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.

An Explosive Subject… The Geysers of Yellowstone

It’s only right that I start this post featuring Peggy photographing Old Faithful. She worked at a restaurant in Yellowstone in the summer of 1969 as a college student. Its large picture windows opened out on Old Faithful, meaning that she got to see it erupt several times a day.
The family dining room that Peggy worked at has now become a cafeteria, but it’s large picture windows still give diners a great view of Old Faithful erupting.

Erupting geysers are one of Yellowstones best known features. In fact, half of the world’s active geysers are located in the National Park. Peggy and I photographed lots of them when we visited last fall on our four month trip around the US.

Have a few geysers and fumaroles! Including the small ones, I counted over 30 in this photo.

The reason behind Yellowstones record breaking number of geysers is that much of the park is located in a giant caldera, a collapsed volcano. Semi-molten rock exists in some areas as close as 2-5 miles below the surface. This extremely hot rock heats ground water flowing near it and creates Yellowstone’s hydro-thermal features including geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots. We featured hot springs two weeks ago. Today is the geysers’ turn. They erupt when the super hot boiling water creates pressure in channels leading to the surface that erupts as steam out of a vent. As the pressure is released the geyser subsides until the process is repeated. They come in all sizes. The most famous is Old Faithful, given its name due to the regularity of its eruptions.

Photos of geysers erupting in Yellowstone National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy and I arrived just as Old Faithful was beginning to erupt. She jumped out of our truck and began snapping photos.
I was a bit farther away. Can you imagine how many photos of Old Faithful have been taken? They have to be in the hundreds of millions if not billions. In other words, we aren’t the first. Grin.
As the pressure inside the vent subsided, Old Faithful lost its steam, so to speak.
As I mentioned in the beginning, the geysers come in all sizes. From this little fellow…
To larger…
We had a sense of ‘dancing water.’
Each geyser had its own personality.
These geysers combined to be tall and skinny.
I conclude today with this pair of more hefty twin geysers. Next up, Peggy and I will return to Heidelberg, variety being the spice of life. 🙂

The Incredible Colors and Structures of Yellowstone’s Hot Springs… It’s Another World

The Irish would be jealous of the beautiful green hot spring found in Yellowstone National Park— and, the clarity of the water. It almost wants to make you shed your clothes and jump in. Bad idea. The water emerges from its volcano based heater at 198° F (92° C).

Beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, and incredible geology. Yellowstone has it all. There is a reason why it became America’s first National Park in 1872. I’ll be focusing on the geology today. Yellowstone sits on top of one of the world’s largest volcanoes. Believe me, when I say, we wouldn’t want to see it blow. The proximity of the lava to the surface is the reason behind all of its hydrothermal features. For one, Yellowstone has more active geysers than the rest of the world combined according to information in the Visitor Center. The geysers are slated for another post; today it is all about hot springs. Peggy and I were captured by their vibrant colors and unique structures. The photos in this post were taken by both of us. We visited this past fall when we were in the middle of our 12,000 mile tour. It was my third visit. Peggy once spent an idyllic summer working there when she was going to college.

Picture of hot spring/geyser structure in Yellowstone National Park by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This is one of the hot spring structures that we found both intriguing and fun.
Picture looking into the depths of a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This hot spring provided a view into the depths from which the hot water emerges. BTW, the hydrothermal features of Yellowstone provide home for trillions of microbes, some of which may date back to the very beginning of life on earth. Scientist have identified approximately two percent of the different kinds.
Picture of small geysers in a colorful hot spring by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
A small geyser added action to the color and structure of this hot spring.
Photo of small 'boiling' hot spring at Yellowstone by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This small, golden brown geyser looked like it was boiling. The steam had the tell-tale smell of sulphur which is typical of the hot springs and geysers.
Photo of large hot spring at Yellowstone by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This hot spring was empty for the moment. It would soon change as its geyser erupted. The stream is part of the appropriately named Fire Hole River that water from the hot springs and geysers flows into.
Pictures of Yellowstone taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
The Fire Hole River provides the backdrop for this hot spring. Also, note the indentation in the foreground.
It was a wee bit weird.
This hot spring showed a similar type of structure along its edges. Note the murky depth.
The depths of this large hot spring were much clearer.
As the water flows out from the hot springs into the Fire Hole River, it creates its own unique colors and structures.
The green stream flowing along. Not surprising, green was only one of the colors flowing out from the hot springs.
For example, this golden/yellow/orange stream.
A different perspective as the golden trickle empties into a larger stream.
Here, the color of the hot springs stream had a rich brownish tinge to it.
A brown, braided stream. I admit, my fascination here was with the dead stump.
The mineral laden water from the hot springs created this rock waterfall.
And these ‘islands’ on the edge of the Fire Hole River.
I’ll conclude today with this colorful display created by Yellowstone’s hot spring/geyser magic.

