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.

If You Liked Utah’s Scenic Highway 12, You Will Love This Old Cattle Route: The Burr Trail Road

Photo of towering red cliffs along the Burr Trail Road in Utah by Peggy Mekemson.
Do towering red cliffs along the road get you excited? You will find them on the Burr Trail Road off Utah’s Scenic Highway 12. Plus a Singing Slot Canyon— and ever so much more. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I was doing research for our road trip over Utah’s Scenic Highway 12 when I came across a rave review for the Burr Trail, a narrow road that branches off from 12 in the small town of Boulder. It looked exactly like the kind of backroad adventure we like. It could take us all the way to Glen Canyon or even up to Capitol Reef National Park. We opted to explore the first 15 or so miles. The route got its start in the late 1800s as a way John Burr found for for moving cattle back and forth between their summer pasture near Boulder and their winter pasture in Glen Canyon.

We were wowed by the first few miles of the road— and then we dropped into Long Canyon. It blew our minds! I’ll start today’s post with photos of the canyon and then double back to pick up the road in.

The Burr Trail winds its way through the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of Long Canyon along the Burr Trail Road by Curt Mekemson.
We were driving along the Burr Trail Road when suddenly it dropped into Long Canyon. It was obvious we were in for a treat. Note the neat way the left and right hand sides of the road are separated through Long Canyon.
Photo of how the Burr Trail is divided as it makes its way through Long Canyon by Curt Mekemson.
I took this photo to illustrate how the road was divided.
Photo of rock formation in the Burr Trail Road Long Canyon by Curt Mekemson.
The type of rock formations along the side of the road seemed endless.
Close-up of rock formation in the Long Canyon of Burr Trail Road by Peggy Mekemson.)
Their shapes reminded me of Tombstones. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
In addition to the fascinating formations, the colors were riotous.
Photo of colorful rocks along the Burr Trail Road through Long Canyon by Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy took this close-up of another cliff. Green trees and shrubs all through the canyon added dramatic contrast to the reds, oranges and yellows.
Photo of colorful cliff along the Burr Trail Road through Long Canyon by Curt Mekemson.
I found these nearby. A hiking trail ran beside the cliff. Note the holes in the rock above.
Photo of holes in rock formation along the Burr Trail Road by Curt Mekemson.
We’ve found these holes in rock formations throughout the Southwest. Peggy loves them but I took this particular photo.
Picture of two interesting rock formations in the Long Canyon of Utah's Burr Trail Road by Peggy Mekemson.
There are two interesting rock formations for the price of one here. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of peak-like rock formation found in the long Canyon section of Utah's Burr Trail Road by Curt Mekemson.
I took a photo of the second formation from a different perspective.
Photo of colorful rocks along Utah's Burr Trail Road through Long Canyon by Peggy Mekemson.
One has to love the brilliant colors of the Southwest. Burr Trail’s Long Canyon is full of them. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Will this seemingly tiny hole (probably 50 feet high) someday become a massive arch? It’s possible. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
One of many different rock formations found along the Burr Trail Road through Long Canyon. (Photo by Curt Mekemson.)
Yet another interesting rock formation we found in Long Canyon.
Photo looking up near Singing Canyon along Utah's Burr Trail Road by Curt Mekemson.
Looking up led me to take this photo. We had pulled off the road to see why four cars were parked in the area. That’s a major crowd for Burr Trail Road.
Photo of Peggy Mekemson at the entrance to Singing Canyon along Utah's Burr Trail Road by Curt Mekemson.
“Come on, Curt,” Peggy urged me to join her in finding what had captured everyone’s attention.
Photo of Singing Canyon, a slot canyon along the Burr Trail road in Utah by Curt Mekemson.
An incredible slot canyon that towered 80 feet into the air. Peggy provides a good perspective on its size. It’s know locally as Singing Canyon because of its incredible acoustics.
Photo of ceiling of Singing Canyon along Utah's Burr Trail Road by Peggy Mekemson
Peggy turned her camera up and caught this photo of the ceiling…
Photo showing red, orange and purple rocks of Singing Canyon on Burr Trail Road by Peggy Mekemson.
And this. Note the deep purple as well as the orange and red colors.
Photo inside of slot canyon found along the Burr Trail Road in Utah taken by Curt Mekemson.
I focused on the slot canyons floor that was equally colorful.
Photo looking out from slot canyon, aka Singing Canyon, along the Burr Trail Road in Utah by Curt Mekemson.
Turning around, there was a light at the end of the tunnel/slot canyon, and it featured a tree lit up by the sun.
Photo of tree at exit of slot canyon along Utah's Burr Trail Road in Long Canyon by Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy took a closer photo of the tree. I liked the way the trunk and limbs stood out. Several more things caught our interest outside of Singing Canyon.
Photo of cotton wood outside of slot canyon on Utah's Burr Road by Curt Mekemson.
An ancient cottonwood that looked like it could star in a fantasy movie…
Stump that looks like a giant sling shot outside of Singing Canyon on Utah's Burr Trail Road by Curt Mekemson.
The world’s largest sling shot?
Strange example of rock erosion outside of Singing Canyon on the Burr Trail Road. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
And a very unusual example of rock erosion.
Photo of rock erosion inside a hole in the Sandstone along the Burr Trail Road in Utah by Peggy Mekemson.
Meanwhile, Peggy was finding her own definition of strange by peering into the holes in rocks she liked. The hole had its own example of Burr Trail scenery.
Photo of wall running along edge of Burr Creek Road in Long Canyon by Curt Mekemson.
I’ll conclude out journey through Long Canyon with a final view of the wall that runs along the edge of the road.
Photo of Rock formation near Boulder Town, Utah by Peggy Mekemson.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the Burr Creek Trail road had its own interesting rock formations. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of scenic Burr Trail Road outside of Boulder Town, Utah by Curt Mekemson.
Even the roadside was scenic!
Photo of trees and shrubs growing along the scenic Burr Trail Road in Utah by Curt Mekemson.
I like the contrast of these trees and shrubs growing among the rocks alongside the road.
Photo of tree in front of a rock formation outside of Boulder Town, Utah on the Burr Trail Road by Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy captured this rock formation with a tree in front…
And a final Boulder Trail Road photo by Peggy. Next Friday’s Post. Finally, Bryce Canyon.

