The Day of the Dead Ladies of Puerto Vallarta

As I went through my photos for today’s post, I noticed that almost all of the human size sculptures were women. I wonder why?

The Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, is a seriously fun holiday in Puerto Vallarta and throughout Mexico where the dearly departed are celebrated with hopes that the celebration will help them on their journey. People dress up in dead-people skeleton costumes, altars are established, and special foods are prepared. Gaily decorated skulls and skeletons are everywhere. Peggy and I have yet to be in Mexico when the event takes place (which is at the end of October/beginning of November), but the skulls and skeletons are still around, lots of them.

The skulls seem to represent both sexes equally, although this one seems to have a feminine cast to it. The gold teeth made me think of the dentist’s chair, a place I am all too familiar with. Ouch!

Of the life-size sculptures, I photographed, I could only find one man. This led me to speculate, naturally, as to why. I don’t think there is a reason particular to the holiday. About an equal number of men and women die, right. So is it that the girls dress up prettier, or that their eyes are more beautiful, or is it some other attribute, like the colorful bosom of the top photo.

Obviously, clothing is important, and you can do so much more with hats!
And certainly this woman with her red flowers and curls is well-dressed.
The hat and the boas lit up the lady from an earlier year. But what’s with the dead roses?
The eyes have it here…
And here. Same girl dressed up differently it would seem.
Remember the Red Hat Ladies. How about a long necked Red Hat Lady?
This gal had something to say. But I am not sure you would want to hear it.
Here was my only large guy sculpture. I had to go back in time to find it.
Smaller sculptures are found in the shops, often representing Huichol art.
Another example but probably not Huichol art since it is lacking in Huichol symbolism. (More on this in a later post.)
The red fingernails were a nice touch.
Peggy and I were walking down one of Puerto Vallarta’s road and came on this lady walking her dog.
And then there was this tile of a man out walking his dog— a dog that has a mission on its mind. Humor is an important part of the Day of the Dead.
Here’s a lady monkeying around.
A lady on a tile…
And a lady on a dish. Once again, the hat is an important item of clothing.
Skulls are found just about everywhere.
And are creatively decorated, with clouds, for example.
And with hearts.
You could have your kitchen decorated with Day of the Dead tiles. Maybe even peace symbols.
The Huichol have their own versions…
I conclude my Day of the Dead collection with this fellow. Just possibly, he had imbibed a little too much Huichol peyote!

NEXT POST: I am back on the PCT making my way between Carson Pass and Sonora Pass.

The Corsica Galeria de Art, the Galerie des Artistes, and the Cafe des Artistes… Puerto Vallarta

The Puerto Vallarta Art scene is extensive ranging from public art to private galleries and extensive crafts. I found this delightful sculpture at the Corsica Galeria de Art. This fellow looked like he was commenting on my failure to check on whether the Cafe des Artistes was open for lunch.

Peggy and I were in search of a good place to take her sister Jane and brother-in-law Jim to lunch when they joined us in Puerto Vallarta. Both are quite talented cooks, a fact we have benefited from many times. Since we had fond memories of the Cafe des Artistes, it was at the top of our list. Unfortunately, as we discovered when we arrived, it was closed for lunch. (Whoops.) There was no danger of starving to death, however. Restaurants are rarely farther than a block away in downtown PV. More to the point, we found a couple of top art galleries located right next door: The Corsica Galeria de Art and the Galerie des Artistes. I remembered both from earlier visits. Both galleries welcomed us and told me to take all of the photos I wanted. They were quite open to my blogging about them.  Publicity is publicity, right. I’ll start with the art I found at the Corsica Galeria de Art .

These Mexican Chihuahuas caught my attention immediately.
I was reminded of these two cuties we found on Puerto Vallarta’s Isla Cuale a few years ago. It appears that the light brown fellow was getting an earful! Maybe he forgot to take the garbage out. Obviously, he cares. Grin. (Actually, he was about to get his ear bitten. Teach him.)
The gallery featured several other colorful dogs in three dimension. I’m thinking boxer, here.
A profile shot!
This one reminded me of a cocker spaniel from my youth.
The obvious companion to the sculpture I opened the post with. The shadow seemed a little sinister to me, like an evil twin sister. And what’s with the sort of scorpion, sort of cat, sort of person on her hand? 
This was one of Peggy’s favorites in the way the eyes, mouth, teeth and tongue stood out, becoming almost real in comparison to the rest of the painting.
Peggy also was drawn to this hat with its many feathers. I found it almost surrealistic in its intensity.
Are you a person who finds clowns scary? The little girl with her balloon didn’t.  The triple chins suggest a bit too much fast food!
I liked the colorful bull although the eyes suggest it could have been a member of the devil’s herd in “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” (One of my favorite songs when I was growing up.)
Remember Senior Fish Head from my post on the Furniture Mart. This fellow seems to have a similar problem with fish on the brain. 
I’ll close my section on the Corsica with this sculpture. I found it quite unique. You can learn more about the gallery and its artists by visiting its website:  Corsica Galeria de Art

The Galerie des Artistes was immediately down the hill from the Corsica and had a decidedly different feel to it.