Wishing You All a Great Holiday…

Cartoon creation by Curt Mekemson.
Amid the craziness of the holidays, a primitive monster shows great ‘presents’ of mind.

We were down in Big Bend National Park in Texas when it came time to write our annual Christmas letter. The park features beautiful scenery, interesting culture, cacti, and lots of geology. It also features fossils from the Age of Dinosaurs, including a monster crocodile. The crocodile reminded me of one of the characters I created for Christmas Cards, Old Croc. He made it into my Christmas letter and today’s post.

You would not want to go wading in a lake with this crocodile swimming around. It was a common mistake of dinosaurs 35 million years ago. It’s a Deinosuchus skull which was originally found in Big Bend. In this early photo, scientists examine the skull at the Smithsonian. “My, what big teeth you have.” It was a Little Red Riding Hood moment.

There was also a large leg bone from a duck billed dinosaur. Bone couldn’t resist having his photo taken with it.

Bone has a thing for bones. He can never resist having his photo taken with them. Out of respect for the dinosaur, he took off his clothes.

Peggy and I celebrated Christmas in 1999 at Big Bend. Not having a Christmas Tree, we used a hanging macrame. Our visit to Big Bend was before Christmas this year, but Peggy was still fired up with her passion for decorating. We found some hand-crafted Mexican Christmas ornaments for sale next to the Rio Grande. Bone, of course, insisted on joining the party. As did Bone’s traveling companion, Eeyore. We visited Peggy’s brother John and his wife Frances after Big Bend. Frances, knitted a Christmas scarf for Bone and donated a ribbon for the donkey.

Peggy’s Christmas scene from right to left: Eeyore, Bone, the Rio Grande ornaments, stockings and a blooming amaryllis. Peggy’s sister, Jane, gave us the stockings and amaryllis.
Bone, dressed up in all of his sartorial splendor, wears his kilt and new scarf for Christmas.

Just in case you are new to this blog and have never met Bone, a friend of mine, Tom Lovering and I found him in a field of corn lilies when we were backpacking along the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail in 1977. He has been traveling with us ever since. In addition to Tom and me, a number of other people have carried him over the past 45 years on numerous adventures. He has visited over 50 countries. Among his many adventures are a 10,000 mile bicycle trip, a journey in the back of a truck the length of Africa, climbing mountains, and deep sea diving. He has travelled on the Amazon, attended a Presidential Press Conference, and been blessed by the Pope in St. Peter’s square. Four years ago he backpacked with me 750 miles down the PCT in celebration of my 75th Birthday, meeting numerous through-hikers along the way.

Peggy, I, Bone, and Eeyore want to wish you and your family a joyful Christmas and a great 2023.

Devil’s Tower National Monument: ET Landmark, Sacred Bear Lodge, and Geological Wonder

Apparently, aliens find Devil’s Tower a prime landmark. In the 1977 movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, selected folks kept seeing the tower as a paranormal experience. One even sculpted a mashed potato image of it. Eventually those getting the message realized that they were being invited to show up at the huge rock monument and climb on a flying saucer. Paul, another movie about alien visitors, featured Paul, a colorful alien named after the dog his UFO crash-landed on. He used the location to call his mothership to pick him up after being stranded on Earth for several decades. (Photo from a display at Devil’s Tower Visitors’ Center.)

