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A view of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River below from one of the many view points. The canyon is too big, and awesome, to be captured from a single point. — Photo by Pat Bean

          My latest travel book read is To Timbuktu by Mark Jenkins, an author I came to love over 20 years ago because of his articles in Outside Magazine, of which I’m a great fan.  

 Mark has a great way with words, such as his description in To Timbuktu of an equatorial mountain range: “…rumpled geology smothered by the octopus of botany,” he wrote.

As usual when reading, having one thought often cycles me to a related thought. This morning, I wondered how writers would describe the Grand Canyon, which I revisited for about the dozenth time this past week. So, I went searching for just such descriptions.

Most quotes that I found about the Grand Canyon echoed, in one way or another, the phrase that the author didn’t have the words to describe it.

But as I kept searching, I came across what John Wesley Powell, the first man to go down the entire length of the Colorado River through the entire Grand Canyon in 1869, had to say about this Arizona hole that was carved out over six million years ago. He wrote:

“The glories and the beauties of form, color, and sound unite in the Grand Canyon – forms unrivaled even by the mountains, colors that vie with sunsets, and sounds that span the diapason from tempest to tinkling raindrop, from cataract to bubbling fountain … The elements that unite to make the Grand Canyon the most sublime spectacle in nature are multifarious and exceedingly diverse.”

Another of my favorite authors, Ann Zwinger, whose trip through the Grand Canyon is described in her book Downcanyon, had this to say: “The astonishing sense of connection with that river and canyon caught me completely unaware, and in a breath, I understood the intense, protective loyalty so many people feel for the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. It has to do with truth and beauty and love of this earth, the artifacts of a lifetime and the descant of a canyon wren at dawn.”

Having paddled through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River twice, I well understood Ann’s words, especially about the impact of hearing canyon wrens welcome the day.

If you haven’t visited the Grand Canyon, above or below, you might want to add it to your bucket list, or at least read about it in books such as Zwinger’s Downcanyon or Powell’s journals of his epic 1869 and 1871 adventures.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get back to Jenkins’ Timbuktu adventure.

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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Actually, I made many wrong turns during my nine years of traveling this country full-time in a small RV. Above is where one of those wrong turns ended up. — Photo by Pat Bean

My good friend Kim and I were on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon from St. George, Utah, last week.

“We go through Hurricane and Colorado City on the way to Highway 89A, then we turn off at Jacob’s Lake Junction,” I told her as we left her brother’s house. She was driving, but I knew the way because it’s the route I had followed, minus the Grand Canyon detour, to St. George from Tucson.

So, off we went, laughing and talking, and catching up on each other’s lives since last April, when she had flown down from Ogden, Utah, to help me celebrate my birthday.

This day we were beginning a three-day road trip to celebrate her birthday. And we made it a good five miles down Interstate 15 before we realized we were headed to Las Vegas in Nevada instead of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

We both laughed about it, and she did a U-turn. That’s what I love about road trips with Kim. We laugh instead of rant and whine about mishaps and imperfections – which seem to happen often when the two of us are together.

 In fact, we had a second oops when we pulled up in front of our Flagstaff hotel late that afternoon after our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Seems we were at the wrong Days Inn, and had to drive all the way back across town, during rush hour, to get to the right one.          We laughed about that, too.

Both this day’s wrong turns, however, were minor compared to the misadventure we had some years back when we explored Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon on an unpaved road after a heavy rainstorm. We missed a turn and kept going and going — much farther than nine miles — before we finally decided we had to retrace our route.

As if my magic, although it hadn’t rained any more, the muddy puddles we had earlier driven through in Kim’s four-wheel drive vehicle, seemed to have grown larger and deeper. At one point, Kim had to get out and wipe mud off the headlights with a T-shirt she found in the car so she could see to drive on.

It was almost midnight when we got back to our camp. It took us a couple of days before we could laugh about that one.

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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Goose Head Rock: One of my favorite Mount Lemmon hoodoos.

          Monday my granddaughter Shanna and her wife Dawn took me for a drive up to the top of Mount Lemmon. I’ve made the drive a dozen or more times since moving to Tucson in 2013, and always found it enjoyable. This day was no exception, except the passing landscape was greener than I had ever seen it, thanks to the fact that this year the Sonoran Desert got its summer monsoon season back.

          It was so dry last year that part of the mountain areas suffered wildfires, some of the worst in Arizona’s history. The three of us got to see some of the devastation caused by the blazes from one of the upper overlook pullouts.

          The 25-mile drive up the Sky Island Scenic Byway winds upward from mile zero at just about 3,000 feet elevation to more than 9,000 feet at its end. Six life zones are crossed along the way. We lost the saguaros at 4,000 feet and were into Douglas firs by the time we reached the top.

