While Dodging Covid 19, Harleys, Hurricanes, Derechos, and 130 Degree F Heat— Why Not Visit Massacre Rocks?

Peggy and I are wrapping up our travels around the US. This post features the hazards of our road trip and Massacre Rocks State Park along the Oregon Trail in Idaho.

We were greeted by this ferocious beast at Massacre Rocks SP. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy and I have been on numerous road trips over the years, a quarter of million miles worth according to the odometers on our two small RVs. But nothing can match how strange this summer has been. Let me start by noting our 8,000 mile journey has taken us through 18 states (plus the Navajo Nation) that have had the not-so-coveted designation of being Covid-19 hot spots. I start each morning by feeling my forehead and breathing a sigh of relief when it is cool. If I were you, I wouldn’t come within 600 feet of us. Or 6 miles. Screw the 6-foot rule. When we get home we are going to self-quarantine for 6 months. Or at least 6 days.

Peggy demonstrates just about the right amount of distance to stay away from us after our journey through 18 states noted for their Covid-19! She is standing out on a floating pier on the Snake River, enjoying the beauty of the area.

There were some potential Covid-19 hotspots we have avoided, however. Peggy and I crossed off South Dakota even though we wanted to visit the Bad Lands and I would have found the motorcycle rally in Sturgis interesting. It’s kind of a Biker’s Burning Man. Hanging out with 250,000 Harley fanatics who were reluctant to wear masks and liked to party in crowded bars didn’t seem particularly wise, however.

The Brothers of Morte (death), wearing leather jackets with an image of a skull with a candle burning out zoomed around us on their bikes heading for Sturgis. The message somehow seemed appropriate for the huge gathering during a highly contagious pandemic.

But Covid-19 has been only one of several potential disasters out here on the road this summer. For example, it’s 108° F outside now. That’s miserable, and it can be dangerous. But what if we were in Death Valley? It’s a go-to place for Peggy and me. We’ve been there many times. Earlier this week, it saw a whopping 130 degrees F (54.5 C)! It was the hottest place on earth at the time and was recorded as one of the four top temperatures ever documented. I put on my Death Valley hat in honor of the occasion. Why whine about 108?

Here I am with my Death Valley hat on in front of a large granite rock that dominated our camp site at Massacre Rocks State Park. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Lightning storms and forest fires come with the excessive heat and are once again devastating the West. Two years ago I was dodging fires as I backpacked 750 miles down the PCT. They’re back with a vengeance now, roaring through Northern California and causing deadly fire tornadoes. I’m ever so glad I am not out on the trail. Fires are much easier to dodge in Quivera the Van than on foot. And we have air-conditioning.

Peggy and I noted this sign as we drove up to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon. We spotted a wild grass fire in the distance.

But how about dodging hurricanes? In mid-July, our kids rented a lovely house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina to celebrate Peggy’s 70th Birthday. It was the primary reason for our road trip and a fun way to bring our families together and make up for the family trip on the Rhine River Peggy had planned. Europe won’t let us near the continent.

Our grandkids were a little surprised, however, to see their 77 year old grandfather and 70 year old grandmother risking their necks out body surfing and riding boogie boards with them. “Older” people aren’t supposed to behave that way. It was the crowded beach that worried me, however. That and the dark clouds that hung on the horizon. A week later the Outer Banks had to be evacuated due to the threat from Hurricane Isaias. We dodged the bullet by a week.

The waves were fun and the beach was gorgeous on the Outer Banks but the crowds with their potential coronavirus and the dark clouds with their threat of severe weather were worrisome.

That was minor in comparison to the derecho that roared across Iowa. On August 8th, Peggy and I had driven across the state, laughing about how corn was the scenery. I’d stopped taking photos after 20 pictures. We were camping just across the border that night when a thunderstorm came through that rocked our van and lit up the night sky. We thought of it as entertainment without a clue about the massive storm that was brewing. When we pulled out in the morning, clear skies graced our road west. On the 10th, we were at Buffalo Bill’s Ranch enjoying a beautiful day on the North Platte when the derecho ripped across Iowa and wiped out 40% of the state’s corn crop.

I took this peaceful photo featuring a silo and corn two days before the derecho had devastated 40% of Iowa’s corn crop.
We were unaware of the derecho in Iowa as we wiled away the day at the Buffalo Bill Ranch on the North Platte River. Our only worry was the big bull nearby. (The horses were miniatures but the bull was still the biggest one I have ever seen!)

While dodging all of these potentials disasters, why visit a place known as Massacre Rocks? The answer is simple. How could we not? Peggy and I had been following the Oregon Trail since we left Nebraska and Massacre Rocks State Park on the Snake River in Idaho is a noted location along the way. As the name suggest, it is symbolic of one of the challenges faced by the pioneers, attacks by hostile natives. I suspect we would be hostile too if a stranger rode into town and wanted to steal our property.