I felt that this fellow could have been found hanging out in the woods of ancient Greece.
One artist used hot air balloons to connect his paintings. Here the balloon is offering cherries to the bear. Knowing what I know about bears, it is about to gobble them down.
This giraffe is either coming out of or morphed into a city, giving a new meaning to the term skyscraper.
Alligator with companions on a unicycle? I’ll bet the artist has some very creative dreams. What would Freud say…
Mixed medium skull. I’m starting to think Day of the Dead. (Next post)
I am not sure whether cat woman is facing forward or backward, but she was colorful. Note the extra pair of arms. I blew this photo up and found bears, owls and rabbits staring back at me. But as you know, I have an active imagination and I am pretty sure that the artist was okay with me seeing whatever I wanted to see.
More eyes staring at me. Is that a come-hither pose? Or is it Blake Shelton saying ‘choose me’ on Voice..
And finally, i was quite taken with this collage of floral images.  I couldn’t find a website for Galerie des Artistes but apparently the gallery is on Facebook.

That’s it for the galleries, but it is not the end of the story. Peggy and I weren’t finished with our desire to revisit the Cafe des Artistes. So we made reservations and went there for our 28th Anniversary dinner. The ambience was superb, the waiters great, and the food delicious. Each year, Puerto Vallarta has a celebration featuring world-famous chefs and we ended up with one of the top chefs from Mexico City. It was a close to a perfect evening. We had to rely on our iPhone for photos. I had previously left my camera behind in a taxi and we weren’t able to recover it. The phone didn’t do well with capturing colors in the dim light, however,  so I have rendered these photos in black and white.

We were greeted with a free drink. Cheers!
A free hors d’ouvre arrived at our table next. There were also rose petals scattered on the tablecloth. .
I had short ribs in a delicious mole sauce and Peggy had an out of this world duck leg that melted in her mouth.
We couldn’t believe it when our dessert arrived on a large mirror platter complete with Happy Anniversary in chocolate surrounded by small dollops of raspberry sauce. A candle lit things up and a large spun sugar heart provided the backdrop! And no, I wasn’t a two-fisted drinker. We had moved Peggy’s glass of wine for the photo. Needless to say, the waiters were well-tipped!

NEXT POST: It’s time for the Day of the Dead. We missed it by a few days, but there were plenty of sculptures and crafts around to remind us of the event. Get ready for some bone-rattling fun.

The Chalk Art and Murals of Puerto Vallarta 2018

Chalk art from the 2018 Madonnari Festival in Puerto Vallarta featuring a shaman and his spirit animal.

Half the fun of travel is coming upon the unexpected. Peggy and I were walking across Puerto Vallarta’s main square when we came across a number of people creating chalk art. We had happened upon the annual Madonnari Art Festival that the town shares with its sister city of Santa Barbara, California. Category competition ranged from children to adults. Here are a few of the highlights. 

This was the young woman who was working on the shaman featured above.
Young people were working under colorful umbrellas to finish their work.
Which included these colorful fish.
A pregnant woman provided quite a contrast.
Not sure you would want this guy around your baby!
I liked the colorful flowers this young woman wore.
A close up. Peggy and I visited the area a few days later to take more photos. Time was beginning to impact the chalk art, reflecting its impermanence.
Another artist worked on his masterpiece. I admired the young boy’s look of surprise or wonder..
A masked woman…
And finally, never trust a smiling shark.

Mural art shares a lot with chalk art, both in terms of its limited time frame and spontaneity. Peggy and I revisited a number of the murals we had seen in past visits to Puerto Vallarta plus discovered some new ones. 

This was an old favorite…
I decided it would be fun to render the mural in black and white. I liked the results. I believe the symbolism represents Huichol art, which I will be doing a post on.
Nice kitty!
Realistic cow and moth.
Rather scary shaman/animal.
An interesting decoration for a woman’s restroom. Just how bad do you have to go to face up to a devil fish and devils?
A closer look.
Senior Iguana plays a banjo while an excited frog jumps out of the lake.
We found a couple of black and white murals.
This one reminded me of the popular books where you fill in the colors.
This was part of the same mural.
Shaman woman rising out of a lake, possibly working a little magic on you.
A woman/shaman with a coyote mask?
I’ll conclude today with this native woman who is holding a fawn.

NEXT POST:  I head south on the PCT from Carson Pass, which is named after the explorer Kit Carson, who happened to be caught in a snow storm starving on his first trip across the pass. He reported that dog and dried peas made a tasty treat. I don’t know if I would trust the word of a starving man, however.

A Beautiful Lake, Fires and Trees… The PCT though Mt. Lassen National Park

Hiking the PCT is tough, no question about it. But the rewards are numerous. Lower Twin Lake was one such reward. I camped beside it on my hike through Mt. Lassen National Park.

Today, I continue my ramble along the PCT. This time I will finish off my hike through Mt. Lassen National Park. I’ve been posting on our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta. There’s plenty more there, and lots left on the PCT. I intend to continue to mix my posts to provide a variety. And, of course, I am hard at work on my book about this past summer’s adventures and other tales from my 50 years of backpacking. My goal is to have something in hand when I attend the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in mid-February. 

Lower Twin Lake was one of those places you don’t want to leave. I was fortunate to arrive in the afternoon and experience its evening and morning beauty before having to hike on. 

