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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

“Stop waiting for the perfect day, or the perfect moment … Take this day, this moment and lead it to perfection. – Steve Maraboli

Red-headed woodpecker. — Wikimedia photo

A Page From my May 2005 Journal 

            I was sitting on a bluff above the Oauchita River in Camden, Arkansas, listening to bird song. Low clouds still carried the pink glow of the rising sun, and I watched as the airy cotton-like puffs transformed, first to golden and then to the blue tinge of the morning sky. It was cool and a gentle breeze ruffled tree leaves. All around me were clumps of wisteria, a vigorous tree-climbing vine with drooping lilac-hued blossoms that scented the morning air. Here and there, small dogwood trees with their dainty white flowers added to the enchantment of the landscape. .

Morning sky beside the Oauchita River in Arkansas. — Photo by Pat Bean

I was sitting where once stood a Confederate fort, aptly named Lookout because it provided the perfect spot to keep an eye on the river below.  It was also this very same bluff that had been visited in 1541 by the Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto. I thought about all this as I surveyed the landscape from my blanketed, cocooned perch in a lawn chair. All troubles, politics and wars of the world were put on hold….

Then I heard a tap-tap-tap coming from a grove of trees. I had seen northern flickers and downy woodpeckers in the area and assumed it was one of them. Instead, I got a nice surprise. I found myself looking at a red-headed woodpecker. Because there is no gender field mark in this species, as there are in many birds, it could have been either a male or female.

The bird was in a typical woodpecker stance, with its strong opposing talons gripping the tree trunk while it leaned back on its stiff tail. It’s head and throat were a brilliant shade of red, in stark contrast to the bluish-black and white feathers that covered the rest of its body.

I watched until the woodpecker flew off across the river, after turning an ordinary morning into an extraordinary one, a perfect start for the day. From their hiding places, a host of other birds chattered, whistled, twittered and sang in agreement.

Bean Pat: The planning fallacy https://tierneycreates.com/2018/05/15/the-planning-fallacy/?wref=pil This made me laugh because it’s so true of my own planning in whatever endeavor.

Blog pick of the day.

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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Looking out over the Badlands in South Dakota. — Photo by Pat Bean

“History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley

And Touching History

I have sat in the Old North Church in Boston, a landmark of the American Revolution. I have stood where Americans shed blood fighting each other over the issue of slavery. I have floated down the Mississippi River in a steamboat in the wake of Mark Twain. I have shed tears while standing in front of the black Lincoln in which JFK was riding when he was fatally shot. And I have walked on an Atlantic Beach near where The Virginia Company made its first landing in the New World.

In other words, I have traveled.

The Mark Twain Bridge over the Mississippi River at Hannibal, Missouri — Photo by Pat Bean

But it’s only now that I am coming to realize just how much history I was touching during the nine years I crisscrossed this country in a small RV – from ocean to ocean and border to border. Back then I was more interested in finding birds, camping beside a lake, admiring Mother Nature’s art, and exploring new hiking trails. Learning about history was never foremost in my mind.

My reasons for taking to the road, after retiring from my 37-year journalism career, were to satisfy my lifelong wanderlust and to see America’s wondrous landscapes – from gawking at a sunset over the Pacific from a cliff-top campground in Oregon, to wandering through the South Dakota badlands on a day so windy that my RV did a rock-and-roll dance.  Satisfying my late-blooming bird-watching addiction was an unexpected surprise bonus.

Yet looking back now, I realize that the history of the sites I visited almost always prompted additional research that ended up being what I wrote about in my blogs and in my book, Travels with Maggie.

I came to realize early on that travel is as much about discovering oneself as it is about seeing new vistas and meeting new people. So, it seems strange that I am only just now realizing how much traveling is also like taking a ride in a time machine through the pages of history.

Bean Pat: Don’t take life too seriously https://bebloggerofficial.com/2018/05/11/dont-take-life-too-seriously/  Good advice, especially these days.

