Towns along the PCT

While I puff my way up and down mountains, Peggy explores the surrounding country and towns, having adventures of her own. A hike over to Burney Falls rewarded her with this view. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

 

Today’s Post:

Small towns along the PCT are lifelines to through hikers. First and foremost, they are where hikers pick up their supplies for the next section of the trail. But they also provide a break— a chance to eat a good meal, shower, wash clothes, and possibly down a few cold beers. Sometimes the towns serve as meeting points where trekkers catch up with friends they have made along the trail.

Information about the communities passes along the trail quickly. One night I was perched in a dry camp up on a high ridge between Castle Crags and Burney Falls when a hiker came through and asked a person camped across the trail from me if he had heard about the pizza parlor in the town of Mt. Shasta that offered an all you can eat lunch for $7.50— a through-hikers’ Paradise. I felt for the owner as he saw his profits dwindle and disappear down the gullets of gaunt, semi-starved PCTers. It would be like seeing a plague of locusts take on your wheat crop.

Between the time Peggy drops me off and picks me up, she has been exploring these small towns and having adventures of her own. She is going to be doing a ‘guest’ post on her experiences in a couple of weeks but today I want to share some of the photos she has been taking.

 

Current Location

I was late and Peggy was starting to worry. She was waiting at Sonora Pass on Highway 108 to pick me up. As usual, she was making friends with through-hikers. She had asked a charming French couple from Leon (Camilla and Bastion) to keep an eye out for me on the trail since they were hiking north and I was hiking south. I met them while they were enjoying a snack break as I was slowly making my way up the north side of Sonora Peak to the 10,400-foot (3170 meters) trail pass.

Camilla and Bastion, PCT hikers from Leon, France, on Sonora Pass. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Let me emphasize “slowly.” The last half-mile had been steep and my short legs had not been happy with the numerous knee-high stone steps built into the trail. They were squeaking unprintable comments whenever I came to one.

“You must be Curtis,” Camilla called out. The PCT Telegraph was at work. “You have a wonderful wife. She’s worried about you.” It sounded like Peggy to me— both wonderful and worried. Peggy had fed Camilla and Bastion blueberry scones from Trader Joes. More to the point, she had fed them scones slathered in peanut butter that Camilla had been lusting after. They were still talking about it. Apparently, they had hung out with Peggy for almost an hour while they waited for their resupply.

Bastion explained that the trailhead parking lot closed at 6:00. Peggy would have to move. And there was no cell phone service. I’d be stuck up on the mountain for the night with my remaining Cliff Bar for dinner and Peggy would probably be frantic. It was now 3:00. I assured them that I would be there before 6:00. Bastion looked a bit skeptical, (he’d seen me coming up the mountain), but Camilla was more optimistic. I hiked in at 5:00.

Later, I told Peggy not to worry about the no-parking after 6:00 rule. What cop or forest service official is going to seriously hassle a 68-year-old woman who is concerned about and waiting for her 75-year-old husband to come off a difficult and occasionally dangerous wilderness trail? “Move on lady. Rules are rules.” I doubt it.

But I had already made use of the PCT telegraph to alleviate Peggy’s worry. I’d been hiking up the East Fork of the Carson River when Bones had come beeping by as if I were standing still. Like me, he was traveling north to south. I assume his long and lanky build had earned him his trail name. I knew that he would be into Sonora Pass a couple of hours before me so I asked him to check for Peggy and tell her I was fine and coming along. Which he did. When I arrived, he had been chatting with her for an hour and a half while he recharged his phone in our van.

I insisted that Bones have his photo taken with Bone when he passed me. Both seemed delighted.

Bones, who comes from Portland, Oregon, had been chatting with Peggy for an hour and a half when I came off the trail. You can tell he is a PCT hiker by how skinny he is. I look equally gaunt. I was surprised that Peggy hadn’t pulled out her guitar so the two of them could have performed a concert. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We were fortunate to leave Sonora Pass when we did. Peggy had been watching a worrisome cloud of smoke. It had grown from a small, seemingly insignificant plume to covering a third of the sky. The Donnell fire located a few miles farther to the west on Highway 108 was being pushed by winds and had jumped the highway.  Bones and I had experienced the winds up on the trail around Sonora Peak. I estimated that they were gusting close to 50 miles per hour. Bones had put his pack down to take a photo and watched it be blown along the ground. He scurried to retrieve it. So much for the photo-op. I’d had to lean into the wind to keep my footing, not particularly pleasant on a narrow, high-pass trail with steep drops. But it wasn’t boring.

The wind hit me as I came over the trail pass. I could hardly take this photo. Highway 108 can be seen in the distance on the top right (the white speck). I still had a ways to get to Peggy!

Smoke from the Donnell fire was rapidly increasing when we left Sonora Pass.

I was familiar with the area from previous backpack trips and told Bones the fire could easily make its way from Clark’s Fork up to the PCT. An hour later, after Peggy and I had driven down to Highway 395, we were informed that the Sonora Pass Road had been closed. I read this morning (August 6), that the PCT above Clark Fork was in danger of being closed as well. Kennedy Meadows, where Bones was going to spend the night and wait for his parents, had been evacuated. Peggy and I are concerned for Bones, Camilla, Bastion and other trekkers in the area.

Peggy and I stayed at a KOA along Highway 395 that night. Once again, smoke filled the air. It did make for a rather dramatic photo of the cliffs overlooking the KOA, however.

This is a major story of the PCT this year. In my last post, I had reported how I was jumping south to escape the thick smoke from the Carr fire near Redding. I didn’t escape. As I made my way from Carson Pass to Sonora Pass over the past week, I was followed by smoke from the Carr fire and greeted by smoke from the Ferguson/Yosemite fire. Now smoke from the Donnell fire had been added to the equation. The huge new Mendocino fire around Clear Lake is threatening to be the largest in California’s history. Other fires are raging around LA. Air pollution levels in California are now some of the worse in the world because of the smoke.

Peggy told me that all out-door sports events in Sacramento had been cancelled yesterday because of the problem. And yet, here I am hiking up mountains, pushing as hard as I have ever pushed in my life, breathing the same pollution deep into my lungs. I may have to change my objectives. One possibility that several hikers are considering is to head north to Washington where the fire problem (so far) isn’t nearly as extensive. I’m thinking about joining them.

Photos taken by Peggy as she has her own adventures while providing support for me.

Etna is a favorite town along the PCT, known by hikers for its hospitality. Peggy found the historic buildings in the community of particular interest. This one sported a mural emphasizing its history, as did a number of other buildings. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The town’s museum was located in what I assume was an old school.

