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Archive for the ‘Journeys’ Category

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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Gila Woodpecker at my hummingbird feeder

          With few exceptions, you can only find saguaro cactus in Arizona, and the same can be said for the Gila (pronounced heela) Woodpecker’s appearance above the Mexican border. Saguaros and Gilas go together like apple pie and vanilla ice cream. If you see one, you’ll find the other nearby

The plant and fauna duo share a mutually beneficial relationship. The saguaro provides shelter and food for the woodpecker, and the woodpecker rids the plant of harmful insects. I’ve seen the two together often around my Sonoran Desert Tucson apartment complex, including from my third-floor balcony, where the birds sometimes hang upside down on my hummingbird feeder to get at its nectar content. It’s a rather comical sight.

Since I live next to some undeveloped patches of land that have been left to Mother Nature’s whims – and her whims include saguaro cactus — I’ve also been privileged to see a pair of these brown and zebra-striped woodpeckers raise three chicks in a hole pecked out in a tall, three-armed saguaro that most likely was well over half a century old. Saguaros grow slowly and don’t grow arms until they are in the neighborhood of 50 years old.

          I probably wouldn’t have discovered the nest if it hadn’t been for the young ones clamoring to be fed. I saw them about a half dozen times after that, and then one -day the nest was quiet and deserted.

          I wonder if one of those young Gilas will one day visit my  humming bird feeder?

Cat No. 12: Pirate 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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          “I want there to be no peasant so poor in my realm that he will not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” – Henry IV (1553-1610)

          I grew up knowing where food came from. My grandmother raised pigs, chickens and rabbits, had an apricot and a peach tree from which jam was made, and a large vegetable garden, the produce of which my mother and grandmother preserved to see us through the winter.

We ate well all week, but Sunday dinner was always special, and it began with my grandmother wringing the head of a chicken, which would then spasm around on the ground for a bit before joining its passed-on kin. .

The dead bird would then be dropped into a bucket of boiling water for a few minutes before its feathers were plucked out. Once that was done, the bird was cut into pieces, dipped in a seasoned egg, milk and flour mixture and fried until they had a golden-brown crispy exterior and a juicy interior.

I’ve never tasted better fried chicken, so delicious it would turn the Colonel and Popeye green with envy.

                   ***

Cat No. 11: Alice’s Loony Cheshire

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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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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On Drawing Cats

Snarky Cat in a Tree — Cat. No. 10

          “A line is a dot that went for a walk,” says Paul Klee. Not sure why, but that thought, and Klee’s own out-of-the-box paintings, loosens my artistic inhibitions. The first fear, of course, is being judged for my lousy drawing ability.

          To push myself to do more art, the doing of which, regardless of the outcome, makes me feel good about myself, I took on the challenge of drawing 30 cats, which is actually the first assignment in Carla Sonheim’s book Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun.

          The cats are supposed to be drawn quickly, and although the maximum amount of time I’ve spent — since beginning the challenge over a month ago – on drawing and painting each cat is less than 15 minutes, this morning I completed only Cat. No. 10.

          Like Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors, I am a writer who also does other things, and it’s the same for my art.

          Although retired, 81, and living in Covid isolation time, my days are full and pass quickly. For that I am blessed. But I’m still committed to finishing the challenge, so more cats are coming, even if slowly.

Meanwhile, acknowledging the goal and sharing my imperfect efforts, are keeping me on task. My thanks to all my readers.

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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Rivoli’s Hummingbird, formerly called Magnificent, formerly called Rivoli

One of the great things about living in Southeastern Arizona is that you see birds that come across the Mexican border here and rarely anywhere else.

One of these is the Magnificent Hummingbird, or so it was called the two times when I saw it in Ramsey Canyon, where 14 other species of hummingbirds can be found. The canyon, a birders’ paradise, is located about 80 miles southeast of Tucson.

In 2017, the bird’s name was changed to Rivoli’s Hummingbird, a name by which it went until 1983 — when ornithologists named it Magnificent from Rivoli.

The name was changed back because ornithologists split the Magnificent into two species, the Rivoli and the Talamanca. DNA research is causing a lot of that to happen these days.  

Both of these hummingbirds live in mountainous pine-oak forests and shady canyons, like Ramsey. But supposedly the Talamanca doesn’t come farther north than Panama.

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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Nothing About Life is Logical

Cat No. 8 — Stalking a Bird

Frank Herbert, author of the popular Dune series, said: ‘Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”

          If ever there was a time for those words to make sense, we’re living in them. As Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Polifax said — as best as I can remember it – life isn’t like a table setting where everything has its proper place.

          No, life is messy and impossible to control.

          I remember once standing by a lake, across which a dark storm cloud was dumping rain on the southern landscape. To the north, a summer sky was bright blue with sunlight shimmering down through puffy white clouds, while beneath my feet the rocky shoreline was framed by a colorful bush indicating fall had arrived.

          From a single spot, I was being presented with three stories, each in conflict with the other. Since I couldn’t deny reality, I had to believe them all. It’s the same with life and people. There are many realities, and just because we believe one doesn’t mean the others aren’t true. Mother nature’s triple feature left me pondering over this for a good long while.

          And then my brain tuned in to Bob Marley: “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So, when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!”

          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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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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Answering the Muse

Cat Ni, 7 — Orange Fuzzy Cat

Morning Thoughts and Cat No. 7

          I can procrastinate with the best, but underneath I’ve always had a strong work ethic – from doing homework assignments on time to always doings what I’ve signed up to do, which includes showing up for my writing even when the muse is on vacation in Paris or Timbuktu.

          As Octavia Butler says: “Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t.”

          Or as Natalie Goldberg says: “There’s no such thing as a writer’s block. If you’re having trouble writing, well, pick up the pen and write.”

          But life has changed for me. I’m no longer a working mother or a woman chasing a career. I’m a retired old broad. And while I keep myself quite busy, I no longer have a time schedule to follow.

          For the first time in my life, I am able to answer the muse when it visits, and to follow Henry David Thoreau’s advice to “Write while the heat is in you … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”

          It’s exciting to be able to sit down and write when an idea crossed my little gray cells. But I have to admit, the outcome doesn’t seem to know the difference. The butt in chair action doesn’t seem to care if the muse is looking over my shoulder or not. In the end, the important thing is to just do it.

          And that, if you remember, is my New Year’s Resolution.

          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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