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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 “Maybe you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but like every American, you carry a deed to 635 million acres of public lands.”  — John Garamend

Dragon Mouth Spring in Yellowstone. — Photo by Pat Bean

 

For over 20 years I lived just five hours away from Yellowstone. I’ve visited this national treasure over 25 times, long enough to see Mother Nature redecorate and remodel her landscape.

Black Dragon Caldron, which can also be seen along the Mud Volcano Trail. — Photo by Pat Bean

 

The changes have been many, but one that has been personal to me are the changes that took place at Dragon Mouth’s Spring. I first saw this steam-spurting, hissing feature in the late 1960s. It is located along the Mud Volcano Trail, a 2/3-mile loop through a varied landscape of mud pots and geysers.

It was easy for me, the first time I saw this sight, to imagine a dragon huffing and puffing as steam and water sloshed out from the entrance to a small cavern. But each time I revisited, which I always did when in Yellowstone, the dragon seemed mellower than the time before. And the dark green boiling water of the spring, which was easily envisioned as acidic dragon slime, began turning a bubbling light gray, the color of my hair today.

Interpretive sign along Mud Volcano Trail. — Photo by Pat Bean

Scientists reported the changes, but weren’t exactly sure why the dragon had stopped huffing and puffing so strenuously

As I watched the dragon settle, I began to imagine it as an old broad like me, no longer always on the run, but settling into contentment with no need to continually prove one’s worth — and with time to simply enjoy life.

So, it was that each time I hiked the Mud Volcano Trail, I took more and more time to enjoy the sights along the remainder of the trail, and not just the more memorable dragon. Each hike seemed to offer a new surprise: a fox lazing beneath a tree barely visible through my binoculars, a Clark’s nutcracker flying between hillside trees, the yellow hues of rocks painted by the minerals whose aroma taints the air with rotten eggs.

I can’t imagine visiting Yellowstone without revisiting the Mud Volcano Trail. While not as colorful as the Fountain Paint Pot Trail, or as spectacular as the geyser-dotted trail to Morning Glory Pool – which of course I can’t miss either – there be a dragon that calls to me.

Bean Pat: Boondocking https://nomadadvocate.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/boondocking-love-it-or-hate-it/   I boondocked at Lone Rock at Lake Powell the very first night I spent in my RV. What a wonderful time. And this blog brought back all those good memories.

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 now belong to a higher cult of mortals for I have seen the albatross.” – Robert Cusham Murphy,1912

Waved albatross on Espanola Island in the Galapagos. Wikimedia photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson

A Poem Come to Life

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge fascinated me when I read it for the first time when I was about 10 years old. The poem was in a literary book that was among those collected by a grandfather who died when I was still an infant.

His books were all stuffed in a chest, and my access to them was my favorite childhood treasure. I read them all, from the complete works of Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Dickens to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber, whose exotic raciness flitted right by my then nativity. I’m sure that back then that I also didn’t understand all the nuances of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, simply that if you killed an albatross, you would be cursed forever.

A page from my Galapagos journal. Photo by Pat Bean

I read Coleridge’s long poem out loud quite a few times, mostly because of how the words felt falling together in rhyme upon rhyme. I imagined myself upon a grand stage as I read to Blackie, my childhood canine companion.

This piece of my past jumbled its way through my mind the day I saw my first albatross in the Galapagos. I listened in awe as our guide told us that these waved albatrosses were the only one of this sea bird’s 20-plus species that visited the Galapagos.

The pair before us this day, which still are the only albatrosses I have yet seen, were courting. They were clacking their large bills together, and bowing and circling each other as if they were dancing to a medieval tune.  Like all the other birds I saw in the islands, these had little fear that they were being watched by nearby humans.

It was a rare experience for this birdwatcher, made even more so when our guide said not many people ever got to see an albatross courtship. These large-winged birds spend much of their lives out to sea.