          As an avid birdwatcher, I took along my binoculars, but the only birds we saw were a raven and a turkey vulture, and one unidentified small black and white bird that flashed past us as we were driving.

          Partway up the mountain, we stopped at one of the pullouts where a short trail skims along a canyon ridge, below which flows a small mountain stream. The girls went right on an unpaved section of the trail and I went left, partly because the trail here was paved and I’ve reached a stage in my life where my legs aren’t always stable, but also partly because I simply wanted to be alone for a few minutes in Mother Nature’s company.

          The pavement ended quickly but I decided to venture a little farther, deciding I could handle the unevenness of the rocky path. I did quite well, and was proud of myself. On the walk back, however, I came to a spot where, while I had easily made it up the rocks, I now felt I would fall if I tried to step down them.

          I was frustrated but tried to take it in stride until my granddaughter came along and gave me a hand down. What goes up should be able to come down – or not, I laughed. That was good, not all that many years ago I had cried when my old broad’s body couldn’t handle a much harder spot on a trail without help.

          This day, having finally begun to accept the consequences of being 82 years old, I pushed the incident out of my brain and went on to enjoy a marvelous day on Mount Lemmon with two marvelous companions.

Now if I could just push the image of that unidentified black and white bird out of my brain … maybe it was a downy woodpecker – or not.

           Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusstic 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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Lake Pend Oreille — Wikimedia photo

“Forever is composed of nows” — Emily Dickinson

It was a sunny June day in 2010 in Northern Idaho, where from my RV window I was watching a multitude of animals scampering about.

  Rabbits were hopping among the shadows of the trees, which were full of noisy squirrels chattering above. Mourning doves and dark-eyed juncos were pecking at the bird seed I had scattered about, while colorful butterflies flitted to-and-fro among a patch of wildflowers not too far away.

Closer still, a black-chinned hummingbird was drinking from my small nectar feeder.

The animals would come and go for the next three months, just another perk to go along with the free camp site and utilities provided in exchange for being a volunteer at Farragut State Park.

Located in the Idaho Panhandle at the tip of Lake Pend Oreille near the Canadian border, the 4,000-acre park was a Naval Training Station during World War II – and Lake Pend Oreille, which is over a thousand feet deep, is still used by the Navy for submarine research.

I got to spend an afternoon and evening on the lake, which included watching Rocky Mountain Goats scamping high on the cliffs above the lake.

When I wasn’t animal watching, or greeting and registering visitors and campers at the park’s entrance kiosk, I spent my days bird watching and exploring the park.

I saw my first chestnut-backed chickadee here. These birds were frequent visitors to the bird feeder at the park’s visitor’s center.

And from one of the park’s permanent workers, I learned to identify Douglas Firs from Grand Firs. The Douglas Firs could easily be spotted by the new growth of bright green on their tips, which gave them a lighted Christmas tree appearance.

            Park Ranger Errin Bair told me I could also tell the two trees apart by their cones. The Douglas’ cones are light brown and hang down; the Grand’s are greenish or even purplish and grow upright.

          It was a grand summer.

          Meanwhile, I know I’ve been off the grid for a bit, but I haven’t forgot my 30-cat challenge. Here is Cat No. 10: Fierce Cat.

Cat No. 10L Fierce Cat

          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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An Aplomado Falcon: A good place to see one is Laguna Atascosa National Wilklife Refuge in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley

  While perusing the latest issue of Bird Watchers Digest as I drank my cream-laced coffee this morning, I saw that Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

          Located at the southern tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, the 96,000 refuge is home to Aplomado Falcons. While predominantly a South America bird, until around 1950 the species could also be found in Texas and a couple of other southern border states. But Texas’s population of the birds had dropped to only two pairs by the time they were listed as “endangered” in 1986.

Human efforts to increase the numbers, which have included introducing Aplomados from Mexico, have had varying degrees of success but the birds are still listed as endangered and a Texas sighting of one is considered “rare.”

Of course, that makes it a challenge for avid birders like myself.

I’m happy to note that I met the challenge on Nov. 13, 2005, at Laguna Atascosa NWR. I was with a group of birders attending a birding festival in Harlingen. It was a life bird for several of us that day. And I was the first one to spot the bird’s nearby mate.

       It was this awesome sighting that I thought about when I read that the refuge was celebrating its 75th anniversary.

          Visiting wildlife refuges was one of my goals during the years between 2004 and 2012 when I lived and traveled all across this country in a small RV. And Laguna Atascosa was near the top of my list to visit because The American Bird Conservancy calls it as one of the 500 Most Important Birding Areas in the United States.

