Posts Tagged ‘mallards’

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien

An aerial view of Wolf Creek Pass and its ski area taken in August, 2008, after the snow melt. -- Photo by Doc Searls

Travels With Maggie*

“Way up high on the Great Divide” sang C. W. McCall in his 1975 recording of “Wolf Creek Pass.”

I experienced McCall’s lyrics,  although without the chickens, first hand this day, topping out my drive through the San Juan Mountains at 10,857 feet. Fresh snow had fallen during the night, and the trees on the sides of the steep mountains I traveled between were still draped in white.

In case you’re interested, McCall’ song can be heard at: http://tinyurl.com/3dvdo24

While the road, Highway 160, had been cleared of the storm’s droppings, it was still wet and slick – and quite icy in the two tunnels cutting through mountain rock.

Unlike the driver in McCall’s tune, however, my foot was frequently on my brakes. But since almost no other vehicles were on the road, and since I kept my speed slow enough to feel safe, my heart pounded only with the pleasant thrill of being privileged to drive through such a fantastic landscape.

I love dandelions, but then perhaps that's because I now don't have a lawn to maintain. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I passed quite a few large, scenic RV parks along my drive up and over Wolf Creek Pass, which traverses the mountains from South Fork to Pagosa Springs. But all were closed.

They reminded me why I usually took the more southerly route through New Mexico when heading northwest this time of year.

But I had no regrets. I may be an old broad, but I’m still up for an adventure.

I was quite happy, however, when I came upon the Riverside RV Park just outside Durango. It was open. While it had been a short day in miles, only 131, I was ready to take a break from sitting behind Gypsy Lee’s wheel.

And that I was assigned a site right next to a small pond, where mallards were floating, the ground was littered with dandelions, and where I could watch a robin pulling up a worm for dinner from the damp ground, was the cherry on the top of a hot fudge sundae.

Life was good once again. .

Day 8 of the journey, April 26, 2011.

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“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely…” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Gypsy Lee in a better place than a dinky RV park in Alamosa. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie*

My grandmother believed that trouble came in threes. I can’t tell you how many times in my life she was proved right, which is why I should have been more worried at the first setback of my perfect day.

My two previous overnight campgrounds were Colorado state parks with trails to walk, lakes to sit by, scenic landscapes out my window and birds to sing me awake in the morning. I expected tonight’s stay at San Luis State Park, just 20 miles down the road from the Great Sand Dunes, would offer much the same.

And well it might have if it hadn’t still been closed for the season – even though my Trailer Life Directory of RV campgrounds, my travel bible, said it opened for the season April 15.

The next closest campground I could locate was a KOA in Alamosa. It was another 25 miles to drive, but the directory’s ratings gave it a thumbs up, along with noting that it opened for the season on March 13.

Wrong again. It didn’t open until May 1.

A pair of mallards cheer up any day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I then realized my RV was pulling to the right and discovered the front passenger tire was low. My nearly new tire, I saw, had a nail in it. Quickly, I retreated to a tire store I had passed about five miles back up the road, thinking it would be an easy fix. Wrong.

Before beginning this trip, Gypsy Lee, which has over 115,000 miles on her, underwent some major wear and tear repairs, including new wheels to replace the corroded and cracked old ones. They were shiny, spiffy and expensive – and required a special key to unscrew their lug nuts, which someone had forgotten to give me.

The small Alamosa tire store, which was also a service station, couldn’t solve my problem. And by now it was after 6 p.m. and every place else was closed for the evening, even the place in Texas where I had bought the wheels. As a last resort, I called them thinking they could FedEx the part to Alamosa overnight.

I had air put in my tire, hoping it was a very slow leak, and retreated to a dinky RV park a few miles away where campers were allowed to dump their gray (dish-washing and/shower) water on the ground. I was not a happy camper. I might have whined a bit, except Gypsy Lee has a rule against such self-pity.

The best thing I have going for me as a lone female traveling this great country of ours is the confidence that I can handle what the road throws at me. This wasn’t the first, or the worse mishap, I had overcome in seven years of traveling.

So while I didn’t get a peaceful night’s sleep because of worrying about my situation, I awoke ready to solve it.

Thankfully my tire still had air in it, and the local Firestone tire shop I called as soon as they were open, said they could solve my problem. If they broke the studs getting the locks off, the sensible woman on the other end of the line told me, then they would just replace them. It wouldn’t be all that expensive.

