Posts Tagged ‘Farragut State Park’

Travels With Maggie

Laughter not only makes the journey endurable and even enjoyable, it also helps keep us healthy.” — Joyce Meyer

 Seventeen female volunteers and staff workers from Farragut State Park met this week for dinner and drinks at the Floating Patio. The small bar and restaurant sits atop Lake Pend Oreille in the tiny tourist town of Bayview. Idaho.

A Canada goose takes off in front of our pontoon boat ... Photo by Pat Bean

The deep blue, 65-mile long lake’s name is a sure give away of who’s a local and who’s a tourist just passing through. It’s pronounced Pon-da-ray, which is sort of French for ear, or so I’ve been told, not Pend-o-rye-ly, as I called it before I was corrected.

I’ve learned that when a group of females get together – be they giggling teenagers to wrinkled and post menopausal old broads – irreverent laughter often rules.

Heading into the Floating Patio for Drinks and Dinner ... Photo by Pat Bean

 So it was this night as we drank our wine and Diet Cokes, snacked on pre-dinner popcorn and then ate our hamburgers, chicken Caesar salads or barbecue specials. Without boyfriends or husbands to please, compete with, impress or cater to, women often lose their inhibitions of proper-ness. Men, I think, do the same when women are not present. It has nothing to do with liking or loving the opposite sex, it just feels good once in awhile to be in a group that best understands you.

The laughter and camaraderie we shared getting to know one another better during the meal continued as we boarded two pontoon boats for a cruise of the lake. Ours was captained by Scott Bjergo, owner with his wife of Floating Patio Boat Rentals and Bayview Merc. You can reach him at bayviewboatrentals.com.

Shoreline reflections paint the lake's canvas ... Photo by Pat Bean

 I asked because I was impressed by Scott, who put up with our female kidding of him being the boy toy on the boat, and because I thought of how great it would be to spend a day on the water with friends and loved ones. You might think the same if you’re ever in Idaho’s panhandle just 100 miles away from the Canadian border.

I was truly looking forward to the boat ride. Being on the water makes me giddy. It’s a comfortable feeling of both awe and belonging. I sometimes wonder if its my ancestral cells calling to me.

The avid bird-watcher in me also got a treat when a gaggle of geese led our pontoon boat away from the Floating Patio. They floated ahead of us so close I was afraid our boat was going to run over them. One in particular was slow to get out of the way, but finally took a running, flapping scramble into the sky. Droplets of water from its spray hit me as I leaned out to snap a photo of the awkward aerial takeoff and then its graceful flight as its wings caught the air.

Women on the second boat excitedly point out the mountain goats high on the escarpment. ... Photo by Pat Bean

 Long evening shadows of color from sailboats, trees, cliffs and houses painted the dark water. Pend Oreille, is over 1,000 feet deep in places, which makes it an excellent spot for the Navy’s testing of submarines, albeit miniature unmanned ones that could have even now been passing beneath us. We passed by the Navy’s lake facilities, both onshore and lake anchored, where the testing is done.

 The highlight of the evening aboard the boat would have to have been the sighting of the mountain goats on the steep

 glacial carved escarpment surrounding the lake. After a few white rocks fooled us, we finally got a glimpse of four of the goats near the top heading upward. We had missed a closer view of them coming down to the water to drink. The goats were too far away for my camera to capture them, but I did get a photo of the passengers in the other boat as the women excitedly pointed at the animals.

 The evening ended all too soon, with everyone heading back to the park, most to loved ones of the opposite human sex. Maggie, my faithful cocker spaniel travel companion was waiting for me to tell her about my ladies’ night out. And I did. She’s been my soul mate for the six years I’ve been traveling the country in my RV.

It’s always ladies night out for the two of us.

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“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” … John Muir

"Rite of Passage" sculpture at Farragut State Park ... Photo by Pat Bean

 He’s called Mack.  He’s the “Rite of Passage” sculpture that sits outside the Museum at the Brig at Farragut State Park, and he represents the 293,381 sailors trained here during World War II.

 I had no idea the park was a former naval base when I accepted an opportunity to volunteer here. I quickly jumped at the offer based on the park’s Idaho Panhandle location. I spent last summer in Texas wilting from too many hot humid summer days and I had no intention of repeating the foolish action.

 I chose well. Today will be my first 90-degree day, and without my native state’s humidity I’m still quite comfortable, although I’ll probably turn on my air conditioner when the sun hits my RV later in the day for a couple of hours. The rest of the time, my campground site is well shaded.

