The Grand Tetons… Mountains Close to Perfection

Photo of Gran Tetons by photographer Curtis Mekemson
If I were in charge of making mountains, I would use the Grand Tetons as a model. A blogging friend of mine told me that the first time she saw them, she started crying. They inspire that kind of awe.

Just before we reached Yellowstone NP on our four month trip around the US last fall, we drove through Grand Tetons National Park. I’ll be featuring photos Peggy and I took of the Grand Tetons and the Absaroka Range today.

As Peggy and I drove across the 9,658 feet (2,943 m) Togwotee Pass, we were excited. We were in the Rocky Mountains and had just crossed over the Continental Divide. We were back in the West! Rivers would now be flowing into the Pacific Ocean. Soon we would get our first views of the Grand Tetons— not that there was anything shabby about the scenery on pass. 

Photo of Togwotee Pass by Peggy Mekemson.
As we passed over the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass, our excitement grew. This area receives over 25 feet of snow a year, a figure that can climb as high as 50, which I suspect it has this year.
Photo of Aspens near Togwotee Pass by Curt Mekemson.
It was in October and the aspens near the pass were displaying their fall colors.
Photo of The Absaroka Range and aspens taken by Peggy Mekemson.
The Absaroka Range, which can be seen from the pass, provided a backdrop for this grove. The range serves as the eastern boundary to Yellowstone NP.
Photo of The Absaroka Range by Curt Mekemson.
My father once painted a picture of the Absaroka Range.
Photo of Herb Mekemson by Glen Fishback
Professional photographer Glen Fishback took this photo of my dad painting the Absaroka Range in the 1980s. Pop, as we knew him, had wandered around the country with his sister, Eleanor, a few years earlier. I took this photo through glass so I couldn’t capture it as well as I would have liked to. Glen used my dad as a model and this photo ended up in a national photography magazine.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
A final Highway 26 road shot of the Absaroka Range. The Grand Tetons were waiting.

The Grand Tetons are a baby range, relatively speaking, less than 10 million years old. Compare that with the Rockies at 50-80 million years or the Appalachians at over 300 million. That’s what gives them their rugged, good looks. Erosion hasn’t had time to wear away their jagged peaks. Earthquakes along the Teton fault on the east side of the range are responsible for their height. Plate tectonic movement, which is stretching the region in an east west direction, is responsible for the earthquakes. When the tension becomes too great, an earthquake takes place, usually of 7 to 7.5 magnitude, i.e. big. Seesaw-like, the mountains rise and the valley next to it falls along the 40 mile fault, with each earthquake averaging around 10 feet of up and down movement. It is estimated that the mountain range has risen some 26,000 feet with 6,000 feet showing above the floor and 20,000 buried under it. Geologists estimate that the last major quakes were about 5,900, 8,000, and 10,000 years ago.

Photo of Tetons by Photographer Curt Mekemson
The Tetons were looming above a dark conifer forest in our first views with a hint of the colors to come.
Photo of Grand Tetons by Peggy Mekemson.
Aspens were soon adding larger splashes of color. The high peak in the center is Grand Teton, after which the range is named. It has an elevation of 13, 775 feet.
Photo of Mt. Moran by photographer Curt Mekemson
Mt. Moran dominates the northern section of the Tetons and rises 12,605 feet above sea level. The orange colored leaves are from cottonwoods.
Photo of Jenny Lake and Grand Tetons by photographer Peggy Mekemson
Our road ran next to Jenny Lake and provided some great views of the Tetons.
Ducks were busily eating on the lake.
Photo of Grand Teton National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
The only photo we took of the park that didn’t feature the mountains.
Photo of Mt. Moran by photographer Curt Mekemson.
A final photo of Mt. Moran from Jenny Lake. Next Monday’s post will be on the German town of Breisach along the Rhine River.

