Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The photo I took of a tortoise on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos in 2004. — Photo by Pat Bean

“The tortoise only moves forward by sticking his neck out. I think it’s the same with humans.” – Pat Bean

I Met the Two Famous Ones

            There was a story about Diego in the New York Times this week that brought back memories of my 2004 trip to the Galapagos Islands. Diego is a tortoise that was taken from Espanola Island to the San Diego Zoo sometime in the 1930s. He belongs to the species of giant tortoises scientifically known as Chelonoidis hoodensis, or more commonly the Espanola tortoises.

Diego, the 100-year-old tortoise who has helped bring his species back from the brink of extinction.

There were originally 15 tortoise species in the Galapagos, but five of them are now extinct, with the last of the five dying out with the death of Lonesome George in 2012. I got to see both George and Diego at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island during the week that I spent cruising from island to island in a 16-passenger catamaran. Both of the tortoises stories fascinated me.

Lonesome George’s because he was the last of his species, and Diego, who had been brought back to the Galapagos in 1977 to help his species avoid extinction. At that time, there were only a dozen of his species known to still be alive, and while 10 of those were females, the two males were too young, too inexperienced, or too stand-offish to mate with them.

Diego’s male macho instincts on being returned to the Galapagos solved that problem. By some estimates, Diego, who is now 100 years old, has fathered over 800 tortoise babies.

Lonesome George before his death in 2012, He was the last of his tortoise species.

The Galapagos tortoises, which can weigh up to 900 pounds or so, have shells of various sizes and shapes. The ones living on humid highland islands are larger with domed shells and short necks. On islands with dry lowlands, the tortoises are smaller with long necks. Darwin noted these differences during his second visit to the islands in 1835, and they most likely, along with his observation of finches, helped him contemplate the theory of evolution.

As stories go, Diego’s is the one I like best. While the demise of the tortoises from about 250,000 in the 16th century to only about 3,000 in the 1970s is primarily due to the fact that humans think they tasted good, it was humans who also helped bring their numbers back up. Currently, there are about 20,000 tortoises in the wild – and Diego, who is scheduled to be released back on Santa Cruz Island will be one of them.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: My Botanical Garden http://tinyurl.com/jbswvwm I love the thought behind this blog. It’s sort of like my desire to always look for that silver lining, like the fact there are more tortoises in the world today than there were 50 years ago.

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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

Forget-me-nots by the roadside. -- Wikimedia photo

Forget-me-nots by the roadside. — Wikimedia photo

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

I remember clearly when Alaska became a state in 1959. It had been an issue that had been discussed in the news for several years before it actually happened. And it had been one of the issues I debated in school.

Bald Eagles near Haines ... Wikimedia photo

Bald Eagles near Haines … Wikimedia photo

I remember that I took the opposing view, and one of my arguments against Alaska becoming a state was that it would mean Texas would then be only the second smallest state. Dumb argument, but what do you expect from a 14-year-old native Texan. And as I recall that argument was met by another 14-year-old who said: Alaska wouldn’t be bigger if all the snow and ice were melted away.

I thought about those school days as I drove from Haines Junction, Yukon, to Haines, Alaska, where I would catch a Ferry that would take me and my vehicle on the Inland Passage to Vancouver, Washington.

It was yet again another scenic drive, one with quite a few lake overlooks, an abundance of ground squirrels flittering here and there, trees full of bald eagles and roadsides full of small blue flowers.

Forget-me-not, up close and personal

Forget-me-not, up close and personal

I identified the flowers as Forget-me-nots, and learned it was Alaska’s state flower. From an Alaska guidebook, I also learned that the For-get-me not was first adopted in 1907 as the official flower of the “Grand Igloo,” an organization formed by pioneers that had arrived in Alaska before 1900, and that in 1917 it was proposed that the flower be declared the official emblem of the newly created Alaskan Territory. Esther Birdsall Darling wrote a poem for the occasion:

        So in thinking for an emblem

        For this Empire of the North

        We will choose this azure flower

         That the golden days bring forth,

        For we want men to remember

        That Alaska came to stay  

       Though she slept unknown for ages

        And awakened in a day.

        So although they say we’re living  

       In the land that God forgot,  

       We’ll recall Alaska to them

        With our blue Forget-me-not.

The Alaska Flag

The Alaska Flag

In 1927, Benny Benson, a 13-year old Aleut boy, referenced the Forget-me not with his winning flag design for the territory. He said the blue field represented the sky and the blue of the Forget-me-not flower. The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, and the Dipper is for the Great Bear – symbolizing strength, he added.

When Alaska entered the Union as the 49th state, Benny flag was retained as the state flag – and the Forget-me-not was adopted as the official state flower.

And it seemed that everywhere I looked on the drive this day, I saw Forget-me-nots. And I never will forget them.

Bean Pat: Forest Garden http://tinyurl.com/hk8rssn Flowers and Words, lovely.

