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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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. 🙂
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.
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…
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.