There Is More to Yellowstone NP than Hydrothermal Wonders… Scenic Beauty

Peggy and I are wrapping up our visit to Yellowstone today from our journey around the US last fall with pictures of a few of the many scenic views found in the park. All photos are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Photo of Gibbon Falls taken by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
When it comes to scenic beauty, one can find plenty in the rivers that flow through Yellowstone National Park. This photo is Gibbon Falls on the Gibbon River.
Photo Gibbon Falls of Yellowstone National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
The river drops some 84 feet and then makes its tumbling way for a quarter of a mile to the Yellowstone Caldera. A paved trail leads along the river providing great views of Gibbon Falls.
Close up photo of Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
A close up. Can you hear the roar? Having cut its way back from the Yellowstone Caldera, the rock will continue to erode its base leaving the Caldera farther behind and increasing in height.
Photo of Fireball River by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Looking positively serene in comparison to Gibbon Falls, this is a shot of Firehole River not far from Old Faithful and the main hot springs area of Yellowstone. Appearances are deceiving, however. toward the end of the photo you can see where the river narrows. It is about to go tumbling down…
Photo of Fireball River tumbling over rocks by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
A side road runs along the Firehol River and provides views of the river’s rapid descent. I’d say we were no more than a few hundred yards below where we took the ‘serene’ photo.
Photo of rapids in Fireball River In Yellowstone by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This would probably make a white water rafter or kayaker drool.
Photo of Fireball River by Curt Mekemson.
If I were in a raft and turned around to spot this monster, I might have a heart attack. Can you spot the eyes, nose and mouth? Not to worry, however. Yellowstone National Park does not allow rafting on its rivers. The monster has to eat fish. There is a small section of the river between rapids where Peggy swam when she was working at Yellowstone in 1969. She apparently avoided the monster.
Photo of backdrop to Gibbon River taken by Peggy Mekemson.
The Firehole calms down when it meets up with the Gibbon River. And check out the wall. Isn’t it magnificent? Climb to the top and you will be out of the Caldera. Some rock climbing skills may be necessary. Grin.
Photo of volcanic rocks above Fireball River in Yellowstone NP by Curt Mekemson.
This close up of volcanic rock spires above the river provides a perspective on how rugged the cliffs above the river can be.
Picture of people fishing on the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
The Gibson/Firehole river then joins the Madison for a more leisurely pace and great fishing, which is what the two people on the left are doing. We also spotted buffalo and elk near the river.
Picture O Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
We found this little beauty on our way up to Mammoth Hot Springs and its travertine terraces. It was a bonus. Known as the Gardner River, it had carved out Sheep Eaters’ Cliff that we had stopped to see.
If this looks familiar, these are the same type of basalt columns that I featured on my earlier post about Devil’s Tower National Monument. The primary difference being that the columns at Devil’s Tower formed far underground and grew to gigantic size. These were part of a lava flow along the surface and are much smaller.
Photo of Sheep Eaters cliff in Yellowstone National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
I suspect you are curious about the name. I was. The cliff is named after a band of Shoshone Indians who were known as the Tukudika, or Sheep Eaters. They apparently found big horned sheep quite tasty. I get it. I presently have a package of lamb in our refrigerator that I am planning on turning into lamb curry, one of my favorite dishes.
Photo of Cut Mekemson at Yellowstone by Peggy Mekemson.
As we continued our journey toward Mammoth Hot Springs in the northern section of Yellowstone, we came on a wildly colored meadow painted with fall colors. I liked it so much that Peggy took my photo standing in front of it.
Photo of Yellowstone National Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
This comes close to my idealized view of the Western United States with vast distances topped off by impressive mountains. The soft colors of fall, the dark tree lines and gently rolling hills all added to the beauty. Over on the right, you can also see an aspen grove.
Photo of Yellowstone NP back country by Curtis Mekemson.
Another view of the backcountry on our way to Mammoth Hot Springs that we liked.
Photo of buffalo in Yellowstone National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
We even found a buffalo that seemed to fit beautifully into the fall scene.
Photo of Yellowstone NP road by Curt Mekemson.
Ever feel like you are living on the edge? The view around the corner was spectacular.
Yellowstone photo by Peggy Mekemson.
It was the sunlight on the peak that caught our attention. But note the avalanche path along side the peak as well. It has to be one of the longest paths I have seen. And finally, there was the splash of brilliant yellow from the aspens.
Photo of Aspens in Yellowstone NP by Curt Mekemson.
Speaking of aspens, I’ll wrap up today’s post with these beauties. They will also serve to wrap up my series on the Yellowstone National Park. In our next Monday post, Peggy and I will visit two scenic towns along the Rhine River. BTW, as you read this, Peggy and I are on a riverboat traveling up the Nile River in Egypt on my 80th Birthday trip.

The Travertine Terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs: Yellowstone

Today, Peggy and I are continuing our exploration of Yellowstone National Park, which we visited as part of our four month, 12,000 mile exploration of the US between September and December this past year. All photos in this post were taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Photos of Yellowstone National Park taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
If you are visiting Yellowstone National Park, be sure to visit the colorful travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs.

Located 50 miles north of Old Faithful, the travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs are one of the most unique and beautiful of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal created landscapes. The terracing is a result of underlying limestone. Hot water dissolves the limestone and deposits it on the surface. The bright colors, like the colors of the hot springs in the Yellowstone Caldera to the south, are created by thermophiles, tiny microorganisms that thrive in the hot springs. Different types of thermophiles have different tolerance for the heat and come in different colors based upon their exposure to sunlight. Those that can tolerate the most heat live deep in the pools and tend toward blue and green. The ones living on the cooler outer edges are more in the brown and yellow range.

Peggy and I took a day to drive up from where we were camped in the town of West Yellowstone to visit Mammoth Hot Springs. On the way up we saw a lot of great scenery that I will feature in another post and two hydrothermal features I haven’t covered in this series yet: mud pots and fumaroles.

