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’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.

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.)

The Bryce Canyon Series… Kodachrome Basin State Park— and a Movie Star

I start our Bryce Canyon National Park series today. Like we did with Zion National Park, Peggy and I explored other parts of the Park and the surrounding area as well as the four miles of Bryce Canyon that most tourists visit. I am starting today with Kodachrome Basin State Park. From here, I will move on to Red Canyon, Mossy Cave, Highway 12, and Escalante National Monument. I’ll finish with two posts on Bryce Canyon. The message is the same as it was with Zion: There are several other areas outside of the main tourist area that are equally beautiful and worthy of a visit while being far less crowded.

Kodachrome Basin State Park has lots of red rocks. And some interesting characters. What famous movie star does this remind you of? He is a bit hairy, has a thing for blondes, and likes to climb tall buildings.

Peggy and I stayed at a campground in the small town of Cannonville, Utah on Highway 12 for our exploration of the Bryce Canyon area— miles away from the crowds of the National Park. Kodachrome Basin State Park was just down the road from us. It received its name in 1948 when a National Geographic team explored the area and decided the basin reminded them of Kodachrome film. If you are old enough to remember when photography meant film instead of digital images, you may remember that Kodachrome was a special film designed by Kodak to bring out the red in photos. There are a lot of red rocks in the area— thus the name.

I decided that black and white might be a better way to render the look-alike movie star above. In my mind, it is definitely King Kong. Peggy agrees.
We decided this might be the skull of King Kong’s cousin.

Actually, we saw much more than red rocks and giant apes in the Park.

Photo of white rocks along road into Kodachrome Basin by Curt Mekemson.
This white rock formation was on the road into Kodachrome Basin State Park…
Photo of white rock sculpture taken by Curt Mekemson on the road into Utah's Kodachrome Basin State Park.
Plus this gorgeous white rock sculpture.
Photo of Kodachrome Basin State Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
Our first view of Kodachrome Basin State Park promised that we were in for a treat. We were not disappointed.
Photo of Rocks at the beginning of Kodachrome Basin State Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
These two large rocks were located at the entrance to the Park, like guardians.
Photo of rock guardian at the entrance to Kodachrome Basin State Park by Peggy Mekemson.
Given its face, I thought of this rock specifically as the Guardian of the Park. It was the back of the rock on the right that held the surprise, however. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of sedimentary pipe in Kodachrome Basin State Park taken by Peggy Mekemson.
An unusual white pillar shot straight up from the red rock. Turns out that they are found throughout the Park. The rocks are known as sedimentary pipes but the jury is still out as to what creates them. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of white sedimentary pipe at beginning of Kodachrome Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
I took a closer photo of the finger-like projection.
Photo of sandstone spire in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Peggy Mekemson.
There were also sandstone spires created by the more normal process of erosion. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of Kodachrome State Park spires and stone monuments in a row. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
A number of the red sandstone spires and other rocks were in a row. I show some of them here. They were probably part of the same formation before erosion wore them down.
Photo of spire with caprice in Kodachrome Casin State Park in Utah by Peggy Mekemson.
This spire still sported its caprock. I loved the color on the rock to the right. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of hoodoo in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Peggy Mekemson.
There were also hoodoos found throughout the park like the one on the left. Expect many more in my other posts on Bryce Canyon and other parks in the area. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of Kodachrome State Park Trail by Peggy Mekemson.
A number of trails lead into the park. This is the one we chose to hike.
Photograph of rock sculpture on Angels Palace Trail in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Curt Mekemson.
The trail wandered among the red rocks shown above and then shot up a steep but short wall. We came around a rock and discovered another hoodoo.
Photo of stone sculpture in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Curt Mekemson.
It was a handsome rock…
Large sedimentary chimney in Kodachrome Basin State Park. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
A big fellow…
Photo of colorful rock in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Curt Mekemson.
And colorful. I took a photo from the other side shooting straight up, and caught some of the rock’s color.
Photo of multi-colored rock in Kodachrome Basin State Park taken by Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy’s photo on our return trip caught the color even more. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of slender, white sedimentary chimney in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Peggy Mekemson.
There were many other things to see along the trail. Peggy caught this photo of a tall, slender, sedimentary chimney. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of stubby sedimentary chimney in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Peggy Mekemson.
And a short, stubby one. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of red sandstone rocks in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Curt Mekemson.
I took photos of red sandstone rocks…
Photo of red boulders in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Curt Mekemson.
And more sandstone rocks…
Photo of juniper in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Curt Mekemson.
I found a small juniper that I felt looked like a Japanese bonsai.
Photo of wood sculpture along Angel's Trail in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Curt Mekemson.
And, a twisted wood sculpture…
Photo of towering rock and massive cliff along Angels Place Trail in Kodachrome Basin State park by Curt Mekemson.
Finally we came to a steep drop off, towering rocks and a massive cliff that signified the end of the trail.
We weren’t any more willing to climb up the cliff than we were willing to drop into the canyon. Grin.
Photo of cliffs at the end Of Angel's Palace Trail in Kodachrome Basin State Park by Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy took a close up. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I took a similar photo that I rendered into black and white.
Other trails in the park promised many more opportunities for exploration. Unfortunately, we had run out of time for the day.
Photograph of Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah by Curt Mekemson.
I took a final photo of the park before heading on to our next adventure.

