Posts Tagged ‘bison’

“He who can take no great interest in what is small will take false interest in what is great.” — John Ruskin

I snapped this picture of a mural painted by a local artist while waiting at a stop light.

Travels With Maggie

 I sat behind the wheel of my car for 430 miles yesterday, yet time seemed to fly by and I was never bored. Like Alice, there was a whole new world out there for me to see, and contemplate.

Stephens, the small town just down the road from Camden, Arkansas, where the day’s journey began, still had their downtown Christmas tree lights up. I suspect it was because the lights took away the town’s drabness and not because some city worker was lazy.

I was welcomed to Emerson, a bit farther down the road, with a huge sign noting that the town is home of the Purple Hull Pea Festival and the World Championship Tiller Race. In case you’re interested this year’s event will be held June 24-25.

With Arkansas in the rear-view mirror, a Haynesville billboard let me know this town was the Butterfly Capital of Louisiana. While stopped at a red light, I snapped a picture out my RV window of a mural painted on the side of a gift shop. It was one of several murals I saw while passing through the town.

My wheels rumbled gruffly on quaint red brick roads through downtown areas of both Minden, Louisiana, and Nacogdoges, Texas. Even on a long drive, I prefer traveling the smaller highways that take you through the middle of towns along the route. Freeways put me to sleep while backroads keep my brain occupied and alert.

It's not every day that one gets to see a bison mom nursing her calf through their windshield, so I'm glad that I also enjoy the less dramatic glimpses of the world around us. The photo was taken in Custer State Park, South Dakota. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I wanted to stop and explore more, but I also wanted to get to my destination before dark. My rush to get there reminded me of Disney’s version of Lewis Carroll White Rabbit muttering: “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say goodbye, hello! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”

My only stop, except for gas, was at a Texas roadside park where my dog, Maggie, and I took a too short walk to stretch our legs.

Given Houston’s traffic, which I was going to drive through on Highway 59 during the commuter hour, I figured I’d just make it to my son’s home in Lake Jackson by dark. But amazingly – I say this as one who’s spent three hours getting through Houston more than once – it didn’t take long at all.

I reached Lake Jackson in plenty of time to share dinner with my son and his family.

I don’t recommend long-distance driving, preferring instead much shorter drives with plenty of time to get out of my RV and explore. But, as Garth Brooks says, “Happiness isn’t getting what you want, it is wanting what you’ve got.”

And what I had yesterday was one fantastic day on the road.

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A view of Antelope Island, which appears moody this day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Antelope Island is a favorite place of birders wanting to add a chukar to their life list.

 Antelope Island is a 28,000-acre bird haven in Utah’s Great Salt Lake accessed by a seven-mile toll causeway. It is home to a thriving herd of bison, playful antelope, sly coyotes and prickly porcupines.

 Migrating warblers visit, as do shorebirds and ducks that feed on the surrounding lake’s tiny brine shrimp and brine flies. California gulls nest each year on the rocky outcrops along the shoreline, bald eagles drop by in winter, and every spring hundreds of western meadowlarks, with their brilliant golden throats and song, nest on the island. The males sit on a high perch to melodiously proclaim their brooding territory while the females sit on nests hidden so well in the grasses below that you can walk within inches of them and not know they are there.

I visited this island almost every single week for two years after I caught bird-watching fever in 1999. It was my birding 101 lab. And every time I go back home to Ogden these days, I make time to once again visit this protected — the entire island is a Utah state park — wonderland.

A buffalo sculture looks out over the lake. Photo by Pat Bean


While a live version takes a sandy bath. Photo by Pat Bean

This trip, the drive across the causeway was made with more land than water to the sides of me. Once again, Great Salt Lake is nearing the 1960s record low of 4,191 feet above sea level. In the mid-80s, it was at a record high of 4,212 feet. I was present during this latter period when its high levels and wind-pushed waves tore out the causeway to the island as well as chunks of Highway 80 that stretches across Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats to Wendover, Nevada.

Now, 25 years later, I was getting to see it at its lowest. Was it Mother Nature’s drought and warm weather affecting the level, or was it the human diversion of water before it reached the lake driving the lake’s current low level? The question taunted the edges of my brain as I watched a pair of ravens circle overhead where the causeway curved. I wondered if these were the same ravens I had watched raise chicks in a huge nest several years earlier.

Antelope seen on the way to the island's historic Garr Ranch. Photo by Pat Bean

I spent four hours on the island this day. I watched with camera in hand as a buffalo took a sandy bath and kept my eyes glued to rocks for the sight of chukars surveying the landscape. Maggie and I took a hike around the point from the Bridger Bay Campground. Meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds joined their voices to the drum beat of the lakes’s waves against the shoreline. I found the tune calming and marveled at the purepeacefulness of the day.

  While I still had questions and concerns about the lake and the island’s ever-changing future, Mother Nature’s magic was still all around me. I look forward to my next visit, and hope she can still be found.

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