Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

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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Gila Woodpeckers favor saguaro cacti for their homes, which is one reason I’m always looking at them. — Photo by Pat Bean

          One of the many delightful things about living in Tucson are the Saguaros, a slow-growing cactus that at about the age of 50 develops tree-branch arms. The cactus then lives on for another hundred years or so, continuing to grow more arms and stretch up toward the sky.

          They are visible all-around Tucson’s Sonoran Desert landscape. In the area’s monsoon seasons– sadly absent the past couple of years – the trunks of the cactus take in and store water to last it during the dry spells. You can visibly see the saguaros trunk bulge after a heavy rain.

For the nine years I’ve now lived in Tucson, I’ve also watched these cacti sprout enchanting white flowers with golden centers on the tips of their arms for a few weeks each spring.

This spring the blossoms were more abundant than I’ve ever seen them, plus the blossoms were also growing elsewhere on the cacti. It’s something I haven’t seen before, and neither have others. The phenomena has been strange enough that desert ecologists are trying to come up with an answer for it.

 One thought is that the area’s drought and above-average heat are behind the changes in the saguaros.

Meanwhile, I’ve noticed another phenomena here at my apartment complex in Tucson’s Catalina Foothills. We have an abundance of house sparrow babies. I can’t step outside my apartment without seeing a host (the name for a group of sparrows) littering the grass where I walk. I would enjoy them more if my canine companion Scamp didn’t think it would be fun to try and catch one, an action I highly oppose.

I do, however, enjoy waking up in the mornings to their cheery chirp…chirp…chirps.  

I suspect that their parents took advantage of the many thick bushes around the complex for nesting and the abundance of water sprinklers that are used to keep two of the apartment’s three courtyards green. I also suspect the abundance of sparrows is probably why our resident great horned owls continue to raise their young in the tall trees that look down on those courtyards.

So what is Mother Nature up to where you live?

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.

An old saguaro that I thought looked like an old man, whose death I watched over a period of several months.

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Guadalupe Peak in Guadlupe Mountain National Park in Texas. — Wikimedia Photo

One of the things I’ve concluded after eight decades of iving is that beauty can be found anywhere. It’s easy to believe this when you’re spending a day hiking in the magnificent Guadalupe Mountain National Park, which is what I was doing on a warm April day about 11 years ago.

Blooming cacti and ocotillo plants dotted the Chihuahuan Desert landscape, whose mountain scenery is a rare sight in mostly flat-land Texas. Overseeing this nature haven were the picturesque peaks of El Capitan (Yes, it has the same name as better know peak in Yosemite) and Guadalupe, the latter peak, at 8,752 feet, being the highest point in the Lone Star state.

It was 360 degrees of awesome, brought to life by collared lizards darting among the yellow and magenta colored prickly pear blossoms.

That sentiment about beauty, however, was challenged a few days later when in contrast, I found myself camped for the night in an El Paso RV park, my small Class C motorhome squeezed between two huge Class A vehicles with wide slide outs in a cement parking lot. In addition, the park was surrounded by a low rock fence beyond which passing traffic kept up a yowling roar.

It was the kind of place I avoided as carefully as I did the alligators in the Okefenokee Swamp when I visited. But time and distance left me no choice. It was the only place near enough I could reach before dark, and I never drove my RV at night. 

I tried to follow Garth Brooks’ advice about basing happiness on what you have and not what you don’t have, but I was still grumbling to myself about the drab view as I sat at my table and stared out the window of my motorhome.

I wanted a meandering creek whose gurgles would lull me to sleep, and a large tree to sit beneath while reflecting on my day, and perhaps a small camp fire whose flames I could get lost in. During my nine years on the road, I spent many a night in just such a setting.

 Thinking of those nights, I admonished myself to be thankful for my life, and started to get up and get a book to read. That’s when the beauty happened.

A Gambel quail, followed by nine chicks, strolled into view. The She was headed across the cement to the far side of the campground, and she was followed by 11 chicks. And trailing behind them was another adult quail, a bit gaudier than the first so I assumed he was the male parent.

The birds brought a smile to my face, and my optimistic view that beauty could be found everywhere was renewed.

Why, I asked myself, had I ever doubted that beauty could be found everywhere, even if you don’t go looking for it.

