Archive for the ‘Alaskan Adventure’ Category

Cooper’s Hawk. Once I became addicted to birdwatching, I couldn’t not see birds. And occasionally I got lucky and got a good photograph. — Photo by Pat Bean 

“Does the road wind uphill all the way?  Yes. To the very end. Will the journey take the whole day?  From morn to night, my friend.” — Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Dredging up the Past

I’ve begun work on my memoir, which friends have been urging me to do for years. Like most people’s lives, mine has good parts and bad parts. My book, Travels with Maggie, is 100 percent upbeat, focusing only on the life’s sunshine. I’m happy with it.

If you’re looking for a good book with lots of trivia about America’s cities and landmarks, check out Travels with Maggie on Amazon. It’s G-rated and an excellent book to read together with your kids. Maggie was my canine companion on the six-month birding trip. — Book cover by Sherry Watcher.

For the past year or so, I’ve been working on a second book about my adventures as a late-blooming, bird-watching old broad, tentatively titled Bird Droppings. It also looks at the world through Pollyanna’s eyes. I’m thinking I might start trying to market the chapters I’ve written as single essays.

Meanwhile, as I think about my memoir, tentatively titled Between Wars, a book that will focus on my 37 years as a journalist while also being the mother of five children, and surviving a nasty divorce, I know I will have to put the rose-colored glasses in the trash bin.

I’m not sure I can do it. But I’ve started going back through all my journals and finding I at least enjoy doing the research.

For example, as a former river rat who took two, 16-day, white-water rafting trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I almost couldn’t stop laughing after reading this entry:  The difference between a fairy tale and a river trip: The fairy tale begins “Once upon a time,” while the river trip tales begins: “No shit! There I was…”

            This past day’s entry also contained some quotes that are still worth repeating.

Me, at the Standard-Examiner in 1992, when I was the paper’s environmental reporter. It was my favorite newspaper job, and I held it for 10 years before I became city editor to get more money.. — Photo by Charles Trentelman.

“To the dull mind all nature is leaden. To the illuminated mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson. I think I was reading one of Emerson’s journals at this time.

I was also probably reading one of Natalie Goldberg’s writing books, too. For I wrote down this quote of hers. “If you do not fear the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.”

I also wrote down some thoughts of my own, in quote form. “At one time in life, I sought logic in everything. Now I know better,” and “If our thoughts were not continually shifting, we’d be a broken record to ourselves.” – Pat Bean

Bean Pat: What a Waste https://brevity.wordpress.com/2019/08/29/what-a-waste/ Leonard Bernstein and scammed writers.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder, and is always searching for life’s silver lining


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            “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean”. – John Muir

Creek Street in downtown Ketchikan. -- Wikimedia photo

Creek Street in downtown Ketchikan. — Wikimedia photo

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

The ferry made a six-hour stop in Ketchikan on its second day of travel after leaving Haines, Alaska. To make the most of the experience, I took advantage of a guided tour, knowing I would see more this way than on my own.

A stop at Saxman Totem Park, just south of Ketchikan, was first on the agenda. The park exhibits include relocated poles from abandoned Tlingit villages, or ones recreated by Tlingit carvers as part of a 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps’ project. The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Saxman Totem Pole Park. -- From one of the post cards I bought.

Saxman Totem Pole Park. — From one of the post cards I bought.

The next stop was Ketchikan Creek to watch salmon. Our guide said the fish have been running up the creek to spawn for thousands of years. The availability of the salmon was why the Tlingits set up summer fishing camps in the area. In turn, the camps brought the Europeans to the area for trading purposes. I felt a part of history watching the salmon as they swam past in the shallow creek.

Back in downtown Ketchikan, I saw the unique tunnel connecting two sections of the city, and admired the huge carved eagle – Thundering Wings – that stood nearby. The tour ended at Dolly’s, the home of a renown prostitute.

Afterwards I toured the quaint tourist shops and bought a painting of a stylized raven, one of the more prominent symbols carved into totem poles. The Tlingit raven stories are many, ranging from the humorous to the serious. And it seemed fitting, because of my birdwatching passion, that the raven painting – with the exception of postcards for my journal – would be my only purchased souvenirs during my trip.

What I primarily took home with me were memories, every one of which was worth recalling.

Bean Pat: Overcoming procrastination http://tinyurl.com/gvdd4uc What’s your trick. Mine, when I don’t feel like writing, is to write one sentence, then read or wash dishes for a few minutes, then write one more sentence and repeat. By the third or fourth sentence, I can usually keep writing for an hour or so, or until the work in progress is finished.