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Aerial view of Seward, Alaska. -- Wikimedia photo

Aerial view of Seward, Alaska. — Wikimedia photo

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – JRR Tolkien

Salmon and Glaciers

I started off the day sharing breakfast with six other guests, then it was off on a day trip to Seward, 125 miles away. The first stop along the way was Potter’s Marsh Bird Sanctuary, where I saw salmon jumping in a stream, something I had read much about but never expected to see. I stayed a while to bird watch, and among the many species I saw, were a green-winged teal, and a red-necked phalarope, which were new birds for my trip list.

I found Seward to be a quaint tourist town, but traffic to and from it was as heavy as Utah’s I-15 between Ogden and Salt Lake, except it was squeezed into two lanes with construction going on around every curve in the road. Unlike my frustrating trips from Ogden to Salt Lake, however, I found the slowness of today’s traffic absolutely perfect. It gave me more time to enjoy the spectacular landscape along the way.

A tufted puffin. Isn't it cute? -- Wikimedia photo

A tufted puffin. Isn’t it cute? — Wikimedia photo

Once in Seward, I enjoyed a rockfish lunch at a small café with a view of a marina full of sailboats with glaciers in the background. Afterward I toured the Sealife Center, much of which had been built with fines from Exxon Valdez oil spill. I saw my first tufted puffin here, but thankfully I would see these delightful black, orange and white seabirds in the wild before my trip was ended, and could then add them to my life bird list.

Then it was on to explore some glaciers, which awed me by their brilliant colors. I never knew ice could be so full of rainbows?

It was late in the evening when I drove back to my bed and breakfast in Anchorage, but as bright as midday because it was summer in Alaska. As I drove, I heard the words of Dr. Seuss humming in my ear: Oh the places you’ll go, and the things you’ll see.

Bean Pat: Horse Trail Adventures https://horsetrailadventures.wordpress.com/ This is a blog my youngest daughter recently started. If you like horses, dogs, cat or the outdoors, I think you will enjoy it. And I’d love it if you would comment, and tell her mom sent you to check her blog out.

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            “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.” — Jawaharal Nehru

I saw my first trumpeter swan in Alaska. -- Wikimedia photo by Donna Dewhurst.

I saw my first trumpeter swan in Alaska. — Wikimedia photo by Donna Dewhurst.

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

            Less wild, but just as beautiful, the 275 or so miles from Denali National Park to Alaska, took quite a bit more than the average six hours to drive because of sightseeing stops along the way.

A postcard of the Anchorage bed and breakfast where I stayed for two days.

A postcard of the Anchorage bed and breakfast where I stayed for two days.

One of those first sights along the way was a pair of beautiful trumpeter swans on a lake. I immediately did a U-turn for a closer, and longer look. It was a lifer for me. Although looking much like the tundra swan, of which I had seen thousands at Bear River Migratory Bird Refugee in Utah, the trumpeter is much larger. It is, with a wing span of six feet and weighing in at about 25 pounds, North America’s largest waterfowl.

What a great start, I thought, for the day.

Another spot along my drive that slowed my progress was the small and quaint village of Talkeetna, which felt very Alaskan. It was exactly the opposite of how I felt when I drove into Anchorage for the first time. Even the weather here is different, with more moderate winters because of its location in the southern portion of the state.

Talkeetna welcome sigh

Talkeetna welcome sigh

Anchorage’s large population, close to half a million residents, and yuppie espresso shops made the city feel more like California than Alaska.

The bed and breakfast  I had booked for two nights, however, had the feel of Alaska that I preferred. It was run by two great old ladies, one who cooked and took care of the flowers, and the other who took care of the business.

Yet another great day!


Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Something to keep in mind. http://tinyurl.com/jfrz43y

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“If at some point you don’t ask yourself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ then you’re not doing it right.” — Roland Gau

Wonder Lake with a reflection of Denali, a sight I didn't see because the mountain was covered in mist. -- Wikimedia photo

Wonder Lake with a reflection of Denali, a sight I didn’t see because the mountain was covered in mist. — Wikimedia photo

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

            Tim Cahill, one of my favorite outdoor writers, said he didn’t like taking guided tours led by someone who actually knew what they were doing. You end up, he wrote, “with a dismal lack of adventure. The trip goes too smoothly. You never end up swimming for your life through savage seas,” Cahill said, adding that you also never wake up half-drowned in some village where there or no telephones, no electricity, no doctors, and you seldom find yourself being nursed back to health by a beautiful woman.

Wildlife, like this caribou, slowed traffic, but what a joy to see. I especially enjoyed it when a moose blocked our way. == Wikimedia photo

Wildlife, like this caribou, slowed traffic, but what a joy to see. I especially enjoyed it when a moose blocked our way.– Wikimedia photo

Well this day, I was taking a guided tour, and it didn’t lack adventure. It included two bus breakdowns, and other delays that turned a normal eight-hour sightseeing bus trip into a 15-hour one, and with only a small packed lunch.