One of America’s Most Scenic Backroads: Utah’s Highway 12

It is a lovely and terrible wilderness… harshly and beautifully colored, broken and worn until its bones are exposed… and in its corners and pockets under its cliffs, the sudden poetry of springs. –Wallace Stegner 1960

I am continuing our Southwest series today. Peggy and I are now back at our basecamp in Virginia and will continue to be through August. There are chores to do: Unpacking, making doctor and dentist appointments, getting our Virginia driver’s licenses, etc. We are even having our hearing tested. There’s a lot of “What did you say, Peggy?” And vice-versa. It’s part of the joy of being in our 70s.

Assuming all goes well, we should be back on the road come September for another multi-month trip, this time traveling through the northern tier of states, and into the Canadian Rockies— assuming that the weather cooperates.

Views like this are what you can expect along Utah’s Highway 12. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy and I have spent a lot of time on America and Canada’s backroads, plus Mexico’s Baja Peninsula— some quarter of a million miles worth. So we know a bit about byways and we know a bit about scenic. Twelve years ago, when we first travelled over Utah’s Highway 12, our initial thought was Wow! It hasn’t changed. What else would one expect of a road anchored on one end by Capitol Reef National Park and on the other by Bryce Canyon? The short, 123 mile drive can be done in three hours. Or three days if you want to linger and explore the incredible scenery, state parks and historical areas along the way.

In 2010, we started at the small town of Torrey just outside of Capitol Reef, and worked our way south. The winding route took us up and over the 9,000 foot Boulder Mountain Pass where we were impressed with the aspen groves. They are always a treat, moving from the bright green quaking leaves of summer, to the gloriously yellow leaves in the fall, to the stark white trunks and limbs of winter. From the pass, our road dropped into the Escalante National Monument with its staircase look and then ended with the bright red, orange, and yellow rock formations of Bryce.

In May of 2010 when we made our first journey over Highway 12, the aspens at 9,000 feet were still dressed for winter.

This time we travelled in the opposite direction, beginning at Bryce and working our way northeast along Highway 12, stopping at the small town of Boulder some 90 miles into the journey. We wanted to explore the Burr Trail that begins there. The road is something of a scenic wonder itself and will get its own post.

Our recent journey along Highway 12 started with the red, orange, and yellow rocks of the Bryce Canyon area.
Ranch in Tropic, Utah along scenic Highway 12. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
We camped on Highway 12 in the town of Tropic, so named by an early land developer who wanted to encourage growth. This and the next three photos were taken from our campground.
Photo by Curt Mekemson.
Tropic, Utah photo along Highway 12 by Curt Mekemson.
Across the road from our campsite in Tropic.

Our journey to Boulder can easily be divided into two parts: the section between Tropic and Escalante where we were mainly looking up, and the section between Escalante and Boulder, where we were mainly looking down. I’ve combined our morning and afternoon photos for each section, which is why you will see the varying light. We will start by looking up. 🙂

Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Part of the Grand Staircase. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I liked the contrast here.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
I caught this on our way out…
And Peggy caught it on the way back.
A quick look at the photo by Peggy here shows another example of erosion, possibly a future arch. But if you look more closely, you will see more: an ancient Puebloan granary. There are two structures here. People lived in this area for thousands of years before Europeans first made their way to North America.
Dark skies with sun breaking through always make for dramatic photos. I’m not sure which was more impressive: The orange butte in the foreground, or the white one looming in the background.
Peggy stopped to pet a large lizard in front of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in the town of Escalante. A few miles later we were looking down into a vast canyon.
An overlook provided our first view down into the Canyon. A huge truck was making its way out of the canyon on the curvy road that was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 30s. Both Peggy’s dad and mine had worked for the CCC. How do you think the truck made it around the hairpin curve? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Carefully. The highway patrol had required folks coming down into the canyon (us, for example) to park off the road until the truck was past. Coming up, you waited behind the truck. No one passed that puppy!
The vast canyon we were facing was carved by the Escalante River that flows into Glen Canyon and the Colorado River. One of the two things that caught our attention about the canyon was the unique geology. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
It is a lovely and terrible wilderness… harshly and beautifully colored, broken and worn until its bones are exposed. Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
And the fact that the Escalante River was still working away, continuing to carve its canyon. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo by Curt Mekemson.
Where there is water, there is life… the sudden poetry of springs.