Devil’s Tower is special in a number of ways. Volcanic columns have always captured my imagination. The first I ever encountered were at Devil’s Postpile in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains when I was backpacking down the John Muir Trail in the 80s. Since then, Peggy and I have seen several, including one when we recently visited Yellowstone. Most are formed when a surface flow of lava starts to cool and contract. As it contracts, it cracks into the multi-sided columns seen at both Devil’s Postpile and Devil’s Tower.

The lava flow columns at Yellowstone National Park.

A significant difference is that Devil’s Tower was formed under the surface of the earth instead of as a volcanic flow on top. There are a couple of theories. One is that it was formed by lava forcing its way up through sedimentary rocks below the surface. The other is that it was formed as a plug in a tube that supplied lava to a volcano. In either case, the lava cooled much more slowly than it would have on the surface. The result was that the columns are both wider and longer. In fact, with widths up to 20 feet, and heights up to 600 feet, the columns are the widest and the tallest in the world. Formed approximately 50 million years ago, erosion has cut away the surrounding rock over the past several million years, exposing the edifice we see today. It’s a continuing process.

Devil’s Tower reaches 867 feet (264 meters) into the sky and is one of the most prominent landmarks in the Western US. It’s no surprise that Theodore Roosevelt declared it America’s first National Monument on September 24, 1906. Millions of visitors have since made their way to the natural wonder located in a remote section of northeastern Wyoming.

Hundreds of years before Roosevelt became one of America’s first and greatest conservationists, however, American Indian tribes in the area had already recognized how special the tower was and considered it sacred. They still do today. As Peggy and I explored the tower, we found hundreds of colorful cotton prayer flags and medicine bundles that tribal folks had tied to the limbs. Visitors are requested to honor the sacred nature of the flags and not to disturb or take photos of them.

The tribes are also lobbying for a name other than Devil’s Tower, which seems entirely reasonable given their beliefs. Their consensus is Bear’s Lodge. The huge rocks that have broken off from the tower over the eons would seem to make an excellent location for bears to hang out and hibernate. Grizzlies and black bears were common in the area before being wiped out to make the world safe for cows. Local ranchers apparently had little sense of humor that bears liked an occasional beef or lamb dinner. Rare.

A painting in the Visitors’ Center depicts a huge grizzly climbing to the top of the tower reflecting a tribal legend. The natives appear focused on the bear’s nose. I once read if a bear attacks you, sock it in the nose. It’s supposed to be sensitive. I’ve never had the opportunity to test the theory even though I woke up once with a bear standing on top of me. Screaming loudly seems to work as well. The bear’s claw marks here suggest it was creating the columns. I’ve often seen such claw marks on trees during my 70 plus years of wandering in the woods. Bears use it to mark their territories. The higher up the tree, the bigger the bear. If you see claw marks on anything 867 feet up in the air, I would suggest you vacate the premises. Quickly. (Photo from painting at the Devil’s Tower Visitors’ Center.)

A number of impressive views of Devil’s Tower are available when driving into and out of the monument. We stopped several times to take photos. These are three of our favorites.

Photo by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

The real treat was when we arrived at the Visitors’ Center, however. After a quick perusal of the displays and books, we went for a mile walk around Devil’s Tower that starts and ends at the Center. The hike was easy and all of the views were spectacular. They varied significantly. Peggy and I urge you to go for the walk if you visit the National Monument. All the photos, BTW, are taken by Peggy and me unless otherwise noted.

Photos of Devil's Tower by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Photos of Devil's Tower by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Photos of Devil's Tower by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Climbers flock to Devil’s Tower for the thrill of climbing it. We saw several. Permits are required. No climbing is allowed during June when local Indian tribes gather for ceremonies. I like this photo for the perspective it gives on the size of the columns as well.
Photos of Devil's Tower by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
A flock of birds flew over the top and landed. That would be our preferred method of getting to the top, too— as opposed to climbing.
Photos of Devil's Tower by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
The ‘Window,’ created when a number of columns decided to collapse, is a prominent landmark. A sign told visitors not to worry about any columns falling on them since none have fallen in recorded history. Another way of looking at it is that you could become a part of history…
Photos of Devil's Tower by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Beautiful fall colors added a fun touch to our visit.
Photos of Devil's Tower by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
They continued to entertain us as we left the Monument on the way to our next adventure.