Next Friday I will feature Red Canyon, which in some ways matches Bruce Canon for sheer beauty and fantastic hoodoos. You won’t want to miss it.

Meanwhile, we wrapped up our Rhine River cruise. Here’s another teaser. We were wandering through Germany’s Black Forest when we came across this donkey at a historic farm museum.

Donkey. I found him very photogenic.

And Finally: Zion Canyon… One of the World’s Great Natural Treasures

Early morning view of Zion Canyon. Photo taken by Curt Mekemson.
An early morning view of Zion Canyon.

I’ve saved the best for last in my Zion National Park series, and I’ve done it for two reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to emphasize that there are other areas in Zion that deserve your attention, areas of incredible beauty and interest like Kolob Terrace, Kolob Canyon, East Zion, and the petroglyph hike Peggy and I took you on. Second, I wanted to suggest areas that lack the crowds you will face in Zion Canyon. We didn’t see anyone on our petroglyphs hike.

None of this is meant to detract from the beauty and grandeur of the Canyon. There are reasons why millions of people visit it every year. It is one of the great natural wonders of the world. I wouldn’t think of going to Zion National Park without visiting, and I’ve been doing so for 50 years. My first trip there was in 1973. I put on my backpack and hiked up and over the 2000 feet canyon walls to a lovely oasis known by the unglamorous name of Potato Hollow. Nobody was there, either. Grin. I remember the aspens carved with names of early Basque sheep herders and a cool stream. I’m a bit ashamed to mention that I remember the hike down even more. It was 105° F. I finally arrived back at my car with hot, blistered feet where I had an iced cold beer waiting. Something like a Bud. It may have been the best beer I have ever downed. It was so good, I immediately drank a second.

Peggy and I took a shuttle from our campground in the small town of Virgin into Springdale and grabbed a Park shuttle out to the end of the road. It was 7 AM and cold. We then jumped off and on shuttles, stopping at major sites and working our way back to the beginning of the park. We took 200 photos which I then worked down to a hundred and finally the 22 shown below. I’ll skip the commentary today on most of the photos. They speak for themselves. They are split between photos Peggy took and photos I took.

Photo of Zion Canyon by Curt Mekemson
The Virgin River.
For fun.

This wraps up our visit to Zion National Park. Peggy and I hope you have had as much fun with the posts as we had putting them together. Next up is Bryce National Park. Once again we will focus on the surrounding area as well as the four miles of Bryce Canyon most people visit. I’m estimating that there will be seven posts altogether. As you read this we will have finished our trip up the Rhine River and returned to our base camp near Waterford, Virginia. Starting in September, we will be on the road again, this time for five or six months.