I suspect, or at least hope, that this boarded up historic building will morph into some modern use. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Speaking of historic, this phone booth certainly fits the bill. And it still functions! Local calls were for free. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

This “Little Library” where folks can pick up, trade, or donate books was near and dear to Peggy’s heart. As President of Friends of the Library in Ruch, Oregon, she has supported a similar program for our community.

This restaurant was ‘near and dear’ to my heart. Our trail friends, Big Foot and Peter Pan, had recommended it and Peggy considers it a sacred duty to stuff me every time I come off the trail. Stuff away we did.

Peggy entertained herself with a long hike at Caste Crags and was rewarded with this view. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

She also found these large Umbrella plants fascinating… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

And used her foot for perspective. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

One place she stayed at Castle Crags while waiting for me was at the RV camp at Railroad Resort Park. People can actually rent these cabooses to stay in. Castle Crags looms in the background. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

This train engine is located at the park. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

As was this dining car— another place that I was stuffed. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

McCloud featured this somewhat scary sculpture of a logger. You wouldn’t want to meet him at night— or get in an argument over logging practices with him! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

In the town of Dunsmuir, we were joined by Sandra and Tim Holt. Longtime friends, they had kept my nephew Jay’s car for him while we hiked from Etna Summit to Castle Crags. Peggy had lunch with Sandra while we were out on the trail.

Tim and I go all the way back to the 70s and 80s in Sacramento when he wrote, edited and published the Sutter Town News that focused on downtown Sacramento where I was a community activist on health and environmental issues. Now days, Tim and Sandra perform folk song concerts at local venues as well as volunteer extensively in Dunsmuir.

Peggy enjoyed numerous views of Mt. Shasta just as I did out on the trail. This photo was also taken at McCloud by Peggy.

A long hike in Burney took Peggy over to Burney Falls where she even found a rainbow, which she was quite pleased to capture. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I’ll conclude today with this close-up that I really liked. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

My 13-year old grandson is joining me today. Tomorrow we will start a journey from Donner Summit to Carson Pass. A trip I have been on many times and sections of which I have done with his grandmother, mother, Uncle Tony and Cousin Jay.

The Abbeys of Cotswold… Henry VIII Said, “Get the Lead Out!”… by Peggy Mekemson

Graceful columns found when stepping inside the ruins of Tintern Abbey.

Graceful columns found when stepping inside the ruins of Tintern Abbey.

Between 1536-1540 (depending on which brochure I read) King Henry VIII declared the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the Protestant Reformation and his break from the Catholic Church. Armies scoured the country— leaving most monasteries in ruin as soldiers took the lead to make cannon balls. Jane and I visited four very different abbeys that had existed at that time and earlier.

Malmesbury, believed to be the oldest inhabited town in England, has a 12th Century abbey. The original spire and tower both collapsed well before the Reformation. Only the nave remained and became part of the active Abbey as part of the Reformation. It is believed that the first King of England is buried nearby while his coffin resides inside the church.

The contrast between the active church and the remaining walls was interesting. Part of the old monastery grounds now houses the Abbey House Gardens (previous garden blog).

The contrast between the active church and the remaining walls was interesting. Part of the old monastery grounds now houses the Abbey House Gardens (previous garden blog).

Tewkesbury Abbey survived the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540 when the townspeople bought it from King Henry VIII for the sum of 453 pounds. Although the original church was consecrated in 1121, the current Abbey is 900 years old. It is considered one of the largest parish churches in England.

The armies of King Henry VIII destroyed the churches primarily for the lead. The people of Tewkesbury paid the King the value of the lead and saved the church.

The armies of King Henry VIII destroyed the churches primarily for the lead. The people of Tewkesbury paid the King the value of the lead and saved the church.

The roof bosses were indeed stunning.

The roof arches were indeed stunning.

Tintern Abbey, on the border of Wales and Gloucestershire, captivated me! The Cistercian Abbey was founded in 1131 and was a religious center between 1136-1536 at which time it was surrendered to the King’s “marauding visitors.” The lead was taken and 400 years of decay began. There was partial reconstruction begun in 1914. The CADW (a part of the Welsh government dedicated to preserving historic environmental and heritage sites) took over in 1984.

Our first view of the ruins of Tintern Abbey.

Our first view of the ruins of Tintern Abbey.

The following photos reflect the beauty of the area surrounding the ruins and the stunning views within the ruins.

Tintern Abbey in England

Wall ruins of Tintern Abbey in England

Tintern Abbey grand hallway

The two small windows in the middle are the only training original windows in Tintern Abbey.

The small windows in the middle are the only remaining original windows in Tintern Abbey.

Tintern Abbey window view in England

Tintern Abbey windows looking out on forests

Tintern Abbey sky view

My last photo of the Tintern Abbey ruins.

My last photo of the Tintern Abbey ruins.

Our last stop was Gloucester Cathedral. Here, our volunteer guide, a wonderful storyteller, greeted us. During the Reformation, this was one of 6 abbeys designated by King Henry VIII as the cathedrals for the new Church of England. No damage was done. Apparently, the historic connections to the monarchy saved it. Our guide’s stories of the stained glass windows were particularly absorbing. The windows reflected the history of the cathedral and religious stories and included several modern stained glass art work.
A front view of Glouchester Cathedral.

A front view of Glouchester Cathedral.

An early stained glass window featuring a knight.

An early stained glass window featuring a knight.

A knight's tomb inside the Cathedral.

A knight’s tomb inside the Cathedral.

One of the modern stained glass windows.

One of the modern stained glass windows.

I have to admit that I was most fascinated by the stories of the filming of Harry Potter in the cathedral! We walked the halls used in several scenes. I watched the movies on my return so that I could compare Hogwarts School scenes with what I saw.

One of the halls of used for 'Hogsworts' in Harry Potter.

One of the halls used for ‘Hogwarts’ School of Wizardry’ in Harry Potter.

Downton Abbey to Harry Potter… and all the marvelous sites in between. It was quite the photographic adventure! This is my last blog on the Cotswolds. Thanks so much for joining me on the tour. —Peggy

Walking the Villages of The Cotswolds… by Peggy Mekemson

One of my favorite thatched roof homes found while wandering streets away from the village centers.

One of my favorite thatched roof homes found while wandering streets away from the village centers.

Yes, the gardens were beautiful, and the tour allowed us to see a wonderful variety of them from one acre to 5000 acres. My favorite time, however, was wandering the villages in the Cotswolds. Here we had free time to enjoy a lunch and roam at will. The challenge: we only had two hours! Jane and I found the visitors’ centers, gathered maps, asked about recommended walking paths and highlights, and hit the road running— or at least walking fast.

Of course it was not enough time to do justice to each village, but what I saw made me want to return. Following are the visual highlights and a few fun stories.

