Posts Tagged ‘favorite hikes’

Canada Geese at the Great Salt Lake Nature Center -- Photo by Pat Bean

 “Poets who know no better rhapsodize about the peace of nature, but a well-populated marsh is a cacophony.” — Bern Keating

Looking across Farmington Bay at the Wasatch Mountains. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Favorite Hikes:

 One of my favorite hikes when I lived in Northern Utah was a gentle trek on a circular boardwalk found at the Great Salt Lake Nature Center. http://tinyurl.com/45jykl6

Located in the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area just north of Salt Lake City, the mile and a half circular trail provides excellent views of wetlands wildlife.

 It was a trail I hiked early on weekend mornings, or in the early evenings after getting off from work. Whatever the time, however, my walk always began with a chorus of marsh wrens that was soon joined by a background of croaky frog chirps.

Hike slowly and look closely so you don't miss such things as the yellow-headed blackbird hiding in the rushes. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And there always surprises, like coming around a corner of cattail or bulrush to see coots or pied-billed grebes floating in a small bit of open water. Or climbing to the top the 30-foot observation tower to see avocets and northern shovelers off in the distance, and song sparrows and red-winged blackbirds flitting around below.

On a couple of occasions I even saw red foxes, including a den of young ones. And I almost always saw northern harriers and kestrels circling overhead. In the winter, bald eagles were a frequent sight, as were tundra swans in the spring.

Once a flock of graceful sandhill cranes flew close overhead, their rattling trumpet call echoing through the air. It was an experience that stirred my soul and made me grateful just to be alive. If you’re ever in the area, it’s a hike not to miss.

Just be sure and take some mosquito repellent with you. Mother Nature is kind, but not always considerate.

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Inside the Ngorongoro Crater -- Photo by William Warby

 “I dream of hiking into my old age.” — Marlyn Doan

Favorite Hikes:

The two weeks I spent in Tanzania and Kenya in 2007 were mostly spent in a Land Rover, bouncing across the landscape in search of exotic animals and birds, or at a guarded or fenced lodge where the wild animals were kept at bay.

Walking through the bush, at least on the tour my friend Kim and I took, was strictly forbidden. Since we spent a lot of time looking at lions, leopards, cheetahs, cape buffalo and elephants, we didn’t complain too much.

 One hike, however, was included in our itinerary. A hike to the top of a ridge in the Gnorongoro Crater. The 100-square-mile depression was formed a couple of million years ago when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed. It’s in this crater, in Oldupai Gorge, where the oldest human fossils have been found. The crater is also the location used for the first monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

This cape buffalo dude looks like he has the same "I'm-bad-tail-up-strut-attitude of my dog, Maggie, after she's growled at a dog six times her size. Photo by Pat Bean

Our native guide, Bilal, who drove us two single ladies through Tanzania for a week, tried to dissuade us from going on the hike. He said African buffalos, responsible for over 200 deaths annually, were in the area.

But at our insistence, he released us into the care of an armed guide for the trek up to the ridge top. Bilal was allowed nothing more than a large stick as protection from animals in the national parks we visited and also was required to stay with his vehicle.

The hike started out with us swishing through long grass that had me worrying more about snakes than wild buffalo. It soon gave, however, to a steep forested landscape. I remember some thick-trunk large trees as we neared the top of the ridge, where we had an aerial view of the Olmorti Crater below.

It felt really good to be hiking.  The trek, except for the dramatic African landscape we walked through, was quite uneventful. We didn’t catch sight of a buffalo until we were safely back in the Land Rover with Bilal, who visible breathed a sign of relief once we were back under his care.

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The Quintana Jetty lets me hike out into the ocean. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Mother Teresa

Travels With Maggie

I made many trips to Surfside Beach when I lived in Lake Jackson, Texas, many years ago. Getting there meant crossing a tall bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, which stretches for 3,000 miles along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Fewer trips were made to Bryan Beach, which is separated from Surfside by a mere 500-foot wide channel that provides access to the waterway and also to the port in Freeport, which calls itself the Shrimp Capital of the World.

In the past, getting to Bryan Beach meant crossing a drawbridge that was raised to allow boats to pass. Water vessels had the right of way, so it often took awhile to make it across.

Access today is provided by a tall duplicate of the Surfside Bridge. And since Bryan Beach is also now also home to the Quintanta Neotropical Bird Sanctuary, it’s the island beach of choice for me these days.

A ruddy turnstone sits on the rocks that line the Quintana Jetty. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A trip to either beach, however, calls for a walk on the jetties that line the shipping channel. Both stretch over half a mile out into the ocean. And while they might not be what one thinks of as a typical hiking trail, that’s how I consider them.

A walk on these narrow cement paths can mean a drenching, especially on a day when the waves are behaving rambunctiously. But the views are worth it.

I love to watch as the sea continually rolls into the shore, creating azure and white patterns of light and shadow that can be hypnotizing. If I’m lucky, I’ll see a string of brown pelicans winging by just above the water’s surface, or a cormorant dive beneath the surface and come up with a fish in its mouth. And I’ve never failed to spot sandpipers hanging out on the rocks beside the jetties.

