Archive for the ‘Favorite Hikes’ Category

Night sky over the Grand Canyon

Mother Nature’s Silver Lining

 here are places in this world where, when looking up at the night sky, you can clearly see portions of the Milky Way, the galaxy we live in. It’s a magnificent sight. But those places get fewer and fewer every year because we humans are fond of lighting up the dark, creating a light pollution that dulls our view of the stars.

 Some cities, including Tucson where I live, have ordinances that limit artificial-light pollution. Supposedly, Tucson’s location in the heart of the Sonora Desert, has the darkest sky of any city its size in the country. And because of this, astronomers come from all over the world to visit nearby Kitt Peak National Observatory, home to some of the best sky observation telescopes in the world.

 I’ve visited the observatory, but only during the daylight hours. The best sky watching I’ve ever experienced came when I was rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, especially in places where the canyon was tall and at its narrowest. As I lay in a sleeping bag on a sandy beach, I could actually see the stars move across the thin strip of visible sky.

 It was magical, a moment in nature that connected me with the whole of the universe. Thinking about those Grand Canyon nights still leaves me awed.

 Sky watching here in Tucson doesn’t compare. But I’ve never seen more spectacular sunsets than the ones that I see most nights from my third-floor balcony here in the city. They, too, are magical, a silver-lining for surviving the daily news.  

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

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Lake Moraine in Banff National Park — Wikimedia photo

          Lake Louise is one of the more popular sites in Canada’s Banff National Park. I visited it in 2001 and was quite impressed, more so perhaps because it was here that I saw my first Clark’s Nutcracker. It was during my early days of birdwatching and I remember being quite excited to add this bird to my life list.

          But while Lake Louise merely impressed me, my next stop in the park was one of those soul-touching moments that made me vow to return. It was the smaller, nearby Lake Moraine, around the edge of which sat a few cabins that looked out over the water. I could see myself sitting for a week or more in one of them watching as the light changed the mood of the view hour by hour.

          My vow to return, however, wasn’t a realistic one, given the distance, the time and the cost involved, not to mention how many other places to visit are still on my bucket list.

          And Lake Louise wasn’t the first place I’ve vowed to revisit. There was the Top of the World Highway, which started with a ferry trip across the Yukon River in Dawson City, Canada, and traveled on a mostly unpaved road to Tok, Alaska; Then there was Acadia National Park in Maine, where I stood on top of Cadillac Mountain and was the first person in the United States to feel the sun on my face that early morning; And the Galapagos Islands, which I sailed around and where a blue-footed booby danced with me; And Farragut State Park in Idaho, where I was a camp volunteer one summer; And Flume Gorge State Park in New Hampshire, where I enjoyed a solo hike that I still treasure – just to name a few of those vows.

          Thankfully, I’ve been wise enough to realize that some things only happen once in your life, so I’ve tried hard not to miss anything, and to store up the good memories. Those at least are vows that can be kept.  Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on

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The Sahara Desert

10 Favorite Travel Books

          I’m reading Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert by William Langewiesche. My reading is inching forward across a land the size of the United States a chapter a day – and taking notes like I do when I travel by vehicle and foot.

          It’s the way this 81-year-old non-wandering wanderer living on Covid time is mollifying her wanderlust – and constantly thanking the universe for travel writers and their books.

          Michelle Morano says that when we travel, our powers of   observation are unmoored from everyday and we pay keener attention to things around us.

           I’m following Langwiesche’s journey using the map at the book’s beginning. So far, I’ve only traveled from Algiers to Ouargla, savoring every mile. As Ursula K. Le Guin said, “It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters.”

        My love of travel books was quite evident when I recently read a list of the best 100. I had read 82 of them — and am trying to find the remaining 18, most of which are out of date.

          And I added a new one to that wanted list, Sand, Wind and War: Memories of a Desert Explorer, while reading Sahara Unveiled. Lanhwiesche mentioned the author, Ralph A. Bagnold, who studied sand “grain by grain.” I looked up Bagnold online to learn more about him, and found his story fascinating.