Our trip started with Highclere Castle, AKA Downton Abbey, a major destination on our tour before we headed to the Cotswolds. Even more fun for me, though, was the visit to Bampton, which is the village featured in Downton Abbey for the weddings, the shopping and general villages scenes. I loved the story that it was chosen not only for its atmosphere but also for the lack of street markings and signs, which made it easier to represent the early 1900s when the story takes place. It was interesting to compare how the village and church look on the TV series with how it looks in reality. I liked the reality; Bampton is a lovely, quaint town.

The Bampton chapel and cemetery was the site of the weddings featured in Downton Abbey.

The Bampton chapel and cemetery was the site of the weddings featured in Downton Abbey.

This tree overlooking the Bampton graves captured my attention.

This tree overlooking the Bampton graves captured my attention.

Taking a Bampton walk about.

Taking a Bampton walk about.

One has to admire the Cotswold stone hamlet.

One has to admire the Cotswold stone hamlet with its gorgeous flowers.

Villages visited were Malmesbury, Chipping Campden, Cirencester, Tewkesbury, Misarden, and Ledbury. Malmesbury, the oldest inhabited town in England, and Tewkesbury, a medieval village with one of the largest parish churches in the country, will be featured for their abbeys in my final blog on the Cotswolds.

A village scene from Cirencester, known as the “Capital of the Cotswolds.” The term “cester” means Roman fort indicating the origin of the village.

A village scene from Cirencester, known as the “Capital of the Cotswolds.”
The term “cester” means Roman fort indicating the origin of the village.

A scene captured during a walk about in Chipping Campden, a favorite village of mine, one to be revisited!

A scene captured during a walk about in Chipping Campden, a favorite village of mine, one to be revisited!

While in Chipping Campden, Jane and I noticed a children’s bookstore called A Festival of Books. Greeted by the owner, Emily Dunn, we asked about local children’s books (we both have grandmother duty, grin), and had a delightful surprise. Emily is the author of The Tale of the Cotswold Mice, a book written for Princess Charlotte and embraced by the royal family. Our luck continued! The illustrator and gold/silversmith, Aneata Boote, owns the shop next door. Not only did Aneata illustrate the book, but she also designed silver napkin rings (complete with the mice) to accompany the book. Naturally we bought a signed copy. As a retired elementary school principal, I highly recommend it for young children. Although the first printing sold out, it is being reprinted with a percentage of the profits going to a children’s art fund. Check out their website www.cotswoldmice.com

The Tale of the Cotswold Mice along with two napkin rings were presented to Princess Charlotte after her birth.

The Tale of the Cotswold Mice along with two napkin rings were presented to Princess Charlotte after her birth.

The author was Emily Dunn, the owner of bookstore, A Festival of Books, located in Chipping Campden. The silversmith and illustrator was Aneata Boote who owned the shop next door. Both were welcoming and charming!

The author was Emily Dunn, the owner of bookstore, A Festival of Books, located in Chipping Campden. The silversmith and illustrator was Aneata Boote who owned the shop next door. Both were welcoming and charming!

While many of the homes and businesses were architectural eye candy, two features caught my eye over and over again: the famous honey-colored Cotswold stone and the thatched roof cottages. My sister had to drag me away from several of the structures in order to catch the bus on time. Just when I thought I had seen the best examples, I would walk another block and then— Wow!

How could I resist this rooftop view with its chimneys.

How could I resist this rooftop view with its fairytale chimneys.

Then there were the markets. Once the centers of agriculture, wool, and silk spinning, the villages are making an economic come back with a refocus on farmers’ markets and crafts. I couldn’t resist the basket market.

Basket market in Cirencester, a city founded by the Romans.

Basket market in Cirencester, a city founded by the Romans.

The market in Ledbury, a photo taken from the bus as we left town.

The historical market in Ledbury, a photo taken from the bus as we left town.

The historical market in Chipping Campden.

The historical market in Chipping Campden.

While exploring the village of Misarden (previous garden blog), we discovered a home being renovated. The three young men working on the house noticed our interest and rushed out to invite us inside to admire their work. Their enthusiasm and humor were catching. One, the future tenant, had grown up in the area, and was looking forward to returning home. His plumbing skills were being put to good use in the renovation. Having once remodeled a colonial house, I appreciated what the young men had accomplished and how much work they still had to do.

These are the three men who welcomed us into the cottage they were renovating. They were such fun I promised them I would post their photo!

These are the three men who welcomed us into the cottage they were renovating. They were such fun I promised them I would post their photo!

After leaving the renovation house I came across this garden.It was a a good reminder to take the time to stop and look around, behind, beside, up, down…

After leaving the renovation house I came across this tucked away garden.It was a good reminder to take the time to stop and look around, behind, beside, up, down…

Ledbury, the home of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (memories of English-lit days), is an ancient borough with centuries old timber-framed buildings. As we wandered the town, we stopped outside a building described as a 16th Century Painted House. Curious, we stepped inside only to discover the guide was closing things down. When we insisted we would only take two minutes to see the famous room, she hesitated, took a deep breath, and then led us upstairs. Our two minutes turned into 20. Apparently, a couple was preparing the walls for new paint when they discovered curious painted patterns under the layers of old paint they had removed. What they discovered dated back over 600 years.

 I loved the winding streets in Ledbury with their surprising views, such as the church.

I loved the winding streets in Ledbury with their surprising views, such as the church.

Ledbury is known for its centuries old timber framed buildings. The clock tower made a picturesque addition.

Ledbury is known for its centuries old timber-framed buildings. The clock tower made a picturesque addition.

The 16th Century Painted House was tucked away in the narrow bend of the street.

The 16th Century Painted House was tucked away in the narrow bend of the street. My sister Jane knocks at the door.

Trying to capture the 600 year old painted walls was challenging but worth the try!

Trying to capture the 600 year old painted walls was challenging but worth the try!

I was captivated by what I saw in each village and would return, without hesitation, to continue my explorations. The history, beauty, care, friendly people, and, delicious food all make a visit worthwhile.

This doorknocker found in Chipping Campden seemed a fitting end to this blog. It was hard to resist knocking on this door. I will be back to try it out!

This doorknocker found in Chipping Campden seemed a fitting end to this blog. It was hard to resist knocking on this door. I will be back to try it out!

A Garden of Weeds— and More… in the Cotswolds by Peggy Mekemson

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Yes, Anne, the host AKA “Bad Tempered Gardener,” shared that there were gardens of weeds throughout her garden. Still beautiful…but I did have a massive allergy attack after wandering around. It was still worth the visit!

Today, I wrap up my tour of English gardens with Cerney House, Overbury Court, Whitcombe House, Wyndcliffe Court Sculpture Gardens, Veddw House Gardens in Wales, and Hellens Manor. (I have two more blogs on the Abbeys and Villages of Cotswolds, however. And I may do one on the Tower of London.)