We are wrapping up our Rhine River Cruise. Considerable beauty… And lots of castles! This is Marksburg Castle which was one of three we toured.

A Checkerboard Mesa and More Landmarks of East Zion National Park

Note: As you read this, Peggy and I are in Amsterdam at the beginning of a Rhine River cruise between Amsterdam and Basel. I’ve been scheduling posts ahead of time so I can maintain a more regular presence on WordPress than I have been able to for the past several months. My goal for now is once a week on Fridays. At this rate, I already have enough material on the Southwest national parks we visited in April and May to keep going for three months. LOL. I may never catch up.

Photo of Checkerboard Mesa in the eastern section of Zion National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
Checkerboard Mesa is the dominant geological feature of the eastern section of Zion National Park. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Rudyard Kipling said it:” East is East and West Is West, and never the twain shall meet.” That’s not true of Zion National Park, of course, but the eastern section of the Park will provide you with a significantly different experience than you have down in the Canyon or the western sections of Zion. Checkerboard Mesa shown above is the primary example. We can thank ancient sand dunes laid down in an early-Jurassic-era, Sahara-size desert that covered significant portions of what is now Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado 190 million years ago. The horizontal lines are caused by what is known as cross-bedding of the dunes. The vertical lines are caused by breaks in the cross bedding caused by freezing and thawing. It was thought that the results resembled a checker board, thus the name. Peggy and I found the mesa a fun subject for photography.

Photo of Checkerboard Mesa in the eastern section of Zion National Park by Curt Mekemson.
I moved back to provide a broader perspective on the Mesa using pine trees for framing.
Photo of Checkerboard Mesa in the eastern section of Zion National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy added a photo of the massive chunk of Navajo Sandstone reaching toward the sky. It’s quite a scroll down. Grin. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of Checkerboard Mesa see as driving up from Zion Canyon taken by Curt Mekemson.
If you are driving up from Zion Canyon, this will be your first view of Checkerboard Mesa.
A view of the cross-bedding in the Navajo Sandstone that makes up Checkerboard Mesa in Zion national Park by Peggy Mekemson.
We were both interested in the cross-bedding. Peggy took this interesting side view.(Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
View of Checkerboard Mesa surroundings by Curtis Mekemson.
This was the view looking a bit farther north of Peggy’s photo.
Photo of Checkerboard Mesa in the eastern section of Zion National Park with lone pine tree by Curt Mekemson.
This was the view looking south.

If you have been in Zion and either entered or left by the east entrance/exit, you know there is much more to East Zion National Park than Checkerboard Mesa. One thing that fascinated Peggy was the alcoves that may eventually lead to towering arches such as those found in Arches National Park.

Photo of Navajo Sandstone in the eastern section of Zion National Park being eroded in such a way that it may eventual lead to an arch.( Photo by Peggy Mekemson.).
Looking toward the top of a Navajo sandstone mountain, you can see how the ridge coming down the front is eroding from both sides. This may eventually lead to an arch. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Alcove in Navajo Sandstone in East Zion National Park photographed by Peggy Mekemson.
This provides a straight on view of the alcove on the right of the ridge. Note how deep the alcove is. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Round alcove carved into Navajo Sandstone in East Zion National Park. Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Another alcove. Alcoves and arches are created when a harder capstone is on top of a softer stone that erodes more rapidly. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
East Zion national Park photo by Peggy Mekemson.
And another alcove photographed by Peggy. Had there been more, I am sure that she would have photographed them as well! (Photograph by Peggy Mekemson.)

While Peggy was busy photographing wannabe arches, I was concentrating on other landmarks of East Zion National Park.