          Meanwhile, here are 10 of my favorite travel books

          Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. An early model for my own travels.

          Road Fever by Tim Cahill. He makes me laugh, and I thrill at his adventures.

          I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson. The first travel book I read. I was 10 years old.

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. Serious nature writing.

          Travels with Charley, by John Steinbeck. Another model for my own travels.

          Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. One of my very favorite, irreverent, authors. I also consider his The Monkey Wrench Gang a travel book.

          A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.  Lots of hiking while laughing.

          The Man Who Walked Through Time by Collin Fletcher. A serious backpacker’s journey down the Grand Canyon.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. Great, inspiring story.

Travels with Maggie by Pat Bean. Well, it is one of my favorite travel books. And I dedicated it to all of the great travel writers who inspired me.

        Perhaps you would like to share some of your favorite travel books? The wanderlust in me is itching to know.

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

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“Perfect is overrated.” – Tina Fey

Burr Trail switchbacks through Waterpocket Fold on the back way to Capital Reef National Park.


Back when I was an environmental reporter for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah, there was an ongoing battle about what Southern Utah wilderness areas should be protected. One of the battle issues involved the Burr Trail that begins in the small, off-the-beaten-track town of Boulder. The four-wheel drive, mostly unpaved road takes adventurers through a spectacular landscape to Capital Reef National Park and/or Lake Powell’s Bullfrog Marina in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Hoodoos at sunrise in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

I’ve driven the trail twice, once just for the sightseeing, then again with a photographer for a newspaper story shortly after the area was included as part of The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that was designated by President Bill Clinton in 1996 – and more recently in 2020 reduced in size by the current man in charge at the White House.

Today, the first 30 miles of the 69-mile or so backroad is paved, which is more than when I traveled it.

I still remember those journeys vividly. Being away from all signs of human activity, surrounded by Mother Nature’s works untouched by development without even the mechanical hum of a refrigerator was soul renewing

I remember stopping at one breathtaking view and getting out of the vehicle to take it all in. It was one of those moments in my life when I felt I was exactly where I should be exactly when I should be.

Those moments have been rare, as I spent most of my life racing from one place to the next, hurrying to meet the expectations of both myself and others. I’ve met about half of those expectations, but until this season of my life never stopped to appreciate the outcomes.

While I don’t like the current social isolation so many of us are experiencing, I do like this quieter winter of my years. It has become the season for me to both learn new things, because I have time to read and study, and to make sense of my own history.

Each day I create a to-do list of more things I want to accomplish before day’s end than there are minutes and hours to accomplish. Thus, I have a starting point and a reason to wake up the next morning.

But when I first started this habit more than a half century ago, I actually expected to complete all the many listed tasks and heartily berated myself for failing. Foolish me!

Having accepted my limitations is why I copied the following quote by Dorothy Gillman in my journal when I came across it not too long ago while reading her memoir A New Kind of Country.

“… all of must grow inside or die, that it’s given to us to live, not on a straight line but a line that slants upwards, so that at the end, having begun at Point A, we may have reached, not Z, but certainly an ascension to I or J.”

I’m not sure I would have understood those words in my younger years. I guess it was the right time for me to read them. Just as the 1990s’ were the right time for me to drive the Burr Trail and explore the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, which I hope still belongs to all Americans when our children’s children are old enough to appreciate public lands.

Bean Pat: To all the utility workers in Tucson who got our power back on after the wind storm this week, and to all the others out there who continue to work at risk to themselves during this coronavirus pandemic, and to all those out in public who wear masks to keep not just themselves but others safe.

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

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It saddens me to think what all the wonders of Mother Nature some of my grandchildren are missing because when they are out in the car with me they have eyes for only their cell phones. — Photo by Pat Bean

          “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” — Socrates

Morning Chat

          “You’re a grown woman Mom. You should know how to work your phone.”