Late afternoon. I came back to camp after this photo and found a chickaree sitting on my journal. I suspect he was more interested in my food than in reading what I had to say. He scurried up a tree and proceeded to scold me for interfering with his search.
Early morning.
The sun comes up. Note the mist rising off the lake where the sun was hitting it. I felt it was almost magical.

Forest fires had devastated the east side of the park and I hiked for miles through the burned out area, which isn’t unusual for the PCT in these times. Global warming and draught has taken its toll on the west from California, through Oregon and on into Washington, making forests vulnerable. The horrendous Campfire that just caused so much loss of life and property in Paradise, California is one more example. 

Mile after mile of land looked like this on the east side of the park. Not all is bad news, however. Nature is powerful and new growth is beginning to cover the area. This growth supports a substantial wildlife population.
I found this scene beautiful in a threatening sort of way. Dark thunder clouds hovered above drought killed trees. Thunder was rolling across the sky and lightning was striking a nearby mountain. I counted, 1001, 1002…Reaching 1007 means the lightning is a mile away. Once I barely made it through 1001. There is good reason to fear being hit by lightning. There is even more reason to fear that it may cause a fire. These trees would light up like kindling.
I often here the argument that thinning the trees, i.e. logging, is the solution to forest fires. Mainly it is used as an excuse for more logging. But the Collins Pine Company may actually have a solution. For one, it is committed to selective cutting, leaving a  healthy forest filled with a variety of trees. It also cleans out dead debris lying on the ground and uses the wood to create energy. The debris under the trees is one of the major reasons for devastating forest fires. A group of 50 or so forestry students from the University of California was in the area studying the company’s forest management practices when I hiked through.

I love trees. Who doesn’t. Here are some of the beauties I found on my backpack trip through Lassen.

I had lunch under this magnificent Jeffrey Pine.
It’s bark resembles puzzle pieces. If you put your nose next to the bark on a warm day, you will be rewarded with a delightful smell of vanilla, or possibly pineapple.
This is one of its gorgeous cones. An easy way to tell the difference between a Jeffrey Pine and a Ponderosa pine is you can pick up a Jeffrey pinecone without pricking you hand. Not so with a Ponderosa pinecone.
The king of pinecones grows on the the sugar pine. Some of these giants were approaching 20 inches in length. You don’t want to be standing under a sugar pine when a squirrel is harvesting its cones! Pine nuts from a sugar pine are delicious, however, and easily cracked. Ask the squirrel.
Sugar pines reach high into the sky and have wonderfully wild limbs.
Unlike these two fir trees that were practicing close to perfect symmetry.
Cedars also provide forest giants.
Here’s a view looking up at the same tree. 

I met lots of through hikers in Lassen Park. The halfway point between Mexico and Canada is just south of the park. Hikers needed to be in the area or through it when I was there if they hoped to complete their hike during the 2018 season.

A stone left behind by Bohemian Jess near the town of Chester marked the halfway point on the PCT.
I met Hillbilly when Peggy dropped me off at the trailhead. She enticed him over with an apple. He lived in North Carolina near the Appalachian Mountains that gave birth to the hillbilly name, but he was far from being one. His name was Bill and he lived in Chapel Hill. Thus the name. He owned a company that installed solar farms. Bill had already hiked the Appalachian and Colorado Mountain Trails. Like me, he preferred to camp alone, away from the noise and partying of younger hikers.
There was no chance of escaping from trekkers at Boundary Springs. (So named because it is located on the southern boundary of the Park.) It was a major source of water. These three camped next to me, so Bone came out to visit with them. They were quite amused. From left to right their trail names were Too Slippery, Bottomless, and Bodhi. Slippery and Bottomless were friends from Truckee, CA. Bodhi was a meditating type of fellow.
Shrek, Pepper, Bessie (the cow) and Chewy were also camped within about 30 feet. So, Bone had to visit them as well. I’d found Chewy looking for a lake where there wasn’t one, even though her map and a ranger had said there was. She had followed me down to the spring to get water.

Here are a few other photos to wrap up my trip through this section of the PCT.

A snag and a thunderhead.
A closer look at the thunderhead.
I found this fungus growing on a sawed log interesting.
What the fungus looked like up close.
A bee hung out among some thistles.
A bear left his claw sign for me to see…
You know you are in a National or State Park when walkways are built across swampy areas.
This meadow reminded me that summer was nearing its end. So I will stop here for the day.

NEXT POST: A very strange pelican. And some iguanas.

Weird Things— and Unique Furniture… The Furniture Mart Of Puerto Vallarta

I promised some weird things I found at the Furniture Mart in Puerto Vallarta. I think this guy qualifies. Maybe his weirdness  goes along with having fake, orangish hair. (grin)

Peggy and I have now returned from our trip to Puerto Vallarta. It’s always a good source for blog material. Today, I am going to wrap up our visit to the Furniture Mart, which was right across the street from our hotel. Later I will have several more blogs on PV’s burgeoning art scene as well as get back to a couple of my favorite animals: pelicans and iguanas.  I was amused by both the weird things and unique furniture at the Mart. Enjoy. (Note: Some of these photos came from an earlier visit in 2015.)

