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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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The sun’s rays made this coot’s black back look almost white, and its red eyes gleam, while the lake’s ripples take on the ambiance of a fine art painting. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that it uses its head and keeps pecking away until it finishes the job it starts.” – Coleman Cox

A Chilly, Windy February Day

It was cold and a bit on the breezy side last week at Lake Patagonia State Park, but the birds didn’t seem to mind. While my friend Jean walked our dogs, I watched birds at the feeders and on the lake.

A northern cardinal playing peek-a-boo among the tree branches. — Photo by Pat Bean

The first bird I saw, well after all the great-tail grackles flying around, was a gila woodpecker. It attracted my attention because it was hanging upside down from a nectar feeder. The acrobatic maneuver was the only way it could feed. I’ve watched other gila woodpeckers do exactly the same thing on my balcony hummingbird feeder.

The one I saw this day was a male, its gender easily identified by the red feathers it wore on its crown. The female is identical to the male except for that patch of red. The gila is a common bird in Southern Arizona, less common in California, New Mexico and Texas, and rare anywhere else above our border with Mexico.

A gila woodpecker at my balcony feeder. — Photo by Pat Bean

Other birds I watched this day included coots paddling around on the lake, (you can see them everywhere), and a violet-green swallow joyfully darting back and forth across the lake. Near the feeders, I spied a couple of northern cardinals in the still, winter-leafless branches, a small flock of American goldfinch at the feeders, dozens of white-crowned sparrows feeding on the ground beneath the feeders, along with a few male and female red-winged blackbirds. I also spotted two yellow-rumped warblers, both of which flashed their butter butts at me, and one black phoebe and one house finch.

I’m eager to visit again next month when spring has made its greening appearance, and the birds should be more plentiful.

            Bean Pat: Daily Stuff https://onewomansday.wordpress.com/2018/02/27/february-27-daily-stuff/?wref=pil From Story Circle’s One Woman’s 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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The river is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it’s going to go and where you’ll wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don’t let anyone deter you from that.” — Eartha Kitt

The entrance to South Llano River State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean


Turkeys, Wildflowers and Dark Skies

A pair of Rio Grande wild turkeys.

It was one of those days when my canine companion Maggie and I took off down the road in our small RV with no destination in mind. We were simply exploring Texas’ Hill Country. I was confident that I would come across the perfect place for us to camp before night overtook us.

As I recall, it was well before noon when I came upon South Llano River State Park, and on seeing the abundance of lavender wildflowers dominating the lawn in front of the small building near the entrance, I figured we had found the place. I brake for wildflowers the same as I do for birds.

The South Llano River, a spring-fed tributary of the 105-mile Llano River that flows through Texas’ Hill Country.

And on checking into the park, I learned that here there were both. The park’s 500 plus acres of Hill Country river bottomlands, are home to the Rio Grande turkey, as well as habitat for wood ducks, white-tailed deer, squirrels, jackrabbits, javelinas, foxes, beavers, bobcats, cottontails and armadillos. It would be nice to see an armadillo walking around, I thought, recalling the roadkill one I had passed earlier in the day.

The park also had 18 miles of hiking trails, a few miles of which I explored, and modern campsites with electricity and water to feed my RV. I stayed for several nights, one of which I stayed up late watching a sky full of twinkling stars, a bonus of the park being a designated Dark Sky site.

Wildflowers, birds and stars – life doesn’t get much better for this fan of Mother Nature.

Bean Pat: You Gotta Live:  https://theenchantedoutlook.com/2018/02/20/you-gotta-live/ T0 this great post, I add my own mantra. Live so that when you die, you’ll know the difference.

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 that she is tentatively calling Bird Droppings. It 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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Some folks say big ol’ Lake Pend Oreille is Idaho’s most magnificent lake. But let’s just stick to the facts: It’s the state’s largest (43 miles long, 111 miles of shoreline). It’s the deepest (at 1,158 feet deep, there are only four deeper lakes in the nation). It’s got terrific scenery, splendid clean water, big fish, a fascinating history …” – sandpointonline.com

A Canada goose taking of from Lake Pend Orielle.  I took the photo during a Ladies Night Out boating cruise for Farragut State Park’s volunteers. — Photo by Pat Bean

It’s pronounced Pon-de-ray

I was listening to Clive Cussler’s Poseidon’s Arrow in my car while driving from Tucson  to my daughter’s home in Marana. It’s just 13 miles away, but traffic and construction detours turn it into a 40-minute drive, making the familiar route an excellent time for book listening.

An aerial view of Lake Pend Orielle. — Wikipedia Photo

I think of Cussler’s Dirk Pitt books as fantasy swashbuckler reading, not to be taken seriously, simply a time to enjoy the good guys wearing white hats and the villains all wearing black hats, which isn’t ever the case in the real world.