It turned out they actually had a key for my wheels in stock, which they sold me for future emergencies. I was back on the road, my pocketbook only $22 thinner, within about 15 minutes.

Now let’s see. If I count the two closed RV parks and the nail-in-the-tire, that makes three things that went wrong yesterday.

If my grandmother was right, I had another perfect day ahead of me.

Continuing Day 7, April 25, 2001

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I named the upper one Peter, as in Cottontail. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The view out my rear window looking toward the John Martin Reservoir Dam. — Photo by Pat Bean


NOTE: I’ve been taking my blog readers on a journey from Texas to Idaho with me as Maggie and I go down the road. But while I’m writing a mile-by-mile travelogue so readers can actually follow me on a map or Google Earth, I may take three days of blogging to describe one day.

The result is that I’m farther down the road than my blog, which has confused readers. I know because they’ve told me. To solve that problem, I’m now adding a footnote to any blogs that are about a specific day of travel that happened earlier in time.

For example, today’s blog is about happenings that took place this past Sunday, and the footnote reads: April 24, Day 6 of the journey.

Travels With Maggie*

I realized when I woke this morning at John Martin Reservoir State Park in Colorado that it was Easter.

And a lovely one it was. Hasty Lake was winking at me in the morning light, robins were searching for worms beside my RV and a pair of mallards were floating and quacking among the reeds along the shoreline. Did you know that the mallard is the only duck that actually quacks.

As I sat, drinking my coffee and reading the news, or as much of it as I could handle for the day, I had a couple of visitors. Most appropriate ones, I might add.

Two small cottontails spent about 10 minutes roaming around my RV. I named the larger of the two Peter, and thought about Thornton Burgess’ “Adventures of Peter Cottontail” that I had so loved as a child. He wrote 26 books about the beloved rabbit, and while I’m sure I didn’t read all of them, I certainly read quite a few.

And now, since I was alone, I sang as much as I could remember of “Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail, hippity hop ….”  I suddenly felt like a child again, and at my age that’s a good way to feel.

The tune was still going through my head when Maggie and I got back on Highway 50, which we followed west through several small rural towns to La Junta. Along the way, I noticed quite a few redbud trees just popping with brand new hot-pink buds

They looked exactly like the blossoms of the redbud trees that I had photographed in early March in Harker Heights, Texas. I laughed, thinking that summer was just around the corner when I had left Texas.

It was sort of like being transported in a time machine. First remembering my childhood reading habits and now here I was enjoying spring all over again.

Pat Conroy, one of my favorite authors, sums it up: “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”

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Maggie leads the way during our Ogden Mountain bench trail hike ... Photo by Pat Bean

“True friends are the ones who never leave your heart, even if they leave your life for awhile.” Author unknown

Days 22-25

Catching up with the lives of old friends and renewing my bond with the Wasatch Mountains has kept me busy the past few days.

The Wasatch Mountains wore a misty hat the day we hiked the Ogden River Parkway ... Photo by Pat Bean

On my first full day in town, my friend Kim and I hiked an Ogden Mountain bench trail, one that held many memories for me. The mile and three-quarter loop was one I walked many afternoons to shake off the stress of my city editor job at the Standard-Examiner. 


Yellow and purple wildflowers brightened the trail this day, while scrub jays, black-headed grosbeaks and western kingbirds followed our passage. The scrub jay and grosbeak were the first for my annual bird list. Western kingbirds had followed me all the way from Texas to Utah.

A couple of days later, after a rainy day that left the mountain trails muddy, Kim and I hiked the Ogden River Parkway. We began the paved trail at Monroe Boulevard and followed it for a mile and a half to the mouth of Ogden Canyon. Western bluebirds, western kingbirds and mallards trailed along beside us.

Mallards along the Ogden River Parkway ... Photo by Pat Bean

Rainbow Gardens, both a gift shop and a restaurant, marked the end of the parkway, enticing us to stop awhile to browse and eat  before walking back to our vehicle. When my mother had been alive, this was her favorite place in Ogden to eat.  She always ordered the Gabby Crabby. I ordered the same in her memory.

From hiking, to staying up late one night drinking Jack Daniels and chatting in rapid pace with my friend Kim, to revisiting the newspaper where I worked for 25 years, to eating at familiar places, this visit seemed to be all about memories.

I’m glad I’m still making them. The past can be a pleasant place to revisit, but it’s not a place to live.

Copyrighted by Pat Bean

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