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2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

Among the first new sights I saw, as the M.V. Columbia as the large ferry left Haines, were sea otters and porpoises in the water around the boat. Then, farther out, I watched as a humpback whale surfaced. It was as if this portion of my journey had been blessed.

I can't think of too many animals cuter than a sea otter. Can you? And seeing them in the wild was as good as it gets. -- Wikimedia photo.

I can’t think of too many animals cuter than a sea otter. Can you? And seeing them in the wild was as good as it gets. — Wikimedia photo.

Despite being tired from a half day of driving and a half day of sight-seeing, the spirit of the voyage encouraged me to stay up late and watch as our boat maneuvered through the Wrangell Narrows in the dark hours of the early morning.

The Narrows is a 22-mile long winding channel that is too shallow and narrow for the larger cruise ships to navigate. It requires an expert pilot to maneuver through the passage’s sharp turns. I could almost feel the tension as the ferry approached the town of Petersburg, which marks the north entrance to the channel. I dutifully watched the lighted buoys marking the path ahead – but that was pretty much all I could see in the dark.

Shortly after Petersburg, I gave up and went to bed in my tiny room on my tiny bunk.

Bean Pat: In search of snow http://tinyurl.com/hlolo66 Beautiful snowy photos that I enjoyed traveling through in my armchair.

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A page from my journal with a picture of the ferry that I took.

A page from my journal with a picture of the ferry that I took.

            “Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” — Pico Iyer

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

Map of the Alaskan Marine Highway.

Map of the Alaskan Marine Highway.

            It was early afternoon when I arrived in Haines, where I continued to see bald eagles, plus puffins and a big-eyed seal. I still had plenty of time before I would drive myself aboard the M.V. Columbia for the three-day cruise down the Inside Passage to Bellingham, Washington.

To pass the time, I explored the small town, and visited the local history museum, where I learned all about Tlingit symbols, which I had been seeing on totem poles. Originally, totem poles were carved and raised to represent a family clan’s dignity, accomplishments, adventures and stories. Learning what the symbols meant helped me better appreciate the totem poles I would see later.

Afterwards I went in search of a Coke to quench a sudden craving – and couldn’t find one. I had to laugh at that – and be thankful for the surprises of travel. I then got in the vehicle line to board the ferry.

Haines, Alaska. -- Wikimedia photo

Haines, Alaska. — Wikimedia photo

After parking my car in the large space below, I went up on deck to find my cabin, a tiny like hall with a small porthole at the far end, and just enough room to squeeze in and sit on its bunk bed. I noted that passengers without rooms simply claimed a lounge chair on deck. I wished I had done the same. But when I booked the reservation, I hadn’t known that was possible.

Hmmm. Perhaps I should add taking the Alaska Ferry a second time to my bucket list. It was an exciting adventure.

Bean Pat: Morning Walk http://tinyurl.com/zhrr7rs With coffee and reflections. One of my favorite bloggers.

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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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“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

In Tok, I watched a dog sled demonstration. -- Wikimedia photo by Mark Wilson

In Tok, I watched a dog sled demonstration. — Wikimedia photo by Mark Wilson

2001 Memories of a Non-Wandering Wanderer

After a second night in Anchorage, and another breakfast with fellow travelers, I took of to  Alaska’s largest city — and soon found myself at Earthquake Park, which was created to memorialize the 1964 Alaskan Earthquake.

According to a National Geographic article, “In Anchorage, the ground cracked open and giant fissures swallowed children whole, killing them in front of their siblings. Landslides launched tsunamis that swept away coastal villages before the shaking even ended. In Seward, spilled oil slicked the water and caught fire. When the earthquake-triggered tsunami hit minutes later, the wave was blazing.”

Rock ptarmigan were on of the more commonly seen birds while I was in Alaska. I also saw a willow ptarmigan with is Alaska's state bird. Wikimedia photo

Rock ptarmigan were one of the more commonly seen birds while I was in Alaska. I also saw a willow ptarmigan, which is Alaska’s state bird. Wikimedia photo

The park contains a portion of the two-mile slide area produced by the quake, which registered about 8.5 on the Richter scale. Looking at the remnants of the quake that killed 139 people humbled me, and reminded me that Mother Nature is not always kind.

But I got to see her kinder face — the one that so often takes my breath away because of its grandness — when I drove past the Wrangell Mountains on my way from Anchorage to Tok.

That evening, when the sun was still high in the sky, I watched a dog sled demonstration in Tok. I also spent the night there but my memory is vague on the lodging. While I can’t picture it, I did write in my journal that the Tok “hotel was rough.”

Bean Pat: Where’s my Backpack http://tinyurl.com/gp844m8 The eyes have it. This blog reminds me to keep my own eyes open to the world around me. It’s full of wonders and surprises if I just look.

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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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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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