Cerney House was described originally as a romantic, secret place. (It’s also known for its goat cheese.) Built in 1660, it was renovated in 1983 by Sir Michael and Lady Angus. It is still a work in progress with “a pleasantly un-manicured garden, happy plants…unrestrained.” We enjoyed pigs in the woods, Roman snails in the garden and delicious tea and cakes! Rather unique…

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The residence had a unique look compared to our other experiences.

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This was part of the garden in front of the house. How could I resist this rooster?

Overbury House was rebuilt after a fire in 1738. Constructed of the golden, ashlar faced stone famous in the Cotswold, it is privately owned. The head gardener treated us to the tour of the three acre garden and the lush parkland surrounding the house. The owners were present so we were kept discretely away from the main house. The 3000 acres included 2 villages— yes, they own the villages also. This estate is surrounding by 3 rivers and is subject to flooding according to the gardener, perhaps the reason for the lush parkland and simplicity of design!

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Overbury Estate

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The head gardener shared that staff would often enjoy a swim here when work was completed. I like that thought!

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This gives you a sense of the manicured grounds with a view of the estate chapel.

Whitcombe House is literally next door to the Overbury House. It voluntarily participates in the National Garden Scheme, where revenues raised through entrance fees are donated to various charities. We were excited about its lovely one acre garden. We had finally found something we might hope to replicate. We were treated to homemade cakes and tea by the family, while grandchildren ran free with the dog . The personal touch was a delightful change from our previous experiences of estates…. manors….. courts….etc.

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Our first view of Whitcombe House from the bus.

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I love stone walls. I wanted to take this one home!

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Part of the backyard garden, full of delightful surprises, all in one acre.

Wyndcliffe Court Sculpture Gardens was not on our original agenda. It turned out to be one of my favorites. Described in the “arts and crafts” style, this estate hosted two sculpture shows during the year featuring hundreds of sculptures throughout the gardens. (There are never enough; I was one happy visitor!) The original gardens were completed in 1933. Eventually, the owner left his fortune to his gardener. Together they had created sculpted yew hedging, topiary birds and animals, and long grass bowling greens, a perfect venue for the present day sculpture displays.

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Wyndcliffe Court

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This bench awaited us as we entered the grounds. Jane and I could not resist. I wanted to bring it home!

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Like this nymph one had to look closely to spot many a hidden delight.

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From large metal dragonflies in the forest to these glass sculptures, the variety was amazing.

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Just plain fun…..

Veddw House Garden, in Wales, was truly unique in that it was designed and cared for by “The Bad Tempered Gardener” and her husband. Anne, our hostess, shared with us that she loved gardens but hated gardening! Despite her challenge, they have created what is described as “a modern romantic garden.” Using two acres for gardens and two acres as woodland, the quirky garden was dominated by incredible hedges and LOTS of wild flowers including flowering weeds— yup, I had a massive allergy attack and used up half of England’s supply of Kleenex.

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Each view brought a smile, such creativity.

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This was a favorite. What you do not see is the reflection pool, also mesmerizing.

Hellens Manor was our last garden to be visited. More than a garden, Hellens was a historical monument to centuries of history including stories of Ann Boleyn, Mary Tudor, the Earl of Essex, ghosts, and more. The manor was granted to the Bolem Family in 1096, one of whom witnessed the signing of the Magna Carta. Our focus was on the house this time. We had a delightful tour guide who had many stories to tell, including one about surprising guests in a bedroom while leading a tour. The owners created a charitable trust, which runs the estate today. The curator is both American and English, not so unusual apparently based on our experience. The gardens are a work in progress, but did include animal sculptures, a yew labyrinth (easy solved!), and a walled knot garden.

Hellens Manor

Hellens Manor in the town of Much Marcle.

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A favorite part of the garden near Hellens Manor.

As you can imagine, there was so much more to see and describe with the gardens. This was just a taste of our experience, which was absolutely delightful and magical.

Next Blog:

On to the colorful towns in Cotswold were we were free to eat and walk and discover on our own! My kind of touring…

Note: Peggy and I will be traveling in Mexico for the next couple of weeks. We should have Internet but if not we will be off line. –Curt

More Beautiful Gardens in the Cotswolds… by Peggy Mekemson

Hidcote Manor (hedged rooms and sculptured hedges)

Hidcote Manor is known for its “outdoor rooms,” which include  sculptured hedges and dramatic plantings.

In my last blog we visited the gardens of Highclere Castle, Camers, and Abbey House. Today we move on to Hidcote Manor, Kiftsgate Court and Misarden Park.

First up. Hidcote Manor is referred to as the garden of “hedged rooms” and sculptured hedges. In fact, I read that the four miles of hedges require gardeners to work four days a week for seven months just to maintain them! An American horticulturist and later a naturalized British citizen, Major Lawrence Johnson, spent 40 years creating the gardens on land his mother had purchased in 1907. In 1948 he gave this estate to the National Trust. The Trust now advertises this site as an Arts and Crafts Garden.

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Despite overcast days, the colors were still striking.

An example of a hedged room.

An example of a hedged room.

Jane and a sculptured hedge.

Jane and a sculptured hedge.

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The Long Walk at Hidcote Garden.

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The village of thatched stone cottages behind the manor was a wonderful surprise. They were once home to Johnstone’s gardeners. Now the Trust rents them out.

We visited Kiftsgate Court on a rainy day. Having just come from a very dry summer in Oregon, I was thrilled to soak up the rain. With rain comes green, green, green instead of drought, drought, drought! I thoroughly enjoyed the fountains and the reflection pool, which, we were told, is a great swimming hole. The colors that popped out on the rainy day were another treat, especially the blue door leading to who knows what treasures. Your guess is as good as mine.

Kiftsgate Court

Kiftsgate Court

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We were told that we had missed the prime time for full blooms. However, I was pretty impressed by what I saw.

The blue door

The blue door with its overgrown path was quite intriguing.

Reflection and swimming pool.

Our path took us to this reflection pool. We learned that this was also used as  a swimming pool. I was tempted! Just below this overlook was a herd of sheep, quite a magical contrast of white on green.

Misarden Park/Estate began as a 17th century manor house, including 3000 acres and most of the village of Misarden (only the pub and school are not owned by the estate). The Wills, a tobacco family, bought this estate and village in 1913 and takes pride in both “the environment and the wider community.” For example, all electrical lines are buried. They will only rent to tenants who will contribute to the maintaining of the community and the estate. We were delighted to meet a future tenant and his friends who were renovating one of the cottages and happily took us on a tour.

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My first view of the residence, which is privately owned.  It was occupied when we arrived. We respected the family’s privacy and gave the house wide berth.