Photo of East Zion National Park landmark by Curt Mekemson.
I found this landmark rather impressive.
Navajo Sandstone featuring huge scar from falling rock in East Zion National Park. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
I wondered about the huge chunk of rock that left behind a bright red scar in this landmark. The other side is one of the alcoves that Peggy photographed.
East Zion National Park mesa photographed by Curt Mekemson.
Another prominent Mesa standing out like the prow of an ocean liner.
Photo of mesa on mesa in the eastern section of Zion National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
A mesa on a mesa. Peggy was impressed with its color. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of shrubs growing on cross-bedded sand stone in East Zion Canyon by Peggy Mekemson.
I’ll close today with this interesting photo that Peggy took of shrubs and small trees growing on cross-bedded sandstone. I thought, ‘Wow, this would make one heck of a challenging puzzle!’ (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

A Strange Walk into an Alternate Reality… Petroglyphs in Zion National Park

Photo of geologic structure above petroglyphs in Zion National Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
Peggy and I found this interesting rock formation looming above the petroglyphs that we located in the eastern section of Zion National Park. It was only the beginning of unusual rock structures that defined the area.

I quickly learned when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa that my reality was substantially different from that of the tribal students I was teaching. It was a lesson that has served me all of my life. The human mind is incredibly flexible and our reality, to a large extent, depends upon what we are taught. Given my 1965-67 experience in Liberia, I can’t even start to imagine what people believed 7,000 years ago.  

That’s when humans first started wandering the area now known as Zion National Park. They started with Archaic peoples, moved on to the Anasazi and Fremont cultural groups, and, in turn, were followed by the ancestors of modern day Native American Paiutes. Any or all of these groups may have left petroglyphs in the slot canyon Peggy and I explored in the eastern section of the Park. And all of them reflect thinking that we can only guess at. 

Peggy and I are fascinated by petroglyphs, both from the connection it gives us to people from hundreds or even thousands of years ago, and from the unique look of rock art. We have visited sites throughout the Southwest. There is a certain commonality to the rock art depending on the culture represented. We have also found a similarity to sites selected by the ancients to leave their messages. Not surprisingly, they tend to be near water, which is where the people lived. But there was also an inclination to select locations that stood out from the surroundings. Possibly it gave a sense of sacredness to the area. 

The site we visited was an excellent example of this, as our photos show. The strangeness, however, started with the directions to find the site. As I remember them: “Go down into the canyon and find a sand wash. Follow the wash up the canyon until it comes to the tunnel under the road. Go through the tunnel and follow the wash until you come to a trail to your left.” There was as much room for interpretation in following the directions as there was for interpreting what the petroglyphs meant! 

Our photos start with the tunnel.