Do you think that the Furniture Mart could have hung more things on its walls? And do you find the bony fish as amusing as I did?
Speaking of fish, I suspect these  gave this guy a horrendous headache. I’m pretty sure there is a myth here, but I don’t know it.
Here’s a front view of the fellow I introduced at the top of the post. He’s still scary.
Not so scary, but still not someone you would want to meet on a dark night. Check out the eyes. The teeth remind me of piranha that Peggy and I caught on the Amazon River— and ate. 
I found these masks more intriguing than frightening. The blood shot eyes suggest a long night of partying.
I think that this is a Mayan warrior. There were several life-size sculptures like this scattered throughout the store. Is he holding a monkey or a baby?
A close-up of his head.
Senior Metal Head had wild hair and a wiry mustache.
But his eyebrows and beard were no match for Senior Rope Hair.
As one might imagine, you can find a lot of furniture in a Furniture Mart. This 20 foot table cut from a single log is an example. It appears that the two frogs were impressed.
I decided that a large mirror would serve for a selfie. I look appropriately small.
How about carved wild horses for a table and chairs?
This table was made by cutting through roots of a large tree root. It will be covered with a glass top, I assume.
This table featured a colorful, carved ocean scene.
Matched by the chairs.
This cabinet, featuring a painted ocean scene, was also quite impressive.
A room divider…
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Furniture Mart is a family affair. 85-year-old Grandpa makes these attractive glass lamp-shades.
I’ll conclude with an example of the lamp shades being used in a chandelier. My next post on PV will include pelicans and iguanas, but first it will be back to my hike down the PCT.

NEXT POST: A beautiful lake in Lassen National Park along the Pacific Crest Trail, plus Bone makes some new friends.

Furniture Mart or Zoo or??? … The Art of Puerto Vallarta

A friendly wolf licks Peggy’s face at the Furniture Mart in Puerto Vallarta.

Peggy and I have been coming to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a long time, long enough to see the lovely two and three story hotels along the north beach replaced by would-be sky scrapers that encroach on more and more beach.

We always stay at the Krystal Hotel, which is located along the main road between the airport and downtown. Years ago, we bought a time share here. It’s not something you do as an investment, regardless of how fast the sales people talk or whip out figures that you are not allowed to take away and study. In fact, there are much less expensive ways to see Mexico. Forget what we paid originally, the ever-increasing maintenance fees alone would easily cover an annual visit to PV, or anywhere else in Mexico.

But Peggy and I like the staff, our villa comes with a swimming pool, and we have fallen in love with Puerto Vallarta: its art, great dining, tropical sunsets, friendly people and amazing wildlife. There is even a taste of more traditional Mexico once you escape from the popular tourist areas.

I’ve blogged a fair amount about the town, more than I remember. I laughed a couple of days ago when I was doing Google research on PV’s public art, came across a promising heading, clicked on it, and landed on my blog.  

I’ve even blogged about the furniture store directly across the road from the Krystal. And I am going to blog about it again— today. I can pretty much guarantee that it is unlike any furniture store you have ever seen. It all started as a failed restaurant. Peggy and I ate there once upon a time.The food was good but the customers were scarce.

The family scurried about,searching for some other way to make a living and decided to make furniture.They also decided to sell art decorations for the home, everything from cute little ceramic frogs to giant metal rhinos. Collecting unusual items became something of a passion.

There must be hundreds of ceramic frogs hanging out at the Furniture Mart. This one is a cutie, complete with eyelashes.
Contrast it with a full sized metal rhino!

The three, or four, or maybe five story structure feels like an Escher painting where you meet yourself coming and going. It is crammed full of art, wood carvings, pottery, strange statues, masks, and Mexican knick-knacks galore, as well as very unique furniture. There are thousands of items. The family of Carlos Paez Coronado describes their building as the Furniture Mart, the largest store of its type in Mexico, and a museum.

We visited this time with Peggy’s sister Jane and her husband Jim who were staying at our villa with us for a week. Jane loves ceramic plates and has dozens of them. We knew she would like the store. Senior Pepe greeted us and assured us that if we bought any item costing a few grand and weighing who knows how many pounds, he would personally deliver it to our doorsteps in Oregon or Sacramento. (Anyone need a 20-foot-long table?) He and his brother fill up a truck with purchased items and make an annual trip across the border. We disappointed Pepe on the mucho grande sale, but Jane almost bought enough plates to make up for it.

I have enough fun wandering through the Furniture Mart that I am going to do three posts on it: One on the wonderfully wild (and tame animals), one on the pottery, and one on the furniture and weird things. Today it is all about animals!

A ferocious jaguar stalking across the floor.
With big teeth.
A friendly dog…
That Peggy pets.
A toothy lion.
An eagle and a jaguar have a discussion about which is most ferocious.
Given this eagle, I’d say a toss-up.
A realistic carved horse…
That Peggy befriends.
Puerto Vallarta’s favorite lizard: The iguana. I’ll be doing a post on these big fellows.
Head shot!
A turbaned elephant…
A trumpeting trunk.
A crabby crab.
A fighting stag displays its hooves.
I’ll conclude my exploration of the Furniture Mart today with this striking painting of a giraffe. Next up on the Mart will be ceramics ranging from pigs to plates.

It’s Turkey Day here in Puerto Vallarta, so Peggy and I will be heading out for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Several restaurants cater to the day. But I couldn’t find a turkey to represent the holiday…

So, a moose will have to do!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of our Internet friends! –Curt and Peggy. 