Photos of Yellowstone National Park taken by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Mud pots occur when hot thermal water is flowing under a layer of clay that blocks the water from escaping to the surface. Steam from the water, however, is able to make its way through the clay. Certain microorganisms convert the sulfur dioxide in the steam to sulfuric acid which turns the clay into a gooey, sticky consistency. Bubbles are created as a result of the steam bubbling up through the goo. It sound like plop, plop, plop.
Photo of an exploding bubble in a Yellowstone mud pot by Curt Mekemson.
I included this exploding bubble in an earlier post. I liked it so much you get to see it again.
Photos of Yellowstone taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
A fumarole is similar to a geyser but lacks the water to create eruptions. Instead, the heat from the volcanic rocks turns what water is available into incredibly hot steam that escapes from vents and ranges in temperatures up to 280°F (138°C). It can be noisy. This is a shot of Roaring Mountain that received its name from the noise created by the escaping steam. It could be heard from miles away in the 90s. It’s quieter today.

And now it’s time to visit the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. A convenient road takes you around the terraces. Walkways off the road take you to the lower terraces. The following photos were taken from the walkways.

Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Canary Springs is one of the most popular sites along the lower terrace trail at Mammoth Hot Springs.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
A broader, softer perspective of Canary Springs.
A view of the travertine terrace just above Canary Springs.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Another perspective of the terrace just before the water flows over the edge.
Cupid Springs. I don’t have a clue on how it got its name.
Umpteen shades of grey.

The road snakes around the upper terrace. There are several pullouts that allow close up views of the various formations.

Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This section is known as Angel’s Terrace. I’m assuming it’s because of the white travertine, which is how the dissolved lime comes out of the ground.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Another perspective. Like stair steps.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
We really liked the contrast of colors here.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
It was the colors, shape and tree that caught our attention that had us pull out our cameras.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This unique dome is known as Elephants Back.
Photo of hydrothermal mound in Yellowstone NP taken by Curt Mekemson
We were driving back to West Yellowstone when we came across this very colorful small dome. The steam coming from the back suggests a fumarole. We simply had to stop and photograph it. That does it for today. Our next post will be on Heidelberg Castle. After that, it will be back to Yellowstone and its scenic beauty.

Badlands National Park: Sunset

I was cooking beef pot-roast in our insta-pot and time was running out. I had miscalculate the time it would take and we were going to miss the Badlands at sunset. “Go ahead,” Peggy told me. She knew how much I wanted to catch the colors. “I’ll finish up here. We can eat when you get back.” My sweetie didn’t have to offer twice. I was out the door and into the truck. The sunset was quite impressive and the food tasted delicious when I returned. Following are some of the photos I took. Enjoy.

Next week we will be returning to our summer trip up the Rhine River. Please join Peggy and me along with our kids and grandkids as we explore the Rhine, castles, colorful towns, the Black Forest and a couple of impressive cities.

The Wildlife and the Beauty of Sage Road… Badlands National Park

Photo of big horned sheep along Sage Road in Badlands NP by Curt Mekemson.
I was getting the ‘look’ when I snapped this photo of a bighorn sheep on Sage Road.

Sage Road in Badlands National Park is known for its easily accessible wildlife population. We drove out it during our recent stay near the Badlands to see what we could find. This fellow, along with a few other bighorn sheep, was hanging out along side the gravel road. Its look seemed to say, “Don’t mess with me.” Big horn sheep were first re-introduced to the Park 1922 with more being added later. The park’s herd now numbers near 250.

This youngster is busy chewing on weeds. Bighorn stuff themselves with tough-to-eat grass like this and then retreat to somewhere high and safe where they can regurgitate it and chew it more thoroughly. (Remember your mom urging you to chew your food!) What we don’t have that the sheep do, however, is four stomachs to help in the digesting process. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Bighorn sheep checking us out.

We also found a few buffalo along the way. The National Park website, which is where I found the details on the wildlife included in today’s post, gives the buffalo’s scientific name as Bison, bison, bison, i.e. they are of the genus Bison, of the species bison, and the subspecies bison. Buffalo was derived from the French “bœuf,” meaning buffalo, and given to the large creatures by early French fur trappers. The Lakota name for bison is tatanka. Bison were incredibly important to the Lakota and other Native Americans of the Great Plains who carefully used every part of the buffalo they killed. An estimated 30 million roamed the area prior to the arrival of Euro-Americans who hunted the buffalo almost to extinction for their hides and tongues. An even darker reason is given for the slaughter: The US government wanted to disrupt the Indigenous people’s way of life to make way for the Euro-Americans. One way of doing this was killing off the vast herds of buffalo that the natives depended on to live.