Photo of tunnel under road in Zion national Park that leads to petroglyphs taken by Peggy Mekemson.
It was appropriately hidden by trees and bushes.The sandy wash led right to it, however. The light we could see on the right suggested that the tunnel was a few feet long. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of tunnel to petroglyphs in East Zion National Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
Reality was different. It was much longer than it appeared to be. Fortunately, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Disappearing into the light at the end of the tunnel that led to petroglyphs in Zion National Park. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
Peggy walked toward the light and disappeared. She boldly went forth where numerous others had obviously travelled, judging from the foot prints in the sand. But did they ever return? Maybe a little Sci-Fi/Horror movie music is called for here.
Photo of sand was leading to petroglyphs in the eastern section of Zion national Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
She was waiting for me in the sandy wash that led onward, supposedly toward a trail that would lead off to the left and petroglyphs. We quickly learned that there were several trails leading off to the left where people had gone in futile searches! Fortunately, Peggy and I had an advantage…
Photo of rocks near petroglyphs in east Zion National Park by Curt Mekemson.
We were looking for an area that suggested the presence of petroglyphs. This rock structure seemed a likely candidate. We started looking for a trail to the left, and found even more interesting rocks.
Photo of cliff near petroglyphs in Zion National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy caught this photo and the following one.
Photo of petroglyph site in Zion National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Strange rocks found near petroglyphs in the eastern section of Zion National Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
How’s this for unusual? If I were a shaman, I’d think this would be a great location for petroglyphs.
Photograph of rock face near petroglyphs in the eastern section of Zion national Park by Peggy Mekemson.
This fellow was not a petroglyph but part of the rock face, so to speak. I’ve learned a new word, BTW: pareidolia, the tendency to read into patterns and interpret visual stimuli, even when there is no intentional meaning present. A lot of that happens in my blogs. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo along the Petroglyph Trail in the eastern section of Zion National Park taken by Peggy Mekemson.
There was something surreal about the beauty of the area. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of colorful rocks found along Petroglyph Trail in the easter section of Zion National Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
I looked up and caught this colorful view.
Photo of Zion National Park petroglyph site taken by Curt Mekemson.
And then we reached the site. It was just beyond the green shrubs if my memory serves me correctly. It’s hard to imagine a more stunning location. We were prepared to enter the alternate reality suggested by petroglyphs.
The petroglyphs were waiting. This is obviously a human like figure, probably a woman, but what’s with the strange diagram underneath? Does it represent power lines reaching out to the universe from the individual. I stared at it for a while and wondered if it didn’t represent a reflection in water. Or a moon shadow. Remember the song by Cat Stevens? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of petroglyph in Zion National Park by Curt Mekemson.
Another reflection shot? A selfie? Or possibly a mating couple. Such images are not uncommon in petroglyphs.
Photograph of origin petroglyph in the eastern section of Zion National Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
This is frequently thought of as being an origin petroglyph, representing the entry into this world from another world.
Photo of petroglyph panel in East Zion National Park taken by Peggy Mekemson.
This panel clearly represents petroglyphs created in different times with the figures in the upper right being of more recent origin. Are they hiking with packs? Or are they paddling a boat? The wavy line may represent a lake and a stream. Or a snake? The lower guy on the right seems to be asking the question while the guy on the left seems to be running like crazy to escape. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Photo of animal with antlers in Zion National Park by Curt Mekemson.
I labeled this guy as a moose. Why not— even though there is no record of moose in the Park area except in 2013 when one showed up. 🙂 Tourists were told to keep their distance.

Photo of woman petroglyph by Peggy Mekemson.
We’ve found women portrayed like this throughout the Southwest. The circular figure may be the sun. I wondered if the wiggly lines represented counting, or a snake, or a river. Or…
Person on a warpath petroglyph in the eastern section of Zion National Park. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
My imagination placed this woman on the warpath! 🙂 (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

There were many other petroglyphs. At the end of the panels, Peggy and I found steps carved into the canyon wall leading up to a ledge.

Steps carved into cliff along petroglyph trail in the eastern section of Zion National Park. Photo by Curt Mekemson.
I thought it might be interesting to climb up them and explore the ledge. Peggy felt it best that her 79 year old husband be grounded. Grin.

Wandering up the trail in search of more petroglyphs, we found a dead big horn sheep that may have slipped while climbing the walls. Or been taken out by a cougar.

It did not look very happy. Peggy wondered why I wanted to photograph it and decided it was a sign that we should turn around. Admittedly, it did look a bit Satanic…

Shortly afterward we came to what was obviously the end of the trail unless we wanted to scramble over rocks. We turned around leaving the sheep, the petroglyphs, the beautiful canyon and the tunnel behind. It had been quite an adventure. In my next post we will explore more of the unique beauty of East Zion National Park.

Kolob Canyons… “Zion National Park’s Best Kept Secret”

I couldn’t help but think of William Least Heat-Moon’s book, Blue Highways, this morning. If you have read his classic travel adventure, you will remember that he would go out of his way to find small towns with unusual names, like Dime Box, Texas. We are in Accident, Maryland today and I’m pretty sure it meets Heat-Moon’s classification of an unusual name. I was also amused to learn that people from the town are called Accidentals. I feel a connection. My parents always told me that I was an accident.