Anyway, after a boat/vehicle chase that led through a crowded Mexican town, the book has its protagonists landing at the Coeur d’Alene Airport in Idaho, then driving through Farragut State Park to Bayview, a small town that sits beside Lake Pend Oreille, which is pronounced Ponderay. The lake is home to a Naval submarine base, and the book’s characters talk of the place as being interesting trivia for back home in Washington D.C.

Now if you’re thinking that the idea of an inland submarine base in Idaho is all in Cussler’s imagination, you would be wrong. I was a campground volunteer at Farragut State Park one summer, have been boating on Lake Pend Oreille, and learned all about the Farragut Naval Training Station that was in operation during World War II, a part of which is still active for underwater submarine research.

One of the beauties of being a widely traveled old broad is reading books that include descriptions about places I have visited. It seems to happen regularly these days. I find such déjà vu moments, which refresh the brain, a bonus for having lived so long.

    Bean Pat: Have you ever seen an Inca tern? https://cindyknoke.com/2017/12/20/inca-tern/ Then take a look at them here. They are awesome, and so are this blogger’s photographs of them.

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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“Every journey is personal. Every journey is spiritual. You can’t compare them, can’t replace, can’t repeat. You can bring back the memories but they only bring tears to your eyes.” — Diana Ambarsari

While I’ll never accomplish such a feat as walking the entire distance of the Nile River, I have had adventures, like going on Safari to Kenya and Tanzania. Above, me at the Amboseli Airport in Kenya. — Photo by Kim Perrin.

Found at the Library

I talk often about my wanderlust being fueled by such travel writers as Tim Cahill, William Least Heat Moon, Osa Johnson, Charles Kuralt, John Steinbeck, Freya Stark and Paul

Theroux. I felt as if I were following in their footsteps when my book, Travels with Maggie, was finally published.

Now, a book I checked out at the library has given me a new idol, Levison Wood, a British Army officer and explorer who is best known for his walking expeditions in Africa, Asia and Central America. But I had never heard of him until I picked up his book, Walking the Nile, from the travel section of my small branch library.

I was only a few pages into the book before I added Wood to my travel writer hero list. The start of his adventure, in December of 2013, at the tiny spring which is acknowledged as one of the sources of the Nile so long sought by 19th century explorers, hooked me.

Wrote Levison, about why he walked the 4,250-mile length of the Nile, “…I wanted to follow in a great tradition, to achieve something unusual and inspire in others the thirst to do the same. Much of my motivation was selfish, of course – to go on the greatest adventure of my life, to see what people can only dream about, and test myself to the limits. But ultimately, it came down to one thing. The Nile was there, and I wanted to walk it.”

Levison inspired me. While my body is no longer up to long expeditions or strenuous adventures, surely there are still small ones in my future, like walking the 10-mile path beside the Rillito River (It’s really only a river when it rains hard) here in Tucson. As an old broad, I’ve come to the conclusion that what counts is not the distance, or the speed, but that you just keep moving.

Meanwhile, I’m thankful for books, such as Wood’s Walking the Nile, which with just a little bit of imagination, can take me and my wanderlust anywhere in the world we want to go.

Bean Pat: Oh, the places we’ll see … http://tinyurl.com/y8aels9d Maine’s orange sunsets. I liked this because it took me back to my visit to Maine.

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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Ravens

A rare photo of a Chihuahuan raven with its white neck feathers showing. It must be a windy day.

 

“But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only, That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered – Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before – On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’ Then the bird said, ‘Nevermore.” –Edgar Allan Poe.

The Chihuahuan Species

Shortly after I became an addicted bird watcher, which meant going from one who didn’t notice birds to one who couldn’t not notice them, I found myself staring at a raven sitting on a saguaro. I was returning to Utah from my annual trip to Texas, taking a longer route as I always did to appease my wanderlust. This time I was following Highway 80 near Arizona’s border with Mexico, just outside of Douglas and headed to historic Bisbee where I intended to spend the night.

I had spent a good bit of time learning how to tell a crow from a raven – while crows are smaller than ravens, it is often hard to judge size and so I use the tail as my field identification key. A raven’s is wedge shaped. Anyway, I thought I was simple looking at a common raven until I noticed white feathers, ruffling in the wind, on the raven’s neck.

I pulled my car over to the side, and reached for my National Geographic Field Guide of the Birds of North America – and learned I was looking at a Chihuahuan raven. I was ecstatic. It was a new bird for my life list.

What I didn’t realize was how rare my sighting was. Not because I was looking at a Chihuahuan raven, but that I saw the white feathers. Normally, except for it being just a bit smaller – common ravens average about 24 inches in size and Chihuahuans only about 19 inches – it’s almost impossible to distinguish the two ravens apart.

I’m sure, living where I do in the Sonoran Desert, which is the heart of the Chihuahuan raven’s territory in North America, that I’ve seen many a Chihuahuan raven – but I’ve never again seen the white neck feathers.

Bean Pat: Six Word Saturday http://tinyurl.com/y8wbcjvm Something to always keep in mind.

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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