Photo of Buffalo beside Sage Road in Badlands National park by Peggy Mekemson.
These large furry creatures paid zero attention to us as they grazed beside Sage road, which is what we wanted! They do look like something that would be fun to pet, however. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Don’t. The fur says pet me; the eyes say don’t even think about it. One does not want to irritate a creature that can weigh up to 2000 pounds and run fast, really fast. Sign after sign in national and state parks where the buffalo roam, warn people to keep their distance. Despite the warnings, some people insist on a closer view, which can result in a bad ending. I watched a video of a guy standing five feet away from a buffalo waving his arms and shouting. A few seconds later, he was taking flying lessons. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Peggy did not take this picture. Unlike her husband, Peggy does not take photos of poop to put in the blog. I tend to go along with the philosophy of the bison: Let the chips fall where they may.

It’s Fat Bear Week, as anybody who hangs out in social media is probably aware. The prairie dogs of the Badlands want you to know that they consider it discrimination that there is no Fat Prairie Dog Week. When their size is taken into consideration, they are willing to take on any bear when it comes to putting on the pounds/ounces!

“Bring it on bears!” this fat prairie dog seems to say as he prepares to stuff more food down his gullet in preparation for winter. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
When it seems like just about everyone wants to eat you (the fatter the better), it is wise to look both ways. Prairie dogs have a distinctive set of whistles that warns their fellow dogs of what danger exists. Is it a hawk, or a snake, or a coyote, or a black footed ferret, etc. that considers you part of their menu? There is a whistle for each. Or is it a camera carrying human who only wants a photo?The black footed ferret, btw, was close to extinction. It is now being reintroduced to areas where their main source of food, prairie dogs, live. This suits the ferret just fine. It can eat up to a hundred a year. I doubt that anyone asked the prairie dogs if they wanted to participate in the “Save the Ferret” campaign.

There is a Prairie Dog Town located along Sage Road. Park publicity and a pull-off guarantees that tourists will arrive in significant numbers to capture photos of the fat, furry squirrels. Sharp whistles warn of the two legged visitors. Here’s a fascinating fact that I read on the Badlands NP website: An estimated 5 billion prairie dogs once lived on the Great Plains in their underground boroughs. The largest of their historic towns has been estimated to cover over 25,000 square miles (64,749 kilometers)! For perspective, that’s larger than West Virginia and 9 other smaller states in the US or Croatia and 23 other smaller countries in Europe.

Beyond wildlife, Sage Road shows a different type of beauty than that found along the Loop Road, which runs along the Wall and through the badlands seen in the distance.

We loved the contrast between the golden grass on the gentle hills and green stands of trees found down in the gullies. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The lone tree caught my attention in this photo.
Peggy captured me heading for another tree I found interesting. Given my wandering ways, she wondered if I would stop there.
I did stop, even though the stand of trees up ahead was calling to me. This is one of a number of photos I took of the tree.
Meanwhile, Peggy had found a flock of turkeys that caught her attention. This was just a few of the flock. The others had disappeared down into the gully. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
As we drove back up Sage Road, returning to our camp, we stopped for a final photo that had more of a Badlands feel to it. Late afternoon colors were beginning to seep in. I’ll feature sunset photos in my next post. I was impressed. I imagine you will be as well.
A preview of next week’s post.

Badlands National Park: WOW! …Plus Wall Drug

Badlands National Park has great beauty. it also has interesting— and amusing— wildlife, such as three curious prairie dogs that posed for Peggy. With winter and hibernation coming, these guys have obviously been putting on the pounds— or at least ounces! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The Lakota people, who have occupied the area for hundreds of years, called it mako sica. To early French fur trappers, it was known as  les mauvaises terres. Both names mean the same thing: Badlands. If you can’t hunt it, fish it, farm it, or mine it— what good is it? Fortunately, our tastes have changed. We have come to appreciate areas for their natural beauty and Badlands National Park has an abundance. BTW, where there is a will there is a way. People have finally found a way to make money off of beautiful places. It’s called tourism.

Speaking of tourism, we stayed in a small campground near Wall Drug, a tourist attraction that has mastered the art of pulling people off of the road. It started with offering them free ice water in the 60s and 70s by advertising on 3,000 small wooden road signs throughout South Dakota and neighboring states. I first came across the signs in the 60s. It was impossible not to be curious. This time, Peggy and I found the small wooden signs had been morphed into numerous billboards as we crossed South Dakota on I-90.

Wall Drug still uses come-ons to lure travelers off the road with large billboards along I-90. The small, original drug store has turned into a massive tourist attraction with the drug store occupying maybe 1,000 square feet out of the 76,000 square feet the attraction now claims.
Wall Drug advertises that its store has something for everyone. Including Jackalopes.
Peggy found one to ride.
One of the billboards along I-90 advertised “Come to lunch— or be lunch at Wall Drug.” This smiling T Rex was apparently offering the latter. As an aside, numerous fossils have been found in Badlands National Park, but not dinosaurs. The area was part of an ocean at the time dinosaurs roamed the earth.