But it was one of the most glorious vacation days I’ve ever enjoyed.

Wildlife in their natural habitat could be seen around every curve in the road, although usually at a respectful distance. Thankfully I had a great pair of binoculars.

I lost count of the number of grizzly bears, many females with young cubs especially, that I saw. We stopped at one viewing point where over a dozen were in sight heading down a steep hill.

In addition there were caribou, foxes, golden eagles, Dall sheep, gyrfalcon (still the only one this birder has ever seen in the wild), greater white-fronted geese, northern harriers, beavers, ptarmigan, northern pintails, yellowlegs and moose.

The one and only  road that cuts through Denali National Park -- and I was on it from beginning to end. -- Wikimedia photo

The one and only road that cuts through Denali National Park — and I was on it from beginning to end. — Wikimedia photo

My only disappointment, if you could have one on such a glorious day, was that I didn’t see a wolf. I had never seen one in the wild at this point in my life, but thankfully that happened a few years later when I observed one in Yellowstone National Park, where they had been reintroduced.

The first lag of the roundtrip ended at Wonder Lake, where so many magnificent photos have been taken of Denali Mountain’s reflection. At 20,310 feet, Denali (once known as McKinley) is the tallest peak in North America.

There was mist on the mountain this day, and I got only one earlier, brief glimpse of Denali’s peaks. The mountain was so far away, however, that I decided to wait for a closer view. That ended up being my only view — too bad I forgot to seize the moment.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat Ralie Travels http://tinyurl.com/z2xnwqz Take an armchair tour of Edinburgh

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            “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.

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Of all the marvelous sights I saw this day, Moraine Lake touched my soul the most. -- Wikimedia photo

Of all the marvelous sights I saw this day, Moraine Lake touched my soul the most. — Wikimedia photo

But the beauty of Lake Louise, with its grand hotel and ski runs visible in the background, was still appreciated. -- Wikimedia photo

But the beauty of Lake Louise, with its grand hotel and ski runs visible in the background, was still appreciated. — Wikimedia photo

   “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle

            “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

It was a day of lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, glades of scarlet fireweed, birds – and beauty that stirred the soul everywhere.

Page from my jouranl. noting my bald eagle sighting. .

Page from my journal noting my bald eagle sighting. .

`           The first stop of the day was the Vermillion Lakes just outside of Banff, where the first bird of the day was a bald eagle. It doesn’t get much better for a birder – but it did. I got a lifer, a common loon. I was excited at seeing this bird for the first time, but later learned I didn’t have to go so far away from home to see them. Common loons could be seen in winter on Causey Lake in Ogden Valley, Utah, just minutes away from my home.

Also on the lakes were mallards with baby chicks, always a treat to see, as were the darting killdeer that were running around near the shorelines.

A red-breasted nuthatch showed itself at Cascade Pond; barn swallows swarmed around a bridge; lots of prairie dogs stood sentry along the route; and at Two-Jack Lake, I got another lifer, a red-breasted merganser.

I added the feather of a Clark's nutcracker to one of my journal pages.

I added the feather of a Clark’s nutcracker to one of my journal pages.

And the day was just getting started.

At Lake Louise, the next stop of the day, I did a bit of hiking, ate lunch, and marveled at a flock of Clark’s Nutcrackers, another lifer, and one that seemed to be everywhere around the lake. Although not nearly as crowded as the town of Banff, the lake resort, and its Chateau Lake Louis, are also quite popular Canadian attractions.

The turquoise/emerald color of Lake Louise, which pleasantly aroused my sense of sight, is the result of rock flour carried into it by glacier melt. The lake was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, daughter of Queen Victoria and the wife of the marquess of Lorne, who was the governor-general of Canada from 1878 to 1883.

It was a wondrous day and I captured a mere bit of it in my ournal

It was a wondrous day and I captured a mere bit of it in my journal.

But as awesome as Lake Louise was to my sight-seeing day, it was the nearby smaller Lake Moraine that stole my heart. The isolation and serenity of the scene before me stirred a longing in me to visit again n the future — when I could stay awhile. Doing so is still on my bucket list.

My day ended in Jasper, where I found a place to do laundry and ate a steak dinner. It was the last day of July – and Alaska still lay ahead. .

Bean Pat: 20 Minutes a Day http://tinyurl.com/z9vcrwq Comfort food. Len is a dear friend, one who teaches writers, and whose major thesis is that all writers should write for at least 20 minutes a day. I adhere to her philosophy. She and I are in the same Story Circle Network online writing group. SCN is the best writing support I’ve had in my life. It’s helped me find the personal voice I needed to replace the journalism voice I used for 37 years. The circle is for women only. If you’re interested, check it out at: http://www.storycircle.org/frmjoinscn.php (more…)

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