The name is something of a misnomer, since the attacks on wagon trains took place a few miles away. The pioneers were not happy with all of the large rocks in the area, however. They provided an ideal place to organize and ambush or to shoot arrows from behind. Peggy and I, on the other hand, were not worried about anyone shooting arrows at us and found the rocks and the river quite beautiful. I think you will agree…

Peggy and I pulled into the park and checked out the river. We met the cottontail featured above and hiked out onto the small pier. These gorgeous cliffs were along the way.
Peggy captured this photo of the cliff as we walked down and the following three photos from the pier.
A different look at the cliff. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Looking down the river from the pier. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A view across the river. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

While Peggy stayed in camp captured by a book she was reading, I went for a hike the next morning. Following are several photos I took.

Early morning view from the floating pier.
Downriver view across a field of sage.
And another view featuring silver sage.
Like sage, telegraph weeds and their bright flowers are a common plant of the West.
This member of the sunflower family got its name because it grew in abundance along the disturbed ground created by building the first telegraph lines across America.
I was treated to a different view hiking up the river. Cattail reflections seemed impressionistic.
True to its name, the park was filled with impressive rocks.
I took advantage of Apple Photo to create this old-fashioned look.
Another upriver view.
A number of impressive rocks were also found away from the river.

That evening Peggy joined me as I repeated the walk I had done in the morning.

Peggy caught this interesting view of one of two islands in river at the park.
I took a side view that emphasized the cattails.
A cap rock made of lava dominated the heights on the opposite side of the river.
A close up. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The setting sun bathed the Snake River in light…
And, for my final photo, provided a soft look for the opposite side of the river.

NEXT POST: The Great 1908 Auto Race from New York to Paris.

40 thoughts on “While Dodging Covid 19, Harleys, Hurricanes, Derechos, and 130 Degree F Heat— Why Not Visit Massacre Rocks?

  1. The photo of the cliff that Peggy took almost looks like a totem had been carved and her view across the river looks like steps for a giant to climb the hill.
    I’ve worked in 110 degree heat, but 130*F is pushing it for anybody!!

    • Peggy had commented on the faces in the rocks as well, G. As for giants, I wouldn’t be surprised if the country harbored a few.
      Backpacking up mountains two years ago on my journey down the PCT was enough for my 75 year old body! But as a kid, I worked in the fruit orchards in the Sierra foothills picking pears when the temps would climb up to at least 105. I was a kid then, however! 🙂 –Curt

  2. Pingback: While Dodging Covid 19, Harleys, Hurricanes, Derechos, and 130 Degree F Heat— Why Not Visit Massacre Rocks? – ReeelEyes

  3. You two are certainly far braver than the likes of me! For an update back here in home country… we hit 99º one day last week ON THE COAST (or very near it). Can’t imagine what it might have been in your neck of the woods. I have this vague sense that you’re in what late hubby used to refer to as The Applegate. Then again last night we had a whole 0.15″ of rain! First measurable gift from the gods since mid-June.

    I’ve been to Death Valley a few times and was awed by the abstracts and colors, but oh! that heat!!! Back in my carefree wandering days in the little Orange VW bug, cross-country trips across the continent… I’d mostly take my vacation after the kids returned to school, so that put me going through Death Valley in September. Amazing the places that VW took me. No air conditioner, pedaling as fast as I could going uphill on the interstates. I was much younger then. 😀

    Happy and safe trails to you both as you head homeward.

    • Had a bug and a VW camper in my youth, as well Gunta. Loved both of them. 🙂 Not sure on the braver of more foolish. Grin. Glad we made the trip, however. As for Applegate, yes we live on the Upper Applegate Valley about a mile before Applegate Lake. And it’s been hot there! It always is in August and seemed even more so this year. Or so we have been told by the young man who has been watering our flowers for us!
      We tend to stay out of Death Valley in the summer as well, but I remember being in nearby Las Vegas when the temp hit 117. Hottest I’ve ever experienced was 120 in Palm Springs, once. –Curt

    • We were worried about the state borders here as well, Peggy. We never had any problems with crossings, however, or requirements to quarantine. Iowa was hit hard. And now it is the fires in California and a double hurricane threatening Texas and Louisiana. With global warming who knows what will happen next. 2020 will go down in all sorts of history books, unless, of course, 2021 is worse.
      We are really glad we did our road trip. (Home tomorrow.) Lots of good experiences even with the danger. –Curt