This is the last stop on the first segment of our full time travels. Tomorrow we will arrive at our daughter Tasha, her husband Clay and our grandsons Ethan and Cody’s home in Waterford, Virginia outside of Washington DC. They have an attached efficiency apartment that they are insisting that we use as our base. It’s Tasha’s way of assuring that we will be around on occasion. It will take a few weeks to set up the apartment, but first we will be dashing off on our Rhine River Cruise.

In the meantime, I will keep the posts from our national park and monument visits in the Southwest rolling out. After Zion there is Bryce, Escalante, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Mesa Verde plus our other adventures along the way. I have enough to produce posts until we are once again on the road. More than enough! On the small chance I run out, there is the Rhine River Cruise. 🙂

Scenic road leading into the Kolob Canyons's section of Zion National Park. Photo taken by Peggy Mekemson.
We were driving into the Kolob Canyons when Peggy snapped this photo. We knew we were in for a treat. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Zion National Park promotes Kolob Canyons as its best kept secret. Other web sites follow a similar theme. It’s not surprising considering that the canyons are located in the remote northwestern section of the Park, 45 miles away from Zion’s main attraction.

Given the distance, many people ask is whether it’s worth taking half a day to visit. (This assumes they are even aware that this section of the Park exists.) Peggy and I would like to answer with a resounding yes! It meets our three criteria: It’s unique, beautiful, and not crowded. There are also a number of hikes visitors can take that we couldn’t squeeze in. A fairly challenging one provides hikers with a view of the world’s second longest arch. Next time.

The curvy five-mile drive climbs a thousand feet. It can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time, but— if you are like us— you will want to linger and admire the fantastic views of towering Navajo Sandstone cliffs and deep finger canyons created by runoff from the plateau above. There are a number of pullouts along the way. Each one provides a different view or perspective and each is worth a stop. The following photos reflect what Peggy and I saw.

Photo of Timber Top Mountain and Shuntavi Butte in the Kolob Canyons in Zion national Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
Timber Top Mountain cuts off to the left in this photo and wraps around a hanging valley that has been created by runoff. The Shuntavi Butte stretches out from Timber Top on the right. The area was a favorite of ours.
Side photo of Shuntavi Butte in Zion national Park taken by Peggy Mekemson.
Remember what I said about different perspectives. Peggy took this side shot of Shuntavi Butte. Is that baby Shuntavi on the left? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I opted for for a close up which gave the Shuntavi Butte a massive, toothed look.
This seasonal stream that runs between the two arms of Timber Top Mountain was close to dry when we saw it. But the minerals it carried had left a black stain where it tumbled off of the hanging canyon. Eventually it will finish carving the canyon down to the lower level. (Give or take a few million years.) The erosive power of water is amazing. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Nagunt Mesa is located next to the western arm of Timber Top Mountain.
Photo of the western arm of Table Top Mountain and Nagunt Playa by Peggy Mekemson.
Here’s a closer view. Note the beginning of a possible arch on Nagunt Mesa. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Close up of Timber Top Mountain and Nagunt Mesa in the Kolob Canyon's section of Zion National Park by Curtis Mekemson.
I added an even closer view of the would-be arch. Note that Nagunt Mesa is also covered with timber. That led me to wonder what type of wildlife lived there. Had Native Americans found a way to make it their home?

Some other views of the Kolob Canyons from our visit:

Photo of mesa in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park by Curt Mekemson.
Another Mesa (I think). I like the foreground effect of the trees on the photo. We were high enough and it was early enough that the trees were just beginning to leaf out.
Photo of pyramid from to a mesa in Kolob Canyons by Peggy Mekemson.
A more frontal shot, i.e. different perspective, gave the mesa an almost pyramid look. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I found an old friend from the Sierra Nevada Mountains growing at a high point along the road: a wall flower (Erysimum capitatum). It’s always reminded me of a brief phase I went through in high school where girls scared the heck out of me.
This peak was even more impressive than the pyramid. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I’ll conclude today with this side view of Nagunt Mesa. I liked the way the tree framed the photo. Our next post will take readers over the east side of Zion Canyon. Once again, I will feature unique rocks. This post will also include petroglyphs located in a magical canyon.