Bean Pat: The Old Plaid Camper  https://oldplaidcamper.com/2018/04/13/to-the-lighthouse/  To the Lighthouse.

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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Brown Creeper

“Searching is half the fun: life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party.” — Jimmy Buffett

The Nemesis Bird

Brown creeper — Wikimedia photo

Two blocks from my oldest daughter’s home, in a crowded residential neighborhood near Dallas, I finally saw a brown creeper, a bird that can be seen in all 49 North American states and Canada. But it had eluded me for five years of seriously looking for it in all the right habitats.

There were even several times during those five years when I was with other birders who would call out: “Brown creeper, here!” But the darn little creeper was always gone before I got a look.  It had become my nemesis bird.

The one I finally saw on a winter day in 2005, however, made up for all my efforts to see it. Here’s how I described the event in my journal.

Dainty and delicately patterned to match the bark of the tree, the creeper was spiraling upward around the trunk of an old oak … Two more times, this little tree climber circled the trunk, always in an upward motion. … it then flew to the bottom of a second tree about four feet away, and began spiraling upward once again, its actions perfectly matching a description of its behavior in my field guide.

The creeper was using its thin, down-curved bill to dig out tiny insects in the trunk’s crevices. So well camouflaged was the bird that my eyes were sometimes fooled into thinking I was simply looking at tree bark. But when I did see the creeper, I was amazed at the crisp look of the bird’s brown and white feathers, which seemed to sparkle when the sun briefly flashed on them.”

I’m glad I took time to write down my observations, because the brown creeper I saw that day is still the only one I have ever seen.

I guess you could still call it my nemesis bird.

Bean Pat: Blogging at the Holler’s for the birds. https://cindyknoke.com/2018/03/07/blogging-at-the-hollers-for-the-birds/?wref=pil

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 Corkscrew Boardwalk … Wikimedia photo

Lie on the bridge and watch the water flowing past. Or run, or wade through the swamp in your red boots. Or roll yourself up and listen to the rain falling on the roof. It’s very easy to enjoy yourself.” — Tove Jansson

Home of Wood Storks, Air Flowers and Cypress Trees

In 2008, I spent a month on Pine Island just across the water from Cape Coral, Florida. The location allowed me to explore the west side of the Everglades at my leisure. One place I visited twice was Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, home to the largest old growth bald cypress forest in North America and a favorite habitat of endangered wood storks. .

The Ghost Orchid

Both times I took over five hours to hike the 2.25-mile loop boardwalk that meandered through the sanctuary’s awesome and varied landscape. It seemed as if Mother Nature had a different spectacle for me to watch and observe every 100 feet or so.

While my goal for visiting was to bird watch, that often took a back seat to my gawking at the cypress trees that stood tall and wide. with moss-draped limbs and sometimes unrelated flowers that grew among the branches. I even got a glimpse – thanks to my birding binoculars – of the swamp’s famous ghost orchid, discovered just a year before I visited.

I was told where to look for it at the visitor center or I would have just thought it was one of the bromeliads that had attached their roots to tall branches in

Little blue heron up a tree. — Photo by Pat Bean

the trees. These plants, which seemed to grow on nothing but air, fascinated me. But then so did the swamp’s birds, marsh prairies, otters (I saw two) and all the other wonders of a place that miraculously was saved when Florida’s cypress forests were being leveled for timber in the mid-1900s.

The National Audubon Society, recognizing the swamp’s value, worked to save the land and its inhabitants for future generations to enjoy.  Today, Corkscrew Sanctuary, is both a designated Wetland of International Importance and an Important Bird Area. I hope it will still be there when my grandchildren’s children, and their children, want to visit, like my six-year-old great-grandson Kaiden, whose mother and my granddaughter Keri spent a week touring the Everglades with me in 2008.

Bean Pat:  In the Forest https://forestgardenblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/06/blossom-xxxv-in-the-forest/ A perfect blog to accompany mine. They’re both about the beauty of a place.

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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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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