Bean Pat: Guadalupe Mountain National Park: Here, you’ll find one of the finest examples of an ancient, marine fossil reef on Earth.

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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“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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Blue Herons on a cold morning at Farmington Bay in Utah. Nature is what helps keep my blood pressure in check during these days of isolation, even if it’s just remembering past moments spent in the outdoors. — Photo by Pat Bean

“The survival of democracy depends on the ability of large numbers of people to make realistic choices in the light of adequate information.” – Aldous Huxley

From a Moderate Independent

I’m sick and tired of the blame game, politicians’ personal and hateful attacks on their opponents, and no one standing up and taking responsibility for their own acts when they’ve made a mistake.

I don’t expect the leaders of this country to be perfect, but I do think they should put what’s best for all of this country’s people ahead of their own welfare and personal agendas.

And I want to hear exactly what today’s candidates for office would do to improve things if they do gain leadership power, not just that they think their opponent is a slug, or whatever else name-calling they decide will get them elected.

As a former journalist who believed that it was not my duty to change the world but to inform the world, I’m sickened by those in the media today who distort facts, repeat lies, and take sides. These tactics weaken the real media’s role as a government watchdog, a role which some journalists still take seriously.

I’m also quite sick of slogans that mean absolutely nothing but are just words that sound good or patriotic.

To quote a well-known rant, I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore — even if all this old broad can do at this point in her life is to speak out against hate and lies and in favor of justice and kindness.

Anyone else out their want to join me?

Bean Pat: Isolation is getting to me. This blog, which looks to nature as a resource for these days, inspired me. https://windbreakhouse.wordpress.com/2020/04/16/spring-in-the-time-of-coronavirus/


available on Amazon

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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I am thankful that I once got to float across the Serengeti in a hot air balloon. — Photo by Pat Bean of the balloon ahead of the one she was riding in.  

          I am thankful the most important key in history was invented. It’s not the key to your house, your car, your goat, your safety deposit box, your bike lock or your private community. It’s the key to order, sanity and peace of mind. The key is Delete. – Elayne Boosler

A Slower Pace is Good

          Boosler’s quote reminded me of one of the many, many things I’m thankful for Laughter. Not only does it bring joy to my life, it lightens the load when the going gets tough, like when my 80-year-old back decides to act its age.

I’m thankful for every sunrise and sunset in my past — and future. — Photo by Pat Bean

I’m thankful that the years have not diminished my zest for life, although these days that’s more likely to be enjoying a good book than getting dumped out of a raft at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

I’m thankful for my large family, blood and heart-related equally, a few of whom worry about me these days. I’m very thankful they show their love for this imperfect Mom and Nana, but also take a perverse delight because I once worried a lot about the comings and goings of my children. But I do try to keep my guardian angel among them informed of my whereabouts as she kept track of me during my RV roaming days. Besides she’s a daughter-in-law whose youthful ways worried her parents, not me.

I’m thankful for my slower pace these days. I see more, take time to enjoy more and enjoy using my mind to connect the dots of my life. In earlier days, I ran instead of walked through life. Both travel modes have their season, but this slower pace is quite enjoyable.

I’m thankful for Scamp. I drove a thousand miles, roundtrip, to get him and this is a picture of our first meeting. — Photo by my dear friend Kim Perrin, who rescued him for me. .

I’m thankful for my canine companion Scamp, although he is turning out to be more of a wolfhound-mix than the schnauzer-mix the shelter claimed. He is closing onto 40 pounds, but he and my third-floor walk-up apartment are my alarm clock and exercise plan. I can’t imagine not having him my by side during the day, or curled up beside me at night. I’m finally even getting around to convincing him I‘m his alpha. It takes a quiet voice and a staredown. Scamp’s saving grace is that he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, and he has yet to meet another person or dog he doesn’t like on sight. Every 80-year-old needs a challenge in life – and currently, he’s mine.

I’m thankful for books, and the actual time these days as a retired being to read more of them than in my younger years.

I’m thankful for the friends I’ve accumulated over the years and the new ones I’ve made since moving to Tucson. They daily bring joy to my life.

I’m thankful for butterflies and flowers, and all other miracles of Mother Nature. — {hoto by Pat Bean.