    • It’s been an adventure, Kelly. 🙂 I’ll credit our health to paranoia and our dodging the weather to luck! 🙂
      Had I been thinking, I would have stood next to the bull (on the other side of the fence) for perspective. He was indeed a big boy. Grin. Had Buffalo Bill still been around, the bull certainly would have been part of the show, right up there with Annie Oakley!
      Are you at Tahoe? Do they have the fires in Sierra and Lassen Counties under control? Is the smoke driving you crazy? –Curt

      • Hey! You can never be too paranoid about your health in the middle of a pandemic! 🙂 Yes, we’re in Zephyr Cove on the east shore of Lake Tahoe. The smoke was so bad two days ago that we couldn’t even see the lake. It has since gotten a tiny bit better, but comes and goes with the breeze. I think the fire north of Truckee (Loyalton) is under control now but I’m not sure about the others. Based on today’s smoke, there must be a few still burning. Our family friends in Fairfield evacuated two nights ago but thankfully have returned to their home. Practically the entire city of Vacaville was on fire and Travis AFB was even evacuated. Worst of all, Big Basin Redwood SP has been burned pretty badly. We’ll have to wait and see if the redwoods survive. So sad.

      • The good news is that most of the redwoods in Big Basin seemed to survive. I ran walking tours through the area years ago. It would be tragic to lose the giants. I guess they have seen their share of fires in 2,000 years. 🙂
        I also used to camp bicyclists at Zephyr Cove as well, BTW. Even before that I used to deliver dry cleaning to Bill Harrahs home where he put up all of his stars. The laundry I worked for had a dry cleaners that took care of Harrahs account for the stars. –Curt

      • Yes, I read today that the redwoods should be okay. It’s not their first rodeo! 🙂 So cool about Bill Harrah! His old house is about two minutes down the road in the neighboring neighborhood. I toured it last year. Pretty amazing and what a view!! Thanks, Curt.

    • Always glad to have you along, Andrew! And I haven’t even started writing about our experiences on America’s back roads. Have to say we’ve loved the experience, especially since we started following the Oregon Trail. Knowing you affection for the Old West, I think you will like the posts I do on it. –Curt

  4. Hey! a little respect for Iowa corn, if you please. And no mention of the soybeans? No survey of tractor colors? No analysis of the respective pros and cons of Harvestore silos? What kind of traveler are you? Some people call Iowa boring. We always called it subtle. By the way — do you know that it’s entirely possible to hear the corn grow? The scientists have taken really sensitive recording devices into the fields and captured the sound — just as we did on July nights at the height of the growing season. We used our ears, though; it’s that loud.

    If you’d had a different time schedule and had landed in the Texas/Louisiana area this coming week, you could have experienced Natures BOGO sale — two hurricanes for the prep of one! It’s just so 2020.

    • Laughing, Linda. Did I forget to mention the soybeans? I think that they were laughing at the derecho. And yes, for almost every corn patch there was a soybean patch.
      It was pretty much corn and soybeans starting in Indiana, moving through Illinois, across Iowa and even Nebraska. We were still finding it in Wyoming and Idaho, where they are only supposed to grow potatoes. What is the world coming to?
      As for the sound of the corn growing, I understand it screams when its ears are sliced off.
      I’ve been following your double dose of hurricanes and no thank you. Tony has been keeping us filled in. One, because he lives in Florida and two, because part of his responsibility is dealing with them.
      We are about home and have forest fires to worry about. As well as Covid. 2020 is a doozy. And it isn’t even November yet! –Curt

  5. Wow, what a journey and lovely chronicle of so much of what we are experiencing these days in this country. Relieved to hear you chose to forgo going through Sturgis, and delighted that you chose to stop at Massacre Rock SP. What a gorgeous place so beautifully rendered in your photographs. I am bookmarking it as a place to visit if the opportunity ever arises.

    • It’s been fascinating to see how different people around the nation have been responding to the coronavirus, Arati. Most are showing at least some level of concern, but there are plenty who aren’t. And, given the nature if the disease, it requires close to a united effort to keep it in check. And a healthy dose of paranoia.
      We were really surprised by the beauty of Massacre Rocks. Definitely worth a visit. Thanks. –Curt

    • It’s been quite the trip, Gerard. Lots of good stuff but there were challenges. And, yes, Australia has had its challenges. Horrendous fires and heat, just like California. In fact, I just read that California is recruiting fire fighters from Australia. –Curt

    • Just what we needed, Alison. And Peggy, who takes birthdays seriously, even more so those that end in zero, feels that she has had an appropriate introduction to her seventh decade. 🙂 Thanks. –Curt

  6. I’m quite envious of your time on the road and the ground you’ve covered. I’m no slouch, having been to CO and back twice and headed out this week for CO again, then cross-country to PA and DC and then back home, BUT you’ve still got me beat (handily), and you’ve seen some amazing territory. I’ve just read your last two Arches posts also – that area alone is a real winner. I have always found crossing states like Iowa (or N. Dakota or Kansas) kind of soothing. Yes, the corn and soybeans and flatness can get boring, but I still love it!

