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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 Continue Reading »

Alaska: Day 4 … Canada

 

Banff, a tiny town nestled in Banff National Park's eye-dropping-mouth-opening-wow! landscapes. -- Wikimedia photo

Banff, a tiny town nestled in Banff National Park’s eye-dropping-mouth-opening-wow! landscapes. — Wikimedia photo

Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer 

Golden eagle -- Wikimedia photo by Martin_Mecnarowski

Golden eagle — Wikimedia photo by Martin_Mecnarowski

Shortly after leaving Kalispell, Montana, and my two-night-stay at the historic Grande Hotel, I crossed into Canada and entered Kootenay National Park at about the same time a golden eagle soared overhead. It was a joyful sight, and I drank in the day like cold champagne.   While Benjamin Franklin thought our national bird should have been the turkey, I thought I would favor the magnificent golden eagle. It was the second time I had this thought. The first was the day I watched a pair of golden eagles harass a pair of bald eagles until the white-headed birds of prey flew away.

 

A page from my journal

A page from my journal

Today’s drive lived up to its spectacular welcome to Canada from the golden eagle. The day was sunny and clear, the scent of evergreens heightened the senses of the forest landscapes, and there were birds to see and impressive mountains to view.

And then, suddenly, there were people, crowds and crowds and crowds of them as I made slowly maneuvered my way down a narrow Banff street in search of a parking place somewhere near my room lodging. Located in the splendor of Banff National Park, Banff is one of Canada’s busiest tourist towns – and today to say it was over-crowded would have been an under-exaggeration.

I finally found a parking spot and escaped to my small room for air in which to breathe freely for a few minutes. I then took in a few of the popular sights, such as the Banff hot springs. But after standing in a long-line to get food, I retired back to room, and went to bed early. I only breathed easier after I had left the thick wall of people behind the next morning.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Overcoming fear http://tinyurl.com/zmoye84 Caution X-rated language. That doesn’t bother me, but it might you. I especially loved the laughter this blog gave me at a time when I’m fearing what’s now going to happen to our world. I’m really trying to think positive — and laughter helps.

    “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” – John Muir, Our National

The Weeping Wall on the Going to the Sun Road. -- Wikimedia Photo

The Weeping Wall on the Going to the Sun Road. — Wikimedia Photo

Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

            I’m a firm believer of the philosophy that the journey is as important as the destination, and this day (July 29, 2001) was a great example of that. Leaving my bags in Kalispell, I set out with a packed lunch to explore Glacier National Park. I wouldn’t return back to the hotel until late that evening, but oh what a day it was.

Page from my Alaskan Journal.

Page from my Alaskan Journal.

According to my sketchy journal notes, the day was windy and cold, but well worth enduring. Among the day’s wonders were:

Going to the Sun Road. This narrow and twisting 50-mile, two-lane road spans the national park. It was begun in 1921, and completed in 1932, and was the first such project to have been registered as a National Historic Place, National Historic Landmark and Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Sections of the road are banned to vehicles over 21 feet in length, 10 feet tall, and eight feet wide. While I drove it in a 2000 Subaru Odyssey Sport, I would have just barely been able to make the trip in Gypsy Lee, the small RV I lived and traveled in from 2004 to 2013.

I drove the scenic highway slowly this day, and enjoyed every minute of the journey,       The Weeping Wall is a spectacular sight as you drive pass it on the Going to the Sun Road, or sometimes through it. It’s a waterfall created both by Mother Nature and the blasting done to build the road. Since it was almost August, the wall’s shower heads were turned to low, but in the photograph above, you get a glimpse of it at its spring peak.

And another page from my journal.

And another page from my journal.

A Grizzly Bear was the cause of a traffic jam on the road. It was quite away off, but I got a good look at it through my binoculars. As much as I had been an outdoors person most of my life, and the fact that I had visited Yellowstone more than a dozen times, I had never seen a bear in the wild. I had seen moose, elk, raccoons, deer, beavers, weasels, bobcats, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, possums, porcupines, etc., etc. But I had never seen a bear until this day. It was a momentous moment.

Trail of the Cedars, a one-mile loop hike, which provided views of a meadow that was overflowing with purple flowers, and offered views of mountain goats and Avalanche Gorge, if you took a side trip over a footbridge, which of course I did.