No. One of my children didn’t say that to me. I read it somewhere and laughed – out loud.

I’ve never really liked talking on phones. I want to look a person in the eye and see the expressions on their face during a conversation. I only ever got my first cell phone when the bosses I worked for demanded I get one and they paid for it. I always thought of it as a leash, and often would forget to carry it with me when I left home on errands, a habit that is still with me.

There are man-made wonders out there, too. — Photo by Pat Bean

I continued to use an outdated flip phone long after the shiny new cell phones, with all their apps and capabilities, came out. My oldest son bought me my first smartphone after I had retired and was living on the road in an RV. He was worried about me being out there in the world all alone, well except for my canine companion, and the phone had a tracker on it so he always knew where I was.

I felt blessed for the concern, but a bit annoyed that such concern might mean he thought I was getting old and not able to take care of myself.

Although the phone my son bought me was top of the line, when I gave up the RVing life, I went back to a simple flip phone, partly because the dang phone had capabilities that I didn’t need, but mostly because the monthly bill for a simpler phone was less expensive.

When it died, my friend Jean, who had just bought a new phone, gave me her old phone, which I used until recently, when it died. It was time, I finally decided for “Mom” to get one of those dang smartphones and come into the 21st century. And so, I bought a Maven 3 on Amazon for $60.

It wasn’t the cheapest so I thought I had chosen well until I mentioned the cost to my son, who laughed and said he had spent $800 on his newest phone.

Yikes! I thought. Then I pointed out that everything he could do on his phone I could do on my computer. And it had a bigger screen that was easier on 80-year-old eyes.

I’ve had my new phone for five days now. It took me three of those days simply to learn how to answer the dang thing. When I finally figured it out, thanks to a Utube video, I concluded the phone might be smart but it certainly wasn’t logical.

When I mentioned my conclusion to a daughter-in-law, she laughed and pointed out that logical or not, it was smarter than me.

I concede the point.

Bean Pat: Story Circle Network blog https://onewomansday.wordpress.com/2020/01/13/january-13-you-can-teach-an-old-dog-new-tricks/ True words from real women.

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

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“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

Echo Amphitheater, located 70 miles north of Sant Fe, New Mexico on Highway 285. — Photo by Pat Bean

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

After turning off Highway 160 onto Highway 285 in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, and heading south toward Santa Fe, New Mexico, the scenery changed in both color and form. I left the green lush mountain foliage color behind in my rear-view mirror and stared ahead at red rock cliffs. Each landscape, in its own way, was perfectly awesome. One had a peaceful charm and the other bold outlandish character.

Photo by Pat Bean

I wouldn’t dream of choosing a favorite. I simply enjoyed the change as bringing added variety to my road trip.

I was making this annual trip from Utah to Texas slower than usual. In earlier, younger years, I had twice driven the 1,300-mile trip from Ogden to Dallas in one long 24-hour day. Then I slowed it down to two 12-hour days of driving. This trip I was taking my time and doing it in three eight-hour days, which left me eight hours to discover new places to explore along the way and eight hours of sleep at an inexpensive motel along the way.

About 70 miles from Santa Fe, I stopped for a short hike to Echo Amphitheater, a sandstone formation just four miles from Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch, where the landscape inspired her art.

This New Mexico natural amphitheater is quite visible from the road, but made an ideal spot for Maggie and me to stretch our legs a bit. A dripping red stain on the rock at the site has created a ghoulish legend about the place. According to the tall-tales, Indians massacred a family of settlers on the rim and their blood dripped downward. Then, soldiers killed a group of Indians on the rim and their blood joined that of their earlier victims.

