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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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A view of the Ajo Mountains across from the Organ Pipe Cactus Visitor Center. — Photo by Pat Bean

Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.” – John Muir

An organ pipe cactus as part of the Kris Eggle memorial at the Visitor Center that was named in his honor. Eggle was a park ranger killed near the U.S.-Mexico border. — Photo by Pat Bean

And a Lifer and the Ajo Mountains

            My wanderlust, these days, is sustained by day trips around Tucson. So it was that I decided to visit Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The next day, as I was reading To See Every Bird on Earth by Dan Koeppel, which is about the author’s bird-chasing father, I came across a tidbit about the monument.

The Ajo Mountains’ double arch. — Photo by Pat Bean

Koeppel remembered a trip the family had made across country in which his father birded Organ Pipe, and had identified several new species. As a birder, I immediately looked up a list of common birds at the monument. It appeared that I had seen them all.

So it was with much surprise and delight when I identified a dusky-capped flycatcher at the monument, a bird I had never seen before. The sighting came at the very end of the visit, providing an extra layer of icing to a chocolate-cake day that was already well frosted. The bird was a lifer, my 710th species.

Earlier, my off-the-beaten-path heart sang when the day’s activities took me, my canine companion Pepper, and my brother Robert, who came along for the ride, off the pavement on a 21-mile loop drive that took us part-way up into the Ajo Mountains.

Roadside cactus blossoms

The tall candles on the landscape were the saguaro and organ pipe cacti that brightened the landscape around ever twist and turn, of which there were many. Yet another surprise of the trip was coming around a bend and seeing an arch, and then discovering that there were actual two arches. A tiny arch sat atop the larger one.

I’m not sure how the day could have been much better, well worth the 325 miles the round-trip covered.

My brother asked where we were going next, when I dropped him off at the end of the day. The question delighted me because not all of the people I know enjoy long, bumpy off-the-beaten path and into the desert kind of trips.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: New England Nomad http://tinyurl.com/ks56pvc Another blogger exploring their world. Since I can’t travel everywhere, I also enjoy seeing some of it from my armchair.

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Kluane National Park in the Yukon. -- Wikimedia photo

Kluane National Park in the Yukon. — Wikimedia photo

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

Lakes, forests and mountains dominated the day’s drive, and sight-seeing stops – and it would take all the synonyms for beauty in a thesaurus to describe the day. Travel writers are cautioned not to use the overused word beautiful.

Mount St. Elias -- Wikimedia photo

Mount St. Elias — Wikimedia photo

My route followed the edges of the Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska, and Kluane Wildlife Sanctuary and Kluane National Park in the Yukon Territory. The latter is home to Mount Logan, which at 19,551 feet is Canada’s highest mountain.

 

Among the wildlife I saw along the way were coyotes beside the road, northern shovelers on one of the lakes, and lesser scaups, which was not just a new trip bird but a lifer, a species that I was seeing for the very first time.

Haines Junction welcome,

Haines Junction welcome,

Haines Junction, a rustic town with only a population of 500, was created in 1942 during the construction of the Alaska Highway. It was evidently a stopping-off place because it had quite a few hotels for a village with a population of 600. Although small, it is a major administrative center for the First Nations people.

I stayed at a place called the Gateway Lodge, which may no longer exist because I couldn’t find it on the Internet when I went looking this morning. For my night-time entertainment, I did laundry, ate at a restaurant called the Cozy Corner and went to bed early. I had driven a bit over 300 miles this day and was pooped.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Slice of Life http://tinyurl.com/jnpcuwa A wonderful day. What a great feeling to have on awakening in the morning.

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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.

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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.

 

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“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.

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I didn't capture the rainbow in Jasper National Park, but I did manage to get one on another road trip when I visited South Dakota. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I didn’t capture the rainbow in Jasper National Park, but I did manage to get one on another road trip when I visited South Dakota. — Photo by Pat Bean

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

I left Jasper at sunrise, and with a magnificent rainbow welcoming in the day. The first part of the drive took me through Jasper National Park, the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. Elk, longhorn sheep, deer and Stone Mountain sheep (which I hope stayed in the park because these cousins of Dall sheep are popular with trophy hunters made themselves visible on the road between Jasper, Grand Cache and Grand Prairie.

Alberta’s Grand Prairie, aptly named and then nicknamed the Swan City, adopted the trumpeter swan as its symbol because of its proximity to the bird’s migration route and its summer nesting grounds. The trumpeter is North America’s largest water bird. It can weigh up to 25 pounds, almost double the weight of the tundra swan that was a familiar sight in Northern Utah where I lived back then.

Of course I hoped to see a trumpeter this day. But I didn’t. Drat it!

Dawson Creek and the Mile 0 Post that represents the start of the Alaskan Highway. -- Wikimedia photo

Dawson Creek and the Mile 0 Post that represents the start of the Alaskan Highway. — Wikimedia photo

I made it to Dawson Creek in time for lunch, even though it was a 325-mile drive from Jasper. Three hundred miles was usually the goal I set for myself most of the days on the month-long adventure.

Dawson Creek, named after the creek that runs through it, which was named after George Mercer Dawson, a member of his land survey team that passed through the area in 1879. The small town’s primary claim to fame is that it is where the Alaskan Highway begins. The town’s population was larger when the highway was being constructed during World War II. The highway, at first unpaved and with almost too many bridges to count, was built to connect the United States with its Alaskan Territory through Canada. Alaska didn’t become a state until 1959.

When completed in 1942, the highway was 1,700 miles long. Today it’s about 300 miles less because of constant straightening and restoration work. When I drove the highway in 2001, it was said to be paved the entire distance – Not true, I discovered.

Bean Pat: This one is for writers who receive rejections: https://millieschmidt.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/ And isn’t that all of us?

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