          Also on that list is the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, which is just an hour’s drive away from my Tucson home.

Bean Pat: This country’s 568 National Wildlife Refuges. Which one is closest to you?

          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 to Kindle Unlimited members) and is always searching for life’s silver lining

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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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Digging through my scrapbooks, I found the story I did about flying in a KC-135 tanker over the Grand Canyon, a National Guard event to entice women to join the service.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Mark Twain

I was having a virtual Jack and Coke Zoom night with my good friend Kim Monday when we started talking about celebrations for her approaching 60th birthday. She and I have been observing birthdays together now for just about half our lives.

My friend Kim and I right before we jumped out of an airplane to celebrate my 70th birthday.

Recalling the fantastic time 11 years ago when we had celebrated my 70th birthday by jumping out of an airplane, she wanted to do something just as memorable

Among other things, we had earlier talked about a cruise and visit to Iceland, both of which are off the radar now because of the coronavirus.

“You know I haven’t visited the Grand Canyon,” she interjected into the conversation. “But I think I’m past the time when I can hike down to its bottom.”

That brought a laugh from me, and the comment that I was way past that time. “I gave up my annual birthday hike to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion some years back now.”

“Perhaps a helicopter ride over the canyon. I could handle that,” Kim said.

Her words brought up a couple of memories for me. I’ve visited the Grand Canyon many times, including twice spending 16 days paddling through it on the Colorado River, and once flying over it in a KC-135 Tanker as it refueled three B-1 Bombers and a fighter jet. I was along for the ride as a reporter covering the outing, which had been planned to show women the sky was the limit if they joined the National Guard.

Kim during one of our outings to Zion National Pak to celebrate one of my birthdays.

Both the Grand Canyon rafting and over-flying experiences rank among the top 10 experiences of my life. As a rafter, I disdained the helicopters flying overhead the canyon, but my view of the canyon from the glass bottom at the rear of the KC-135, where the boom operator lay for the refueling process, made me rethink my attitude. While not exactly environmentally correct, I wanted everyone to have such an experience. Sometimes we have to stop thinking about life and just live it – especially if, like me, we’ve survived to become old broads.

And so, I told my friend Kim that if she wanted to do a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon to count me in. Kim, by the way, celebrates her birthday the same day as Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, which is September 22.

Bean Pat: To my granddaughter Keri, who posted “I Love You” on Facebook, noting that if people can hate for no reason, she can love for no reason. I am so proud of her.

Bean Pat Silver Lining: To Wing, a drone company, and a Virginian librarian, who will be joining forces to drop library books to kids. This is such a great idea, as are any others that encourage children to read. A home with children and no books is, to my way of thinking, child abuse. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/drones-will-drop-library-books-for-kids-in-virginia/

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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The Catalina Mountains in my backyard may not be as exotic as the Himalaya Mountains but in their own way, they are just as wondrous. — Photo by Pat Bean

 

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

It Depends on the Perspective

The western town of Tombstone may not be as exotic as Timbuktu but it is just a day trip away from Tucson. — Photo by Pat Bean

Kathmandu and Timbuktu. I love the sound of these names, places that I would still love to visit. They are on my bucket list, but at this point in my life, I doubt they will ever be checked off.

Meanwhile, I take pleasure in knowing that I have flown in a hot air balloon over Africa’s Serengeti; I have walked among the giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands; I have white-water rafted through Arizona’s Grand Canyon, and I have spent a couple of delightful days on Japan’s Miyajima Island.

These days, however, find me satisfying my wanderlust closer to home, where the wonders if viewed through the eyes of a far distant visitor, would most likely seem just as exotic as Kathmandu and Timbuktu are to me.

I have the Catalina Mountains in my backyard; Saguaro National Park,

An organ pipe cactus is just one of the many wonders the Sonoran Desert holds for those with eyes to see. — Photo by Pat Bean

with its two sections, as my eastern and western neighbors; Organ Pipe National Monument with its curious cacti and Whitewater Draw Wildlife that is currently hosting thousands of Sandhill Cranes, just a day trip away.

There is also the historic western town of Tombstone and the quaint mining town of Bisbee, as well as several early day missions to explore, plus the scenic drive up to the top of the Quinlan Mountains where the Kitt Peak National Observatory is located.

During my traveling days across America, I was often surprised to discover that some of the sites I visited and found wondrous, had often not been seen by many of the locals. It makes me suspect that residents of Kathmandu and Timbuktu might not think their home landscapes exotic at all.

Bean Pat: Time https://lindahoye.com/saving-time/

A good thought for today.

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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