Passing shrimp boats and dolphins are not rare either.

If there’s time, I add a bit more distance to my hike by strolling down the beach for a while in company of gulls, skimmers, plovers and sandpipers. Since I have a son who lives in the area, it’s a hike I get to take several times a year.

Life is good.

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“Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.” Thomas A. Bennett

 The first time I climbed Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, the five-mile round-trip hike felt like little more than a walk in the park. I noted, on returning, that I had done the trip in about half the time the trail guide said to allow.

Angel's Landing as seen from near the start of the trail. -- Photo by Pat Bean


 My last hike to the top two years ago took quite a bit longer than allowed, but the feeling of looking out on the magnificent view of the landscape below, as always, gave me energy I needed for whatever the year ahead might bring.

Perhaps that is why I keep returning and returning, over 30 times now, to repeat this scramble to the top of this Zion Canyon landmark. Actually, one does have to scramble but only the last half mile. The first two miles of steps are taken on a steep, but non-threatening trail.

The slower pace I set these days as I go up the path – with its hairpin turns from one mountain to a second mountain with a short canyon cool-off walk in between – have allowed me to better see and enjoy Mother Nature’s bounties: Bright red Indian paintbrush growing from rock cracks, a bird’s view of the Virgin River below, color variations in the sandstone walls, and the peregrine falcons that return to nest each year near the top of the landing.

Looking down from the top of Angel's Landing. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Guide books warn that this hike is not for those who fear heights. A warning not to be taken lightly as several people have fallen to their deaths while hiking it. I find this hard to believe. I’ve never feared falling on this trail — but then I respect the cliff edges and always hold to the chains when crossing narrow junctures.

I’ve hiked to the top of this special place in scorching hot weather, in high winds, in rain, once in a snow flurry and once with a knee wrapped in support bandages. I’ve done the trip alone and with friends and once with three young granddaughters in tow.

Angel’s Landing is a part of me. I have no better words to describe it, even though I fear only readers who have their own special place will understand.

This morning, as I sit here and write with the chill of a Central Texas winter still lingering outside my RV, I hear Angel’s Landing calling me.

I’ll see you in April, I reply. And I’ll sit on top of you once again no matter how long it take me to get up there.


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Morning Glory Natural Bridge -- Photo by Jay Wilbur

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see.” John Burroughs  

Travels With Maggie

 I learned about Negro Bill Canyon Trail at the visitor center in Moab, Utah, where I asked if there was a good hiking trail on which I could take my dog.

Moab is located adjacent to Arches National Park that has fantastic trails, but dogs are not allowed on them. The kindly desk clerk directed me to take Highway 191 north to Highway 128, which parallels the Colorado River, and then to look for a small parking area at the trailhead after about three miles.

It was easy to find and soon my dog and I were hiking up a narrow canyon trail that weaved across a small stream.

My hiking companion at the time was not Maggie. It was Peaches, a beautiful golden cocker spaniel who was then 15 years old. Since this was my first significant hike since foot surgery, the dawdling footsteps of her four legs and my two legs were perfectly matched.

It was actually a great pace as the trail, with its tinkling stream, red rock walls, willow groves and other wonders of nature, deserved adequate time to be properly admired. After about two miles, the trail forked. Peaches and I took the path veering to the right, which went about another half mile before ending at Morning Glory Natural Bridge, a 75-foot tall, 243 foot arch span overseeing an alcove.

Here, in this grand and peaceful setting, with a canyon wren serenading us, Peaches and I ate a leisurely lunch from my small backpack before heading back. It was the last hike Peaches and I took together.

Negro Bill Canyon Trailhead sign off Highway 128 with the Colorado River flowing past on the far side of the road.

The next time I hiked the trail, I had Maggie, a black cocker spaniel whom I had rescued from a life of abuse. She had been a year old at the time, and from her actions on the trail I realized this was probably her first off-pavement walk, certainly her first time to cross a stream. She either had to be coaxed or carried across. .

While she never became the great hiker Peaches was, Maggie’s now quite eager to get off the beaten path. In that, she and I are alike.

*Negro Bill Canyon is named after William Granstaff, a cowboy who ran cattle in the canyon in the late 1870s. While the name is not exactly politically correct, it’s more so now since the name was changed from the original “N” word.

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Mount Ogden as seen from 25th Street in Ogden, Utah. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“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

Travels With Maggie

I was born in Dallas, where the highest landmark around was a skyscraper. My first view of a mountain didn’t happen until I was 14, when my aunt and uncle took me on vacation with them to Sequoia National Park in California.

The high peaks, some still snow-covered although it was mid-summer, called out to me: You belong here, this is home. But it took another 10 years before I would visit them again, and just about as long again until I finally lived in their shadows.

I tell everybody that the only thing I miss since I sold my home, and got rid of possessions so I could live my dream of traveling the country in a 22-foot long RV, is my bathtub. That’s almost true. I miss the daily presence of the mountains, and one in particular more than any other.