    What kind of RV do you drive, and where do you generally stop to camp? I am semi-serious about trying out an RV, but I really don’t want to deal with hooking up a bunch of stuff every night. Hope you are safely home by now.

    • I have been thinking about you and Linda and Karen as yet another hurricane heads your way, Lexi. Hopefully you will dodders it again.
      Yes, we put on a few miles and truly enjoyed our trip. But it sounds like you have a few thousand behind you as well.
      Peggy and I have what is considered a class B motorhome and love it. There are several different ones on the market now. Ours is 22 feet long and is called a Pleasure Way. We had ours for 13 year now and it is the second one we have owned. They have become quite popular. Unfortunately, the price has skyrocketed and the new ones don’t have as much storage space. Ours comes with a stove, refrigerator, microwave, bathroom, and king sized bed that turns into a couch. There are two tables that can be set up or taken down. The passenger chair swivels around and creates a work space for me while Peggy does her thing in the back. 🙂 Since we have a generator we can camp anywhere but running the air-conditioning really does need a plug in. You can also outfit the RV with solar panels. We mainly use the generator to charge our house battery and to charge our electronic gadgets. The RV has a fresh water tank, grey water tank and black water tank. The house battery will run the lights, fan, pump. Using a converter, we can also charge our electronic devices. If you are on the move, your car battery will charge the house battery each day. If you are careful, you can use the house battery for 3-4 days before recharging it. We’ve made it for 7. The van also comes with a propane heater. The stove runs off of propane as does the refrigerator. The refrigerator also runs off of electricity and the battery.
      I’ll bet that was more informative than you wanted, Lexi!
      PS… hooking it up and unhooking it is a matter of about ten minutes. We normally don’t hook our sewer line up but dump the tanks every 3-5 days depending on use. It’s not hard but you do need a dump station or a sewer hookup at your campsite. All RV campgrounds and most state parks have dumping facilities. –Curt

  7. Kurt,
    I love to read your blogs on your travels and I’m glad you escaped all the storms unharmed and well. I never heard of a Derecho and had to look it up. I was just wondering how long the derecho lasted? was it just a matter of hours or days? Just curious

    • First, thanks Trish. Glad you are enjoying my blog. Like you, I was unfamiliar with derecho. This particular one that hit Iowa so hard lasted approximately 14 hours as it made its way across the state. –Curt

  8. You’ve definitely dodged some hot spots (well, not that 108-degree one) in your love of travel, but yes, you may want to quarantine when you get home. Just to rest, if nothing else. Thanks for sharing Massacre Rocks — had never heard of them, but I can see why you would want to visit. The whole area is interesting! Stay safe.

    • Laughing, AC. Had a slight temp the other day and kept testing it until it went away. Paranoid has become my middle name. I’ll bet your couriers are being super careful as well. Thanks. –Curt

  9. Hi Curt and Peggy. First, Happy Birthday Peggy! It sounds like your celebration was the perfect solution during these challenging times. What an adventure you two have had! Dodging Covid, hurricanes, derechos, and probably a few crazies thrown in for spice! Gorgeous photos and great commentary – I never knew about telegraph weeds. Thanks so much for taking us along on your epic adventure. And thanks also for the great info on your camper. I’m curious about the name Quivera? 🙂 ~Terri

    • First, thanks Teri. The journey had pretty much all of the excitement a road trip should. 🙂 I’ve got several more posts on it. And thanks from Peggy.
      As for Quivera, the van was named after a mythical Native American city that kept moving around and no-one could ever find it! Quivera’s predecessor was named Xanadu. Are you seeing a theme here? 🙂 –Curt

  10. I just read about your trip home from your family gathering….avoiding the virus…would of been my concern as it was with you guys….loved the pictures so much…felt I was on your trip with you…it was a delight…scary with the dark skies and maybe hurricanes… but in all the miles you travelled you enjoyed yourselves…and are always ready to do it again..I admire your stamina….

    • It was quite the trip, Linda. I’ll be doing a series on some of the highlights. A healthy dose of paranoia was just what the trip needed for safety! As much as possible we stayed on the back roads. Thanks for commenting and following the blog. Sorry we didn’t get to meet up with you in Oregon. Peggy speaks warmly of you.
      We are now in Florence, Oregon, escaping from the nasty smoke for a few days. –Curt

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