Peggy and I are driving into Big Bend National Park today, which is at the very southern tip of western Texas. The last time we were here, we celebrated Christmas in 1999 as part of a year-long sabbatical we took from work to explore North America. This time we are celebrating out 30th Anniversary. Talk about an adventure! I was on the edge of turning 50 and Peggy was 42 when we were married in 1992. We’ve had an incredible life together, and, amazing to both of us, we are still out wandering the world. We will be off the grid for at least part of this trip. See you next week. And thanks for visiting.

Happy Thanksgiving


Peggy and I want to wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your day!

The card is from a series of Christmas, Thanksgiving and Birthday cards I created and copyrighted a while back. I’ll introduce you to the self-stuffing turkey at Christmas. Grin.

Here’s to a Scary Halloween AND Blogging Friends

First, let me note that the two aren’t related. Scary is not a synonym I would use to describe our blogging friends. Adventuresome, fun loving, good people and friends are the words I would choose. I have been both surprised— and grateful— for the friendships Peggy and I have developed online during my 12 years of blogging. Over the past two weeks we visited with three that I will feature today: Alison and Don Armstrong from British Columbia and Crystal Trulove from Oregon.


It is Halloween, however. It is only right that I recognize the day with ‘scary’ photos Peggy and I have taken over our past two months as we’ve wandered across North America.

Old West skeletons playing poker with their pistols close-by are scary. The guy down on the left end is already dead, heh-heh. His problems can’t match the woman in red, however, since they are all dead. She just lost her hand, always a bad sign in high-stake poker. Wait, it is on the arm of the guy sitting opposite. The folks at the Pine Near Campground in Winthrop, Washington had gone all out to decorate for Halloween. I asked the owner about the name. “Legend has it,” he told me, “the 4-year-old daughter of the first owner had urged her parents to call it pine near, which was how she pronounced pioneer.” Her parents honored her request.
Dinosaurs are scary, right? The Black Hills Institute in Hill City, South Dakota is packed to the brim with their bones. What could be more scary than T-Rex shown above?
T-Rex chomping down on your head.
Anything closely associated with the Devil’s name is Halloween–scary. This is Devil’s Tower in Wyoming looking ominous.
The movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, suggests that Aliens think of Devil’s Tower as a great place to abduct humans. All Aboard! You don’t want to ask this guy any probing questions about it, however. Indigenous tribes in the region think of the tower as Bear Lodge. Nothing scary about that…
Right. Try meeting up with this one as he is coming out of his ‘lodge’ in spring after several months of hibernation—hungry and grumpy.
In Yellowstone we came across mud pots with gas bubbling up creating a brew that looked and smelled like something witches would whip up . “‘Double double toil and trouble/Fire burn and cauldron bubble” Shakespeare’s three witches would have been proud of this concoction.
Not to burst your bubble…
I found the two blind eyes that popped up scarier.
They looked like escapees.
It’s hard to think of Big Foot as particularly scary. Even the King Kong sized version. But have you ever stopped to consider…
How big Big Foot’s foot is? You would not want to be stepped on! That would be both scary and messy.
I’ve never thought of wild burros as being bad, much less scary, but I’d never met these guys. Here they were in South Dakota’s Custer State Park blocking the traffic, demanding booty. Sure, buffalo blocked traffic as well. But they were merely crossing the road, exercising their prerogative to get from one side to the other. Slowly. The donkeys were bandits. Pure and simple.
“This is a hold up! Hand over your carrots.” Put into Halloween language, it’s Trick or Treat. Face it, two burros stuffing their head into your car window is scary. Say your dare to roll up your window. Say you refuse to feed the determined demanding donkeys. You get the trick. Out come their big tongues and they slime your windows.

Happy Halloween from Peggy and me.