Roses

We had been looking for roses and finally found them— beautifully entwined in this old tower.

Tree

A Hobbit tree? Let your imagination go on this one. Yes, that is a tree packed with stones, all merged for a unique fence.

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Gateway to another Long Walk. How can one resist following it to the end?

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A final view of the residence with its Cotswold stone roof. I will feature scenes from the village in another blog which captures the character of the small villages in the Cotswolds.

NEXT BLOG: Cerney House, Overbury Court, Whitcombe House, Wyndcliffe Court, Veddw (that’s Welsh, not a misspelling),  and Hellens Manor gardens.

A Garden Tour of England’s Cotswolds… by Peggy Mekemson

Jane and I sit among magnificent Hydrangeas at Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey). A taste of things to come.

Jane and I sit among magnificent Hydrangea at Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey). A taste of things to come.

While I was off touring the California coast north of San Francisco in August, my wife Peggy was on a garden tour of the Cotswolds in England with her sister Jane. She’s been eager to blog about her experience, but I had to finish my Olompali series first. Please join her as she shares the beautiful gardens and charming towns she visited over the next couple of weeks. —Curt

My sister, Jane Hagedorn, loves gardens and she loves England. I love my sister. So when Jane called and asked that I join her for a garden tour in the Cotswolds, of course, I said “yes.” I did little research other than reading the notes sent to us by the tour company and checking the weather in England in August. I was going into this with a completely open mind wondering what my impressions would be….and of course, what kind of photographs would reflect this journey of 12 gardens, several abbeys, a cathedral, and seven English villages. The camera was packed!

We extended our stay to join my brother John and his wife Frances for a few days in London. They had been traveling via auto throughout Europe for 5 months. We had some catching up to do. John also had been blogging about their adventures, a great read. Check it out: http://dallen.posthaven.com

When Curt suggested I put together 4-6 guest blogs, I delayed, delayed, delayed! How could I take 800 photos and select a mere 50-75 to share on the blogs? What would I say— Curt is the writer in this family! Nevertheless here you are, beginning with three blogs featuring a brief photo journey of gardens in the Cotswolds. Following the gardens I will feature the Abbeys and small, colorful towns of Cotswolds.

1st Blog: Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey, Camers in Old Sodbury, and Abbey House Garden aka Home of the Naked Gardeners in Malmesbury.

Let me start by noting that all of the gardens were gorgeous. The colors, the size of the flowers, the hedges, the orchards, the kitchen gardens, sculptures and water fountains— wow! It was really, really hard to limit myself to 15 photos per blog that Curt suggested. I quickly learned that gardens came in all shapes and sizes ranging from 1 acre to 5000 acres. They were attached to castles, farmhouses, abbeys, manors, courts, parks, and houses. Also, I love architecture, so I have included photos of the various residences.

Historically, what was once a medieval palace became a house and then a castle rebuilt between 1838-1878. Over 1000 acres, it is considered a parkland featuring lawns, cedars, and deciduous trees….and a few gardens.

Historically, what was once a medieval palace became a house and then a castle rebuilt between 1838-1878. Over 1000 acres, Highclere Castle is considered a parkland featuring lawns, cedars, and deciduous trees….and a few gardens.

First stop on the garden tour: Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey. Although its location is actually in Berkshire, it was on the way to the Cotswolds and….we had tickets! With the popularity of the PBS series Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle has become quite a challenge to visit. It is open to visitors only 60-70 days a year. It is privately owned and family still lives in part of the castle! Add to this the fact that August is also a heavy month for tourism— well, there were a lot of people wanting to share this experience.

Second stop: Camers in Old Sodbury (love the English names) was an absolute delight! It is an Elizabethan farmhouse and is part of the National Garden Scheme. That means it is open occasionally for the charity to raise money. We were greeted by the elderly couple who, with their son, own and manage the gardens. They now live in the converted outer building while the son lives in the farmhouse (not open to the public).

We wandered the 2 ½ acre garden which is part of the wooded 4 acres. It was amazing how much color and variety could be found!

We wandered the 2 ½ acre garden which is part of the wooded 4 acres. It was amazing how much color and variety could be found!

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As I soon discovered, hedges are everywhere…all sizes, shapes, and forms.

One of many intriguing garden walkways at Camers.

One of many intriguing garden walkways at Camers.

This got our attention. Jane provides perspective! There must be plenty of water in England.

This got our attention. Jane provides perspective! There must be plenty of water in England.

Brilliant colors galore. My last photo at Camers.

Brilliant colors galore. My last photo at Camers.

The final stop today is Malmesbury, the oldest inhabited town in England. Abbey House Gardens is also known as the Home of the Naked Gardeners, Ian and Barbara Pollard. (Their web-site claims clothing is optional on six Sundays during the year.) I couldn’t help but wonder what the monks who lived here in the 12th Century would have thought about going naked. The Pollards purchased the residence and abandoned 5.5-acre garden in 1994 and revitalized it, adding their own touches. I found their design both amusing and eclectic.

I found the Abbey Gardens eclectic and amusing.

I found the Abbey Gardens eclectic and amusing.

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The gardens can be almost overwhelming when trying to capture the design, color, depth, lushness, and uniqueness. However, I had a good time trying!

Leaving the Monastery one is greeted by this sculpture at the entrance to Abbey House Gardens.

Leaving the 12th century abbey grounds,  one is greeted by this sculpture at the entrance to Abbey House Gardens.

Next blog: On to Hidcote Manor, Kiftsgate Court and Mismarden Park.

Into the Red Butte Wilderness… Backpacking at 71

Old Growth Cedar in Red Buttes Wilderness of Northern California and Southern Oregon.

There is much to be impressed with in the Red Buttes Wilderness, including magnificent old growth trees such as this cedar.

I know a bit about backpacking (mild understatement). A few years back, in 1974 to be exact, I was working as the Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Sacramento. The organization needed a new source of funding; I needed an excuse to play in the woods. So I combined the two. I proposed to my Board of Directors that I lead a nine-day, hundred mile backpack trip across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range with the participants raising money to fight lung disease.

So what if my longest backpack trip ever had been 30 miles.

“You are crazy,” the board said. “You are crazy,” my friend in the backpacking industry said. It was like I had inherited a parrot.

And they were right. The only point they missed was just how crazy. Sixty-one people aged 11-71 showed up– many who had never worn a backpack in their lives. One immediately claimed she was a witch and would be over to bite me in the middle of the night. And how was I to know that my co-leader had participated in burning down a bank in Santa Barbara, or that my go-to guy in emergencies was a Columbian drug runner, or that the big fellow who got me through the toughest days was an explosive experts on the lam from the IRS. You can’t make these things up, folks! But this is a story for later this summer. It’s one you won’t want to miss.