I hope we have persuaded you to explore Highway 12 if you are in the area. Our next post will take you along the Burr Trail with its long, colorful canyon— including a slot canyon.

Who Let the Dogs Out: Woof Woof… The Hoodoos and Other Marvelous Rocks of Utah’s Red Canyon State Park

This is a typical view you can find in Red Canyon on a short walk. Expect to see pinnacles, spires, columns and hoodoos, the same things you will see in Bryce Canyon. But beware: You might get lonely. On our easy hour walk, Peggy and I only saw six other people. 

If you have been to Bryce Canyon, the odds are you have been to Red Canyon. You drive right through it on your way in if you come come into Bryce from the west on Highway 12. Very few people bother to stop, however. After all, it’s only a State Park, not a world renowned National Park.

If you do stop, however, you may find yourself wondering why it wasn’t included in the National Park. I did. It certainly qualifies. But then I thought to myself, “Whoa, Curt.” Peggy and I were wandering around in a beautiful area in the middle of rock formations dripping with attitude. And we were by ourselves. Changing its status to be part of Bryce Canyon National Park would be like unloading a mega-cruise ship on its doorstep every day. The trails would be packed. Thousands of people would add it to their bucket list.

Join Peggy and me as we explore what makes Red Canyon special. I’ll start with Hoodoos, tall spires of rock formed by erosion, sometimes in fantastical shapes. I mentioned before that one theory about the derivative of the word Hoodoo was a similar Native American word meaning scary. And I used the hoodoo dogs of Red Canyon as an example. There are other theories as well. One suggests a voodoo connection. Here’s what the Canadian Encyclopedia has to say about it: “The word hoodoo probably derives from voodoo, a West African-based religion in which magical powers can be associated with natural features. Hoodoos conjure up images of strange events.” Okayyy…

Photo of hoodoo dogs in Utah's Red Canyon State Park by Peggy Mekemson.)
Hoodoos often come in unique shapes. Can you spot the two ‘dogs’ in this Red Canyon photo. I used them as an example in an earlier post. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The question here is: Who let the dog’s out? Woof! Woof! As I recall, my blogging friend Linda Leinen suggested this question and this link. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Trio of hoodoos in Red Rock Canyon. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
Not sure what these three amigos were up to. But I wasn’t going to question it…
Photo from Red Canyon, Utah by Peggy Mekemson
They were big. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of hoodoo in Red Canyon State Park in Dixie National Forest by Curt Mekemson.
Long necked something here. Any ideas on what? Jurassic perhaps…
Hoodoo Family portrait in Red Canyon, Utah by Peggy Mekemson.
A family of Hoodoos. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo Groot hoodoo in Red Canyon State Park, Utah by Curt Mekemson.
At first, I thought… an ancient king. Then I thought… Groot.
Photo of sinister stand alone hoodoo in Red Canyon, Utah by Peggy Mekemson.
This hoodoo didn’t need to look like anything. It was outstanding by itself. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of scary hoodoos in Red Canyon State Park by Peggy Mekemson.
Maybe it was my imagination working overtime (it happens), but I found this trio scary, like something out of a dark fantasy, or a horror movie. The guy in the middle immediately reminded me of the monsters created by Saruman in Lord of the Rings. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of totem hoodoos at Red Canyon State Park in Utah by Curt Mekemson.
These two hoodoos were among our favorites. At first we thought they were called totems, as in totem pole. Looking at photos in Goggle, I discovered that most people called them salt and pepper shakers. The sun was lighting them up under dark skies, creating a dramatic effect.
Photo of totem hoodoo at Red Canyon Staet Park in Utah by Peggy Mekemson.
Salt shaker or totem. Or neither. What do you see? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

While the hoodoos of Red Rock Canyon State Park are fun to photograph and play around with, there are numerous other beautiful and interesting rock structures in the park to admire. Following are some of Peggy and my favorites. The photographs are from both of us.

I thought this dead tree stump fit the fantasy theme of this post.
Photo of impressive rock formation in Red Canyon State Park, Utah by Curt Mekemson.
Having just returned from our Rhine River trip and continuing with my theme, I couldn’t help but think this formation deserved a castle on top of it.
Photo from Red Canyon State Park in Utah by Peggy Mekemson.
Or possibly a magical kingdom which seems like an appropriate conclusion to this post. Be prepared for another treat next Friday where we will take you for a drive on one of the Nation’s most scenic byways: Highway 12. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)