Kolob Terrace, Zion National Park, Part 2… A Mormon Concept of Heaven?

Road in to Kolob Terrace just before it begins its climb onto the terrace. Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
The road had been gradually climbing since we started our exploration of Kolob Terrace in Zion National Park. It was about to get serious as it made its way up to the terrace above the cliffs. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We are continuing our exploration of the Kolob Terrace section of Zion National Park as part of our full-time experience of living on the road.

I am always curious about how things get their names. I wasn’t familiar with Kolob. Was it a Native American name? Was it the name of an early explorer or pioneer? Turns out it comes directly out of the Book of Abraham, a sacred text of the Mormons that Joseph Smith supposedly translated from an Egyptian papyrus scroll. I wonder if he used his rose colored glasses. I should have guessed the Mormon connection. Utah is Mormon country and has been ever since Brigham Young brought his band of followers into the state in 1847 to escape religious persecution in the east. Kolob is either a star or a large planet in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy close to the throne of God. Some Mormons believe that is where they go when they die. It shows up in the Musical, The Book of Mormon where the lyrics proclaim “I believe that plan involves me getting my own planet.” The modern church has challenged the assumption.

Imagining Kolob to be a rather pleasant place from a Mormon perspective, I can understand why the early pioneers gave its name to the terrace. Peggy and I also found it pleasant. Actually, I’d much prefer to go there when I die rather than the biblical Heaven where the ‘streets are paved with gold.’

We pulled off the road frequently to take photos on our way up and down.

Peggy uses the cab of our truck to photograph the cliffs below the terrace.
An F-150 parked in the Kolob terrace section of Zion Canyon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.
Where our F-150 was parked when Peggy took the photo…
Photo by Peggy Mekemson taken from the road into Kolob Terrace, a section of Zion National Park.
Peggy’s photo. If you have ever wondered how the impressive rock bridges of the Southwest are formed, this is potentially one in progress.

More photos that I took on our way up to the terrace…

Photo of Kolob Terrace by Curtis Mekemson.
Photo of towering cliffs in Zion National Parks Kolob Terrace by Curt Mekemson.
She brush and pines provide striking foreground in the Kolob Terrace section of Zion National Park.Photo by Curt Mekemson.
Photo by Curt Mekemson on the way up to Kolob Terrace, Zion National Park.
View along Kolob Terrace Road taken by Curt Mekemson
Private road below towering cliffs and interesting rock formations in the Kolob Terrace section of Zion National Park.
I’ll conclude with this photo of a private road winding its way below the cliffs. I was intrigued as to where it went and could easily imagine Peggy and me living there. My next post will feature photos we took up on the terrace.

Who’s Smarter: A Mule Or a Horse? Plus Death Valley’s Beautiful 20 Mule Team Canyon

Who’s smarter? This girl with her wild eyes and gorgeous eyelids…
Or this fellow with a large nose and impressive nose hairs?

Or, the question going through your mind might be, “Why in the heck is Curt asking this question when his post is on Death Valley?”

Well, it started when I was doing research on Death Valley’s well-know, historic 20 Mule Team. Given that I am featuring the 20 Mule Canyon on my post today, I wanted to provide some background information, which I will. But the first thing I learned (or relearned) was that it wasn’t a 20 mule team that was used to haul borax out of Death Valley from 1893-96. It actually consisted of 18 mules and 2 horses. All of the animals had very specific tasks. Some required more intelligence than others.

Luckily for me, the town just up the road from where we camped near Bryce Canyon (Tropic) had a Mules Days event going on and there was a horse corral just across the road from us in Cannonville. I was able to persuade a mule and a horse to pose for me.