No tricks here, it was all treats as we met up with blogging friend last week…

“Alison and Don have arrived!” Peggy said with a laugh. She was facing the door of the Washington Avenue Grill in White Rock, British Columbia. I stood up just in time for Alison to come barreling into me and give me a big hug, followed shortly afterwards by Don. It was a warm greeting between old friends— who we had never met in person. We are blogging friends. I’m not sure when we started following each other. My guess is around ten years ago. Alison and Don had sold all of their worldly possessions in their 60s, established their blog, Adventures in Wonderland — a pilgrimage of the heart. and took off to explore the world. I’ve been along with them for most of their journeys including visits to India, Australia, South America, Europe, and Asia. Their’s has been an inward as well as an outward journey. As they say in About Us, “We are interested in how the world works, how life works, how the creation of experience works, how the mind works… Opening the heart, and acceptance of what is, as it is, are keystones for us both.” They certainly opened their hearts to us. We talked for three hours, nonstop, learning more about each other and laughing a lot. If you aren’t familiar with their blog, enjoy great photography, and love learning about and participating in other cultures, I would highly recommend that you hop over and visit Alison and Don as they explore wonderland.
“We think you have the longest arms,” we told Crystal and gave her the selfie responsibilities. Unlike Don and Alison, we had met her before. Twice. The first time, she had commented on my blog that she was coming down to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and would like to have lunch with us. We insisted that she stay over at our house. I was already a fan of her blog, Conscious Engagement. Peggy enjoyed our visit with Crystal so much she made her a quilt that featured Dragons and now lives on Crystal’s bed. (Crystal loves dragons.) The second time, she had brought her new, special friend, Pedro, down to explore Southern Oregon. And, I am pleased to say, meet us. Our visit with Crystal at her home in Oregon was a bit last-minute, since I wasn’t sure when we would be where, which is kind of how we travel. We were ever so lucky that Crystal not only agreed that we had to get together but that we had to stay at her house! She has a beautiful country home filled with momentos of her travels and of her passion for the Cherokee Nation, of which she is a proud member. (She even took Bone with her to visit the Cherokees in Oklahoma.) After a wonderful dinner that featured salsa that Pedro had taught her to make and a lasagna that was scrumptious, we sat around her wood-burning stove and swapped tales while Racecar, her 17-year-old cat, decided that we had mainly come by to hold her in our laps and scratch her in the places she loves to be scratched. You will find tales of travel and adventure that are well documented with excellent photography on Crystal’s blog, but she also features her wonderful sense of humor and her commitment to making the world a better place to live, a bit challenging in this day and age. Visit her and become a part of her interesting and thoughtful world.


The Northwest is a great place to live. Not surprisingly, we visited with other friends over the past couple of weeks (and still are) who live in Washington and Oregon. So far this has included:

Our niece, Christina, and her two beautiful dogs, Zoe, the princess on the left, and Bella, the empress dowager, on the right. Christina, in addition to being a relative, is a good friend, so good that she zipped down from her home in Tumwater, Washington to help us pack when we were moving from Oregon to Virginia.

Bella, by the way, is a serious watchdog. She lies on top of Christina’s couch, parts the curtains with her nose, and on occasion barks loudly at someone who dares to walk by her domain.

Zoe is more than willing to join in, or even lead in barking, but she is more interested in having her ball thrown. This is her, “Get with it; throw my ball,” look.

We also met another Bella, this one in Bellingham, Washington, when we were visiting with our friends David and Celia. They had invited over for a wonderful seafood dinner featuring salmon, ling cod and crabs they had caught. Dave went with us on our 18-day private Grand Canyon tour 12 years ago. He took us as passengers on his raft several times and let us play at paddling (but not in serious rapids). We forgot to get a photo of Dave and Celia but he sent us this picture of Bella. I’m going with the yellow thingy being her Halloween costume, that or a teething ring. She nibbled on us quite liberally.
And finally, we also spent a pleasant day with Michelle, Brian, and their dog Atli. (Atlisis the name of a First Nation tribe.) Michelle and Peggy were principals together in the Dry Creek School District near Sacramento. Michelle also hired our daughter, Tasha, to teach at her school. After Dry Creek, Michelle went on to get her Phd and serve as a superintendent of schools. Brian is a writer and an avid bicyclist, still doing centuries (100 miles in a day) in his 70s.
And with that, Peggy and I will bid you farewell on this scary day. It’s been fun visiting with you!

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.