I noted all these things in my journal, plus a note that I have no idea now what I was thinking about when I wrote it. In my own handwriting were the words: “But God isn’t an old woman,” underlined just like that. Perhaps it was a bumper sticker I thought was odd? Or perhaps it was a bit of conversation I overheard? Reading it bought back no memories of why the statement was on the page.

I love surprises when I’m traveling, and those words now surprised me. What fun!

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Cape Code http://tinyurl.com/zbh4ujo Scenes from a novel.

The Big Hole River accompanied me on my drive this day...

The Big Hole River accompanied me on my drive this day…

            “It is better to travel well, than to arrive.” Buddha

And I stopped at the Nez Perce Battle Ground -- and noted all the signs along the drive that announced "Mushroom Buyer." ... A Page from my journal

And I stopped at the Nez Perce Battle Ground — and noted all the signs along the drive that announced “Mushroom Buyer.” … A Page from my journal

Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

            Today’s drive found me driving beside the Big Hole River, a 153 mile-long Montana waterway that is famed for its fly-fishing opportunities, with trout being the best catch of the day. But humans aren’t the only ones to fish the stream.

A successful catch by this female belted kingfisher. The males don't have the rust-colored belly band. -- Wikimedia photo

A successful catch by this female belted kingfisher. The males don’t have the rust-colored belly band. — Wikimedia photo

I noticed a bird sitting on a limb hanging over the water, and stopped to investigate. My heart leaped into my throat when I identified it as a belted kingfisher, the first of its species for my life bird list. I’ve seen hundreds of these kingfishers since that day, but this one will always be a vivid image in my mind.

It was a good day for birds. In addition to my lifer, I also saw cliff, barn and bank swallows, a peregrine falcon, common mergansers, Brewer’s blackbirds and ospreys with babies.

The birds might have been attracted by all the grasshoppers swarming about. At one point, I drove through a cloud of them , many of which left their bodies embedded on my windshield, and everything else as well. I had to find a car wash in the first available town before I could continue my journey in peace.

The day also came with a visit to the Big Hole Nez Perce Battle Field, where on Aug. 9, 1877, U.S. Army soldiers attacked a sleeping Indian Village. It was a big loss for both sides. The soldiers lost 29 men with 40 wounded, while 89 Nez Perce were found dead, mostly women and children. I could almost feel the anguish as I walked the grounds.

In Kalispell, I spent the night at the historic Grande Hotel. It had been a busy day, and I slept soundly.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: The Iris and the Lily http://tinyurl.com/h6tc8b8 I’m a sucker for butterflies.

 

  There are grander and more sublime landscapes – to me. There are more compelling cultures. But what appeals to me about central Montana is that the combination of landscape and lifestyle is the most compelling I’ve seen on this earth. Small mountain ranges and open prairie, and different weather, different light, all within a 360-degree view. Sam Abell

Page 1 of my Alaska trip journal.

Page 1 of my Alaska trip journal.

Non-Wandering Wanderer Memories

Yesterday I came across the journal I kept during my 30-day journey from Ogden to Alaska, most of which was driven on the Alaskan Highway. I thought I would blog about the trip this November as my time is precious – I’ve signed up to do NANO – that is write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I’m writing a bird memoir, and when I did the Alaska trip, I was just beginning my late-blooming bird-watching passion.

A white-faced ibis was the first bird on my Alaska trip birding list.

A white-faced ibis was the first bird on my Alaska trip birding list.

On the first day of my 2001 Alaskan adventure, I drove from Ogden, Utah, to Dillon Montana. It was July 27.

Like Ogden, where my journey began, Dillon is a railroad town. It was founded in 1880 by Union Pacific Railroad President Sydney Dillon, hence its name. Its location was selected because of its close location to gold mines then in the area, the first of which was discovered in 1862. And because of its large sheep-ranching community, Dillon, which was incorporated in 1884 and has a current population of about 4,000, was once the largest exporter of sheep wool in Montana.

The odd fact I still recall, because of research I had done prior to my journey, is that a circus elephant named Old Pitt was struck by lightning in the town in 1943, and was buried at the fairgrounds.

While I don’t remember too much else about the town, where I slept that first day on the road, I still have memories of my excitement about the coming month. And of course the birds I was going to see along the way.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Pit’s Fritztown News http://tinyurl.com/z64x46l One of my favorite bloggers, who writes from Fredericksburg, Texas. Today he’s talking about Day Zero of a road trip that appealed to me, and seemed to go with my Day 1 of my trip to Alaska, which of course started with my own Day Zero.