There is a ton of information on the twenty mule teams. This may seem like a lot until you take into consideration that the 18 mules and 2 horses were actually hauling close to 9 tons of Borax at a time out of Death Valley in temperatures that sometimes exceeded a 100 degrees F. (Operations were halted over the hot summer months.) They started their epic journey from the Harmony Borax Works near Furnace Creek and traveled for 165 miles over primitive roads to the railhead near Mohave. As you might imagine, it was quite the challenge. It required close to a heroic effort on the part of the mules, the horses and the muleskinners. Millions of dollars could be made if the venture was successful, however, and it was. Borax has lots of uses.

Still, all of this would be a mere note in the history books except for a couple of factors. One, Borax Soap featured the mules in a very extensive advertising campaign. The second was the radio and TV program, Death Valley Days. For those of you who are old enough to remember the 50s and 60s TV show, you may also remember that Ronald Reagan hosted the show in the mid 60s just before he jumped into his campaign for California Governor.

I think this 20 mule team traveling through 20 Mule Canyon is a team that Borax Soap used to promote its product. The photo is from the US Borax’s Visitor Center in Boron, which is well worth a stop. The two large wagons were for hauling the borax. The last wagon contained water for the mules since water holes were few and far between on the long, dry 10-day journey— and it was very thirsty work. The man at the back of the line is riding one of the two horses. The two lead mules, both female, have bells.
This historic photo provides a good perspective on just how big the wagons were. The large wheel is seven feet tall. The man on the left is the muleskinner who was in charge. On his right was his swamper who carried out a number of supportive jobs including handling a back up brake to be used if the wagon decided to run away going down hill.The muleskinner earned $4 per day, his swamper, $2, and the Chinese laborers who did the hardest work of digging out the borax, $1.25

I found a rather amusing, imaginary discussion with a muleskinner on the Death Valley National Park site. The greatest challenge he noted was in getting around corners. He used a diagram to describe the operation. An 80 foot chain connects the lead mules to the wagon.

Here’s what he had to say about the process: “Now I’ll tell you just how smart my mules is: it’s one thing drivin’ along a straight road; it’s a whole nother thing turnin’ corners on a mountain pass. My 2 lead mules, both mares, are about 80 feet ahead of me–so far away I can’t even begin to use my 9-foot long whip on ‘em. I’ve been known to throw pebbles at ‘em to get their attention. Aim’s good too. Back to gettin’ around corners. The next 5 pairs of mules are my “swing teams”, they ain’t real smart, they just know their names and what ‘pull’ and ‘stop’ means. Now the next 3 sets of mules behind the swings are my “pointers”. These mules are trained special to jump over that 80-foot chain and side-step away from the curve to keep that chain tight and my wagons goin’ ‘round that corner right. Next comes the 2 big horses. They’re strong enough to start my wagons rollin’, but that’s all they’re good for. A dumb mule (and I ain’t seen one yet) is a whole lot smarter than a smart horse.”

So, there you have it— which animal is smarter. At least from the perspective of a muleskinner. I’ll allow that a horse lover might have a different point of view. Grin. And now, it’s time to get away from all of the words and take you through 20 Mule Canyon in photos. The canyon starts no more than a mile above Zabriskie Point. And even though the road is dirt, cars with two wheel drive seem to handle it easily.

The dirt road.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy caught a photo of me hiking up a trail. There are a number of stops along the road where you can get out, stretch your legs and take photos, if you want.
I captured this photo of Peggy Woohoo! And the next two photos.
I’ll conclude today with this photo of a very colorful place along the road. The colors are created by the oxidation of minerals/metals. I cover which metals cause which colors in my next post. It will be on the even more colorful drive to the Artists Palette. I am going to feature pup fish as well. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

To bring you up to date, Peggy and I have now spent a week in Zion Canyon National Park and a week in Bryce. We are now in the small, but fun community of Kanab, perched on the border between Utah and Arizona. Here’s a photo we took last week to give you a view of things to come.

A pair of hoodoos we found near Bryce Canyon. The name hoodoo is derived from a Paiute Indian name meaning scary. I think I can see why.