The Natchez Trace: A Bicyclist’s Paradise… The 10,000 Mile North American Bicycle Tour

The Natchez Trace between Natchez and Jackson Mississippi.

I don’t think there is a place along the Natchez Trace that isn’t beautiful. I traveled on it for 370 miles of its 450 mile length.

This is my fourth post introducing new followers to the type of tales they can find in my blog. Way back in 1989, I did a solo 10,000 mile bicycle tour of North America. While the journey predated blogging, Peggy and I retraced my route three years ago. Traveling out of California, we crossed the US following a southern route, went up the east coast into Canada, headed back west through Canada to Minnesota, and then finished our tour following a northern route back to California. This is a chance to visit much of North America and hear tales about my bike trek. Want more: Here’s a post from Canada. Scroll forward or backward for the rest of the story:  https://wandering-through-time-and-place.com/2016/09/28/

A large, yellow mutt came wagging his way into my camp. I’d unpacked my gear, set up my tent, and taken off my shoes and socks. My toes were celebrating their freedom.

“Well hello big fellow,” I said to the dog, glad for the company. He sat down beside me and worked his head under my hand, demanding that I scratch behind his ears. Then I was required to pet the rest of him. I had just worked my way down to his tail when he rolled over and insisted on equal treatment for his tummy.

I provided an initial scratch but my coffee water had started boiling. “Priorities,” I told him, “the petting zoo is closed.” Apparently this meant it was play time. He leapt up, grabbed one of my socks, and bounced off about 15 feet.  “Hey! Bring that back,” I urged. Fat chance. He put the sock down, backed off a couple of feet, and started barking.

I finished pouring the hot water into my coffee filter and got up, tiredly, to retrieve my sock. It had been an 80-mile day and I really didn’t want to play ‘chase the dog around the yard.’ I pretended that I didn’t care, that I wasn’t going for the sock, and that I was terribly interested in a large bullfrog that had taken up residence in the swimming pool. The pool hadn’t been cleaned since the previous summer. It made a great pond.

The dog didn’t buy it. He dashed in, grabbed the sock and ran off across the yard. “Okay, you win,” I declared while picking up a stick. “How about a game of chase the stick?” The dog cocked his head and increased his wags per second. I tossed the stick and off he dashed, leaving my sock behind. I quickly bare-footed it across the lawn and grabbed my sock.

“Ha, ha, Mr. Dog,” I called after him while waving the sock about enticingly. To compensate my new friend for his loss, I played tug-of-war with the stick. We growled at each other appropriately, all in good fun.

It was early to bed. I had completed my trip from Alexandria by biking through the city of Natchez and was now camped about a mile from the beginning of the Natchez Trace.  I was eager to get up the next morning and start my 370-mile journey up the fabled Parkway through Mississippi and Alabama into Tennessee. As I zipped up my tent, the big yellow mutt did three dog turns outside the door and plopped down, making me wonder where his home was. I was hardly in a position to adopt a pet. Besides, he was well fed and wearing a dog tag.

My last memory before going to sleep was of the bullfrog singing to his lady-love. “Chug-a-rum, chug-a-rum, chug-a-rum.”

Downtown Natchez, Mississippi.

Peggy and I drove through Natchez on a Sunday morning and pretty much had the historic section of the downtown to ourselves.

Historic building with balcony in Natchez, Mississippi.

This historic building in Natchez came with an attractive balcony.

Downtown Natchez, Mississippi on a quiet Sunday.

The colors captured my attention here.

Old lamp posts adorn the historic part of Natchez.

Old lamp posts adorn the historic part of Natchez.

The city is known for its antebellum mansions.

The city is known for its antebellum mansions.

St. Mary's Catholic Church in downtown Natchez, Mississippi.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church was busy with its Sunday service so I didn’t go inside.

St. Mary's Catholic Church is located in downtown Natchez, Mississippi.

It was quite impressive from the outside, however.

Natchez has an interesting history. Once the site of a major Native American village, its initial contact with Europeans goes all the way back to Hernando de Soto in the mid 1500s. He wandered through the area searching for gold to steal, the primary occupation of Spanish Conquistadores. By the 1700s the French had entered the area followed by the British, the Spanish again, and finally, in 1795, the Americans. Native groups in the region included the Natchez, Chickasaw, Yazoo, Cherokee, and Creek, as well as the Choctaw further to the north.

As for the Natchez Trace, its beginning goes back 10,000 years and was probably tied to buffalo travelling along ridges doing buffalo things. Since these broad, heavy animals make good trails (think of them as early day bulldozers), Native Americans were soon using the routes for trade and travel between large communities.

The next stage in the Trace’s evolution was brought about by river trade in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Kaintucks, boatmen from the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys, loaded flatboats with merchandise and paddled downstream to Natchez or New Orleans where they made handsome profits for their goods. The challenge was that you don’t row a boat up the mighty Mississippi. The boatmen had to hike or ride horses home. They sold their boats as lumber and made their way back to Nashville via the Natchez Trace

It was an adventure. There is a reason why the Trace became known as The Devil’s Backbone. It was crawling with highway men eager to separate the Kaintucks from their newly earned wealth. And that assumes that they could even get their money out of Natchez where cheap whiskey cost a fortune, hot love was based on cold cash, and cut-throats came by the bushel.