Lets just say by the time I walked into the foothill town of Auburn, California nine days later on deeply blistered feet in 104-degree weather, I had persuaded myself that the money raised from Christmas Seals was more than adequate to support our organization, forever.

But then a strange thing happened. These people who I had almost killed and who had come close to killing me, started coming up one by one and demanding to know where we were going next year. I heard things ranging from, “This was the greatest experience in my life” to “I have lots of ideas for fundraising.” It took them several months to persuade me…

But persuade me they did. I would go on to add bike treks in Sacramento and eventually take the program nationwide where I became the national trek consultant for the American Lung Association. Millions of dollars were raised to prevent lung disease and thousands of people were introduced to long distant backpacking and bicycling as a result. More importantly, from my perspective, I got to play in the woods. For 30 years, I spent a part of each summer leading wilderness expeditions. And when I wasn’t leading treks, I was off backpacking by myself or with friends.

Founder of the American Lung Association Trek Program, Curtis Mekemson.

A much younger me gracing the front of the American Lung Association’s National Bulletin in my role as founder of ALA’s Trek Program.

Sadly, my last backpacking trip was seven years ago. Life happens, right? Peggy and I bought a small RV and decided to wander North America for three years; our kids started producing grand babies; we bought our property in Oregon and travelled to Europe and Alaska. I took up blogging and decided to write a book.

It was all good, but I missed backpacking– a lot. And there’s this thing. Our home looks out on the beautiful Red Buttes of the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon and Northern California. The mountains spoke to me, over and over and over. Finally I could no longer ignore their call. Peggy and I decided to hit the trail. So last week, we did.

Red Butte mountains of the Siskiyou Range.

The Red Butte Mountains as they appear from our house in spring through the lens of our camera. How could we not set out to explore them?

We planned a short trip: three days and 14 miles. It was to be something of a test to see how well we would do. After all, we had aged seven years. At 71, I couldn’t expect my body to behave the same way it had at 21, or 31, or 41, or 51, or 61. And even Peggy, a young woman of 64, was nervous.

I immediately pulled out maps and begin planning a route. I was like a little kid on Christmas morning (or Peggy at the chocolate store in Central Point). Had I been a dog, I would have been wagging my tail like my basset hound, Socrates, used to at the sight of a hotdog.

This forest service map shows the location of the Red Buttes Wilderness. The X marks the approximate location of our home.

This forest service map shows the location of the Red Buttes Wilderness. The X marks the approximate location of our home.

I planned out our route on a US Forest Service Topo Map. We followed the Butte Creek Trail to Azalea Lake.

I planned out our route on a US Forest Service Topo Map. We followed the Butte Creek Trail to Azalea Lake. I wrote in the small, circled numbers which I will refer back to.

A close up of the map shows the beginning of our hike. "T" marks the trailhead where we parked the truck. Topo lines reflect the steepness of the trail. The closer together, the steeper!

A close up of the map shows the beginning of our hike. “T” marks the trailhead where we parked the truck. Topo lines reflect the steepness of the trail. The closer together, the steeper! We started by hiking down into the canyon following the well switch backed trail. Down in the beginning, meant up in the ending. (grin)

Next came the gear. It was hiding out on shelves, in drawers, and long ago packed boxes. Would my MSR white gas stove still cook? Would the Katadyn Filter still pump safe water? And possibly even more important, would our Therm-A-Rest air mattresses still be filled with air in the morning? When you are disappearing into the backcountry, you can’t be too careful.

Here's my gear and backpack. The larger bags are tent, sleeping bag and pad, food, and clothes. Smaller bags are organized according to function: kitchen, bathroom, first aid, etc.

Here’s my gear and backpack. The larger bags are tent, sleeping bag and pad, food, and clothes. Smaller bags are organized according to function: kitchen, bathroom, first aid, etc. Total weight with food, fuel and water: 35 pounds.

Go light is the mantra of anyone who carries his house on his back. Fortunately, the backpacking industry is constantly developing lighter equipment, such as this fully functional folding bucket.

Go light is the mantra of anyone who carries his house on his back. Fortunately, the backpacking industry is constantly developing lighter equipment, such as this fully functional folding bucket.

There was the inevitable last-minute trip to REI. And Peggy and I even drove up to check out the trailhead on Mother’s Day. (Now, before all of you moms get excited, she got breakfast in bed first and we took a picnic lunch that we ate on a grassy knoll with a grand view. Peggy even managed to spot a hungry mountain lion disappearing into the forest. Maybe it was coming to join us for lunch. What more could a mom ask for?)

Peggy enjoying her Mother's Day Picnic. We saw the mountain lion a couple of hundred yards down the road on our way out.

Peggy enjoying her Mother’s Day Picnic. We saw the mountain lion a couple of hundred yards down the road on our way out.

And how was the trip? Forget for the moment that it was cold and rained much of the time. Forget that we were dead tired and went to bed at 7:00 PM. Forget that the trail came close to disappearing in the brush and we spent a fair amount of energy crawling over and around downed trees that blocked the trail. And forget about the noise we heard in the middle of the night that sounded like Bigfoot pounding on a tree trunk with a large limb. And why should you forget? I just got out my thesaurus. The trip was wonderful, beautiful, invigorating, marvelous, educational, and stunning. We laughed our way through the whole adventure.

I’ll let our photos tell the story.

Butte Creek trail in the Red Butte Wilderness.

After following switch backs down the dry mountain side, we came upon the verdant canyon of the Butte Fork of the Applegate River with its almost rainforest feel. (This and the following three photos are located near #1 on the map.)

Butte Creek trail in the Red Buttes Wilderness.

In 2012 the Ft. Goff fire had swept through the area. While the forest was relatively unharmed, some large trees had fallen across the trail and since been cleared to make way for hikers.

Smokey the Bear tree in the Red Buttes Wilderness.

We loved this tree poking its limb up in the middle of the fire area. Peggy at first saw a unicorn but I saw Smokey the Bear… reminding people to be careful with fire.

Horsetail fern growing in the Red Butte Wilderness.

We found this horse-tail fern growing in the canyon. Pioneers reputedly used this plant for scrubbing out pans.

CCC Cabin in the Red Buttes Wilderness area of Northern California and Southern Oregon.

An old cabin made out of red cedar shakes was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 30s and then used by the forest service for storing fire fighting tools. (Located at #2 on the map.)

Roof of cedar shake cabin in Red Butte Wilderness area.

The hand-hewn cedar shake roof.

Chinquapin forest in Red Butte Wilderness.

Not far above the cabin, we came across a chinquapin forest. I had seen chinquapin bushes but never trees.

Chinquapin nuts, encased in these spine covered shells, are apparently quite tasty.

