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A snowy egret at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. -- Photo by Pat Bean

A snowy egret at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. — Photo by Pat Bean

        “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” — Henry David Thoreau

Some of my Favorite Places

There are 59 national parks, and in my lifetime I’ve been to 44 of them, mostly missing the ones in Alaska. They are some of my favorite places in the world.

This pond captured images of the Wasatch Mountains and the clouds above them. I love it. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This pond captured images of the Wasatch Mountains and the clouds above them. I love it. — Photo by Pat Bean

On the other hand, there are over 550 national wildlife refuges. And they are also some of my favorite places – even though I haven’t kept track of the ones I’ve visited. During my nine years of traveling this awesome country, I stopped at any refuge in my vicinity, mostly to bird watch. .

Among the more memorable ones that would be on my list of the refuges I’ve explored, if I had such a list, would be Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, located 15 minutes from my son Lewis’ Texas Gulf Coast home, and where I turned him into a birding addict like me. This refuge has added 16 birds to my life list of 710 species.

But that pales with the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge that has given me 31 of my life birds. This refuge is very special to me because the first time I visited it was in the 1970s, when it was lush and green – and long before bird watching became one of my passions.

In the 1980s, I watched as the now 80,000-acre refuge was inundated by Great Salt Lake flood waters, whose salty content pretty much destroyed everything, including an almost new visitor’s center. I then regularly watched as the refuge, less than an hour’s drive from my Ogden, Utah, home for 25 years, made its comeback.

Pickleweed. I remember how thrilled I was when I saw the tiny beginning of this plant in a place desolate of greenery.

Pickleweed. I remember how thrilled I was when I saw the tiny beginning of this plant in a place desolate of greenery.

It started with pickleweed, one of the first plants to come back and one that helped eliminate the salt in the landscape. This was all explained to me during a tour of the damaged refuge for a newspaper story I was writing. Have I ever told you how much I loved my journalism career?

I was already retired, and traveling, but I made it to the grand opening of the refuge’s new visitor’s center in 2006. This time the center was located a good ways away from the flood zone, and next to Interstate 15 near Brigham City. The site offers visitors a convenient and quick view of a bit of what the refuge has to offer without the 10-mile drive on a rutted, unpaved road to the main refuge area.

I used to hate that rough ride – but I loved it, too. It kept the crowds away. Sometimes it seemed as if I had the whole refuge to myself, and if not, the other visitors were most likely to be nature lovers who, like me, thought the birds, animals and scenery were worth the bumpy drive.

If you’re one of us, along with visiting a national park during this year celebrating the system’s 100th birthday, you might want to also check out a national wildlife refuge. Most likely there is one not too far from where you live. https://www.fws.gov/refuges/

And if you’re interested in a good book, check out Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. It’s much about the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Living Life Almost Gracefully http://tinyurl.com/h97kl2v Chasing the Sun

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“A book is a magical thing that lets you travel to far-away places without ever leaving your chair.” – Katrina Mayer

Yosemite's Half Dome, which Nevada Barr wrote about in "High Country."

Yosemite’s Half Dome, which Nevada Barr wrote about in “High Country.” — Photo by Pat Bean

When a Travel Book is Not about Travel

As a person with wanderlust in her soul, I find that on any list – and there are many – of the best travel books, I’ve read almost every one. And if I haven’t, give me a year and I usually will have.

Sara Peretsky's Chicago. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Sara Peretsky’s Chicago. — Photo by Pat Bean

But this avid traveler has also discovered that a travel book isn’t always found on the travel book shelves. Two of my favorite authors, Nevada Barr and Sara Peretsky, write mysteries, which I love to read as much as I do travel books.

Barr’s character, Anna Pigeon, is a park ranger; and each of this author’s books increases my knowledge of one national park or another. Since I visit national parks as often as I can, reading Barr’s books has let me look at such parks as Yosemite, Guadalupe Mountains, Big Bend and Isle Royal through more knowledgeable eyes.

Peretsky’s character, V. I. Warshawski, meanwhile, gives me an insider’s look at Chicago.  What Sara has written about Chicago makes other travel books about the Windy City seem dull in comparison. Thankfully I get to visit Chicago more often than not because I have a son who lives there.

Isn’t it great when you can find two passions, like mine of reading mystery books and traveling,  that fit together so perfectly?

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Canoe Communications http://tinyurl.com/n9wvdx6  I loved this blog quote because it reminded me how connected we are to every living thing on this planet.

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 “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Blue Mesa Trail in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Blue Mesa

Big old petrified tree trunks like this is why it’s named Petrified Forest. — Photo by Pat Bean

I appreciate nature best when I can get up close and personal with it. I had that opportunity when I left Route 66 at the top of Windy Hill and hiked the Blue Mesa Trail.

The paved loop path, just a little over a mile long, drops about 100 feet down to the valley floor. It winds among the stratified rocks that tell 200-million-year-old stories, just as the petrified logs along the trail bear witness to an ancient forest.

Blue Mesa’s layered rocks contain 200-million years of the planet’s stories. — Photo by Pat Bean

A few people passed me on the hike, but mostly I had the trail to myself. It was an opportunity to drink in the peaceful stillness and ponder the creation of this landscape in which wind, water and the passing years were the artists.

My canine traveling companion, Pepper, greeted me as if I had been gone those 200 million years when I arrived back at our RV. I gave her treats and thought to myself that life couldn’t get any better.

Bean’s Pat: http://tinyurl.com/br2wub5 Take a walk with Mountain Mae.

*This recognition is merely this wandering/wondering old broad’s way of bringing attention to a blog I enjoyed – and thought perhaps my readers might, too. The Pat on the back is presented with no strings attached. May 29, patbean.wordpress.com

 

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Yellowstone's trails called to me, and I always answered. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“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

Yellowstone

My long-time Ogden, Utah, home was only a half day’s drive from Yellowstone – and so I visited it every year at least once. Fall, after the crowds had left, was always my favorite time. .

Most years it was a solo adventure. Usually I would wake up on a Saturday morning with an itch in my feet and simply take off.

I never failed to appreciate the beauty of this first national park. Yellowstone offered me my first glimpse of a wolf in its natural habitat. That’s a thrill that has stayed with me.

 

One of the park's many thermal pools. This one lies along the Morning Glory Trail that begins at Old Faithful. -- Photo by Pat Bean

But more often my joy came simply from hiking a trail and discovering bits and pieces of nature: a meadow full of yellow wildflowers, an elk on the banks of the Madison River, Fantastic views of the Firehole River from a high overlook, the bright turquoise of Morning Glory Pool, and of course the gurgling, hissing, spouting, smoking of the park’s geysers.

It became a tradition for me to sit on the balcony of the Old Faithful Inn, with margarita in hand, to watch Old Faithful blow water and steam high into the air.

How, I ask you, could Yellowstone National Park, not be on my list of favorite places.

Bean’s Pat: http://tinyurl.com/89aolmc The geology of Yellowstone.

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