“Do you believe that?” I asked my canine companion Maggie. I assumed her lack of a reply indicated she didn’t. And neither did I … to be continued

Available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Nature always wins https://naturetreatnatwin.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/squirrel/   Great nature theme photo blog.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. 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. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com




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Pothole Trail: A page from my journal

            I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. — Henry David Thoreau       

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

I was recently looking through my bins of journals hoping to find some specific details. I knew was in one of them. I didn’t find it, but I did come across a journal I kept during a 16-day trip from Ogden, Utah, to Texas back in 2002.

Saw my first pinyon jay at a rest area up Spanish Fork Canyon, then another one in Canyonlands National Park.

This was the first time I had looked at this particular journal since completing it nearly 19 years ago.  Perusing it brought back many good memories, including those of my former canine companion Maggie* who later traveled with me in my RV for eight years.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to retake the journey on my blog.

The journal contains more photos and brochures of places I visited than words, but with them to guide me, I think I can fill in the blanks. The one thing I did note carefully were the birds I saw each day, since I had only recently taken up bird watching.

I drove from Ogden, Utah, to Cortez, Colorado, the first day, just slightly less than 400 miles. I started before dawn to get past Salt Lake City and Provo before traffic, looking forward to my turnoff from heavily-trafficked Interstate 10 to Highway 6 that would take me through Spanish Fork Canyon. My first stop of the day was at the Spanish Fork rest area where Maggie and I took a short walk around the area, and where I saw a pinyon jay, a new bird for my life list.

Pothole Trail landscape. — Photo by Pat Bean

Then it was up and over Soldier Summit, almost always a scenic drive – unless it’s during a winter storm – like the one I once drove through to get to Price for a newspaper story. It also wouldn’t be a good drive through the canyon this week as snows are predicted. But that June day in 2002, as I recall, was sunny, with a wildflower-filled meadow near the 7,477-foot summit.

After Price, the highway followed the Book Cliffs, a line of desert mountains east of Highway 6, to Green River, where after a jog on Interstate 79, it joined Highway 191. Just before Moab, I took a detour to the Islands in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park, where I hiked the half-mile Pothole Trail before continuing on my journey.

I had hiked, and enjoyed, this short trail before, and knew it would be a great way to break up the long drive and enjoy a bit of spectacular scenery as well. I wasn’t disappointed. – To be continued….

Bean Pat: Texas Tweeties https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/2019/03/03/post-number-1000-yee-haw/?wref=pil 1,000th post.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet community pathfinder, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

*Maggie, is the same canine companion featured in Bean’s book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon. 

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It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

An old bristlecone pine at Great Basin National Park, where stars light up the sky at night. — National Forest Service Photo

A Walk Among the Trees

I was sitting on my third-floor balcony drinking my cream-laced coffee this morning, with my binoculars aimed at our resident great horned owl. We have a pair here, and since this was the largest of the two I assumed it was the female.

All that’s left of what was once the world’s oldest living tree. — Wikimedia photo

The owl was restless and flew off after a couple of minutes, but I continued to stare, this time at the magnificent Ponderosa pine in which the owl perched, and which graces my balcony view. I saw the tree as a living thing, and knowing that it is a tiny cog in the ecosystem that is necessary to my daily breath, I was awed and thankful,

And that thought took me back to the trip I made to Great Basin National Park, where I stood near the summit of 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, and learned of the murder of what was thought to be the world’s oldest living tree.

I was with a small group of hikers led by a ranger at this time, and one of the men in the group asked: “Did they kill the murderer.”  The ranger responded: “They should have.”

Stella Lake at Great Basin National Park. — Wikimedia photo

But the truth is that the murderer was given a permit to cut the bristlecone pine tree down for research purposes. It was found to be 5,200 years old, and the oldest known living tree.

The silver lining from this tragedy – and the Pollyanna side of me always looks for this ray of sunshine – is that the hue and cry from this 1964 murder eventually led to the creation of Great Basin National Park.

“If anything good can come from the cutting of the world’s oldest tree, then it was that,” the ranger said, as we walked among other bristlecones, some of which were thought to be as old as 3,000 years.