Chinquapin nuts, encased in these spine covered outer shells, are apparently quite tasty.

Flowering dogwood in the Red Butte Wilderness.

The trail at this elevation also featured beautiful flowering dogwood.

Peggy Mekemson hikes along the Butte Fork Trail through the Red Buttes Wilderness of Northern California.

Here, Peggy poses under a bower of it. I was going to point out that her pack weighed 32.5 pounds. She quickly corrected me. It was 32.8 pounds.

Small creek in Red Butte Wilderness area.

We had been hiking across dry slopes for quite some time. It was getting late, we were tired, and I was beginning to feel a bit of a grump coming on when we heard this creek. “I hear camp,” I told Peggy. (#3 on the map)

Camping out in the Red Buttes Wilderness.

There was barely room for our small North Face tent. But it was home. (Shortly after this photo it started raining.)

Old growth forest in the Red Buttes Wilderness.

This was our view looking up from our campsite. The Red Butte Wilderness includes some of the most impressive old growth forest I have ever seen including pine, fir and cedar trees.

Massive sugar pine tree in the Red Buttes Wilderness.

Peggy caught me standing next to one of the massive sugar pines. (Photo By Peggy Mekemson.)

Gravesite in Red Butte Wilderness.

This beautiful mound of rocks is found on my map at # 4. It’s a grave for three people buried here by family members after their plane crashed on July 28, 1945.

Burial site of airplane crash victims in Red Butte Wilderness.

The grave marker shows that Sylvan Gosliner, Ruby May Gosliner and Alma Virgie Pratt are buried here. Remnants of the plane can still be found in the canyon below.

Tree torn apart for bugs in Red Butte Wilderness.

Someone had a grand time ripping this rotting tree apart for it bugs. Was it a bear? Or how about Bigfoot? We found a large pile of scat (poop) nearby.

Cedar Grove in the Red Buttes Wilderness.

Cedar Grove is aptly named for its magnificent cedars. (Found at #5 on the map.)

Corn Lilies in red Butte Wilderness.

We also found corn lilies growing nearby in a meadow where the Goff Trail joins the Butte Fork Trail.

Trillium growing in Red Buttes Wilderness.

As we did this trillium.

Tree blaze carved into a cedar tree in the Red Buttes Wilderness.

Ever hear the phrase, “Where in the blazes are we?” Foresters, cowboys and other outdoors people used to mark their trails by cutting out this symbol in a tree, which is known as a blaze. I’ve followed them through forests from Maine to Alaska, often over trails that have long since grown over.

Curt Mekemson backpacking in the Red Butte Wilderness.

It was a tad wet in the cedars, as this photo by Peggy demonstrates.  The bottle on the left is filled with wine, BTW. It helps assure that Peggy will follow me up the mountain. (grin)

Peggy Mekemson stands on trail in Red Buttes Wilderness.

The trail between the cedars and Lake Azalea almost disappeared on one occasion. Peggy is standing on it.

Azalea Lake in Red Buttes Wilderness.

We finally reached Azalea Lake. Have I mentioned it was wet out?

Curtis Mekemson camping in the Red Buttes Wilderness.

We found a drier, more protected camp farther away from the lake and settled in. I’ve carried the coffee cup backpacking for 45 years. Once it spent the winter buried under 20 feet of snow. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Azalea Lake in the Red Buttes Wilderness.

The sun rewarded our trip the next morning by providing a lovely view of Lake Azalea. It was time to pack up and head back for civilization.

Curtis and Peggy Mekemson in Red Buttes Wilderness.

Selfie of two happy campers at trails end who have seen some beautiful country and proven to themselves that they can still put on backpacks and disappear into the wilderness.

 

Truth Is Beauty: A 55-Foot Tall Woman… Burning Man 2013

The sculpture Truth and Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

Truth Is Beauty. This 55 foot tall sculpture was a main attraction at Burning Man 2013– for a good reason.

There are two sets of greeters when you enter the Kingdom of Burning Man. The first are Border Guards. They check your passports, i.e. tickets. Then they ask the usual questions: “Are you carrying anyone else? Do you have a pet on board? Do you have guns?” Trying to sneak someone in can get you banned. Usually someone climbs on board and checks our bathroom. This time, the guy waved us on. We were disguised as middle-class retirees. We could have been someone’s grandparents. Heck, we are someone’s grandparents.

The second set of greeters serve as the Black Rock City equivalent of the Welcome Wagon. They even give you a package of goodies. These folks smile through the worst of dust storms, as do the Border guards. “I can see you are Virgin Burners,” the guy told Peggy. “Actually,” Peggy responded, “This is our tenth year.” There was a moment of silence. “Welcome home,” he recovered. “You are going to love the art this year. The artist who did Bliss three years ago has a new sculpture. It’s incredible.”

That caught our attention. Peggy and I had been blown away by Bliss, a 40-foot sculpture of a female dancer. So we were excited to learn that the same artist, Marco Cochrane from Mill Valley, California, had produced a new sculpture for Burning Man 2013, another colossal female named Truth Is Beauty. After visiting the Man and the Temple (always our first stops at Black Rock City), we cycled over to see the Woman. I’ve capitalized the W because the sculpture deserves it. Truth Is Beauty is 55 feet tall. We were awed. Peggy and I returned to visit several times during the week.

In preparation for today’s blog, I decided to do some research on Marco Cochrane and his art. The first thing that I learned was that Marco and I share a passion for Joseph Campbell. In fact the name for the whole Bliss project, which includes Bliss, Truth Is Beauty, and a third sculpture yet to be done, is taken from a quote by Campbell, which Cochrane has posted on his website:

Follow your bliss and doors will open where none existed.

The original Bliss sculpture from Burning Man 2010 now resides on Treasure Island, San Francisco, where Marco has his studio. The statue weighs 7,000 pounds, is 97% air, and includes 55,000 welds, all done by hand. The internal framework is based on a geodesic structure (thank you Bucky Fuller), and includes 4500 ball joints. The “skin” consists of a steel mesh stretched over the structure and screwed on.

The art at Burning Man can be spectacular, such as this tall, nude woman.

Bliss at Burning Man in 2010.

Marco used the same model, Deja Solis, a six-foot tall singer/dancer from the Bay Area, for both Bliss and Truth Is Beauty. His goal in working with a model is to have her relax, feel safe and be herself. He then works to capture her essence and recreate it in his works of art. His goal is to help us move beyond seeing a woman as an object and see her instead as another human being, a rather large human being.

If you would like to learn more about Cochrane and his projects I would recommend going to his website. There is also an excellent interview by Matador Network. Following are a number of photos designed to capture Truth Is Beauty from different angles and in different lighting conditions. Enjoy.

