While I would have loved to stay with Martha and Tom in Redmond, Washington, as long as I had stayed with Marveen and Wayne in Nikiski, Alaska, I had to return quickly to Boulder. Before I planned my Alaska trip, I had signed up for a meditation retreat in Colorado that started just after I returned home, and I had made my reservation too late for me to return on the Alaska ferry on any earlier sailing.
Because Redmond and Boulder are about 1,400 miles apart, I couldn’t comfortably make the drive in fewer than three days on the road. So I stopped about one-third of the way in Ontario, Oregon, and planned to stop two-thirds of the way in Evanston, Wyoming, although both were long drives.
But when I entered Utah from Idaho, I stopped at the state visitor center, because I wanted to make a cup of tea and pick up a new Utah state map. Looking through the many brochures that these visitor centers have, I found one on birding in Utah. I happened to notice that this brochure said that the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge “is considered a top-ten in the world by many birding enthusiasts.” I don’t remember ever hearing of it before, but that statement certainly grabbed my attention. Even better, it was only two exits down the Interstate.
Pasteur famously said that chance favors the prepared mind. I say that spontaneously taking a chance can be better than sticking with a plan. I knew that this opportunity was too good to pass up no matter how late I would have to drive that night. The ranger at the refuge’s visitor center told me that my 5 p.m. arrival was perfect timing at the right season, and that I should plan on making the auto tour loop in two hours. In the event, I saw so much that I was there for almost four hours, leaving after dark with a two-hour drive to Evanston ahead of me.
It was absolutely worth it. This nearly flat land has marshes and canals that attract many species of birds as well as birders like me who are able to drive close to the birds, using our vehicles as blinds. The area reminds me of one of my favorite places, Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northern Nevada, but the Bear Lake refuge is even more beautiful, particularly at sunset with the golden light on the marshes and the mountains to the east and west.
While I had seen most of the bird species in refuge before, I got better photos of some of them.