The term wall, in Wall Drug, comes from the primary feature of the Badlands, a hundred mile wall from which the Badlands have been eroding at an inch per year for the past 500,000 years or so creating mesas, ridges, and gullies with unique structures of considerable beauty. The 31 mile Loop Road the National Park features takes visitors along the wall and down into the Badlands, providing a great introduction. We will feature views from along the Loop Road today.

Erosion, cutting through some 45 million years of geological history between 75 and 30 million year ago, has left behind unique structures of great beauty. The upper right corner shows the wall from which the Badlands have eroded. Look carefully and you will see vehicles parked at one of the many pull-offs along the 31 mile Loop Road that winds its way through the park.
One thing that is guaranteed along the Loop Road: Great variety. Compare this picture with the one above. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
What caught our attention here, was the contrast between the green trees and the white ridge. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The erosion here had created a mesa left standing alone above the smooth mounds below.
Rabbit bush added a touch of yellow here to complement golden hills above. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Jagged peaks are also found along the 31 mile drive.
A close up of one of the peaks along the way.
Pink and mauve top off yellow hills. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Another example. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I liked the tiered look here and the way erosion had cut through over 40 million years of geologic history.
We wondered how long it would be before the finger rock on top of this peak fell. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
One of the pull-offs along the road is dedicated to Chief Bigfoot of the Lakota tribe. He was ill when he reached this site on the wall. His followers helped him down. Not long after that, he and some 150 member of his tribe, including women and children, were massacred at Wounded Knee. it was one of the darker moments in US History.
I conclude today with this photo of the Badlands taken near the Visitor Center. Peggy and I will take you for a drive along Sage Road in our next post. It’s noted for its wildlife. Get ready for buffalo, turkeys, big horn sheep, and a raucous town of prairie dogs!

Amsterdam: Just Ducky… Things that Entertained Us

A plethora of rubber duckies.

We are never bored when we wander. There are always things that capture our attention. It may be something we find beautiful, or educational, or interesting, or simply amusing, like the whacky-quacky characters above. The store caught us by surprise with its large duck and all of its ducklings that represent a multitude of professions and occupations from kings to rabbits. We had a traditional rubber ducky for awhile. It lived beside our bathtub and was occasionally known to go for a dip. I suspect we still have it, packed away for the time being. Do you have a rubber ducky? Are you willing to confess to it? Note the bike reflected in the window. As I said in my last post, it’s hard to take a photo in Amsterdam that doesn’t include one.

I found drinking this large beer amusing. And it became more so as I worked my way through it. Peggy stuck with the smaller one. I’m used to drinking pints. There are a multitude of brew pubs found in the US and it’s always fun to sample their wares. The locals in Amsterdam seemed to love their beer even more. I noted many of them were sipping out of mugs that we would call pitchers. My elder bladder would have little sense of humor about that! I’d be up peeing all night.
A walk down any of the streets is heaven for cheese lovers like Peggy and me. Alas, we had no way to pack it up and carry it home. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Just one of these large blocks would have fed us for months. You’d certainly want to sample it first. Imagine getting it home and discovering you didn’t like it!
This woman, carrying her large blow-up doll certainly caught our attention. We could only wonder about the large pink appendage. 🙂
We had never found a take out place that featured only French fries. Peggy loves them. She almost divorced me once before we were married because I stole one of hers. This store featured the fries cooked in a multitude of ways.
Peggy went in and ordered their smallest container. The fries were soaked in garlic, and, at Peggy’s request, smothered in ranch dressing. It became dinner for both of us. Heartburn!
I like fries. I certainly ate my half of Peggy’s score. But this tasty grilled lamb rib is more to my taste. Finger food, right? My hair was looking wild because we had dodged into the restaurant during a downpour. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
We had failed to notice the name when we dashed in. El Pimpi: The Pimp.
Maybe it was the reason I found the poster of this cool cat in the men’s room.
This cat was the major attraction of another restaurant we ate at.
Just across from the restaurant, someone had found a unique way to keep his window propped open.
At first I thought this dog in the window was part of the show at the Orphaned Art Gallery. Then it wagged its tail. The description of the gallery on its website noted: “We are definitely not a typical gallery. OODE brings the work of young Dutch designers together with orphaned art – art from closed museums and art institutions. For this we work together with the Foundation of Disinherited Goods (Onterfd Goed).