I’m rather fond of Mack. Possibly because my daughter spent 10 years in the Navy, serving in the Gulf War, and possibly because yesterday my son, a career Army man and Blackhawk helicopter pilot, was deployed to Afghanistan. It’s nice to know people care enough about our military sons and daughters to create a work of art memorializing them.

Apple blossoms

Butter and eggs' blossoms

 Meanwhile, sitting here in such a tranquil setting where butter and egg, two-toned yellow blossoms color the landscape beneath the pink flowers of an apple tree and robins raise their babies, it’s hard to imagine the ugliness of a battle field. Sadly I know that most people don’t want to imagine that scene. Perhaps if more people would, an end to war would come sooner.

 I’m a flower child. I want peace. When I was younger I believed I might live to see such a day. I now know I won’t. All I’m left with believing is that perhaps my grandchildren will – and hoping that my son returns safely from Afghanistan.

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Hungry mouths

Growing a little

Photos by Pat Bean  

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” C. S. Lewis

From helpless and naked to spouting feathers for flying in only two weeks at Farragut State Park

"Mama we're hungry"

The good-mother robin I’ve been watching the past few weeks is now raising three chicks. The first time I visited her after they had hatched, she dive-bombed me. After quickly snapping a photo I left the scene. The second time I came, she sat on a tiny tree four feet from the nest and gave me a concerned, dirty look. The third time, she sat on the same tree, but seemed more peaceful.

Her growing chicks mouths were about all I could see at first. The birds are born naked and helpless, depending completely on their parents for warmth and nourishment. They now have feathers and look almost ready to leave the nest, a process that takes only about 13 days. It’s been an awesome joy daily watching this transformation.

I suspect this is my mother robin’s second brood of the year. When I first discovered her nest a fallen portion of an earlier nest beneath it contained remains of an empty egg shell that appeared to have hatched. Robins can raise three broods in a good year, and can live up to 14 years – if Mother Nature is kind to them.

It's getting a bit crowded in the nest

Most, however, don’t survive beyond about 7 years, and only about 40 percent of chicks reach adulthood. Magpies find baby robins quite tasty, as do snakes, cats and many other predators.

Considering this mother robin’s attentive care, I suspect her babies may have a higher percentage rate. And whether that’s true or not, the optimist in me will continue to believe it to be so.

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A rabbit quietly sits near my RV ... Photo by Pat Bean

 “Forever is composed of nows.” Emily Dickinson 

White-tailed deer ... Photo by Pat Bean

Animal life here at Farragut State Park goes about its daily passage of time in view of My RV window. I watch a constant stream of rabbits hopping among the shadows of the trees, noisy squirrels chattering as they scamper on the branches above, mourning doves and dark-eyed juncos picking at the bird seed I scattered, colorful butterflies flitting by, a black-chinned hummingbird drinking from my small nectar feeder, and an occasional deer sauntering through the woods. 

My heart welcomes such sights and I ask myself why these simple animals give me so much pleasure. I pondered this for a long time before deciding there was no simple answer. 

Their lives speak of freedom to me, yet I know these animals have things to fear: Raptors and coyotes ever looking for a meal, hunters with guns, and even Mother Nature herself when she decides to stage a stormy tantrum. 

The alarm call of chickadees when a sharp-shinned hawk is nearby, the fake injury performance of a killdeer to lead predators away from its chicks, the quick scampering away of rabbits at the slightest noise and the cautious look around before a deer abandons the safety of the forest tells me these animals are not unaware of the dangers. 

Is this so different from the anxiety and stress humans have for finding a job, feeding their families, securing a roof over their heads, and for me these days, worrying about a loved one soon to be deployed to Afghanistan. Mother Nature even taunts us with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods. 

I guess life wasn’t meant to be easy. We probably wouldn’t appreciate it if it was. 

A butterfly briefly settles ... Photo by at Bean

Watching animals live their life outside my window puts me in the moment. And perhaps this is the best reason of all of why I enjoy doing it so much. We can’t change what happened yesterday, and worrying about tomorrow is useless – unless we’re actually doing something to make tomorrow better, and the only way we can do that is to live in the moment. 

 The animals going about their daily business in sight of my RV window remind me of this. And for that I’m thankful.

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“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough. — Frank Crane

The faithful, trusting robin ... Photo by Pat Bean

It’s magic. I’m standing eye-to-eye, three feet away from a robin sitting on a nest. She’s looking straight at me and I’m talking to her quietly. “And how’s the good mother this morning. What a good mother you’re going to make.”