The toes of the sculpture Truth Is Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

To provide perspective on the size of the statue, these are her toes and my foot. BTW, I wear a size 14 shoe.

Peggy Mekemson standing in front of sculpture Truth Is Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

Peggy provides perspective on Truth Is Beauty’s foot. This photo also provides a good look at the inner construction of the statue.

A side view of the sculpture, Truth Is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013.

A side view of the sculpture outlined by the early morning sun.

Truth Is Beauty back view

Camera photography by balloon at Burning Man 2013.

As you might imagine, photography is big at Burning Man. 68,000 people probably means 68,000 cameras. This photographer attached his camera to a large balloon to capture unique perspectives on Truth Is Beauty.

Head shot. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Head shot. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

From the ground up, Truth Is Beauty almost becomes abstract.

From the ground up, Truth Is Beauty almost becomes abstract.

The magic of night at Burning Man, also applies to the art. Using a series of LED lights inside the statue as well as outside lighting, Truth Is Beauty evolves through a number of almost mystical colors.

Truth Is Beauty at night during Burning Man 2013.

Outside lighting gives the statue a sense of solidness.

Truth Is Beauty lit up by LED lights at Burning Man 2013.

The LED lights give the appearance that the sculpture is filled with stars.

I took the following three photos from the same perspective to show Truth Is Beauty as she changed colors.

Truth is Beauty at night, Burning Man 2013.

Truth Is Beauty one.

Sculpture Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013

Truth Is Beauty two.

Truth Is Beauty three.

Truth Is Beauty three.

Our friend Tom Lovering (AKA Adios) from Davis, California has a good eye for capturing unique photos. He was up before the sun to be out on the Playa for these pictures of Truth Is Beauty. I will conclude with these photos.

A properly placed sun provided Truth Is Beauty with a heart. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

A properly placed sun provided Truth Is Beauty with a heart. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

Truth Is Beauty photo by Tom Lovering at Burning Man.

The sun outlines Truth Is Beauty’s head and is captured in her arms. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

If you enjoyed this blog, you might want to check out my top five reasons for going to Burning Man in 2014.

NEXT BLOG: Two very unusual churches at Burning Man.

Pompeii: Where Ruins Aren’t Quite Ruins… Seaports of the Mediterranean

The walls and streets of Pompeii are amazingly well preserved.

The walls and streets of Pompeii are amazingly well preserved.

The magic of Pompeii is in how well it has been preserved. There are fewer ruins among the ruins. I know that sounds strange. But most ruins require considerable imagination to reconstruct the original site. This isn’t true of Pompeii. Many of the streets, walls and buildings are found in close to the same condition they would have been found in 79 AD before being covered by the eruption of Vesuvius. The preservation of bodies, as shown in my first blog on Pompeii, is even more impressive. Thousands of storage and cooking vessels have also been found along with paintings, mosaics and sculptures giving us a detailed look into early Roman life. While much of what has been found in Pompeii can still be found there, much has also made it into museums around the world.

Today I am going to conclude my visit to Pompeii with a stop at the Basilica, the city’s center of government, and the market area, which has become a temporary repository of storage containers, bodies and other items found in Pompeii. (I will also slip in a few more of my favorite photos Peggy and I took but didn’t find a home on my other blogs.)

Thousands of artifacts have been found in Pompeii. Many, like these storage vessels, have found a temporary home in the area that once was the city's market area.

Thousands of artifacts have been found in Pompeii. Many, like these storage vessels, have found a temporary home in the area that once was the city’s market area. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

The Basilica in Pompeii was the center of government. It is centrally located next to the market and Jupiter's Temple.

The Basilica in Pompeii was the center of government. It is centrally located next to the market and Jupiter’s Temple.

This combination fo ancient and modern in one of the fountains found along the street was amusing. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

This combination of ancient and modern in one of the fountains found along the street was amusing. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Since I use so many of Peggy's pictures, occasionally I like to throw in a photo of her taking photos.

Since I use so many of Peggy’s pictures, occasionally I like to throw in a photo of her taking photos. This was along one of Pompeii’s walls.

I found the detail in this Pompeii wall decoration impressive.

I found the detail in this Pompeii wall decoration impressive. It had a plastic cover to protect and preserve it.

I'll close with this shot of Pompeii ruins looking more like ruins. (grin)

I’ll close with this shot of Pompeii ruins looking more like ruins. (grin)

NEXT BLOG: We visit the excellent Archeological Museum of Naples.

Wonderfully, Whacky Vehicles… Burning Man 2012

The mutant vehicles at Burning Man 2012 provided ongoing amusement, as they always do. I encountered this Woolly Mammoth at the port-a-potty. Later he came down our road.

I was standing in line for the port-a-potty when the Woolly Mammoth with massive tusks came by and dropped off a half of dozen people to join us. He was one hundreds of wonderfully imaginative ‘mutant vehicles’ that provided transportation across the seven square miles of Black Rock City during Burning Man 2012. 

At any given time of the day you find these Black Rock City licensed vehicles parked in camps, driving up and down the roads, and wandering willy-nilly across the vast open spaces of the Playa. They range in size from one-person scooters up to fifty-person busses. Each one looks like something it isn’t. There are dogs, cats, rabbits, flowers, jungles, bugs, fish, dragons, stagecoaches, ships, yachts, and even a wart hog. The list goes on and on.

One of the main attractions at Burning Man 2012 was a fire shooting steam punk octopus that went by the name El Pulpo Mechanico. Created by Duane Flatmo from Humboldt County, California, El Pulpo’s eight tentacles shot ten-foot high flames into the air. His head added a thirty-foot spout. A typical night of flaming used some 200 gallons of propane. 

Peggy came across El Pulpo Mechanico resting up for his night of carousing out on the Playa. He had also been at Burning Man 2011. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Here, our flaming friend, El Pulpo Mechanico, gathers a night time crowd of Burners.

I believe this big eyed, floppy eared 2012 Burning Man vehicle is a bunny. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Some Burners at Black Rock City require a yacht for transportation. This boat is named Christina.

Others at Burning Man are quite happy with a one-seater. I think Yummy was the name of the camp, not the vehicle. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

We were admiring theBurning Man 2012 Temple when this wart hog stopped by for a visit.

Climbing on this orange bus just has to involve a ride to somewhere mysterious and wonderful.

Check out the toothy grin on this Burning Man 2012 vehicle. The creature’s name is Disco Fish.

Sometimes mutant vehicles at Burning Man can appear downright scary, such as this dragon. Flame shoots out of its mouth at night. Note his tire tread skin.

This bear and her cubs show up annually at Burning Man. She and her babies are pulled by a bicycle so technically she isn’t a mutant vehicle. I included her on an earlier blog. I couldn’t resist her charm for my last photo in this post. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)