Not all coffee shops are alike. Our Uber driver was taking us into our B&B when Peggy noted a nearby Coffeeshop. “Oh good,” she exclaimed, “We can go there for lattes in the morning.” “Uh, Peggy,” I noted, “they might serve lattes but the primary purpose of most Amsterdam coffee shops is serving marijuana. Your morning pastry would probably be laced with cannibis.” “Oh,” she smiled, not the least bit daunted.
Unique art is something else that always catches our attention. Birds had added their decorative touches.
It’s impossible to walk up and down the canals of Amsterdam without admiring the unique look of buildings. And the unique method of getting furniture in and out of the apartments… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Let me note in advance, how narrow the stairways are. And steep. This led up to our room. Imagine trying to maneuver a couch up this stairway. Or refrigerator!
The buildings compensate by having a pulley system using the upper arm that can haul furniture up to rooms and then in through windows. Note the decorative sculpture.
The imagination that has gone into the narrow homes of Amsterdam seems almost endless.
Another example. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Larger buildings also had both beauty and personality. This is the main train station. Numerous restaurants and shops are inside.
This was once the Post Office.
Now it has been repurposed as an attractive indoor mall.
The Droogbak office building is another repurposed building of beauty. It was originally designed in 1884 as headquarters for the Dutch Iron Railway Company. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Several large churches dominate the Amsterdam skyline. I took several photos of this one.
A view from across the canal. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
And from the street.
We caught this impressive spire from a canal boat we were riding in.
A close up.
And finally, a Catholic Church reaching toward the sky.

Our next major series will be on our Rhine River trip where we will take you along the river, introduce several castles, visit cities like Heidleburg, and make a journey into the Black Forest. But first, I thought it would be fun to take a quick break and catch you up to date on our present journey where Peggy and I will take you into Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Get ready for seeing rock spires instead of church spires and communing with prairie dogs, big horn sheep and buffalo, up close and personal from the safety of our truck.

Such as……This big guy was right beside the road 10 feet away. Peggy took the photo out her window. One does not want to get in an argument with something that can weigh up to a ton and run 35 miles per hour.

Surreal or Unreal… Bryce Canyon: Part 2

Photo capturing the awe-inspiring weirdness of Bryce Canyon by Curt Mekemson..
I tend to think of surreal as real, but mind-blowing— striking and maybe strange, but possible. Last Friday’s photos of miles 4-18 of Bryce Canyon fit into that description. Unreal is more like, “No way. How can that even be possible?” That’s how I feel about sections of the Canyon in the first 4 miles, like the one in the photo above. It looks like it belongs in a fantasy movie.

Peggy and I are in serious countdown time here. On Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, we will be hitting the road— come hell or high water, as the old saying goes. Given global warming, there may be a bit of both. We plan to zip across the nation to the Bad Lands of South Dakota and then slow things down, way down— to a snail’s pace. It’s been an insanely busy month and a half since we got back from our European trip up the Rhine River. First up, we had to unpack from our Oregon move and set up our Base Camp/efficiency apartment in Virginia. Some fun. Try downsizing from a library, living room, dining room, two bedrooms, an office, two bathrooms and a moderate-sized kitchen to one room plus a tiny kitchen and bathroom. Fortunately we do small well.

Then there were the usual medical challenges: changing our medical insurance, finding new health care providers, and making appointments. I had six dental appointments. I’ve never met a dentist who doesn’t immediately start planning a vacation when he or she looks in my mouth—a luxury cruise around the world perhaps. I finished my last appointment yesterday. I sat in the dentist chair, was shot full of painkiller (ouch), and then tried to ignore the various drilling and scraping sounds as he removed an ancient crown that belongs in the Smithsonian. I’ve been there done that a lot. But yesterday was a first. I sat and read afterwards while he made a new crown for me in his office. In the past all sorts of measurements have taken place, a temporary crown attached, and the measurements sent out to a specialist who made crowns. It’s a one or two-week process. Yesterday, it was an hour. The tooth came out purple, was adjusted, went into the oven and came out white. My tongue is still checking it out.

I didn’t wear my new hearing aids to the appointment. Yep, you heard me right. Peggy and I have reached the point where we got tired of saying “What?” to each other. Now we can both hear birds we thought were extinct. I didn’t need to enhance the sound of the dentist drill, however.

On top of all that we’ve had the multiple chores that go along with planning for four months on the road. Peggy is handling inside Serafina, our trailer. One was rebuilding the flimsy drawers. My job is maintenance. I spent all day Wednesday going through my annual check list for Serafina. There were 33 items, but who is counting. We will be up to our new ears over the weekend with packing.

Then there was all the family stuff, fun but time consuming. Let it be suffice to say we’ve spent more time doing family things over the past two months than we normally do in two years. It’s a miracle I got any blogging done at all.

Today’s post features the first four miles of the 18-mile Bryce Canyon National Park road. It’s where most of the tourists go. Next Friday, I’ll do a post on our base camp. Then, as I mentioned in my last post, Peggy and I will be featuring Amsterdam and our river cruise before returning to the ‘Wild’ West with our focus on National Parks.