Mount Ogden as seen from the backside. The far right peak was the start of the men's downhill ski race for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Mount Ogden, which stretches 9,570 feet toward the sky, was my backyard for over 20 years. I climbed the 10-mile round-trip to its top several times with Maggie’s predecessor, a blonde cocker spaniel named Peaches. She had 10 times more energy than Maggie ever did, but so did I in those days.

I learned to ski on Mount Ogden when I was 40. Her trails offered me peace after a stressful day as a newspaper city editor and land issue fodder for stories when I was the paper’s environmental reporter.

While she blocked me from enjoying sunrises, the golden glow cast on her by the sun sinking in the west frequently warmed my heart. She provided me with birds to watch, wildflowers to smell and, rippling streams that serenaded me on hikes.

Mount Ogden’s Snowbasin ski resort was also home for all the 2002 Winter Olympic downhill events. I walked the steep runs created for them with presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was then president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympics. Once, very slowly, I even skied the lower section of the women’s downhill run.

On first seeing Mount Ogden again, which I’ve done at least once yearly since going on the road seven years ago, she brings tears to my eyes, just as if she were my own mother whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. In a way that’s what she is.

Good mothers nurture their children. And Mount Ogden nurtures me.

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A wooden walkway anchored to moss covered rock walls keep your feet dry on the Franconia Notch Flume Gorge Trail. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“It is only when we silence the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.” — K.T. Jong.

Travels With Maggie

 Yesterday I took you on a summer day hike in the shadow of Wyoming’s Grand Tetons. Today I’ve decided we should take a fall walk up Flume Gorge in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

The trail begins in Franconia Notch State Park. You have to pay $12 to access it, but I doubt you’ll regret the expense.

After crossing over the the Pemigewasset River, the path begins its ascent up the flume, a geologic wonder created from molten rock deep below the surface millions of years ago. The rock cooled, fractured and was eventually exposed by the forces of erosion.

The narrow gorge section of the trail consists of a series of bridges and steps anchored to steep moss-covered walls below which flows a rippling stream. The final section of the trail requires squeezing past a torrent of plunging water known as Avalanche Falls, an appropriate name because the falls was created in 1883 after a storm washed away a huge overhanging boulder.

The water level in the stream bed below the trail was low the fall day I hiked this scenicl trail. -- Photo by Pat Bean At the top, hikers can either take a shortcut back to the visitor center or continue on to Liberty Gorge, where another cascading stream makes its way down to the Pemigewasset River.

I continued onward, along with about half of the dozen or so hikers who had made it to the top the same time as me. While they set a fast pace on the trail, I dawdled, taking time to identify the birds and flowers and to photograph the beauty around me.

The result was that I soon had the path to myself. Miraculously it continued that way. I slowed my pace even more, drinking in the tranquility of nature’s whimsies right down to my little toes. Hug-able trees, fragrant flowers, a mysterious dark pool, water singing as it splashed playfully about, and scattered glacial rocks, one as large as a cabin with an interpretive sign to denote its importance.

“Life is good,” I told Maggie when I finally returned to my RV. Dogs weren’t allowed on the trail.

She wagged her tail and asked: So where’s my treat?

I gave her two

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The path on the right leads to Taggart Lake at the foot of the Tetons. It’s one of my favorite hikes. — Photo by Pat Bean


Do you have a favorite hike that you would like to share?


“There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.” — Josephine Hart

Travels With Maggie

There is nothing that pleases me more on a hike than to be serenaded by the brisk giggles of a tumbling stream. If you add jagged mountains bearing glaciers on the horizon, you’ve taken my kind of walk from merely bliss to absolute glory.

While Mother Nature has recently been playing weather tricks on Texans, she was playing nice the summer day a couple of years ago when I hiked the Taggart Lake Trail in the Tetons, where glacial streams flow down from snow-covered peaks. Mother Nature’s mixture here of water, mountains, blue sky, wildflowers and twittering birds is a recipe of perfection.

Taggart Creek: A giggling beauty. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I had hiked this trail several times previously, each time finding new delights to awe me, like a red-tailed hawk circling low overhead, or Indian paintbrush coloring a patch of the meadow red with its blooms.

This day, I had brought along a couple of friends who were newcomers to the trail. I took great delight in their delight at almost every step as we hiked the mile and a half to the lake.

Sharing Mother Nature, however, is a conundrum for me. While I want everyone to have an opportunity to enjoy this country’s scenic magnificence, I prefer my hikes be taken on uncrowded trails.

I share the locations of my favorite paths, however, because I truly believe we would have fewer psychotic people who commit harm if they had more grand canyons, meadows of bluebonnets, red rock arches and peregrine falcons in their lives.

So, if you’re ever driving between Jackson, Wyoming, and Yellowstone National Park, take the Teton Park Road past Moose to the Taggart Lake trailhead. You’ll emerge from the trail more peaceful — even if you’re not psychotic at all.

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