The development of steamboats in the 1820s changed things dramatically. These boats with their large, steam-driven paddle wheels could travel upriver. Boatman no longer had to hike or ride horses back to Nashville while fighting off thieves.  Gradually, people stopped using the Trace and it faded from memory.  But not totally.

In 1903, the Mississippi chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution took on a project of placing markers along the original route. In 1918 the precursor to the Natchez Trace Association was created with the rallying cry of “Pave the Trace!” Work on the Parkway was started in 1937 and in 1938 it became a unit of the National Park system.

When I rode my bike out of Natchez in the spring of 1989, the Trace was mainly complete and had become something of a bicyclists’ paradise. (Today it is considered one of the top ten bike rides in America.)   To start with, there was no commercial traffic. No 18 wheelers would be whizzing by me. Nor were there any commercial properties or billboards, just lots of beautiful woods and small farms. Campgrounds and restrooms were located conveniently along the way.  Frequent rest stops featured local history. I was free to ride along and enjoy the scenery.

But I did have two responsibilities. The first was to persuade the large, yellow mutt that he wasn’t going with me. It started with a discussion in camp that I thought he had understood. Where I was going was dangerous for doggies. It was dangerous enough for me. About a mile from camp I chanced to look back, there he was, about 50 yards back. I stopped and waited for him to catch up, all a waggle. “No!” I said forcefully. “You cannot go. Go Home!” The tail stopped wagging. Two sad brown eyes accused me of horrendous deeds. Ever so slowly, he turned around and started back, tail between his legs. I felt terrible.

The second chore was more pleasant— rescuing baby turtles. Bunches were migrating across the Trace outside of Natchez. Each time I came on a crowd, I would stop, climb off my bike, and give the little tykes a lift across the pavement. I knew that there would be more coming along behind but I must have transported at least a hundred,undoubtedly saving them from being run over.

Following are several photos of the Trace from Natchez to Jackson, Mississippi that I took during the route review Peggy and I did this past spring.  In my next blog we will make a slight detour to the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi where a good friend lives and then head up the Trace to Tupelo and visit with Elvis.

Views along the Trace were constantly changing from being forested to open.

Views along the Trace were constantly changing from being forested to open.

Pine trees became common around Jackson, Mississippi.

Pine trees became common around Jackson, Mississippi.

Rich farmlands border some of the Trace.

Rich farmlands border some of the Trace.

There are a number of barns.

There are a number of barns.

These trees had yet to leaf out.

These trees were just beginning to leaf out. I enjoyed the silhouettes they created.

Numerous exhibits featuring the history of the Trace provide interesting breaks along the way.

Numerous exhibits featuring the history of the Trace provide interesting breaks along the way.

A number of the stops, like this one, include original sections of the trail.

A number of the stops, like this one, include original sections of the trail.

The Park has also rebuilt traditional fences that the pioneers who lived along the Trace would have built.

The Park has also rebuilt traditional fences similar to ones that the pioneers who lived along the Trace would have built.

A final view of the Trace for today. Many more will be included in my next three blogs.

A final view of the Trace for today. Many more will be included in my next three blogs.

 

 

The Beautiful Temples of Black Rock City… A Burning Man Experience

This is the Temple of Promise from Burning Man 2015, a simple and beautiful structure designed to capture the early morning sun.

 

This is the second in my series of introducing new followers to the type of posts they can expect to find on my blog. Since I’ve been going to Burning Man since 2004, there are numerous posts on the annual event that takes place annually in the Nevada desert. Over the years, my primary focus has been on the art, but I touch on all aspects of the event. Here, I take a look at the beautiful temples that are built each year and then burned at the end of the event. If you would like to see more of my posts on this unique extravaganza, go to mu Burning Man category on the right, click on it, and scroll down. Enjoy!

Census figures from Burning Man show that 71% of the participants claim to have no formal religious affiliation. Given this, it might seem strange that a temple is one of the major structures built in Black Rock City each year. But there is another factor at work here; over 50% of Burners claim that they are spiritual. While they may not adhere to any particular religious doctrine, they believe that they are part of a whole that is beyond any individual’s existence. Or, at least, that’s how I interpret being spiritual. It’s how I feel.

Whatever Burners believe, there is no doubt that visiting the temple can be a spiritual experience. In addition to being a place of beauty, as I hope the photos in this post show, the Temple is a place where 10,000’s of messages are left honoring loved ones who have passed on, asking forgiveness and expressing thanks. At the end of the week, the Temple is burned and the messages drift off into the air or, the Heavens if you prefer, giving a sense of peace to those who have left them.

Part of a larger structure, this temple was built in 2007 and was known as the Temple of Forgiveness.

This was the 2008 Temple. (Photo by Ken Lake.)

The curving wood on top of the Fire of Fires Temple reflected flames shooting into the sky. Note the intricate detail on the side panels.

A close up.

The Fire of Fires Temple at night. (Photo by Don Green.)

The Temple of Flux represented the constant change we experience in life. It can be seen as waves or as sand dunes. This photo was taken from the Man. The Center Camp Cafe, the Man, and the Temple are always in a direct line. The buildings on the other side represented a city.

Tom likes to get up early in the morning for his photography. He captured this photo of the Temple of Juno at sunrise. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Here’s another. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

A later photo by me showing detail of the Temple of Juno.