Photo of Curt Mekemson in Bryce Canyon by Peggy Mekemson.
Just like millions of other tourists, we checked out the main overlooks in Bryce Canyon. These photos are mainly from Bryce Point, Sunrise Point, Inspiration Point and Sunset Point. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of crashing hand hoodoo at Bryce Canyon by Curt Mekemson.
Again, this photo emphasizes the unreal look of Bryce Canyon. But check out the hoodoo in the front.
Photo of grasping hand hoodoo off of Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon by Curt Mekemson.
It’s like a large grasping hand is reaching out to grab something. Unwary tourists, perhaps?
Photo of wall in Bryce Canyon by Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy focused in on an interesting wall from our Bryce Point overlook. Note the peek-a-boo holes in it.
Photo of hoodoo seen through hole in rock at Bryce Canyon National Park bt Peggy Mekemson.
Her telephoto lens brought in what was lurking behind one of the holes. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Eroded structures on the sides of Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Even more fascinating were the caves/eroded structures lining the side of the Canyon. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Magnificent entry way of rocks leading into an arched cave at Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
These eroded rocks seemed to serve as a magnificent hallway into an arched cave. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of 'rock hallway' at Bryce Canyon National Park by Curt Mekemson.
I took a close up.

Our cameras were busy the whole time we were at Bryce Canyon. We took well over one a thousand pictures. Here are a few more from the first four miles of the Canyon.

Note the trail winding its way through the Canyon.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Photo of Bryce Canyon by Curt Mekemson.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Photo of Bryce Canyon by Curt Mekemson.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Photo of Bryce Canyon National Park by Curt Mekemson.
Sharp edges of Bryce Canyon by Peggy Mekemson.
The Canyon has its share of sharp edges. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Another perspective.
Photo from Sunset Point of Bryce Canyon by Peggy Mekemson.
I’ll conclude with this final view of the Canyon from Sunset Point by Peggy. Next Friday I’ll give you a look at our Base Camp in Waterford, Virginia along the Charles Town Pike.

Bryce Canyon: Finally… Part 1: Beyond the Hype, Miles 14-18

Photo capturing the bright colors of Bryce Canyon by Curt Mekemson.
Most people, especially if they are on a tight schedule, focus on the first 4 miles of Bryce Canyon’s 18 mile drive. It’s where all the services are. It is where the tourist buses go. It is where the Park busses run. And those four miles are spectacular— no doubt about it. There are reasons for the all of the hype. But today, Peggy and I are going to take you out the road from mile 4 to mile 18 and provide a perspective on why visitors should include it as part of their itinerary.

What’s not to love about the National Parks of America’s Southwest? Well, maybe not the extreme heat of summer and the flash floods of the monsoonal season. Beyond that, there is incredible beauty, geology, and interesting history. Peggy and I have worked to give you a sense of this beauty over the past several Friday posts if you have never visited the region, and some special memories if you have. Today, we are covering miles 4-18 of Bryce Canyon’s 18 mile road. Next Friday we will wrap up our visit to the Bryce area by covering the first four miles. Both were a treat for us, and hopefully, will be for you as well.

Then, we are going to take a break from the Southwest for a few weeks. First, I want to give you a look at our basecamp in Virginia where we will be hanging our hat, so to speak, between journeys. Second, we want to share our trip to Amsterdam and up the Rhine River this past summer, a trip that was postponed for two years because of covid. After that, we will finish off our Southwest exploration with the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde, plus.

In the meantime, Peggy and I will be starting our next four month adventure in two weeks, working our way across the northern tier of states with more visits to National Parks and a possible jaunt into Canada until the weather drives us south into the Northwest and California, followed by a drive across the southern tier of states. This coming spring, we have booked a tour down the Nile River, after which we will spend a couple of months in Europe, starting with a month in the Greek Isles. At least, those are the plans…

And now: Miles 4-18.