I’m thankful for the journals I have kept over the years. They remind me that I’ve lived a full life. I’m also thankful that there is still more life in me and more journals out there for me to fill.

I’m thankful for the joy and peace Nature still brings into my heart with its majestic mountains, awesome trees, winding canyons, desert landscapes, and colorful sunrises and sunsets. Mother Nature keeps my soul sane in these chaotic, polarized days.

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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“I chose the road less traveled. And now I’m lost.” — Darynda Jones

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Carlsbad, New Mexico

Road Trip June 21 — July 6, 2002

If you’re in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the No. 1 place to visit is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. But since I had already done this, I decided to forgo the cave tour and instead visit the city’s Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. It was a good choice as I added three new bird species to my life list — and got an educational experience about the landscape, plants, and animals of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Barn owl. — Wikimedia photo

It was late afternoon when I arrived, giving me only a couple of hours to walk the 1.3 loop trail around the park’s variety of desert habitats that included sandhills, marsh areas and arroyos. But it was a good time to see daytime birds getting ready to nest for the night, or nighttime birds coming awake for their night of activity.

The first stop was an aviary near the visitor center that featured native birds of prey including golden and bald eagles. While these were fun to see, it was the birds that flew free around the avian-friendly park that interested me more. One of these, a barn owl flew right in front of me as I rounded a curve in the trail, which I seemed to have all to myself. A little farther on, a couple of scaled quail scurried off when they saw me coming, but not before I had a satisfying look at them.

Because back then I was still new to birding, both of these species were lifers for my growing bird list. So were the common nighthawks skimming the water at Waterfowl Pond near the prairie dog homes. I easily identified the nighthawks, well after a quick look at my bird field guide, by the broad white stripes visible near their wing tips as they flew.

Bank swallow

Also circling around the ponds were quite a few cliff and bank swallows. I had seen quite a few of these birds during trips to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. On one outing there had been a huge flock of five species of swallows circling around and under a small bridge. I had spent hours learning how to tell them apart. The bank and swift swallows, I had decided were the easiest to identify.

The bank swallow has a gray, necklace-like stripe on its white breast, which I came to think of as a banker’s bow tie. The mature cliff swallow, meanwhile, has a prominent white spot on its bluish-black head that flashes when its flying toward you. 

Other birds I saw as I followed the winding trail through the desert landscape included a Harris hawk, burrowing owls, black-chinned hummingbirds and an Eastern kingbird. It was a delightful late afternoon that ended far too quickly.

According to my journal notes, I paid a $4 entrance fee to be admitted to the park. I certainly got my money’s worth, and I noted that the admission fee today is only $1 more. A bargain I would say.

Available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Seaman https://sarah-angleton.com/2019/04/11/a-classy-post-about-a-loyal-dog-with-an-unfortunate-name. A dog story and a travel story in one, and it made me smile.

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. She is also currently looking for a new canine companion. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” — Wallace Stegner. 

Cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

            Today would be the fourth time I visited Mesa Verde National Park, a place that because of its beauty and its history would never bore me. But today would be the first time I had visited this park since I had become addicted to bird watching.

A page from my journal.

So along with looking at the high mesa scenery and cliff dwellings, I was always on the lookout for birds. Of the 1,000 or so bird species found in North American, about 200 of them have been sighted in the park. I didn’t see too many of them, but it was still fun looking.

I enjoyed the 45-minute drive up to the top of the 8,600-foot mesa because of the scenic views as much as I enjoyed stopping at overviews of the cliff dwellings and the hike down to one of them, the Spruce Tree House. The cliff dwellings were used by those often called the Anasazi sometime after 650 and through the end of the 12th century. The occupants used a combination of hunting, gathering, and subsistence farming of crops such as corn, beans and squash to survive.

Before hiking down to the ancient dwellings, I spent 50 cents to purchase a guide to the site, which also identified the plants along the trail. While I enjoy the historical aspects of the places I visit, the truth is I enjoy the handiwork of nature even more.