That recorded memory, recalled from my journals and a newspaper story I wrote when the park was celebrating its 10th birthday, dates back to 1996. I made the trip to the Nevada park after then Rep. Jim Hansen, protesting the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which, I note, has recently been reduced in size, suggested that parks like the Great Basin didn’t deserve national protection.

I disagree one thousand percent.

Bean Pat: Old Plaid Camper https://oldplaidcamper.com/2018/06/22/hazy-lazy-low-tide-mornings/#like-10237  Life’s a marathon not a sprint.

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 patbean@msn.com

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Flashing rays of the morning sun at Steinaker State Park near Vernal, Utah — where dinosaurs once roamed. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.” — Frank Borman

Steinaker State Park

Pepper and me enjoying our morning walk at Steinaker State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I’m fond of camping at state parks. I’ve truly never found one I haven’t liked. I’m also fond of traveling backroads and avoiding major highways and crowds, which you might say is how I ended up during one of my journeys spending a few days at Steinaker State Park near Vernal, Utah.

As far as campgrounds go, it had all the right stuff: a scenic lake setting and an ample tree-shaded campsite. But what made this off-the-beaten-path park special to me was the chance it offered for a bit of solitude among nature’s marvels. As our world population explodes, and more and more people seeking relief from the daily chaos discover the healing powers of Mother Nature, being alone on established trails and in parks has become a rare thing. Although opportunities exist to escape to this country’s true wilderness areas, at my age this has no longer become a viable option.

I wasn’t able to capture the golden eagle that morning, but I thought you would enjoy this Wikimedia photo by Tony Hiigett. I did.

While I wasn’t alone at Steinaker, which sits at an elevation of 5,500 feet, other campers were scattered enough that I seldom saw any of them. This was especially true when I took my early morning walks with Pepper, my canine companion.

The best morning was the one in which I was awoken by a hooting great horned owl, an  a golden eagle, its wings backlit by a rising sun, doing a flyover. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Bean Pat: Interesting Literature http://tinyurl.com/y9fjj7fr  Best poems about identity and self.

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 Bean at patbean@msn.com  (more…)

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“People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.” – Salma Hayek

Secret, also know as Cecret, Lake in Albion Basin at the top of Cottonwood Canyon in Utah. — Wikimedia photo

A Day to Remember

I’m organizing photos that I removed from albums and put in a box when I got rid of or condensed everything so all my belongings would fit into a small RV back in 2004. Lately, I’ve been rummaging through that box.

Kim and me looking out over Secret Lake. I’m not sure who took the photo, most likely Cory, Kim’s son.

Of the many photos, my favorites are the ones of me enjoying Mother Nature’s outdoor wonders. My long-time friend Kim is there with me in many of these memories, like the one recaptured by the photograph on the right, which was taken at Secret, or Cecret as some people call it, Lake at the top of Albion Basin up Cottonwood Canyon in Utah.

As I recall it was an early July day, which is when spring wakes up in this high country, Notice the snow still visible in the background of the photo. I recall that the meadow at the trailhead, where Kim and I started our hike, as being saturated with wildflowers, Indian paintbrush, columbine, lupine, Jacob’s ladder, beard’s tongue, and elephant’s head (my favorite), just to name a few.

I can’t remember ever seeing so many different wildflowers crowed into one place as I did this day. I do remember trying, unsuccessfully, to name them all. The profusion of wildflowers accompanied Kim and I all the way up to Secret Lake, where we sat for a while enjoying the warm sun.

I’m not sure when this photo was taken, but since I don’t recall bird watching on the hike, I’m pretty sure it was before 1999. That’s when I got addicted to birds, and from that time forward, I was always looking for them. In fact, after that year, I couldn’t not see birds.

Bean Pat: A Slice of Life http://tinyurl.com/kjyblf8 The beauty of a garden, and one magnificent radish

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