Photo from Yovimpa Point in Bryce Canyon National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
This is where the road stops at mile 18 and 9,115 feet. We will be working our way back toward mile 4, more or less, visiting overlooks along the way. There were two stops here, Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point. Gee, I wonder where they came up with the name, Rainbow Point? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of Bryce Canyon raven by Curtis Mekemson.
We were not alone. A raven envisioned us feeding him. I told him it was against the rules.
He gave me the look. A stiff breeze was ruffling the feathers on his head.
View of Bryce Canyon's rainbow colors by Peggy Mekemson.
Another ‘rainbow-type’ shot by Peggy.
Photo along the Bryce Canyon road by Curtis Mekemson.
It really doesn’t matter where you are along the road, there is beauty.
iPhone photo of Bryce Canyon by Peggy Mekemson.
All of the views can be captured from different perspectives. This is a closeup of the photo I took above. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson on our iPhone.)
Photo of Bryce Canyon Arch by Curt Mekemson.
Bryce Canyon has its own renditions of arches. This is where I met up with the raven.
Perspective of Bryce Canyon Arch by Peggy Mekemson.
A different perspective of the Bryce Canyon Arch by Peggy.
Photo of rock resembling the prow of a ship in Bryce Canyon by Curt Mekemson.
I felt like I was looking at the prow of an ocean liner cresting a stormy wave. (Yes, as you know, I have a vivid imagination.) This is one of those sights, like the Arch, that one doesn’t expect to find in Bryce Canyon.
Photo of Bryce Canyon Hoodoo by Peggy Mekemson.
This, on the other hand, is expected: A hoodoo.There are hundreds, if not thousands. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of Bryce Canyon hoodoo poised on a pedestal by Curt Mekemson.
I caught a squat one poised on a pedestal.
Lined up hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
And Peggy caught a bunch. Lots and lots of hoodoos standing at attention and staring off into space.
Canyon ridge in Bryce Canyon photo by Curt Mekemson.
I love the ridges that head off into the Canyon. There will be knife-edged ones in my post next Friday.
Magical view of Bryce Canyon National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy caught this magical view looking down into Bryce Canyon. It’s my favorite of the several hundred photos we took in the Park.
The aspen in Bryce National Park at 9000 feet in May before leafing out. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
The aspen along the road had yet to leaf out at 9000 feet when we were at Bryce Canyon in late May.
Photo of Aspen at pullout along the Bryce Canyon road by Peggy Mekemson.
Their stark white trunks and limbs made a dramatic contrast to the dark green conifers. Peggy took this photo at one of the pull-offs.
Hole in rock photo at Bryce National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
A hole in the rock played peek-a-boo with us. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of layering effect of different types of rock in Bryce Canyon National Park by Curt Mekemson.
A final view along the Bryce Canyon road between miles 4 and 18 shows the layering effect caused by different types of rock. Next Friday we’ll be featuring the most popular section of the Park between miles 1 and 4.

Bryce Canyon’s Mossy Cave Trail

View from Bryce Canyon's Mossy Cave Trail. Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Here’s a secret. Don’t do Mossy Cave Trail to see the cave. Do it to check the scenery along the way. It’s like hiking the trails down inside of Bryce Canyon without the challenging climb in and out. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Finally, we have made it to Bryce Canyon, but we still aren’t in the park proper. The trail to Mossy Cave is located on the northern edge of the Park off of Highway 12. Information on the trail said its growing popularity meant that there was limited parking space. We had noted the problem when we drove by earlier. Fortunately, when we arrived, there were only a couple of cars and we shared the trail with only a handful of people. Mossy Cave was nothing to write home about, or do a post on. Possibly in the winter when it is filled with ice cycles would be different.

Photo of Mossy Cave at Bryce National Park by Curt Mekemson.
Looking into Mossy Cave with its last remaining chunks of ice from the previous winter. I did find the contrast with the roof interesting.

The easy to follow trail into Mossy Cave is well worth the trip however, as the following photos will show. A small creek runs along the bottom of the canyon has its own story. It was dug by Mormon farmers with picks and shovels in the late 1800s to provide water to the small town of Tropic and its surrounding farms and ranches.

Photo of waterfall along the Mossy Cave Trail by Peggy Mekemson.
The trail to Mossy Cave cuts up the hill to the left just before this pretty little waterfall and makes a brief but steep climb. Peggy loves waterfalls and took several photos of it.
A close up. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of waterfall along the Mossy Cave Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
The falls and the creek. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Its when you look up from the creek that you begin to get the feel that you are in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Rock sculptures, small arches and hoodoos abound.
Photo of rock sculpture along the Mossy Cave Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Rock sculpture with what looks like eyes along the Mossy Cave Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
I was thinking blue eyes when I took this photo.
Photo of rock formation along Mossy Cave Trail in Bryce Canyon Nation Park by Peggy Mekemson.
There were a number of impressive rock formations. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
This rock formation was quite colorful. And I liked the lone tree up on top. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of Hoodoo with dramatic background along Mossy Cave Trail in Bryce National Park by Curt Mekemson.
I felt that this hoodoo with its background made a dramatic combination.
Photo of Mossy Cave Trail rock formation by Peggy Mekemson.
The rocks lined up for Peggy. They were good at holding their pose. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Dramatic rock formation along Mossy Cave Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park by Curt Mekemson.
Mine were a bit more unruly. That’s hardly news.
Photo of sheer rock wall along Mossy Cave Trail by Curt Mekemson.
I also liked this sheer rock wall with its many-limbed dead tree.
Photo of rock formation along the Mossy Cave Trail rendered in black and white by Curt Mekemson.
I conclude today’s post on Mossy Cave Trail in Bryce with a photo I thought would go well in black and white. (You will find the mouthy guy about half way up on the right in Peggy’s photo at the beginning of the blog. ) Next Friday’s post will focus on miles 4-18 along the road into Bryce Canyon National Park.