And the highlight of this morning of sightseeing on the high mesa (perhaps because this wasn’t my first sight

Western wood peewee 

of the cliff dwellings) was seeing a western wood peewee for the first time. It was my second lifer for the trip. This peewee is a rather plain grayish-brownish bird five to six inches in size. Its most distinguishing feature is a peaked crown that gives a triangular shape to the bird’s head. The peewees belong to the flycatcher family, and like them can be seen sitting up tall and then flying out to catch a spotted insect, then flying back to the same perch.

It was this action that gave me a clue to the bird’s identification, followed by a close look at my bird field guide…. To be continued.

Bean Pat: Mesa Verde  https://www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm   Check out the video about the park. 

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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“Trust in what you love, continue to do it and it will take you where you need to go.”  – Natalie Goldberg

Sometimes it’s the holes, or flaws, in our lives that are the most interesting. View of the Ajo Mountains in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument near Tucson. — Photo by Pat Bean.

I’ve taken up a challenge to write every day, even if it is only one sentence. I’m refining the challenge, issued by Jo Hawk at https://www.facebook.com/ to mean that I write every day on a work-in-progress, as I already write almost every day in my journals.

A second resolution is to make good use of time, because as an old broad who will turn 80 in April, I realize just how precious my remaining days on earth are.

A third, and final resolution, is to be kind because my heart tells me that kindness is the one thing the world could use more of these days.

So, what are your resolutions for the New Year?

Bean Pat: Ring out Wild Bells https://middlemaybooks.com/2018/12/31/ring-out-wild-bells-by-alfred-tennyson/?wref=pil An oldie but still a great poem for a new year.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. Check out her book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon, to learn more.

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Deer Creek Falls

“Who I am, what I am, is the culmination of a lifetime of reading, a lifetime of stories. And there are still so many more books to read. I’m a work in progress.” — Sarah Addison Allen

John McPhee’s Encounters  

I’m reading A Colorado River Reader, an anthology of essays that range from the exploration days of John Wesley Powell to modern-day river runners. The stories have both enlightened and educated me, and brought to the forefront my own experiences of time spent on the river.

Granite Rapid: I was tossed out of the boat at the top of this rapid, and wasn’t pulled back in until the raft got to the end. What an adventure.

In 1991, and again in 1999 as a gift to myself on my 60th birthday, I escaped from the world for 16 days and rafted 225 miles down the Colorado as it flows through the Grand Canyon. On the first trip, I spent most of my time in a six-person paddle raft, communing with the river when it was gentle, screaming with glee at it when it was wild, and straining with the five others in the boat to power our way safely down the river and through the rapids.

By the time of the 1999 trip, I was content to ride in a larger oar boat and let a boatman, or boatwoman, do all the work, leaving me just to hang on for the ride. The two trips were different in experiences, but every second of both were 100 percent joyous and worth remembering, which is why I so relished the memories of those trips that were refreshed and brought to the forefront of my brain when I read John McPhee’s piece in the anthology.

Tunnel, far right, dug to access rock structure for proposed Marble Canyon Dam.

The essay, “Encounters with an Archdruid,” was about a trip down the river with David Brower, a prominent environmentalist who opposed dam building (and whom I had met and wrote about as a journalist) and Floyd Dominy of the Bureau of Reclamation, who built dams. He got the Glen Canyon Dam built, but failed to get the one he wanted to be built in Grand Canyon’s Marble Canyon, although he got as far as getting a tunnel dug in the side of a cliff at the proposed dam site to access the rock structure.

I got to walk into this tunnel during my second trip down the Colorado River.

McPhee’s essay took me along on this now legendary white-water float through the Grand Canyon, dousing my memories with the cold-water waves of Deubendorff Rapid and sprinkling them with the rainbow-lit drops of mist coming off Deer Creek Falls, an awesome side canyon waterfall whose music filled my ears as I sat by it and ate lunch one day.

As I read, my mind wandered off to give thanks to the person who taught me to read. I can’t remember who it was, just that I truly can’t remember a time in my life that I couldn’t read. Reading has enlarged and brightened my world for as long as I can remember. And I’m thankful for this great gift.

I believe Ray Bradbury said it best when he wrote that not reading books was worse than burning them.

Bean Pat: Don’t call me sweet  https://awindowintothewoods.com/2018/12/18/dont-call-me-sweet/  Take a break from the holiday chaos.

Now available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon. It would make a great Christmas gift for all those who wander but are not lost.

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