2018/01/19/thesilence-of-nature/  “See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence.”Mother Teresa

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Antelope Island

Antelope Island from the causeway on an overcast day. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.” – Amelia Earhart

Wilson’s Phalaropes 

My newest writing work in progress, since Travels with Maggie is now published, is a book I’m calling Bird Droppings. It’s about my adventures, and that they have been, of being a late-blooming birder.

Female Wilson’s phalarope in breeding plumage. — Wikimedia photo

It’s a passion that addicted me at the age of 60, just when my body was beginning to revolt against my more strenuous outdoor activities of back-packing, white-water rafting, biking and skiing.

Recognizing the new hobby as a major blessing that kept me moving forward in my zest for life, I reveled in the new experiences. And the more I actually learned about birds, the more enamored I became with bird watching.

As I watched for birds on the island, I always saw other wildlife, and pronghorn antelope were frequently among them. — Photo by Pat Bean

At first, I relied on others to make identifications of birds in the field, but there came a point when I wanted to be able to be the first one to say that’s a yellow-rumped warbler or a ruddy duck. Those two, by the way are usually easy to identify. The first, also known as a butter butt, often moons you so you clearly see its golden backside, and the second has a blue bill and a stuck-up tail,

To satisfy my need to be able to identify a bird on my own, I began solo weekly visits, with field guides in hand, to Antelope Island in Great Salt Lake. I called the place my Birding 101 Lab and visited it almost weekly, throughout the seasons, for two years. I never had an outing to the island, which was reached by a six-mile causeway, in which I didn’t learn something new and fascinating.

One of the more interesting birds to me, since I’m a woman who raised five children almost entirely on her own, were the Wilson’s phalaropes. These nine-inch or so shorebirds are members of the sandpiper family. They flock by the hundreds of thousands to Great Salt Lake during the summer. I often watched them swimming around and around in circles, creating a vacuum that would bring up tiny bits of food to eat.

But the thing I enjoyed most about these birds, which I learned from my many bird books and field guides, was that they switched roles. The female had the brightest colored feathers, courted the males, and then left the egg sitting and rearing the young to the gentlemen as well.

As a mom who changed cloth diapers for five children without any help, I couldn’t help but admire the female phalaropes.

            Bean Pat: Refuge https://www.birdnote.org/show/terry-tempest-williams-reads-refuge One of my favorite authors reads a short piece in her soothing voice. This is a real treat, and less than 2 minutes long.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Flashing rays of the morning sun at Steinaker State Park near Vernal, Utah — where dinosaurs once roamed. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.” — Frank Borman

Steinaker State Park

Pepper and me enjoying our morning walk at Steinaker State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I’m fond of camping at state parks. I’ve truly never found one I haven’t liked. I’m also fond of traveling backroads and avoiding major highways and crowds, which you might say is how I ended up during one of my journeys spending a few days at Steinaker State Park near Vernal, Utah.

As far as campgrounds go, it had all the right stuff: a scenic lake setting and an ample tree-shaded campsite. But what made this off-the-beaten-path park special to me was the chance it offered for a bit of solitude among nature’s marvels. As our world population explodes, and more and more people seeking relief from the daily chaos discover the healing powers of Mother Nature, being alone on established trails and in parks has become a rare thing. Although opportunities exist to escape to this country’s true wilderness areas, at my age this has no longer become a viable option.

I wasn’t able to capture the golden eagle that morning, but I thought you would enjoy this Wikimedia photo by Tony Hiigett. I did.

While I wasn’t alone at Steinaker, which sits at an elevation of 5,500 feet, other campers were scattered enough that I seldom saw any of them. This was especially true when I took my early morning walks with Pepper, my canine companion.

The best morning was the one in which I was awoken by a hooting great horned owl, an  a golden eagle, its wings backlit by a rising sun, doing a flyover. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Bean Pat: Interesting Literature http://tinyurl.com/y9fjj7fr  Best poems about identity and self.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y You can contact Bean at patbean@msn.com  (more…)

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