The Temple of Whollyness resembled a Pyramid.

This large stone structure was inside the Temple of Whollyness.

The Temple of Grace was built for the 2014 Burning Man.

I liked this shot I caught of its spire under butter milk skies.

The Temple of Grace at night. (Photo by Don Green.)

Another photo of the Temple of Promise. I had taken Tom’s advice and rolled out early to capture these photos.

As the sun came up, Burners grabbed each other’s hands and formed a large circle around the Temple. The act was totally spontaneous.

A black and white I created.

Inside the Temple.

As I mentioned, thousands of messages are placed on the walls. By Saturday, there is little room to write on left within reach.

I found this message left behind honoring Uno Hogan quite touching. I think you will as well. It is quite typical of messages found in the temple.

And this message humorous but sincerely meant!

The Temples are always burned on Sunday night, the last night at Burning Man, in a solemn and moving ceremony with the thousands of messages sent skyward. This is the Temple of Juno.

A note on the photographers: All photos that I include in the Burning Man blogs are taken by Peggy, me, or members of the Horse Bone Tribe— all close friends who have traveled and adventured with us down through the years.

NEXT BLOGS:

Monday: Back to Bandon on the coast of Oregon.

Wednesday: I begin my story of how Bone was found.

Friday: I continue my exploration of the unique and beautiful structures at Burning Man.

 

Kayaking among the Orcas/Killer Whales of British Columbia…

Kayaks belonging to the Sea Kayak Adventure group in the waters of Johnstone Strait, northeastern Vancouver Island.

Our sea kayaks wait patiently for us as we have lunch in a cove off of Johnstone Strait.

This is the first of my series of ‘oldies’ I am reposting from my archives to give new followers a taste of what they can expect to find on my blog. Peggy  and I made a trip to Vancouver Island, British Columbia in 2014 to go kayaking among the orca whales. The next post in the series can be found here:  https://wandering-through-time-and-place.com/2014/10/30/

I was nervous as we drove into the town of Port McNeill on the northeast shore of Vancouver Island in August. Peggy and I had signed up for a six-day sea kayak tour out of Telegraph Cove with Sea Kayak Adventures.We would be searching for orcas, which are also known as killer whales—as our son Tony, the Alaska Coast Guard pilot, reminded us. A little Jaws music, perhaps?

This orca was on display at the Whale Museum in Grove. I named him Smiley and addressed him as sir.

This orca skeleton was on display at the Whale Interpretive Center in Telegraph Grove. I named him Smiley and addressed him as sir.

“Okay, Curt, what have you gotten yourself into this time?” was bouncing around in my skull like a kangaroo on steroids. It’s a question I ask myself often.

I wasn’t nervous about the whales, however. I’ve spent my life communing with nature. Besides, these particular giants are gentle, relatively speaking; they get fat off the salmon in Johnstone Strait. They don’t need to eat people. But sea kayaking would be a first for me. The old dog had to learn new tricks, and that is always a reason to get excitable. Fortunately, Peggy and I had played around a fair amount with inflatable kayaks. We had even ventured out on challenging multi-day lake trips into remote areas such as Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan and Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. So how hard could it be?

Aren't I pretty? There was no way I was going to make this skirt look good. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Aren’t I pretty? No? Maybe I wasn’t meant to wear a skirt. This skirt is designed to fit snugly over the cockpit of the kayak and keep out the water.  It’s so snug that you really have to stretch it to fit, which isn’t easy— particularly around the back. My skirt and I had several discussions while I was learning how to make it behave. It learned new words. Ask Peggy. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I confess I was more nervous about the idea of being on a tour. I am not much of a tour group person. This is a strange statement coming from someone who spent over a quarter of a century leading backpacking and bicycle fundraising treks for the American Lung Association. But the truth is— I am an independent cuss. I like to go where I want to go and stop when I want to stop. On an organized tour, I would be expected, even required, to adhere to the group schedule and itinerary. This isn’t a complaint. It has to be that way on group outings. Common sense and liability demand it.

And then there were the people. We’d be living closely with these folks for six days under potentially trying conditions. What would our guides be like? How about our fellow tour group members? Would we get along well? Would they be strange— even stranger than I am?

"Could I interest you in a cracker?" The tour promo promised good food, but it failed to mention the presentation. This is Nick, one of our three group leaders.

“Could I interest you in a cracker?” The tour promo promised good food, but it failed to mention the presentation. This is Nick from New Brunswick, one of our three group leaders. Note the sprig artfully shoved into the cheese.

Quy, another of our guides, is a gentle soul who in his other life works as a computer geek in Vancouver. So what is he doing with this knife?

Quy, another of our guides, is a gentle soul who in his other life works as a computer geek in Vancouver. So what is he doing with this knife?

Julia, our third guide and assigned trip leader, may use Quy's knife on me for this photo of her toes, but I couldn't help myself. And no, I don't have a foot fetish. My fascination was that these bare toes could run over sharp rocks. The last time I had feet that tough I was ten years old.

Julia, our third guide and assigned trip leader, hails from Germany and is quite charming. She may use Quy’s knife on me for this photo of her toes, but I couldn’t help myself. And no, I don’t have a foot fetish. My fascination with her toes was that they could run over anything, including  rocks. The last time I had feet that tough, I was ten years old.