House Finches

   “The more often we see the things around us – even the beautiful and wonderful things – the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds – even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.” — Joseph B. Wirthlin

A male house finch sitting on the tree limb  next to my third-floor balcony. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A male house finch sitting on the tree limb next to my third-floor balcony. — Photo by Pat Bean

A Spot of Cheer

            Almost anywhere you live in North America, your day could easily be brightened by a house finch, a seemingly common name for a little brown bird, whose scarlet bib and head band worn by the male lights up any gray day. The female wears only a pale brown feather coat whose white front is brown streaked, as is the male’s lower belly. Both have a sturdy bill for their dainty size.

House finches are the most widely distributed songbirds in America. And since they love backyards and bird feeders, they’re also one of the easiest birds to identify. Here in Tucson I see them almost daily.

This house finch decided to watch me as I watched it. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This house finch decided to watch me as I watched it. It’s in full breeding colors with more red on it than usual. — Photo by Pat Bean

Because of their coloring and whistle punctuated song, these birds were once popular pets. A crackdown on keeping wild birds in this country, however, pinched off most of that activity – and also is the reason these birds can now be found in all 48 mainland states. Before 1940, when New York house finch breeders loosed their breeding stock because of the new laws, house finches were only found in the West. The freed pet birds, however, quickly dispersed, and today their North America numbers are estimated at a billion.

I only learned the bird’s history this morning, when I was reading Feather Brained by Bob Tarte, a late-blooming birder like myself. I was 60 years old before I begin fully seeing all the birds that share our spaces. Today I can’t not see birds. And that is a gift I’ve come to treasure.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Ruffed Grouse http://tinyurl.com/jjfnxpm Great photo of a ruffed grouse for birdwatchers. This blog also took me back to my 2012 drive down the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park, where if you look hard enough you’ll find this species of grouse.

 

Alone or Lonely

      “We are all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life.” Tennessee Williams

That's my canine companion Pepper on the right playing tug of war with her best forever girlfriend Dusty. -- Photo by Pat Bean

That’s my canine companion Pepper on the right playing tug of war with her best forever girlfriend Dusty. — Photo by Pat Bean

Shared Touch and Thoughts

I’m a single woman who lives alone, and sleeps with her canine companion. I’m not the least bit lonely, but the shared warmth of another creature curled up against my back gives me great comfort, I thought about this as I awoke this morning, and felt Pepper’s small body snug against mine.

And here they are sharing a spot of sun. I think I would be lonely without my Pepper, and perhaps she would be lonely too if she didn't see Dusty almost every day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And here they are sharing a spot of sun. I think I would be lonely without my Pepper, and perhaps she would be lonely too,  if she didn’t see Dusty almost every day. — Photo by Pat Bean

As usual, the second I stirred, my canine companion Pepper became animated, insisting that we go for a walk right this minute! I obliged, taking only as long as it took me to slip on some clothes and smooth down my nest of night hair. Back in my apartment, I put the coffee on, gave Pepper her morning treat, and straightened the kitchen as I waited for the caffeine to brew.

Once settled with a cup of cream-laced java, I wrote in my journal for a bit then picked up a book to read for a bit before getting to one of the things on my always-too-long daily to-do list. The book was Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen, whose essays remind me a lot of Ellen Goodman, who is 11 years younger than Anna and of my generation.

I recently came across a column about turning 40 written by Ellen that I had saved in my journal. Anna’s essay, which I was reading this morning, was also about aging, but written from the prospective of a woman in her 50s; so I guess it’s really true. Fifty is the new 40.

As one who was a journalist for 37 years, I’m drawn to the writing of these two women, who are both Pulitzer-Prize winning columnists. Reading their thoughts, which in many instances mirror my own, gives me as much companionship as does my Pepper.

I’m thankful I have family and friends who are there for me, both for companionship and for when I need them, but I’m also thankful for all the time I have to be alone. I’ve considered myself an extrovert for most of my life, and that is indeed a part of who I am, but as I look back on my busy, chaotic life, I realized I was always looking for a spare minute just to be with myself.

These days I have that time — but I don’t think it would be nearly as enjoyable as it is without a canine companion, good books, and friends and family out there when you need them. But then perhaps that’s not being alone at all.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: In the Paw Prints of Lions http://tinyurl.com/z7zhjrh Watching lions in Africa was one of the highlights of my African safari to Kenya and Tanzania – and I liked this blog because of the good memories it leaked into my head. But our guide always made us stay in the Land Rover.