She stares back at me, hopefully understanding that my heart wants only the best for her. The trust I see in her eyes tells me she at least understands I mean her no harm. I’d like to know how many tiny blue eggs she’s sitting on, but I’ve never seen her nest untended. To get any closer I believe would destroy our human-bird relationship. So I patiently wait for the day when I can count hungry gaping mouths. That’s assuming of course, the eggs are successfully hatched.

It’s the fourth morning in a row that I’ve visited this faithful mother-to-be. Her nest sits on a three-inch brick ledge on the side of the Visitor Center at Farragut State Park near Couer d’Alene, Idaho. Another robin has a nest on a ledge on the back side of the building. She flies away at the first sight of me coming around the corner 30 feet away. I see fear in her eyes as she watches me from the top of a nearby tree. I stay away from her nest. I don’t want to worry her more.

I wonder why she fears me so and why the other robin is more trusting. What different lives they must have led, I think as I reflect on my own life. I don’t give my trust easily or often. Life taught me not to do so.

Meanwhile, I’ve told no one here at the park the location of my trusting robin’s nest. But its easily seen and accessible ledge offers it little protection. All I can do is hope others who spot it are worthy of the same trust the robin gives me. I also hope one day to share a picture of tiny robins sharing a nest that sits on a brick ledge.

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Red-breasted nuthatch ... Wikipedia photo

“To feel keenly the poetry of a morning’s roses, one has to have just escaped from the claws of this vulture which we call sickness.” Henri Frederic Amiel.

Farragut State Park

My arrival at Farragut State Park, a former naval base where nearly 300,000 sailors were trained during World War II was greeted by rain, more rain and then bronchial sickness. For two weeks straight, neither the rain nor my cough let up. Here I was in the beautiful Idaho Panhandle, my RV sitting in the middle of a majestic Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine grove, and all I could do was stare out the window at it. I didn’t even have Internet which, by the way, is the reason my normal Monday and Friday blogs have been irregular lately.

Thank goodness I at least had birds to keep me company. The morning after my arrival, before I got sick, I had put out bird seed and a hummingbird feeder. It didn’t take my feathered friends long to find the resources. The robins and dark-eyed juncos, both ground feeders, arrived first. A Black-chinned hummingbird claimed the hanging nectar.  Then came the chickadees, both chestnut-backed and mountain species.  They dee-dee-deed for me as they flittered among the trees every time the rain let up for a little bit.

Mourning doves then showed up, as did western bluebirds and a tree-clinging red-breasted nuthatch that nimbly went up and down the trunk of the fir tree closest to my motor home. It was my favorite.

But today, the sun is out and my cough is gone. So if you’ll excuse me, after posting this blog from Ralph’s Cafe in Bayview that sits just outside the park, I’m going to go for a hike. The vulture of sickness has flown away.

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“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.” — Carl Sandburg

Although I saw no bear or fish, this majestic sculpture I left behind in Salmon, Idaho, was a fair representation of the wild and mostly secluded landscape my journey took me on this day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

My drive the next day was awesome. Not only did it take me through spectacular scenery it treated me to the sight of two bald eagles soaring against a cliff backdrop that heightened the details of their flight. Two adults, white heads glistening in the sunlight, flew before me, their magnificent wings stretched out gathering in the wind.

I understand the reasoning of Ben Franklin, who wanted the turkey to be this country’s national emblem because the bald eagle is a scavenging thief. But had he, I wondered, ever seen their majesty as I had this day. Not even the day I counted 149 bald eagles sitting around on the ice and in trees at Farmington Bay in Utah a half dozen years ago could compare.

The sighting came outside of Missoula, Montana, on Highway 90 through the Lolo National Forest.

Earlier in the day, I had driven for a ways along the Salmon River, bringing to the forefront grand memories of a raft trip I had taken down it through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. While I’m always reminding myself to live in the present and not the past, these memories, I decided, were part of this day and it was right to acknowledge them.

Leaving the Salmon River behind, I entered the Bitterroot National Forest and its poetic inspiring landscape.  Winding rivers, snow-capped mountains, roadside deer, purple, blue and yellow wildflowers. The entire 140-miles from Salmon to Missoula on Highway 93 were designated scenic byways.

Normally I would have stopped in Missoula, but storms were predicted for the next day and so I drove on, intending to reach my destination at Farragut State Park in the Idaho Panhandle, still almost 200 miles away by mid-afternoon. While it was indeed a long day’s drive for me, the sight of the eagles had vanished any weariness. It was as if I had a pair of bald eagles cheering me on the entire rest of the journey.

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