And how about our fellow travelers? David is a psychologist out of LA. How much more strange can you get?

And how about our fellow travelers? David is a psychologist out of LA. How much stranger can you get than creating this mustache? Well maybe someone who kisses fish…

Well, maybe someone who kisses fish??? "But he was so beautiful," Lindy told me. He was dinner, Lindy,. Dinner.

“But he was so beautiful,” Lindy told me. He was dinner, Lindy. Dinner.

Regardless of how nervous I felt, the trip was simply too much of an opportunity to pass up. Like how could I not go on a sea kayaking adventure out among the orcas in beautiful British Columbia? As for Peggy, she is always up for adventure. When our friends Edie and David from Anchorage, Alaska called and asked if we would be interested in going, we gave a resounding yes. It turned out to be great decision. The guides, our fellow tour group members, and the incredible views were delightful. Even the orcas cooperated.

Today marks the beginning of my series on the trip. I’ll start by exploring the quaint town of Port McNeill. In my next post, we will climb in our kayaks and push-off from Telegraph Cove. The orcas are waiting. Let the adventure begin.

Harbor in Port McNeill on northeastern Vancouver Island. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

While the main source of employment for the people of Port McNeill is the timber industry, the town also has a charming harbor. Note the yacht in the background. It had its own helicopter.

I loved this guys sense of humor.

In case anyone was wondering. I loved this guy’s sense of humor.

Dolphin statue at Port McNeil on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Peggy, David and Edie pose in front of a dolphin statue that faces the harbor. Edie went to high school with Peggy in Ohio and runs a tax accounting firm in Anchorage. David is an Alaskan bush pilot who works on the North Slope, and is a published poet.

You are looking at Port McNeill's pride and joy: the worlds largest burl. Can you imagine this thing growing on a tree? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

You are looking at Port McNeill’s pride and joy: the worlds largest burl. Can you imagine this thing growing on a tree? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Wicked Campers is now providing inexpensive travel vans and raucous humor in a number of countries.

Tourism is also an important industry for Port McNeill. Wicked Campers caught my attention. The company provides inexpensive travel vans and its raucous brand of  advertising in a number of countries.

We were also amused by Port McNeill's unique way of fund raising where bras are decorated and then auctioned off. Which of the following three would you vote for?

We were also amused by Port McNeill’s unique way of fund-raising where bras are decorated and then auctioned off. Which of the following three would you choose?

Given the ears, I am thinking Mickey Mouse was the inspiration.

Given the ears, I am thinking Minnie Mouse was the inspiration.

Bat woman?

Bat woman? Great eyes.

Dream catcher. Ouch.

Dream catcher? Ouch. This one would leave an impression.

Flowers at Port McNeill on Vancouver Island. photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The flower shop that featured the bras was closed so I couldn’t get inside to photo more of the entries. I did capture this petunia on the outside, however.

Mist in trees on Vancouver Island sea kayak trip. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Mist in the trees. A final photo to whet your appetite. Let the adventure begin.

Mt. Lassen National Park— A Spooky Kind of Place along the PCT… Happy Halloween

What’s more scary than a spooky face staring at you from the ground? Imagine your flashlight picking this up at night when you are out in the woods alone? For the more scientifically inclined among you, this is a manzanita root.

I hardly imagined that backpacking through Mt. Lassen National Park on my hike down the Pacific Coast Trail this summer would provide me with inspiration for my annual Halloween post— but I had never had an up-close-and-personal encounter with manzanita roots. Trail crews, rerouting the PCT as it approached the Park from the north, had dug up the roots and left them beside the path. 

I often include photos of faces from nature in my blog. And most of these are a bit on the strange side. (“Like you,” I am sure my wife Peggy would point out.) Maybe. My imagination works overtime when I am out in the woods and I can’t resist pulling out my camera when I spot eyes staring back at me from trees, rocks and clouds. They appeal to the animist in me. Plus they are an excuse to stop on long, tough hiking days.

In addition to the roots, I’ve included a couple of other photos from Lassen with Halloween potential and a few other ‘faces’ from my three month backpack trip. Some of these I have included before. Enjoy!

Imagine, if you will, clawed fingers reaching up from the grave, ready to grab unsuspecting hikers.
Dark, vacant eyes staring at you are stock in trade for horror film flicks.
More eyes. Maybe the skull of that silent killer of the night: The owl.
Scrooge McDuck’s nemesis, the ghost duck of Halloween past.

Dead trees are also mood setters for Halloween and horror movies. Here are a couple of many I captured in Lassen.

A lone. dead tree standing on the horizon with grasping fingers is an excellent place to plant a grave.
Scary music, dark, threatening skies, and dead trees: a perfect combination for Halloween night. What monster lurks in the shadows, prepared to leap out from behind a tree, and carry you off to a world filled with zombies and blood thirsty vampires.

And to conclude today’s post for Halloween, a few photos from other faces along the trail, some of which I have included before.

A large eye and a silent scream suggests I frightened this woodland creature peering out at me while half hidden. Am I that scary?
Not so scary but somehow threatening.
And finally, this rather grotesque character with his pointed head, dark eyes, skinny nose and large jowls. Vey scary indeed!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM PEGGY AND ME.

Next Post: Back to hiking through Lassen National Park on the PCT.